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At the end of this post, there is some rant about the Rule 5 protection deadline. Let us get through what is factual right now and then we can vent later on.
After going through the main needs for next season, namely C, SS, and SP, the Marlins cleared the air a bit more this week by protecting some of their Rule 5-eligible minor leaguers. On Wednesday, the Marlins decided to include on their 40-man roster Anthony Maldonado and Victor Mesa Jr. These moves can give us a better understanding of how the FO is going to approach the rest of the offseason.
While some other roster fronts can be upgraded (RH reliever, LH bench bat, defensive OF), efforts will probably be now focused on improving the backstop position, acquiring a starting SS, and potentially an innings-eater SP. Offering contract extensions to core players should also be on the agenda, but fans never know what to expect from the shallow-pocketed Chairman (far from being true, Sherman).
Let us work with what the team has today. The official roster breakdown for the current 40-man is the following:
Designated Hitters: None.
For a total of 37 players, that leaves 3 spots available ahead of the Rule 5 Draft in early December and the rest of the offseason.
As countlessly mentioned, there are flagrant improvement opportunities at C and SS. Another SP is highly recommended, as is another RH reliever. In the hypothetical case all those positions are fulfilled with players from other organizations, which players are now the most probable to lose their roster spot? A friendly reminder that later today (Friday 6:00 p.m ET) is the non-tender deadline, where the Marlins face some decisions. They might have one or two extra roster spots available afterwards.
Based purely on performance, Stallings is the most obvious candidate to be non-tendered even though his contract is not particularly expensive. After him, other non-tender candidates are Sixto, Okert, Groshans, and Burdick.
Sixto probably threw his last pitch within the organization after showing an 85-mph fastball in one inning of action this past season. That is the only inning he has thrown in a professional game over the last 3 years. There is no reason to keep protecting him and most probably no team will claim him to offer a ML roster spot. As a fan, one really wishes Sixto can come back, but awarding him a roster spot at this point is indefensible.
Peyton Burdick had 37 PAs this season in Miami, striking out 18 times. While he still hit 24 HRs in Jacksonville, he also punched out at a staggering 36.6% rate. It is very difficult to defend such production but to be fair, he didn’t get an extended evaluation with the big team. All hope was lost when this season Jazz got injured of a turf toe and the FO decided to bring Davis from Detroit, knowing that Burdick could man the position.
Jordan Groshans’ prospect pedigree fell off a cliff after 2021. He was highly regarded while in Toronto, and the Marlins learned the hard way why the Blue Jays weren’t bothered that much by trading him away. He hit 6 homers in 460 ABs this season, and his OPS finished the season at .669. With some depth in the positions he can play (3B and 2B), his roster spot is simply put, unjustified.
In the unlikely scenario that the Marlins need another roster spot, Okert is probably the odd man out in a highly effective, heavy LH bullpen that also includes Scott, Nardi, Puk and potentially Simpson. He didn’t have a terrible season (4.45 ERA in 58.1 IP with 73!! Ks and inducing a lot of weak contact), but other teams would value him more. Okert is entering his first year of arb projected to make a mere $1.2 M. Speaking of Simpson, himself might not be completely ruled out as a DFA candidate, ditto for Myers, however unlikely in both cases.
Rule 5 Protection Deadline
None of us can grasp what happened on Wednesday. The Marlins had 5 roster spots available to protect Rule 5-eligible prospects. The sure thing for all of us was to include Troy Johnston, with Maldonado as the distant secondary priority. After them, Mesa Jr., Will Banfield, and Nasim Núñez were the other realistic possibilities. Instead, the Fish chose to protect only Maldonado and Mesa Jr., leaving us in disturbing awe.
Why not protect Johnston? The message this organization sends to any minor leaguer is that, you can crack your back an entire season and even win the Organizational Offensive Player of the Year, but that won’t guarantee you an ML roster spot. Perhaps they know something about him that we don’t. My humble opinion is that, even if he cannot hit MLB pitching, he deserves a roster spot over at least 5 players currently on the 40-man. To the eye of the inexperienced, it makes no sense. But again, they know better for sure.
It is almost certain that any of Oakland, Washington, Pittsburgh, or even Detroit will claim Johnston in a couple of weeks; not so sure about any team claiming Banfield or Núñez, though. Can the strategy be preparing to “steal” some unprotected prospects from other organizations because they don’t fully trust their own?
Next week we will analyze unprotected Rule 5 prospects across the league that can be useful next season and worth considering for the Marlins if still available at their draft position. Having that many roster spots available is probably the silver lining of such a poor minor league system.
Comments are much appreciated and see you all next week!
Photo by Kelly Gavin/MLB Photos