Marlins-Jays litmus test for building process

August 11th, 2020

Building from the farm system up has been the Marlins’ plan the past three seasons. The Blue Jays, in many ways, have done the same thing.

Over the next two days, the Marlins and Blue Jays will face each other in Interleague Play at Sahlen Field in Buffalo, N.Y. The short series provides a bit of an indicator of how each building process is going.

“They’ve got a good combination like us,” Marlins first baseman said. “A lot of young guys and veteran guys. I think we’ve been doing a really good job of pulling things together. They’ve got great futures. We’ve got really good young talent here, too.”

The Blue Jays have a core of young players who previously ranked highly on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list, including , and .

The Marlins currently have six players on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list: RHP Sixto Sánchez (24), OF JJ Bleday (29), RHP Max Meyer (41), SS Jazz Chisholm (72), OF Jesús Sánchez (88) and RHP Edward Cabrera (94). None have made their Major League debuts.

“We see all the young talent on the other side,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said of Toronto. “We’ve heard a lot about it. They have a lot of big prospects and things like that. Just their numbers -- they’ve got a lot of equal splits, not heavy, just beating up righties or lefties.”

Comparing organizational building processes is difficult, because no two situations are exactly alike.

“Obviously, you just want to build it the best you can and put your best club together," Mattingly said. "You try to figure everything out.”

In the Marlins' starting lineup on Tuesday were two former Top 100 prospects: outfielders and . In 2017, third baseman was in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game.

Mattingly reminds that when talking about prospects, there comes a time when they must show they can perform in the big leagues.

“Those Top 100 things are great until you’ve got to figure if they can play or not,” Mattingly said.

Similar second basemen
The decision by to elect not to play has made second base a position in transition for the Marlins.

The two primary candidates filling the spot are and , who share a close friendship and a passion for skating.

Alvarez’s story is well known. The 30-year-old was a silver medalist for the United States Olympic speed skating team in 2014. Berti, meanwhile, grew up playing hockey.

Both reached the big leagues relatively late, by most players’ standards.

Berti’s MLB debut was on Sept. 26, 2018, when he was a 28-year-old with the Blue Jays. Alvarez, 30, played in his first big league game last Wednesday.

“I haven't really told him this, but I do look up to Jon, and his story and his journey, because it's very similar and comparable,” Alvarez said. “We've talked about skating. We've talked about getting on the ice together. I love putting on hockey skates and messing around. I've picked his brain a little bit. He's a great idol to follow the footsteps behind.”

Berti replied: “He and I have talked quite a bit. Both of us being kind of utility players. Both of us having similar journeys, as in getting to the big leagues at a later age. Obviously, he was doing something pretty special in the meantime before getting here.”

In the Marlins’ weekend series against the Mets, both Alvarez and Berti made highlight catches that gained national attention on consecutive nights.

Last Friday, Alvarez robbed Jeff McNeil of a hit with a leaping grab. In the next game, it was Berti’s turn to go airborne and snare Billy Hamilton’s liner.

“I think I got up maybe a little higher, but his was in a bigger situation in the game,” Berti said, comparing the two leaping catches. “His was a much more important one. I personally have to give it to him, just for the situation, of robbing McNeil potentially of extra bases and some runs scored there. But I still think maybe I got up a little higher.”