2023 record: 84-78
Third place, NL East
Team OPS: .721 (19th in MLB)
Team ERA: 4.22 (16th in MLB)
What Went Right
It was a successful year for the Marlins and first-year manager Skip Schumaker. With a strong finish to the regular season, the Marlins rallied their way to their first full-season playoff appearance since 2003 before they were swept by the Phillies in the Wild Card round. The Marlins actually had a -53 run differential, so it’s safe to say that a lot “went right” for them. In fact, they were 33-14 (.702) in one-run games and 7-3 in extra-inning games, which provides some valuable context. While Sandy Alcantara experienced a drop-off before going down with an elbow injury, Jesús Luzardo stepped up as the staff ace while Braxton Garrett and top prospect Eury Perez also impressed. Luis Arráez (who was acquired for Pablo Lòpez) was the igniter for the lineup and Jorge Soler bounced back from a down 2022 campaign. Jazz Chisholm Jr. handled the move to center field with aplomb and Jon Berti proved valuable in a utility infielder role. Some of Kim Ng’s additions paid off nicely, as A.J. Puk and Tanner Scott were valuable bullpen cogs and midseason acquisitions Jake Burger and Josh Bell provided some much-needed thump to get the Marlins to the playoffs.
What Went Wrong
Sandy Alcantara is at the top of the list here. After winning the National League Cy Young Award in 2022, he regressed to the tune of a 4.14 ERA over 28 starts this season before going down in early September with a right forearm flexor strain. He was shut down after attempting a rehab assignment and eventually required Tommy John surgery, which will leave him in rehab mode for the entire 2024 season. The Marlins gave Jean Segura a two-year, $17 million contract in January, but he batted just .219 with three homers and a .556 OPS over 85 games (with a -1.3 fWAR) before getting the boot in the Josh Bell trade with the Guardians. With Segura, Joey Wendle, and Nick Fortes, the Marlins had three of the four players with the lowest OPS among players with at least 300 plate appearances. Avisail Garcia once again underperformed while dealing with injuries and Trevor Rogers was limited to just four starts due to lat and biceps injuries. Johnny Cueto and his 6.02 ERA didn’t do much to help fill the void in the rotation. David Robertson enjoyed a fine season with the Mets prior to being traded to the Marlins in July, but he struggled with a 5.06 ERA in 22 appearances and lost his closer gig.
No description of “What Went Wrong” would be complete without mentioning how the Marlins royally screwed up the situation with Kim Ng, who declined her part of a mutual option with the club earlier this month. The Marlins reportedly wanted to hire a president of baseball operations over her, which understandably didn’t go over well. This should have been an offseason to build from 2023’s momentum, but now this franchise is stuck in neutral, like seemingly always.
**New addition Luis Arráez was the Marlins’ most valuable position player this season while flirting with .400 in the early part of the year. He was at .401 as late as June 24. There was some drop-off the rest of the way — he **only** hit .310 over his final 75 games — but he still led all qualified hitters with a .354 batting average. There’s no question that Arráez is a skilled hitter, and a bit of a throwback in today’s MLB, but that doesn’t exactly correlate to fantasy value. He racked up 10 homers, 69 RBI, three steals, and 71 runs scored in 147 games this season. Even with the batting average upside — Arráez is a .326 career hitter in 536 major league games — there’s not enough category juice to justify drafting him among the top-100 players in mixed fantasy drafts.
**It’s easy to see the fantasy upside with Jazz Chisholm Jr., it’s just a matter of him staying on the field to realize that potential. So far, that has been a challenge. After being limited to just 60 games in 2022, Chisholm appeared in just 97 games this season while battling turf toe and an oblique injury. He still racked up plenty of counting stats in that time — 19 home runs, 51 RBI, 22 steals, 50 runs scored — but his contact rate was lower than ever before. His batting average against breaking pitches fell more than 100 points compared to 2022. Chisholm’s sprint speed was also down, but the toe injury likely had a lot to do with that. He underwent surgery in October to address the issue and won’t be able to run for three months, but all indications are he’ll be ready to go when spring training rolls around. Now outfield-only in fantasy leagues, Chisholm remains in the category of high-risk/high-reward.
**Those who took a flier on Jorge Soler after his injury-plagued first season in Miami were richly rewarded, as the 6-foot-4 slugger blasted 36 homers (his most since his AL-leading 48 bombs in 2019) with an .853 OPS over 137 games. His batting average improved by 43 points, from .207 to a more-acceptable .250 thanks to the best contact rate of his career. Soler has good patience and hits the ball hard (and far) to all fields, so he’s a bankable power bat no matter where he plays. Certainly there’s some injury history here, but his outlook could improve assuming he opts for free agency and winds up in a better lineup and home ballpark.
**One of the big success stories of Kim Ng’s tenure with the Marlins, Jesús Luzardo continues to progress as a valuable fantasy starter. The 26-year-old threw a career-high 178 2/3 innings this past season while posting a 3.63 ERA and 208/55 K/BB ratio. The unprecedented workload is something to consider, as he had a 4.70 ERA over his final 10 starts. Granted, he stepped up in the biggest of moments, delivering a gem in his final regular season start. On the whole, Luzardo missed plenty of bats and showed improved control this season while making half of his starts in one of the most pitcher-friendly stadiums in the game. He should be considered a rock-solid No. 2 starter in mixed fantasy leagues.
**In terms of pure upside, there’s a chance that Eury Pérez is drafted earlier than Luzardo in mixed leagues next spring. It’s understandable, even for a pitcher going into their age-21 season. The 6-foot-8 monster flashed ace potential in his 91 1/3 innings in the bigs this year, posting a 3.15 ERA to go along with a 108/31 K/BB ratio. He was flat-out unhittable for a month stretch from late-May to late-June before the Marlins optioned him to Double-A around the All-Star break in order to limit his workload. Pérez wasn’t quite as effective upon returning in August, though he continued to pile up the strikeouts at a prodigious rate. The Marlins ultimately shut him down in late-September with left SI joint inflammation, which is a fancy way of saying lower back injury. He should be fine for spring training. Among pitchers with at least 90 innings pitched this season, only Tyler Glasnow and Spencer Strider had a higher swinging strike rate than Pérez. The ingredients (including a high-octane fastball and whifftastic secondaries) are here for a major breakout in 2024.
**Jake Burger was awesome after joining the Marlins at the trade deadline, putting up a .303/.355/.505 batting line to go along with nine home runs and 28 RBI over 53 games. While his .354 BABIP stands out, he made lots of hard contact and also lowered his strikeout rate to 21.7 percent. Don’t look for him to compete for batting titles moving forward, but some sort of middle-ground between the .303 batting average he had with the Marlins and the .214 batting average he had with the White Sox appears reasonable. We know Burger won’t run, but the power should keep him relevant in mixed leagues.
**Tanner Scott could end up being one of the best values among fantasy closers in 2024. The 29-year-old southpaw made massive strides with his control this season while posting a 2.31 ERA, 0.99 WHIP and 104/24 K/BB ratio in 78 innings of work. He allowed just three earned runs across his final 24 appearances and excelled as the Marlins’ primary closer down the stretch. There’s little reason to think he’ll face any competition for the role going into the spring, so there’s massive potential if the improved control sticks.
Key Free Agents
(Josh Bell and Jorge Soler both have player options for 2024, which they could decline and hit the open market)
Matt Barnes, Johnny Cueto, Matt Moore, Joey Wendle, Yuli Gurriel
Well, first off, the team needs a new general manager after they insulted Kim Ng on the way out the door. It will be interesting to see what sort of executives willingly join this situation in Miami.
From a player personnel perspective, a lot hinges on the decisions from Soler and Bell in terms of their player options. If one or both opt for free agency, some additional power should be a priority. The Marlins should also think about how to address their shortstop situation, as well as find some rotation depth with Alcantara set to miss the 2024 season. That’s a big loss, though a full season from Eury Pérez could help lessen the blow somewhat.