MIAMI -- Though the Marlins are out of playoff contention and trying to fend off a 100-loss season, players are certainly out there with something to prove for 2023 and beyond.
Below is a look at what that trio’s 2022 has looked like and where it fits moving forward.
LHP Jesús Luzardo
Last winter, general manager Kim Ng said the acquisition of Luzardo for Starling Marte at the Trade Deadline provided the club with flexibility and more rotation depth. Sandy Alcantara is signed through 2026 with a club option in 2027, Pablo López will be in his second year of arbitration eligibility, Luzardo will be in his first year of arbitration eligibility and Trevor Rogers, Edward Cabrera and Braxton Garrett are pre-arbitration eligible.
In the series finale, Luzardo was near-unhittable until Patrick Wisdom sent the southpaw’s 101st pitch over the left-field wall for a two-out solo homer in the seventh. That chased Luzardo, who has a 3.34 ERA since returning from the injured list on Aug. 1. Seven of the 10 starts have been at least six innings.
Luzardo, who turns 25 on Sept. 30, always has had elite stuff, but he hadn’t lived up to the top prospect hype. In 25 games (18 starts) between the A’s and Marlins last season, Luzardo compiled a 6.61 ERA. He bounced back with a strong showing to begin 2022, then missed more than two months with a left forearm strain. Manager Don Mattingly said the club couldn’t ask for more from Luzardo other than going 25-30 starts (he is at 16 this season).
“I just feel like I show my true potential, what I think I can do and what I know I can do,” Luzardo said. “Obviously last year was so frustrating [with] my time in Oakland, my time here. So I just liked to refresh after last year. I've been saying it all year, I feel like myself again.”
C Nick Fortes
Fortes broke a scoreless deadlock with a two-run shot in the fifth inning, marking his first homer since Aug. 24, and his first to the opposite field in his big league career. He added a two-out double in the ninth to right-center.
Since the last time Fortes went deep, he had been 13-for-54 with just one extra-base hit and two RBIs before Wednesday.
“I've been working on that hard recently, trying to use the whole field, because my strength is the pull side,” said Fortes, who knocked his 12th career long ball. “So I've been kind of trying to get better at going the other way. Literally the past two weeks that's been all my work, and thankfully it's kind of helping me out recently here.”
Fortes, who turns 26 in November, began the season at Triple-A Jacksonville when the Marlins named Payton Henry their backup catcher. By May 27, Fortes rejoined the big league club and has stayed up here.
Between his improvement behind the dish (one passed ball in 53 games compared to four in seven contests in 2021) and his offensive production, Fortes began to split time with reigning National League Gold Glove winner Jacob Stallings. He primarily worked with former Minor League teammates like Cabrera and Garrett. He has caught every pitcher except Alcantara, who is bidding for the franchise’s first NL Cy Young Award.
1B Lewin Díaz
Two batters after Fortes’ tater, Díaz went deep for the second time in five games to extend the lead to 3-0.
Díaz, who turns 26 in November, has elite defense, but can he muster enough pop to be the club’s starting first baseman? While his walk rate is up from last year, so is his strikeout rate. His slash line is .167/.228/.288 in 46 games, compared to .205/.242/.451 in 40 games in 2021.
“It's good to see him get going a little bit, because obviously he's gotten some ABs,” said Mattingly, who has been starting Díaz at first base except against left-handed pitching. “Average is not very good, but we are seeing some production. It's similar to last year, really. Hit some homers.”