The Marlins are treading into unfamiliar waters.
Entering the second half, they were 14 games over .500, good for the second-best record in the NL and the fourth-best record in all of baseball.
With a 53-39 record, the Fish topped perennial title contenders such as the Dodgers, Astros and Yankees at the unofficial midway point of the season.
The first 92 games of 2023 provided a plethora of memorable moments, ranging from the franchise’s first cycle (Luis Arráez) , to the most anticipated Marlins debut in over a decade (Eury Pérez).
This season has been a whirlwind so far, and it’s bound to get even more interesting.
Arráez Chasing History
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past three-plus months, you are undoubtedly aware of the hitting enigma that is Luis Arráez.
The second baseman leads the league in batting average, on-base percentage and hits. Hitting .383, Arráez is 52 points ahead of Ronald Acuña Jr., who has the second highest average in baseball (.331).
Simply put, this is the best hitter on the planet.
Flirting with .400 all season, Arráez remains in striking distance of the elusive feat. Ted Williams was the last player to eclipse the threshold, hitting .406 in 1941.
The chase for .400 will be a compelling storyline to follow, as the baseball world is starting to take notice of just how special the Marlins’ leadoff hitter truly is.
Starting Pitchers Return
The starting rotation looks quite different from Opening Day, as only Sandy Alcántara and Jesús Luzardo remain. However, two pitchers who started the year in the rotation look to return from injury in the coming weeks. Edward Cabrera and Trevor Rogers have both missed extended time this season, and should make an impact down the stretch.
Cabrera hasn’t pitched since June 17, and is on the injured list with a right shoulder impingement. The righty is expected to be back in the rotation before the end of July.
The 25-year-old has shown flashes of dominance over his 14 starts this season, but needs to be more consistent. The talent is certainly there, and the Marlins hope he can tap into that talent more often than not.
Rogers has been on the shelf since April 19, originally due to a left biceps strain. The lefty was only supposed to miss a few weeks, but a June 13 MRI revealed a partial tear in his right lat. Rogers was subsequently placed on the 60-day IL, and there is currently no definite return date.
Whenever Rogers does return, he will have a chance to significantly help a Marlins rotation that is thin on arms. Like Cabrera, the southpaw has been up and down this season, and will need to be more dependable for the final stretch of the season.
Can Jazz Stay Healthy?
Jazz Chisholm Jr. has made his presence felt every time he stepped foot on the diamond. However, there’s one problem — he can’t stay on the field. The Bahamian star has only played in 45 of 92 games this season, taking multiple trips to the IL.
After missing six weeks with an injury, Chisholm returned to the team on June 27 and instantly produced. The center fielder had five hits, two of which were homers, and four RBIs in his first series back. Chisholm was scorching, which made it even more unfortunate that his second IL stint would start after just six games.
On July 2, Chisholm left the game after an awkward swing and was diagnosed with a mild left oblique strain. He has not played since, and it is unknown when the 25-year-old will be back.
Chisholm’s return can’t come soon enough, as his mere presence takes this team’s confidence and swagger to another level. His combination of speed and power is also something sorely lacking for the Marlins with his absence.
The former All-Star will be back on the field soon, but when he gets healthy, he needs to stay healthy.
Trade Deadline Looming
The Marlins are soon likely to find themselves a position that they have very rarely been in.
The trade deadline is Aug. 1, still a few weeks away, but the Fish are almost certainly going to look to make a splash (pun slightly intended).
Right now, it is still too early to look at specific names, as teams around the league have yet to publicly portray themselves as buyers or sellers. But we should learn more in the coming weeks.
The Marlins have been playing as well as they could’ve hoped so far this season, but improvements are necessary if they want to make some noise in October.
General Manager Kim Ng could seemingly upgrade anywhere on the diamond, but a few obvious positional needs include: 3B, SP, RP (right-handed) and C.
The Fish have gotten off to a terrific start, and while a great deal of that has to do with their play on the field, the relatively soft schedule up to this point has certainly played a role.
That’s about to change.
Starting July 31 through Aug. 20, the Marlins’ schedule is minefield of explosive offenses:
4 vs Phillies
3 at Rangers
3 at Reds
3 vs Yankees
3 vs Astros
3 at Dodgers
With 19 consecutive games against teams over .500, Skip Schumaker’s club will need to be sharp night in and night out in order to survive this stretch. The Marlins will be in sink-or-swim territory (that’s my final pun) over these three weeks, and will have a chance to show national-media skeptics they are for real.