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If the Miami Marlins’ run to the playoffs were the surprise story of the season, the front office shakeup after the playoffs would make it a candidate for the surprise story of the offseason. Changes were to be expected. But, like everyone else, I was surprised to read that Marlins GM Kim Ng decided not to renew her contract for one year, declining her side of a 2024 mutual option. Now that there is a vacancy in the front office, the decisions made by Marlins’ ownership must be prudent.
Two challenges face the Marlins’ front office.
The first challenge is to repeat last year’s success. The Marlins have a talent that can compete for a playoff spot. The new front office people must realize they have inherited a playoff team. This is different than a reset or starting over. Marlins’ ownership needs to build on that fact to increase attendance. The front office must ensure this team can make the playoffs this coming season. Back-to-back playoff runs will signal to the fan base that the Marlins’ organization is committed to winning.
The second challenge the incoming front office must face is player development. Coaching can’t be a problem because the Marlins’ AA team-Pensacola and the Marlins A team-Jupiter were in the respective leagues’ championship games. Pensacola won the AA championship in 2022. From a team perspective, the players have experience chasing for a playoff spot and being in a playoff series. That experience will come in handy when they are in the major leagues.
Part of why I believe that the Marlins are struggling in player development is that they are not taking advantage of the robust baseball culture in South Florida at the high school and college levels. Here are a couple of examples for your consideration.
The first example is this past high school baseball season in South Florida. Four South Florida (i.e., Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach area) won state championships in their respective classes this past year. Out of those four schools, two were nationally ranked.
The second example is on the collegiate level. At the University of Miami, two of their top players were third baseman Yohandy Morales and C.J. Kayfus. Both players were either First-Team All-ACC or Second-Team All-ACC and play positions of need for the Marlins. Yet, the Marlins bypassed both players. Contrast the Marlins’ decisions in the draft to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Rays selected three players from South Florida in this year’s draft. Ironically, immediately after the Marlins made their first-round pick, the Los Angeles Angels selected Nolan Schanuel, a first baseman from Florida Atlantic University, a school about an hour away from Marlins Park. It seems every other team appreciates the talent in the area except the hometown team.
It does not have to be this way. The Marlins, the Rays, the Dodgers, the Giants, the Rangers, and the Astros have one advantage that most major league baseball teams wish they had: a depth of excellent high schools and college baseball programs in their immediate market area to scout from. We may be a small market team, but our community has rich resources regarding baseball talent. Why are we consistently bypassing good players in this area?
The Marlins’ scouting team needs to develop a mindset adopted by former UM football coach Howard Schellenberger. We need to establish a “State of Miami.” Just as coach Schellenberger made an effort to recruit good players from Tampa and south, the Marlins’ scouting staff needs to draw a geographic area that covers both high schools and colleges. Then, make the effort to scout those players.
We must prioritize and draft players in the “State of Miami” who may have similar statistics to the other players being scouted nationwide. Our scouts need to argue why we should select a player from outside “the state of Miami” if a player with similar characteristics is playing in our backyard.
In closing, the new Marlins front office needs to understand baseball’s history in this community. By signing players in free agency that will help this team to make it to the playoffs, it signals to the fans that there is a commitment to winning and excellence. It signals to the fans that there will not be business as usual. By drafting players from the area, whether from high school or college, the front office respects the history and tradition of great baseball at the high school and collegiate levels.
Photo by David Santiago/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service