On Monday, Kim Ng and the Miami Marlins parted ways despite making it to the postseason for only the fourth time in franchise history. In the days since then, we have heard both sides of the story and there are still some unknowns because principal owner Bruce Sherman hasn’t taken any questions from the media.
What’s clear is Sherman felt changes needed to be made in order to succeed as a small-market team moving forward. Those changes included bringing in a president of baseball operations to work above Kim and address the Marlins’ player development struggles.
Over the last three years, the Marlins have developed very little of their own major league talent, relying instead on making upgrades via trade. Especially on the hitting side, their homegrown prospects haven’t played up to their potential in many cases.
In 2021, for example, the Marlins’ first draft with Ng as general manager, they selected infielder Kahlil Watson with their first-round pick (16th overall pick). Watson was generally considered a top-five player in his draft class and the Marlins got lucky that he fell all the way to them.
Watson had attitude issues from the beginning of his pro career, missing time during the 2022 season because of internal discipline. However, even when he was on the field, he wasn’t progressing as hoped. Watson slashed .234/.331/.412 (110 wRC+) in parts of three seasons in the Marlins system while striking out 31.2% of the time. His stock had fallen so much by this past summer that the Marlins were willing to trade him to the Cleveland Guardians (along with Jean Segura) in exchange for Josh Bell.
The top seven players drafted by the Marlins in 2021 were all hitters. None of them have come close to reaching the majors yet.
The Atlanta Braves have set the standard for building a core of homegrown players. Currently, 17 members of their 40-man roster are homegrown, according to Roster Resource. They drafted stars like Austin Riley, Michael Harris II and Spencer Strider while signing Ozzie Albies and soon-to-be NL MVP Ronald Acuña Jr. in the international market.
The Baltimore Orioles also have 17 homegrown guys on their 40-man (Adley Rutschman, Gunnar Henderson, etc.) with many more on the way, including baseball’s number one prospect Jackson Holliday. The O’s have so many MLB-ready hitters that the expectation is they’ll trade some of them this offseason to address other parts of their roster. Baltimore put themselves in this position despite their ownership spending less money than Sherman does.
Then there are the Tampa Bay Rays, another small-market team that has made the postseason five years in a row. They are constantly trading players when they reach their peak value or get too expensive, but the root of their success is finding ways to unlock the best version of whoever they have. This applies to more than just prospects. Look at how reliever Shawn Armstrong has turned his career around, posting a 10.80 ERA with the Marlins in early 2022 compared to a 1.38 ERA with Tampa Bay in 2023.
The Marlins will have a lot of options to choose from during their executive search. The dream would be for the new front office leader to lead this organization to postseason appearances in back-to-back seasons. However, the main focus needs to be sustainable winning long term, which comes from strong player development. It’d make sense to hire somebody who has hands-on experience with that and can bring those best practices to Miami.
Photo by Kevin Barral/Fish On First