Centerpiece prospect of Luis Arraez trade off to slow, injury-plagued start with Marlins

JUPITER — The 700 fans who attended the Jupiter Hammerheads’ return from an 11-day road trip Thursday night at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium may not have heard of Marlins' top prospect, Dillon Head.

But the patrons who did were disappointed Head did not make his home debut when the Hammerheads, the Miami Marlins’ Single A affiliate, were hammered by the Tampa Tarpons, 8-1.

There were even boos emerging in the fifth inning after a misplayed flyball when Jupiter fell behind 6-0 while being no-hit to that point.

It’s tough to be a Miami Marlins fan these days.

May 23, 2024; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; San Diego Padres first baseman Luis Arraez (4) hits a single against the Cincinnati Reds in the first inning at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports
May 23, 2024; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; San Diego Padres first baseman Luis Arraez (4) hits a single against the Cincinnati Reds in the first inning at Great American Ball Park. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

With luck, the Marlins – and Hammerheads - fans soon will come to know Head a lot better.

The 19-year-old outfielder is the centerpiece prospect of the controversial trade that sent two-time batting champion Luis Arraez from the Marlins to the San Diego Padres on May 4th for four prospects – none rated in the Top 100 by

The Marlins were a hideous 9-25 when they dumped their star, Arraez.

Marlins fans cheered for Phillies during May 10 protest in Miami

The move was met by a May 10th protest from Marlins fans outside Miami’s loanDepot Park before the Phillies game for trading away their best player who chased the .400 mark all last summer. Most of the fans cheered for the Phillies that night.

Head, regarded by as the Marlins’ No. 5 prospect, reported nearly three weeks ago to Jupiter with an abductor strain. After rehabbing, he finally made his debut on the recent  road trip and did well in his three games before reinjuring his abductor.

Head was 4 of 12 with a triple, 3 runs scored and an RBI. He’s now rehabbing again, in the morning, and is not attending games.

On a feisty Zoom press conference after the trade, Marlins president of baseball operations Peter Bendix said: “Dillon is furthest way from the big leagues with minimal professional experience. But he has the highest upside of the group - the athleticism, the speed and overall impact on both sides of the baseball is pretty exciting for us."

The two other important prospects acquired from San Diego in the deal, first baseman Nathan Martorellaand  centerfielder Jakob Marsee, were sent to Double A and are now playing for the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. The fourth minor-leaguer was a throw-in, Korean pitcher Woo-Suk Go, for salary purposes.

Through their first 13 games in Pensacola, Marsee was batting .222 with a homer and 4 RBI but his 10 walks gave him a team-leading .391 OBP. Martorella was batting .158 with an RBI. Maybe they get a callup in September when rosters expand. Maybe they don’t.

The Zoom conference with Bendix devolved into a therapy session for Marlins journalists who’ve seen this act unfold before.

Question from one reporter from a Marlins blogsite:  “How did you arrive at the decision this was a good idea trading a great big leaguer in the prime of his career for four players with no big-league experience? The Marlins have done that a bunch of times through the years and it seems almost all of them come out on the wrong end.”

Question from Andy Slater, the popular, poker-playing  radio host: “So you would go with the thinking of what would possibly happen rather than with a player you know what he can do?’’

Question from  another radio man: "How did (owner) Bruce Sherman take this, using millions of Bruce’s money, to pay some of Arraez’s salary, with 80 percent of the season still left that will negatively impact winning by trading the most marketable and productive player that will affect attendance and merchandise sales."

Yeah, it was brutal. There were other question about if he regretted not trading him in the winter when a more lucrative package could’ve been netted. And whether the Marlins ever entered extension talks to see were Arraez stood. Bendix said he’s not looking back and never formally discussed a new contract with Arraez.

In truth, Bendix never unraveled amid the onslaught. Said it was “a difficult move, a difficult decision.’’

“I was a fan in Cleveland and observed what happened,’’ Bendix said. “I saw the 1997 Marlins win the World Series (over Cleveland) and  then tore things down afterward. The mandate is to never let that happen again.

“We got an offer we thought we couldn’t walk past for the long-term benefit of the organization. The team’s record is what it is. We’re very disappointed. The players are very disappointed.’’

When asked if this was a rebuild, Bendix said, “I’m not putting a terminology on it. The goal is to build toward a long-term sustainability and long-term success.’’

“We’re getting four players we are excited about - three position player prospects who are all under 23 with a tremendous amount of upside and a different combination type of players. It was the type of deal we were worried wasn’t’ going to be there if we waited.’’

That is why the goings-on in Jupiter and Pensacola become as important as in Miami, which actually experienced a positive bump from May 12-22, going 7-3. A wildcard playoff entrant last season, Miami was 18-34 through Friday.

Hammerheads have Marlins' No. 1, 3 and 5 prospects on roster

The Hammerheads now have the Marlins’ No. 1, 3 and 5 prospects in pitchers Noble Meyer (2023 first-round pick), Thomas White (2023 compensatory pick after Round 1) and Head. They’re all 19.

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“Having the top two pitchers in the system, Meyer and White, and now another top 5 (Head), to have him join the team, it helps draw excitement and create Marlins baseball fans and get people out to Jupiter Hammerheads games,’’ Jupiter GM Nick Bernabe told The Palm Beach Post. “All the reports on (Head) is he’s got wheels and he can play.’’

Head was not at the ballpark Thursday and unavailable for comment.

“We are excited to have what we hope is the future of the Marlins organization playing here in Palm Beach County,’’ Bernabe said.

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Some scouts see Martorella potentially as a fourth big-league outfielder and Marsee as an occasional big-league starter at first base. Marsee is the better hitter but some view him still as a bench player and keystone pinch-hitter.

The projection on Head is higher, a potential star with exceptional bat speed and contact ability as well as being a plus outfielder. Head was drafted in the first round at 25 by the Padres last summer. But as Bendix says there are “no guarantees.’’

And that is why another reporter asked Bendix on Zoom:

Say one of the prospects hits, becomes a batting champion. What confidence can Marlins fans have to fall in love with a player, commit to it, buy the jersey and when it comes time to get paid, the player will get shipped out.”

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Miami Marlins catching heat for trading batting champ Luis Arraez to Padres