I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; the Miami Marlins will be an interesting team in 2020. After two years of being but a semblance of a Major League team, which was preceded by four years of wallowing in the meaningless 70-80 win-range, the Miami Marlins entered 2020 with a lot to watch and root for, largely due to an elite farm system and some solid offseason acquisitions.
They’ve been talked about so far in the 2020 season, that’s for sure. Unfortunately for the Fish faithful, the Marlins made headlines because of the COVID-19 outbreak that swept through the clubhouse a few games in, which suspended their season after a 2-1 start against the rival Phillies. After being put on pause on July 26th, they managed to scrape together enough COVID-free players from their “taxi squad,” trades, and free agency to field a team once against on August 4th. Currently, they are 6-1.
This will be a rag-tag bunch of players, to be clear; Don Mattingly admits that he hasn’t even met many of the guys called in to replace the enormous chunk of the roster affected by the virus. But, once again, there are some intriguing players worth watching on the re-revamped 2020 Miami Marlins. Here are a few.
1. Monte Harrison, OF
Monte Harrison’s big league debut was most likely prolonged because of service time manipulation, which is much easier to stomach in a shortened season, as that amounts to a little over a week of being withheld in the minors. He’s ready now, though, and will soon be hunting down would-be doubles in the outfield gaps of Marlins Park.
Harrison got rave reviews from Mattingly before the season started, and the 24-year-old outfielder’s combination of power and speed will probably make him a fan favorite early on if he produces. If he lives up to his potential as a 30-30 threat and elite defender, the Yelich trade becomes slightly more palatable.
2. Eddy Alvarez, IF
It’s a shame Eddy Alvarez’s family won’t be able to appreciate his Major League debut; what a ride it has been. Alvarez, a Miami-native, stopped playing baseball after high school in order to pursue a career in speed skating. It worked. Alvarez is the owner of a silver medal in the 5000m relay, which he won in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.
He hung up his skates after the Olympics and returned to the baseball diamond. The White Sox soon signed him, and he played in their organization for next five seasons, reaching Triple-A. He was traded to the Marlins last season and put up a .978 OPS for Triple-A New Orleans. After being placed in the Marlins’ “taxi squad,” he has finally gotten the call-up at 30-years young. Expect this incredible young man to be a utility infielder and speed demon on the bases for the Fish.
3. Jorge Guzman, P
Guzman might be the hardest thrower in the Miami Marlins system, no small feat when you consider how stacked it is with arms. His other pitches aren’t as polished as you’d like them to be, but throwing in the high-90s and low 100s hides these types of things when used in the proper sequences.
His 2019 was solid; 3.5 ERA over 138.2 Double-A innings. He walked too many people (4.6 BB/9), but avoided solid contact (6.2 H/9, .8 HR/9) and missed a good amount of bats (8.2 K/9). Guzman’s fastball and inconsistent off-speed leads most to believe that he belongs in the pen. He has primarily been a starter during his minor league career, but expect the Marlins to deploy him primarily as a reliever. And make sure to watch that radar gun.
4. Richard Bleier
You won’t find many pitchers, especially relievers, pitching to contact in today’s game, not with strikeouts and home runs at all-time highs. In this sense, Richard Bleier, another Miami-native, is a bit of a throwback. He is not over-powering, with a fastball, sinker, and cutter that hover around 86-88 MPH, but he mixes them well with his slider and change-up and effectively misses barrels. That can still get you outs in the Major Leagues, and he’s done that quite well in his career.
Bleier had a sub-2 ERA and an ERA+ over 200 in each of his first three seasons, all while striking out a measly 4.1 batters per nine. I guarantee you did not know that. He did, which is pretty damn impressive nowadays. Bleier took a big step back last year, but has started 2020 strong. The Marlins grabbed him from the Orioles for a PTBNL. Expect him to continue missing those barrels and keeping hitters off balance.
5. Matt Joyce
Matt Joyce has made a career out of being a good hitter, and last season was no different. His .858 OPS and 120 OPS+ (over 238 PAs) showed that the 36-year-old outfielder can still swing it when he can keep his legs fresh. They’ll be plenty fresh for this 60-game season.
Joyce, who has thankfully recovered from COVID-19, could be a productive presence in the middle of the Miami Marlins lineup, especially as a fourth outfielder/DH playing 3-4 times per week. He is yet another guy that 1.) you probably didn’t know was a Marlin, and 2.) was better than you thought in general. Do not be surprised if his OPS ends up around where it was last season.
Let’s be real: the Miami Marlins will probably not be very good for a little while. There was a chance for them to make some noise in the NL East with the first iteration of their roster, but this smorgasbord does not hold up compared to the other far-more-healthy teams out there.
But they will be interesting. Their 6-1 start proves that.
And I didn’t even get to Lewis Brinson‘s last chance for romance…
Featured Photo: MarlinsManiac.com