Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Uncustomed Heroes of 2022: Marlins

So, to recap:
-Phillies- won the pennant this year.
-Braves- won the World Series last year
-Nationals- won the World Series a few years ago
-Mets- won 101 games this year.
-Marlins....also exist.

It's gotta suck for this team. Yes, they made the playoffs in 2020 and won a crucial wild card series against the Cubs, spinning them into non-competitive oblivion, but the Marlins seem to be one of the teams that benefitted the most from that extended playoff schematic in 2020. Yes, there's also another NL East team that arguably benefitted even more from the extended playoff schedule this year, but at least they have the money to build on it. The Marlins made the playoffs while dirt broke, then when asked to repeat, they really couldn't.

2022 was another year of amusing but listless baseball in Miami. The team has been built around Brian Anderson and Miguel Rojas, and the former has lost his versatility while the latter is entering his mid 30s. Sandy Alcantara and Pablo Lopez had incredible seasons, but who knows how long they'll stick around. 

And Trevor Rogers, after an incredible rookie season in 2021...felt the fatigue of that incredible rookie season and struggled with arm issues all year. In 23 starts, Rogers had a 5.47 ERA and had a 1.5 WHIP. It's not a damning season, as Rogers still is young and factors into the rotation's future plans, along with the eternally-injured Sixto Sanchez [I guess the Phils were right to trade him away?].
2023 Prediction: Once Rogers fully recovers from the injury, he'll give an improved performance. Not sure if it'll be a full season, but it'll aid things tremendously once people start leaving.

Oh yeah, Avisail Garcia was a Marlin this year. I hate that it's such an afterthought. He's kinda been like that the past few years, suiting up for the the Brewers and Marlins and failing to really make an impact with them, and all this after some great, contact-friendly years with Chicago. This year, Garcia hit .224 with 35 RBIs and 8 homers in 98 games. Positively thrilling.
2023 Prediction: Avisail seems to alternate between great years and banal years, so next year he might be a ton better. Not sure how it'll help this team, but it'll do something.

Another 'oh yeah, he was with this team' guy for Miami, Jacob Stallings. Stallings came into his own in Pittsburgh as an underrated contact-hitting catcher, and then he was traded to Miami and hit .223 with 77 hits as a younger guy fought him for the position. Not exactly the season he wanted for his big come-up year.
2023 Prediction: Will be Nick Fortes' backup by the end of the year.

As Jesus Sanchez came to prominence, it took a lot more for Bryan de la Cruz to stay in the picture fighting for outfield playing time. At the very least, de la Cruz took part in an interesting statistical phenomena- thanks to Jorge Soler getting injured, all three primary outfielders for the Marlins ended the year with 13 home runs, including de la Cruz, Soler and Sanchez. 39 combined home runs, which is a number Soler could outdo singlehandedly in his prime. It's a good sign that de la Cruz can hit for power like that even if he mostly was a backup. 
2023 Prediction: This is a hot take...I think one of the Marlins outfielders is gonna leave the picture and de la Cruz is gonna have his fullest, and best, season to date.

Behind Alcantara, Lopez, Rogers and Cabrera was Jesus Luzardo, still trying to prove himself after being dealt from Oakland in exchange for Starling Marte. Thankfully, Luzardo's 2022 was strong throughout, with the youngster hitting a 3.32 ERA and 120 strikeouts in 18 starts. With Rogers' health uncertain and Garrett lower on the depth chart, Luzardo aims to factor into the team's opening day rotation plans.
2023 Prediction: I think Luzardo's gonna have the fullest and most consistent year of any Marlins starter. Get ready.

The Marlins' relief specialist of choice this year, in the absence of Anthony Bass, was Tanner Scott, himself fetched from Baltimore before the start of the year. Scott struck out 90 and notched 20 saves in 67 appearances. I'm glad he worked up to a bigger role with this team, because he's always been pretty sharp.
2023 Prediction: Lower ERA, but I don't know if he saves for the whole year.

As discussed, I think Jacob Stallings is gonna be backing up Nick Fortes next year. Fortes, who was teased at the end of 2021, got 72 games behind the plate, and sported a 1.3 WAR thanks to solid defensive numbers and 9 home runs as well. Fortes seems to succeed in both categories, which is a needed skill for Marlins catchers in the wake of Realmuto's trade. 
2023 Prediction: Fortes, by the end of 2023, will be on the list of solid B/B+ level catchers that don't get enough credit.

There were lots of rookies popping up towards the end of the year. I'm choosing to leave out people like Jordan Groshans and Jerar Encarnacion, but how about 2nd base prospect Charles LeBlanc, who, yes, is from Laval, outside Montreal, thanks for asking. LeBlanc got 48 games to take the middle infield, and he hit .263 with 11 RBIs, 4 homers and 4 steals.
2023 Prediction: If Jazz Chisholm starts the season healthy and surging, LeBlanc may get released. If not, he may...well, he may still get released, I see him as a holdover guy. But regardless.

And then there's longtime Marlins prospect J.J. Bleday. The good news? Bleday can hit for power, with 16 RBIs and 5 homers in 63 games. The bad news is he's looking a bit one-dimensional in his first year, striking out a ton and only hitting .167. Then again, Aaron Judge looked one-dimensional in 2016, so who are we to judge?
2023 Prediction: Will not have room in this outfield initially, but could get a lot more playing time in the second half and may have enough to really take off this time.

Tomorrow, a few members of a Mets team I genuinely thought was gonna go far this year.

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