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Should Marlins Consider Starlin Castro?

Starlin Castro had a really rough start to the 2019 season and May was by far his worst month. In May he hit for a .208 average with no home runs and 8 RBIs. He performed way below expectations for a veteran who is known for hitting ability.

Castro struggled in the first half of the season, batting for a .245 average with six home runs and 24 RBIs. His poor performance in the first half made it pretty much impossible to trade him at the deadline and if the Marlins did find a suitor for Starlin, they most likely wouldn’t have gotten much in return.

In the second half, Castro reached a new level. He hit for a .302 average, hammered 16 home runs, and drove in 52 RBIs. I know it would’ve been nice to have been able to trade Castro at/before the deadline for prospects but he became really fun to watch in the second half. He went on an absolute tear. Whether you like Castro or not, you can’t deny that he actually reached another level.

There are some people on twitter who believe that Starlin Castro purposely tanked his stats in the first half to stay with the Marlins. He ended up having a very good relationship with Miguel Rojas and Martin Prado and possibly felt like he didn’t want to be traded away from his closest friends on the team so it is a possibility. Do I think that’s the case? No, but it’s possible.

Starlin Castro finished his final year of his 7-year, $60 million dollar contract which he signed back in 2012 when he was with the Chicago Cubs, but there is a club option for him to return to the Marlins if they want him back. The option would cost the Marlins $16 million but there is definitely value in Castro. A veteran presence in the clubhouse and a mentor for Marlins rookie Isan Diaz. Castro could play second, shortstop and third so there is some versatility that comes with him.

If the Marlins do want to bring him back but don’t want to pay him $16 million, there is a $1 million buyout and they could potentially negotiate a cheaper deal. I do believe Castro has bought into what the Marlins are building and that he wants to stay in Miami. He is represented by Magnus Media, who is based in Miami, and also represents the Mesa brothers who signed with the Marlins last October.

In my opinion, I do think that the Marlins should consider bringing back Castro on a cheaper/team friendly contact. He could be more valuable than simply on the field by being a mentor and by possibly recruiting players in the free agent class this offseason.

Recap of the 2019 Marlins

It’s hard to recap such a negative season, but here we go.

Let’s all be honest, no one expected the team to be any good whatsoever. We expected at least a 60-win season with many ups and downs. The Marlins finished the season with a 57-105 record which was pretty much expected.

I’m sure we would’ve loved to avoid 100 losses but it is what is, it did secure the third overall pick in the 2020 draft. But then, this recap would’ve probably been similar, anyway… 

There were definitely some bright spots for the Marlins this season. Just to name a few, Sandy Alcantara started to show what he can do, Jon Berti became the perfect utility man, Harold Ramirez did great in his rookie season, and Isan Diaz started to become comfortable at the major league level. Diaz started making lesser errors and showed comfort at the plate.

Here’s a recap of the positives of the season:

Sandy Alcantara

Alcantara was voted to represent the Marlins in the All-Star Game because of his start to the regular season. His Pre All-Star stats are as follows: 4-8 record, 3.82 ERA, 70 strikeouts, and an opponent batting average of .241. After the All-Star break, he hit a bump in the road where he started to show inconsistency in his fastball command and started to walk more batters. 

August he began to turn things around, in five games started he had a 3.03 ERA in 32.2 innings pitched with a 27:12 strikeout to walk ratio. September came along and he reached another level. In six games started, he had a 2-2 record with a 2.59 ERA in 41.2 innings pitched with a 35:9 strikeout to walk ratio. September became Sandy’s best month without a doubt.

Jon Berti

Jon Berti blossomed into the perfect utility man. He can play all positions in the infield and outfield. He also showcased his insane speed on the base paths. He swiped 17 bases this year, he would’ve swiped more but he spent some time on the IL. In 73 games played, he hit for a .273 average with six home runs and 24 RBIs. Berti is a nice surprise for the Marlins, he definitely made a case for a roster spot next season.

Isan Diaz

Isan Diaz is an interesting story. He absolutely tore up Triple-A pitching and earned himself a call up to the show back in August. He launched a home run off Jacob deGrom in his MLB debut but rookie struggles kicked in early. He was having trouble making routine plays and was uncomfortable at the plate. As he gained more experience he became more comfortable and didn’t think too much while on the field. He ended up finishing the season with a .173 average, five home runs, and 23 RBIs. Not the best stat line but he did only play 49 games while being completely tensed up. It should be fun to see how he plays next year.

Harold Ramirez

Harold Ramirez signed with the Marlins during the 2018 offseason and what a great sign he is. In 119 games, he hit for a .276 average, hit 11 home runs and drove in 50 RBIs. He definitely showcased why he was formerly a Top 100 prospect when he was in the Blue Jays organization. He can play all three outfield positions and has a very decent defense. He without a doubt became a fan favorite for Marlins fans and earned a roster spot for the 2020 season.

Your 2019 Marlins were not the best but they did show improvement. They may have lost six more games this year than they did in 2018 but the pitching held its own and we got to see some rookies showcase their ability. The club next season will be more competitive than it was this year and it’s going to be more fun with more rookies making their debuts and some new faces from free agency…

We will be here to recap when they win the World Series…

Marlins extend Don Mattingly and Miguel Rojas

The Marlins announced the contract extensions of manager Don Mattingly and shortstop Miguel Rojas.

The Miami Marlins opened their final home series of the season with some encouraging news.

Mattingly’s extension runs through 2021 and includes a mutual option for 2022. He becomes the first MLB manager since Terry Collins to have losing records in his first four seasons with a team and return for a fifth season. The Mets went to the World Series in Collins’ fifth season at the helm.

“I think about his leadership, demeanor and overall character,” Marlins CEO Derek Jeter on Mattingly. “He’s all in. He keeps our guys competing on a daily basis.”

Mattingly said he’s thrilled to have the opoprtunity to see this though. He’s seen the prospects first hand and has read the reports. His extension is a good sign that the minor league talent that has been brought in over the last two years is on the way soon.

“Hopefully by the time I’m done, this team is in a great place,” Mattingly said.

Rojas’ deal with Marlins is for $10.5M over 2 years and an option. Jeter called Rojas “the true example of a professional.”

“This front office has been transparent since last Spring Training. Derek and Bruce,” Rojas said. “They are always going to tell you the truth trom day one.”

Rojas has been with the Marlins since 2015 as a part of the Dee Gordon trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He has grown from utility infielder to starting shortstop and team leader. When Mattingly was asked in July about who should be the Marlins All-Star, he chose Rojas for his leadership.

The Marlins should have about $25 million is coming off the books with Martin Prado’s contract expiring and Starlin Castro’s $1M buyout. That money should be spent on improving the team, especially the bullpen. While Jeter was non-committal on the issue, he did emphasize that he wants his top prospects to have a clear pathway to the big leagues.

“They’re coming and we don’t want to block their way,” Jeter said.

 

Christian Yelich out for the season with fracture knee

Christian Yelich will not be the Superman that took the Brewers to the NLCS in 2018 again this season.

The Milwaukee Brewers defeated the Miami Marlins 4-3 on Tuesday yet took a major hit in their playoff push.

National League MVP Christian Yellich fractured his knee on a foul ball in the fist inning and left the game. The Brewers announced that he will be out for the remainder of the season.

“We’ll fly him back to Milwaukee (Wednesday) for further testing,” Brewers general manager David Stearns said after the game. “We don’t have a definitive timeframe other than we know that he’ll be out for the remainder of the season right now. We also don’t know whether surgery is required. He’ll need further diagnostic imagining (Wednesday) in Milwaukee then meet with our doctors and we’ll plot a plan going forward.”

Yelich hit .329 with 44 home runs and 97 RBIs along with 30 stolen bases this season for a Brewers team that entered the game only two games behind the Chicago Cubs for the second NL wildcard spot. He led the majors in slugging percentage and OPS prior to the inury.

“We feel awful for Christian,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “That’s the thing that resonates with me right now. He’s a special player and it’s a joy to watch him play every day. He’s the best at what he does. Not being able to see that every day is not good.”

What makes this extra tragic is the injury occurred at his original stomping grounds. Yellich’s career began in Miami and his last two years with the Marlins were Don Mattingly’s first two as manager.

“Obviously awful, we all know Yeli and what kind of guy he is,” Mattingly said. “You hate to see a player like that get hurt down the stretch. He’s stepped into the superstar realm as a player, and MVP last year. You don’t want to see that happen to a team down the stretch.”

The injury may be the difference between whether or not Yellich wins his second consecutive MVP. Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger now has 2 1/2 weeks to improve on his 44 home runs, 106 RBI, 11 stolen bases, .306 batting average and 1.049 OPS.

The Miami Dolphins look like the worst team in local history

The Miami Dolphins haven’t been able to do much right in the past couple of decades.

But this tanking thing?

They’re naturals.

Sunday’s 59-10 loss to the Baltimore Ravens was so complete that the score is misleading. If Lamar Jackson had stayed in for the fourth quarter, the Ravens were headed to the 70s. As it was, this was the highest score by a Dolphins opponent in a regular season contest in the franchise’s increasingly ignominious history.

And here’s the thing: it can and will get worse.

The Dolphins — what’s wrong with Minkah Fitzpatrick — couldn’t handle the Ravens’ pedestrian receivers Sunday. Next Sunday? Tom Brady comes to town with Antonio Brown, Josh Gordon and Julian Edelman. And it’s not like there are lots of Dolphins young players with high upsides who will improve drastically as the season progresses.

So there’s a real chance this could be the worst non-expansion team in South Florida sports history.

Yes, the Miami Dolphins were 1-15 in 2007 under Cam “Thumbs This Way” Cameron.

But they were outscored on average only 27-17 per game.

The Panthers have been middling to bad for a while. But they’ve never been the equivalent of 1-15 or even 2-14 NFL bad.

So it’s just the 2007-08 Miami Heat (15-67 after Dwyane Wade and everyone else got hurt and the Heat raided the D-League roster) and the 1998 Florida Marlins (54-108 after H. Wayne Huizenga sold off a World Series winner).

But this?

This has the looks of something historic.

What will the Miami Dolphins do well this season? Throw? No. They can’t protect. Run? No. They can’t block. Tackle? That appears foreign to them. Cover? Ravens ran wild through the secondary.

And as it gets more and more hopeless, more veteran players will check out, interested only in their checks. More fans will stay home — tanking sounds better in principle than it feels in practice.

Prepare for the worst.

It’s what many of you wanted.

And the Dolphins will deliver.

 

 

Pablo Lopez Returns to Marlins

Prior to tonight’s game, the Marlins activated RHP Pablo Lopez from the 10-Day IL and optioned LHP Jose Quijada to Triple-A New Orleans. Lopez has been on the injured list since June 19th with a right shoulder strain. Tonight, he finally makes his return after more than two months out of Major League action.

Before being put on the injured list, Lopez accumulated a 5-5 record with a 4.23 ERA and 73 strikeouts in 76.2 innings pitched. Those are not terrible numbers, in fact, he would have a sub-4 ERA if it weren’t for his disastrous start against the Mets back in May where he allowed 10 earned runs in three innings of work.

Pablo’s time rehabbing in the minors was definitely rough. In five games started, he has an 8.79 ERA and only 14.1 innings pitched. However, he did finish his time in the minors on a positive note. His last start, he logged six innings, allowing one earned run with five strikeouts.

Shoulder injuries are one of the toughest injuries to come back from. Pitchers have to get a feel for their pitches again and have to make sure their mechanics are in sync. It’s definitely a tedious journey but Pablo can definitely bounce back from this injury, he done it before.

In order to make room for Pablo on the roster, Jose Quijada had to be optioned to Triple-A New Orleans. Quijada has been struggling lately at the Major League level. In his last seven games, he’s pitched five innings of relief and allowed 8 earned runs with 7 walks. His last appearance against the Phillies didn’t do him any favors. He pitched 0.2 innings, walked four and allowed two earned runs. He has good stuff, just needs to work on his control, like many young pitchers.

Let’s see if we see the same Pablo Lopez tonight who throws pitches like this… (via @IanPostPL)

Marlins Best Trade Assets

The July 31st trade deadline is only a week away and the Marlins are clearly sellers. The possibility of Miami trading one of their starting pitchers is now nothing but a memory. Trevor Richards was the most likely to be traded but a string of bad starts has deteriorated his value. In July, Richards is 0-3 with a 8.40 ERA. He has allowed 14 earned runs in 15 innings pitched while being struck for four home runs. His future is likely in the bullpen for the Marlins.

With Richards no longer having trade value, who is next up? Well there a few and they’re all veterans. Starlin Castro, Neil Walker, Curtis Granderson, Sergio Romo are among players who are more than likely gone by the deadline. I would have included Miguel Rojas in the list but I don’t see Miami trading him, his leadership is his greatest trait for the young core.

Starlin Castro

Starlin Castro has been on an absolute tear in July. Through 17 games in July, Castro is hitting for a .333 average with three home runs, nine RBIs and a .912 OPS. By far his best month to this point. He’s also hitting better during away games than he does at home, so a change of scenery could also be a factor in his value. Castro is hitting for a .265 average with five home runs and 22 BRIs in away games, clearly would play better away from unforgiving Marlins Park.

Neil Walker

Neil Walker was the Marlins’ best hitter before having a stint on the injured list. July hasn’t been his best month but his season hasn’t been terrible. Hitting for a .266 average with five home runs, 19 RBIs and a .730 OPS. He can play multiple positions and is a switch hitter. His ability to play multiple positions and to be able to hit from both sides of the plate will be nice a addition to a contender’s bench during a playoff run.

Curtis Granderson

To be quite honest, Granderson might be the toughest to trade besides Castro and his contract. Granderson has massively underperformed this year. Through 86 games this season, he is hitting for a .181 average with nine home runs and 26 RBIs in 237 at-bats. Not very good value with Granderson, but a contender may have a need for a lefty bench bat with a history of playoff experience.

Sergio Romo

Sergio Romo may have the best trade value of the four veterans. He has playoff and World Series experience under his belt as well as three World Series Championships. Through 36 games so far for the Marlins, Romo has a 2-0 record with a 3.68 ERA and 16 saves. A contending team that has had bullpen issues this year such as the Nationals, Brewers, Red Sox, Twins, Phillies, and maybe the Dodgers who are looking to solidify their already decent bullpen may inquire about Romo and give up a pretty decent prospect for him. The July 31st Trade Deadline should be fun.

JJ Bleday learned from hometown ‘legend’ before pro start

Before starting his professional baseball career with the Single-A Advanced Jupiter Hammerheads, JJ Bleday got to learn from a member of the Miami Marlins organization whom he considers a legend.

No, it wasn’t Derek Jeter, who drafted him No. 4 overall in this year’s MLB Draft.

It wasn’t Don Mattingly, a fellow New York Yankees legend who manages the team.

The “legend” Bleday refers to is veteran corner infielder Neil Walker.

“He’s a legend in my area,” Bleday said. 

Bleday grew up in Titusville, PA, a small town close to Pittsburgh, where Walker grew up. He moved to the Florida Panhandle after his sophomore year and played college ball at Vanderbilt University, where he hit an NCAA-leading 27 home runs while leading the Commodores to a national championship.

Bleday said he met Walker during his childhood on the flight back to Pittsburgh from Arizona. Bleday was attending a baseball showcase that his brother was in while Walker was at teammate Joel Hanrahan’s wedding. Hanrahan was the closer for the Pirates around the same time Walker’s career was beginning to blossom. The two took a picture together and a decade later they meet again as members of the same organization.

The two met during batting practice the day Bleday signed with the Marlins and Walker recognized him.

“I couldn’t tell if he was being serious or trying to be nice,” Bleday said. “It’s crazy how that comes around. He’s a legend in Pennsylvania. He’s won state titles in both baseball and football in Pine-Richland and that’s one of the biggest levels of High School in Pennsylvania in terms of 5A and 6A. He’s a good role model and great player and it’s crazy to share that with him.”

”He made me feel really old,” Walker said with a smile. “He said he followed the Pirates when he was a kid and he remembered watching me when I first got up to the Major Leagues in 2009-10. He definitely made me feel old.”

Batting practice is a small sample size when trying to assess a player’s skill but Walker seemed impressed with Bleday at the cage.

“He’s got a short swing. He’s got really good hands, getting the barrel to the ball,” Walker said. “Just in batting practice, you can kind of tell those things. And on top of being a good hand/eye guy, he’s got power, so that’s kind of a mixture that you look for in guys that’s pretty rare. It’s typically either one or the other. Guys who are power guys but don’t quite have the contact skills but he seems to have both and have a lot of skills as a hitter.”

While taking batting practice, Bleday made sure to learn from Walker and other veterans on the Marlins. Bleday said the most important lesson he got from them was on time management.

“You’re going to always have time with family and friends when they come and watch you play and all that,” Bleday said. “Make sure you are a little bit of selfish when it comes to staying back in your routine and getting back to the middle of playing baseball because that’s your primary objective.”

Having signed a one-year deal, Walker is likely to be traded by the MLB Trade Deadline and despite Bleday starting in High A, it’s not certain whether or not both will be playing on the same field by the time JJ debuts. Maybe the stars aligned when Walker signed and Bleday got drafted by the same team at the same year so he could have that rare moment with the local legend.

Marlins Ink Top Two Picks in Bleday and Misner

The Miami Marlins have agreed to terms with their top two draft picks from this year’s draft, JJ Bleday and Kamerson Misner. It was first reported by Jon Heyman (via@JonHeyman) on Wednesday, that Bleday and the Marlins have come to an agreement and a deal was in place. Earlier today, Bleday passed his physical and now the deal is official and he can begin is professional career.

Bleday is the fourth overall pick and he will be receiving a signing bonus of $6,670,000. That’s $3,000 above the pick value. Misner is the Marlins’ competitive balance round pick (35th overall) and will be receiving a bonus of $2,115,000, about $19,000 above the pick value (via @jimcallis). Signing these two picks is huge for the organization, could shape up to be the most talented draft in franchise history.

Let’s get to know our new members of the Marlins family!

JJ Bleday

Previously drafted by the Padres in 2016 out of high school, he decided not to sign and attend Vanderbilt instead. Bleday attended Vanderbilt University for three years before being selected by the Marlins his junior year with the fourth overall pick in the draft.

In 51 games as a freshman for Vanderbilt, Bleday hit for a .251 average with two home runs and 22 RBIs. A rather disappointing season but still room to grow.

He decided to play summer ball in the New England Collegiate Baseball League where he batted for a .232 average with two home runs in 69 at bats. The summer league definitely helped him because in his sophomore season, there was a rise in his numbers.

Sidelined for 22 games with an oblique injury, Bleday appeared in 39 games producing a .368 average with four home runs and 15 RBIs. A very nice increase in average and a slight increase in homers.

His junior year is where things really took off. He played 36 games in the Cape Cod Baseball League before his junior collegiate season, and hit .311 with five home runs and 15 RBIs. He was named the “Top Professional Prospect” because of his performance.

His junior year was an amazing showcase of his talent and hard work to be the player he knows he can be. He accumulated a .347 average with 27 home runs (Led the nation), and 72 RBIs while leading Vanderbilt to winning the D-1 National Title in 71 games.

Bleday was named the Southeastern Conference Baseball Player of the Year after his junior season. Player of the Year and a National Title, not too bad of year for the Marlins fourth overall pick.

Now onto our other signee in Kameron Misner.

Kameron Misner

Perviously drafted out of high school in 2016 by the Kansas City Royals, he decided not to sign and attend the University of Missouri instead. He attended Missouri until the end of his junior year as he is the 35th overall pick in the draft by the Marlins.

Named Freshman All-American by D1Baseball his freshman year at Missouri, after batting .282 with seven home runs and 34 RBIs in 58 games. A very good start to his college career.

The summer after his freshman year, he played in the New England Collegiate Baseball League where he accumulated a .378 average with eight home runs, 25 RBIs and 14 stolen bases in 135 at bats.

His sophomore season is where things began to take off. In 34 games before a foot injury sidelined him for the final 22 games of the season, Misner hit for a .360 average with four home runs and 25 RBIs.

In 56 games during the 2019 collegiate season, Misner hit for a .286 average with ten home runs, 32 RBIs, and 20 stolen bases. Very nice season for the Marlins 35th overall pick and a very successful draft for the Marlins.

 

With plenty of injured Marlins rehabbing, who should stay and who should go?

Martin Prado began his rehab assignment in Jupiter on Wednesday and went 1-3 while playing first base without issue. It’s likely that Prado will return soon and assume his place in the Marlins active roster as a reserve corner infield with veteran presence.

He’s batting .239 in 155 at-bats but is entering the final year of his three-year contract and is one of the leaders of the team. He’s clearly coming back and Yadiel Rivera is most likely the one to go back to Triple-A New Orleans. Rivera is batting .267 with a .353 on-base percentage in his last 15 at-bats but is hitting .184 overall in a utility role.

Prado is not the only one soon coming off the injured list. Relief pitcher Tayron Gurerrero is also in Jupiter for his rehab assignment. The Marlins called up Jeff Brigham in his place at the time of the injury. Brigham is now in New Orleans as well so either Jose Quijada (2.16 WHIP) or one of the three starting pitchers that were called up to fill holes in the rotation caused by injury.

Elieser Hernandez pitched in Caleb Smith’s place and has gone 1-3 with a 4.25 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP and 34 strikeouts in 29.2 innings. Smith has returned and Hernandez has experience in the bullpen in case he moves over with Gurerrero if he doesn’t go back to Triple-A New Orleans to continue starting.

“It could be either way,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said on June 30. “It’s been something that we talked about and it’s probably going to go back to what’s best for each guy and what’s best for the organization. Is it best for him to be in the bullpen not pitching very often or is it best for him to get the ball every five days and continue to grow? So that’s going to be the question that we talk about within the organization, development and what’s best for that individual’s development.”

Jon Berti was also in the middle of rehab assignment in New Orleans since June 29. He played full-time in the Baby Cakes four-game series going 6-for-15 with a pair of home runs before straining his hamstring and having to halt his rehab.

Catcher Chad Wallach is close to returning from his concussion but lead the Marlins into a roster quagmire with Bryan Holaday . The competition in spring training came a tie in which the tiebreaker went to the player already on the 40-man roster. But now both are on roster but both can not be there together so long as Jorge Alfaro is healthy. Carrying three catchers usually doesn’t make sense when there’s plenty of need everywhere else on the roster.

Before the injury, Wallach was batting .250 with a .708 OPS and a home run in 48 at-bats. Holaday, with three less at-bats, is slashing .311/.404/.489 with two home runs. This might be one where it makes the most sense for the Marlins to leave Wallach in New Orleans after he is cleared to return.

The rest of July will be a period of roster juggling between players returning from injury and possible trades. Every veteran on the team will be on the trade block, even if the return may not be much.