Just mere minutes after Miami Marlins first-year manager Skip Schumaker was named National League Manager of the Year, the Miami Marlins announced the decision to add both Victor Mesa Jr. and Anthony Maldonado to their 40-man roster.
Had they not been protected prior to Tuesday’s deadline, Mesa and Maldonado would have been eligible to be selected by other teams in next month’s Rule 5 Draft.
Victor Mesa Jr., OF
Although Mesa ranked as the top position player on our latest Fish On First Top 30 prospects list, the chances seemed low that he would be taken in the major league portion of the Rule 5. The Marlins didn’t want to take that chance with the young outfielder.
Mesa had himself a great start to the 2023 season with the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, but fell back down to earth after a midseason injury. He finished the season slashing .242/.308/.412/.720 with 18 home runs, 76 RBIs and a 91 wRC+.
The Marlins as an organization lack center field depth behind Jazz Chisholm Jr., so Mesa’s good defense there likely factored into this decision.
Anthony Maldonado, RHP
Maldonado was by far the biggest lock to earn a roster spot amongst all Rule 5-eligible Marlins pitchers. He posted a 1.76 ERA, 3.40 FIP, 13.89 K/9 and a 4.11 BB/9 with the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp this season, thanks to a dominant slider.
Unlike Mesa, who still needs more development, Maldonado has a good chance at making the 2024 Marlins Opening Day roster as a reliever depending on what additions the team makes over the course of the offseason.
Notable players left unprotected
Troy Johnston, 1B (AA/AAA)
2023 stats: 307/.399/.549/.948 with 26 HR, 116 RBIs and 24 stolen bases
The Marlins shockingly did not select their reigning Minor League Player of the Year. FOF Farm Director Alex Carver put Johnston in the “must protect” category. He led all MiLB players in runs batted in during the 2023 season. He could’ve been a nice backup to Josh Bell at first base and potentially Bell’s long-term replacement beginning in 2025 if he leaves via free agency.
It is all but certain that Johnston will get selected in the Major League portion of the Rule 5 by either a rebuilding team with regular playing time available or any other team with an unsettled first base situation.
Will Banfield, C (AA)
2023 stats: .258/.302/.472/.773 with 23 HR, 76 RBIs and a 100 wRC+
Banfield found offensive success for the first time in his career to go along with great defense behind the plate. The Marlins are betting that he will go unselected anyway and report to camp with them to compete for the backup catcher job.
Nasim Nuñez, IF (AA)
2023 stats: .224/.341/.286/.627 with 5 HR, 43 RBIs and a 79 wRC+
The bat is just not big league ready for Nasim Nuñez, who is fresh off of wrapping up his participation in the Arizona Fall League. His speed and ability to play both shortstop and second base are valuable tools, but not enough to make up for that.
The Marlins 40-man roster now stands at 37. That number could go down by Friday, which is the MLB non-tender deadline.
The Rule 5 Draft will take place on December 7 at the end of the Winter Meetings.
Photo courtesy of Pensacola Blue Wahoos