Youthful Miami Marlins Bringing Excitement to the Team

by Michael Theed | Posted on Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013
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Yelich and Ozuna

The first 45 games for the Miami Marlins have gone … well, technically, they’ve gone just as expected. They sit in last place in the National League East with a 13-32 record, 13.5 games behind the first place Atlanta Braves, and overall having the worst record in the National League, as well as tied for worst in the Majors with the Houston Astros. The Marlins haven’t hit, they haven’t played good defense, and even though the overall pitching staff has been the team’s best weapon this season, if it can be called that, it hasn’t been enough to keep them out of the proverbial division “basement.”

Even with all that negativity, however, the Fish have brought some young excitement to the team with the call-ups of prospects this season, such as outfielder Marcell Ozuna (age 22), second baseman Derek Dietrich (23), and the franchise’s top prospect coming into the season, pitcher Jose Fernandez (20). Soon to be called up to the big leagues, most likely in early or mid-June, is outfielder Christian Yelich (21).

Among those youthful talents, another young player, Adeiny Hechavarria, age 24, has played a very solid shortstop for the Marlins. While his bat is taking some time to come around, if it does at all (a career minor league OPS of .698 and average of .273), he hasn’t let his offense come into his defensive game, making only one error thus far in what is already a career high 117 chances over 31 games. He’s been involved in 22 double plays this season, as well, which has been a byproduct of his soft hands and strong arm. Hechavarria also currently leads the league in triples with five, and he tied a franchise record for RBI in a game with 7 when he hit a three run triple and grand slam off of Roy Halladay on May 5th.

Since Marcell Ozuna came up to the Big Leagues on April 30th to take over for the injured Giancarlo Stanton, all he has done is hit. In 19 games, Ozuna has 22 hits, which consist of six doubles, one triple and one home run with nine runs driven in, giving him a .310 average and a slash line of .347/.465/.811. He has shown signs of being able to lay off certain pitches while also being aggressive early in his at bats, and has shown an ability to drive in runs, batting .500 with runners in scoring position so far. Look for the home run numbers to increase soon, and for him to provide some protection for the soon to be returning Stanton.

Ozuna has not only made a case to stay up in the big leagues with his bat, but his glove and arm, as well. Currently, Ozuna is holding an above-average range factor, both per game and per nine innings, with 2.24 and 2.16, respectively (league average – 2.12, 2.10 respectively). His crowning defensive moment came in Los Angeles, when the Dodgers got their first two hitters of the game on base (Carl Crawford and Dee Gordon), and Matt Kemp lifted a fly ball to medium-deep right field. Crawford returned to second base to tag up, and was off to the races when Ozuna made the catch. Crawford’s race, however, was cut short at third base, when Ozuna’s one-hop strike to Placido Polanco arrived well before the speedy Crawford did. What was lost in this play, however, was that Ozuna not only threw out Crawford, but held Gordon to first base by keeping the throw low enough for shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria to cut off.

Derek Dietrich made his debut on May 8th after being called up to take over for not one, but two injured second basemen in Donovan Solano (side injury) and Chris Valaika (broken wrist). Dietrich was acquired by the Fish in a trade this past off-season that followed very shortly after the Toronto mega-trade. One of the pieces of that huge trade, shortstop Yunel Escobar, was sent northwest from Miami to Tampa Bay in exchange for Dietrich. So far, Dietrich has been solid both offensively and defensively, batting .278 with a slash line of .333/.417/.750, and no errors in 48 chances thus far while being involved in six double plays. Offensively, the power will come around as he adjusts to the Major League pitching, but so far, the Marlins have to like what they’ve seen from their young second baseman.

Jose Fernandez thus far has played a big role for the Marlins and is giving the Fish a lot of hope for the future of their rotation. After Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi both went on the DL the day before the season began, Fernandez was told he’d be brought up to the Majors, and thus far, while he’s not exactly where the Marlins would like him to be just yet, he has not disappointed. In eight starts, Fernandez is 2-2 with a solid 3.48 ERA and a K/9 of exactly 9 (44 K/44 IP). While his control is a slight issue at the moment (17 walks, 3.5 BB/9), he’s found ways to limit damage and get himself deeper into games, with three consecutive quality starts now under his belt (a quality start is defined as at least 6 innings and 3 runs allowed or less). Look for Fernandez to improve on these numbers as he gains experience in the big leagues.

Christian Yelich is currently in AA playing in the outfield, and cracked the top 15 on prospect lists for both Baseball America and rankings (number 15 and 13, respectively). Yelich started the season on the disabled list, but since he’s been in action this year, has torn the cover off the ball. While starting off a tad slow (13 Ks in his first 26 ABs), he has shown his ability to adjust, and is currently batting .310 with a very impressive slash line of .375/.637/1.012. Within those hits, Yelich has hit pitches all over the field with power, currently having nine doubles, five triples and six home runs, along with 23 runs driven in. He’s also playing a solid defense down in AA ball, holding a range factor close to 3 in center field while just under 2 in left field. Overall, a 2.32 range factor in the outfield with 3 assists and no errors over 28 games.

When Yelich gets his call-up, there is a possibility that both Giancarlo Stanton and first baseman Logan Morrison will have returned from their disabled list stints, which means by mid-June, this line-up could look drastically different. A possibility could be this:

CF Christian Yelich
SS Adeiny Hechavarria
1B Logan Morrison
RF Giancarlo Stanton
LF Marcell Ozuna
2B Derek Dietrich
3B Placido Polanco
C Rob Brantly

The returns of Stanton and Morrison along with Yelich’s call-up would force Juan PierreJustin Ruggiano, and Greg Dobbs to the bench, as well as force the Fish to make some other moves to their bench. Miguel OlivoNick GreenJeff MathisJordan Brown, and Chris Coghlan currently make up the Marlins bench. Brown is up to replace the injured Matt DiazChances are, the only safe bets to remain on the team in a bench capacity are Ruggiano, Dobbs, and Mathis, as Olivo’s current contract has an opt-out clause.

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Michael Theed
About the Author

Michael is a Marlins fan covering Marlins Baseball. Civil Engineering Student at University of Central Florida. Follow him on Twitter @MTheed4.

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