Ely Sussman discusses where things currently stand with the 2024 Miami Marlins payroll following the non-tender deadline (3:30), then takes on the enigma that is Vidal Bruján (16:45). How is it that a former MLB Top 100 prospect with solid contact skills from both sides of the plate continues to flop when given big league opportunities? What would qualify as a successful outcome for Bruján’s career moving forward?
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As covered in an article on Saturday, the Marlins’ projected payroll—just accounting for players currently under club control—is within a couple million dollars of their 2023 Opening Day total. That’s with huge holes still remaining at catcher and shortstop plus questionable depth at the corner outfield spots.
Recently acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays, Bruján was critical of himself in a since-deleted Instagram post, saying “I fell short of what I expected from myself and what the organization knows I’m capable of doing.”
Bruján was widely considered one of the Rays’ best prospects when he ascended to the Triple-A level. The Dominican switch-hitter posted above-average offensive numbers during each of his three seasons in Durham with a wRC+ of 111, 117 and 110 in 2021, 2022 and 2023, respectively (100 represents league average).
However, the time Bruján spent with the Rays during those same seasons was an entirely different story. He slashed .157/.218/.221 (28 wRC+) in 99 games played and didn’t show marked improvement this past year. Even crediting him for his expected production based on batted ball quality, Bruján’s .222 xwOBA is tied for second-lowest among players with at least 250 MLB plate appearances since 2021.
Brújan has been super aggressive swinging at the first pitch (41.9% of the time vs. 29.6% MLB average) and his groundball rate increases when facing top competition (48% in MLB vs. 42% in AAA). His main deficiency is a lack of hard hits. Brújan has “barreled” only four balls in the majors, as defined by Statcast, representing 1.5% of his total plate appearances. The combination of limited bat speed (64.5 mph average in 2023), a small physical build and decent but not special contact skills makes it difficult to envision him reaching his perceived ceiling.
All that being said, I approve of this trade from the Marlins’ perspective (pending the identity of the player to be named later). Bruján could follow in the footsteps of former Chicago White Sox utility man Leury García, whose early-career production was equally awful before turning a corner at age 26.
The downside of the deal is obvious: Bruján is out of minor league options and might not last even a single season in the Marlins organization if he continues to slump so severely. But if something clicks, he still has six years of club control left.
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