Miami Marlins swimming towards postseason waters

In a recent interview on The Pivot Podcast, Miami Marlins outfielder Jazz Chisholm Jr. shared details of a formerly toxic clubhouse culture which saw rookies bullied and, in Chisholm’s case personal property destroyed.

But don’t tell that to the 2023 Marlins. Just one year after losing 93 games, the Fish won 84 and clinched a Wild Card berth. They were promptly swept by their NL East rival Philadelphia Phillies, but it didn’t matter. For the first time in—if we’re being honest—their whole existence, the Miami Marlins seem committed to building a winning baseball team.

The bats in the lineup are slowly coming together, with reigning NL batting champ Luis Arráez leading the pack. The pitching staff is trending upwards, even with ace Sandy Alcantara missing 2024 with Tommy John surgery recovery. Another Wild Card berth will be hard, but the Marlins put the league on notice.

Miami is no longer a punchline, and could easily become a better team both this season and in the future.

Greatest Addition: Rachel Balkovec. Unless you follow the deepest levels of New York Yankees minor league baseball, chances are you’ve never heard of Balkovec. She came up as a hitting coach before managing New York’s Single-A Tampa Tarpons for two years, going 122-136. The Marlins took notice in the offseason and hired her to be their new director of player development.

What does this new position mean? Well, essentially, Balkovec will oversee the Marlins’ top prospects and their respective paths to the majors. She knows the routine and daily grind players go through and should impart that knowledge into keeping Miami’s farm system on an upward trajectory. Based on how the team performed last season, she’s strolling into an ideal position.

Greatest Loss: Kim Ng. Unfortunately for the Marlins, hiring Balkovec proved slightly bittersweet. Miami’s offseason developed an almost perpetual black cloud last winter when Ng, the first female general manager in baseball (and American sports) history declined her option for 2024. The reason? Owner Bruce Sherman planned to hire a president of baseball operations.

As in, despite all of Ng’s good work, ownership thought she needed a guiding hand. And after she transformed the Marlins from a punchline to a serious franchise on her own! Yeah, I wouldn’t want to stick around either, even with South Florida’s weather.

Who knows? Maybe former Rays GM and new Marlins president Peter Bendix will pick up right where Ng left off. Perhaps Ng did enough in three short years that the Fish aren’t suddenly out of the water. That doesn’t change that her departure could have been avoided from the get-go.

Greatest Strength: Skip Schumaker. The Marlins have plenty of talent, and now they finally have the coaching. Chisholm even made sure to compliment Schumaker in his interview, praising how quickly he changed the clubhouse environment in Miami. A tattooed former infielder, Schumaker was previously the St. Louis Cardinals’ bench coach and has also worked in San Diego.

Playoff baseball is a privilege in Miami and Schumaker was rewarded accordingly. Winning NL Manager of the Year in his first season is a strong start. Now, he just has to hope Sherman doesn’t prove to be another Jeffrey Loria.

Greatest Weakness: Thin pitching. Losing Alcantara for the season is just one of the Marlins’ pitching ails. Behind Opening Day starter Jesus Luzardo, Miami is banking on a mix of young, fragile, and/or inconsistent arms. For context, here is who is expected to follow Luzardo (10-10, 3.63 ERA in 2023) in the rotation:

  • LHP A.J. Puk: Has not been a full-time starter since 2017, which he split between High-A and Double-A in Oakland’s farm system.
  • RHP Ryan Weathers: Owns a 5.88 ERA over 46 games (31 starts) in three years. He split last season between Marlins and Padres, going 1-8 with an awful 6.55 ERA and 4.5 walks per nine innings (BB/9)
  • LHP Trevor Rogers: Limited to four starts last season due to injury. He had a 2.64 ERA in 2021 and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting, and has posted a 5.26 ERA since.
  • RHP Max Meyer: Owns a 0.00 ERA in spring training since returning from Tommy John surgery, but still hasn’t ever faced an MLB lineup. He is the Marlins’ No. 3 prospect.

Additionally, Eury Perez, Braxton Garrett, and Edward Cabrera are all rehabbing various arm injuries. The Marlins’ two top prospects are also pitchers, but neither has played above A-ball. The pitching staff’s 4.22 ERA last year placed them at the middle of the pack among all teams, but that’s in danger in wake of all this uncertainty.

Will the Miami Marlins make the playoffs again in 2024? Schumaker is a great manager in the making and will keep his team competitive, but the Marlins need to overachieve if they want to reach the postseason. Aside from a shaky pitching foundation, the rest of the National League is too competitive.

The NL East will almost certainly send Atlanta and Philadelphia to the playoffs again in 2024. It’s hard to imagine the Padres not bouncing back into a Wild Card berth, if not overtaking the mighty Dodgers for first place in the NL West. The NL Central…well, we love the NL Central.

This all being said, the Miami Marlins’ future is as bright as it’s been in years. But a stacked National League makes another playoff trip unlikely without Bendix (who still hasn’t hired a GM) making a trade in July.

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