Fresh off a series win over the Mets, the Reds head to South Beach this weekend to face another NL East opponent in the Marlins. Under new manager (and gritty former Red) Skip Schumaker, Miami enters the weekend with a .500 record (19-19), largely thanks to an unbelievable stretch of one-run wins. The Marlins are an astounding 12-0 in one-run contests this season, setting an MLB record for consecutive games won by a single run.
With the Mets and Phillies struggling, Miami has ridden their good fortune — and a wave of young pitching — to second place in the division, although they’re still well behind the Braves who have already opened up a 6.5-game lead. While .500 baseball isn’t particularly noteworthy, it is for the Marlins. Although they snuck into the playoffs in the shortened 2020 campaign, they haven’t finished with a winning record in a full season since 2009.
Here’s the schedule for this weekend:
- Friday: 6:40 p.m. EST
- Saturday: 1:10 p.m. EST
- Sunday: 1:40 p.m. EST
Despite having a strong pitching staff, the Marlins finished 69-93 in 2022 due to an anemic offense. Some of that was due to injury. Their young star, Jazz Chisholm, missed most of the season with a back issue. Their big acquisitions from the previous offseason, outfielders Jorge Soler and Avisail Garcia, also missed extended periods. Guided by general manager Kim Ng, the club added about $20 million in payroll during the most recent offseason, making a big splash in the trade market and acquiring a couple of notable veterans in free agency.
- 2B Luis Arraez (acquired from Twins)
- 2B/3B Jean Segura (2 years, $17 million)
- 1B Yuli Gurriel (1 year, $1.25 million)
- UTIL Garrett Hampson (minor-league deal)
- SP Johnny Cueto (1 year, $8.5 million)
- RP A.J. Puk (acquired from A’s)
- RP Matt Barnes (acquired from Red Sox)
- RP J.T. Chargois (acquired from Rays)
- IF Xavier Edwards (acquired from Rays)
The Marlins lost a few notable players as well, including: SP Pablo Lopez (Arraez trade), SS Miguel Rojas (traded to Dodgers), OF J.J. Bleday (Puk trade), RP Richard Bleier (Barnes trade), and 3B/OF Brian Anderson (non-tendered).
The Marlins offense looks a bit different than it did after Ng overhauled the infield. Chisholm has moved from second base to center field to accommodate Arraez, while Gurriel slides in at first base and Segura starts at third base — where he’d played only 24 games before this season. The only infield holdover is shortstop Joey Wendle. The outfield remains largely intact, with the exception of Chisholm.
While the Marlins sought to improve their offense, the results haven’t followed. Arraez has been all they could hope for, hitting nearly .400 thus far. Soler and power-hitting outfielder Jesus Sanchez has given them a lift, too. But they haven’t received much production at all from the rest of the lineup. Chisholm is off to a slow start after playing only 60 games in 2022, while Segura has been the worst position player in baseball by fWAR. The catchers, Nick Fortes and Jacob Stallings, have been abysmal at the plate as well.
Collectively, the Marlins have one of the worst offenses in baseball. No team has scored fewer runs per game (3.4) or walked less (6.5 BB%). Only five teams (including the Reds) have hit fewer home runs.
Here are the team’s 13 position players with their 2023 stats through Thursday.
OF Avisail Garcia (back) and 1B Garrett Cooper (ear infection) are on the injured list. Wendle just returned from a month-long stint on the IL due to an intercostal strain.
Here’s the lineup Miami runs out against right-handed pitchers:
- Jazz Chisholm (CF)
- Jorge Soler (DH)
- Luiz Arraez (2B)
- Bryan De La Cruz (LF)
- Jesus Sanchez (RF)
- Yuli Gurriel (1B)
- Jean Segura (3B)
- Nick Fortes (C)
- Joey Wendle (SS)
Fortes splits time behind the dish with Stallings. The speedy Jon Berti, who led baseball in steals last year with 41, has also received a lot of playing time across the infield to fill in for various injuries, and he could continue to spell Wendle at shortstop against left-handed pitchers. Berti can also play all three outfield positions, although he hasn’t played outside the infield dirt yet in 2023. Garrett Hampson and the recently recalled Peyton Burdick have served as the backup outfielders.
Here’s the Marlins pitching staff with stats updated through Thursday.
You may notice that adds up to 14 pitchers. Technically, the 20-year-old phenom Eury Perez hasn’t been added to the roster yet. He’s scheduled to make his MLB debut tonight. The Marlins will have to make a roster move before the game, likely shipping out one of their relievers. Bryan Hoeing, who was originally scheduled to start on Friday before he was used in relief on Wednesday, may be the odd man out.
UPDATE: The Marlins designated Chi Chi Gonzalez for assignment.
Overall, the Marlins pitching staff ranks somewhere in the middle of the pack. While they strike out a lot of hitters (8th in K%), they also issue a lot of walks (24th in BB%). Miami is 20th in ERA, but their expected metrics are more promising — they’re 12th in xERA, 14th in xFIP, and 13th in FIP.
The Marlins’ rotation is incredibly young, with 27-year-old Sandy Alcantara the elder statesman of the group. Old friend Johnny Cueto was expected to be the veteran presence on the staff (the Reds pursued him for the same role), but he left his first start after one inning due to biceps tightness and went on the IL. Cueto then sprained his ankle while covering first base during a rehab start, further delaying his return. Trevor Rogers, who finished second to Jonathan India in NL Rookie of the Year voting in 2021, is also on the IL with a biceps injury.
Fresh off the NL Cy Young award in 2022, Alcantara is off to a slow start by his standards. His strikeouts are slightly down and his walks are slightly up. He’s also getting fewer ground balls and allowing more hard contact. Alcantara’s stuff is still as nasty as ever, though, as he ranks in the 97th percentile in fastball velocity and 82nd percentile in chase rate.
Jesus Luzardo, a former top-100 prospect with the A’s, has been the Marlins’ top starter so far in 2023. The Reds will not face him this weekend. They’ll also miss Edward Cabrera, another former top prospect who has been inconsistent.
Perez will start for the Marlins tonight, becoming the youngest pitcher to ever toe the rubber for the franchise. His 20th birthday was less than a month ago. Perez will be called up from Double-A, skipping over Triple-A altogether. Baseball America ranks Perez as the #5 prospect in the game, while MLB Pipeline has him at #10. Standing at an imposing 6-foot-8, the Dominican right-hander throws an upper-90s fastball with two plus secondary pitches, a slider and a changeup. Perez is also held in high regard for his control. The 20-year-old has a 2.32 ERA and 2.85 xFIP, along with a 35.9% strikeout rate and 7.7% walk rate at Double-A this season.
We’ll also see left-hander Braxton Garrett, who was the seventh overall selection in the 2016 draft — five picks after the Reds took Nick Senzel. Garrett’s numbers are inflated by a nightmarish start on May 3 when he gave up 11 runs and 14 hits in 4.1 innings against the Braves. He’s been OK outside of that appearance, but he hasn’t pitched deep into games, making it through the fifth inning only three times in seven starts.
Here are this weekend’s pitching matchups:
- Friday: Graham Ashcraft vs. Eury Perez
- Saturday: Nick Lodolo vs. Sandy Alcantara
- Sunday: Luke Weaver vs. Braxton Garrett
The Marlins installed A.J. Puk as their closer after a change-of-scenery trade from the A’s. Puk was another 2016 draft pick, taken one spot ahead of Garrett. Once a top prospect as a starting pitcher, injuries have forced Puk into a relief role. The left-hander had Tommy John surgery in 2018 and has dealt with shoulder and back issues in the time since then. Puk has found a home as a reliever, though. Finally healthy last season, he pitched 66.1 strong innings out of the bullpen for the A’s. He’s off to a great start in 2023 as well, recording six saves and a sparkling 2.18 xERA (96th percentile).
Fellow southpaw Tanner Scott also sees a lot of high-leverage innings for the Marlins, as does former Reds right-hander Dylan Floro. 33-year-old Huascar Brazoban has also been a pleasant surprise out of the ‘pen for the Fish.
So far, the Marlins have overcome a dreadful offense to outperform expectations. FanGraphs still projects them to end the year with a losing record (79-83), and their low playoff odds (0.7%) aren’t surprising — especially considering it’ll be tough to hold off the Phillies and Mets. The Reds will get an up-close look at the foundation the Marlins hope to build on in the young starting pitchers, matching them with two promising youngsters of their own in Ashcraft and Lodolo. With two of the league’s least-powerful offenses, a low-scoring series could be on tap.
Featured photo by Ryan Casey Aguinaldo