Inbox: What will make the Marlins contenders?

Beat reporter Joe Frisaro answers questions from fans

November 22nd, 2019

When do you think the Marlins will make the switch from “rebuilding” to a team making a push to be a contender? In 2021 or 2022? -- @OversteerTV via Twitter

Entering the third season of this process, clearly there is an ownership directive to improve. Losing 105 games in 2019 has created more urgency to start making progress in '20. To expect a playoff run that quickly is probably not realistic, but the time is now to move this franchise forward.

For that to happen, starting pitching is key. Once the rotation shows it’s ready to compete is when the team will be primed to contend. In 2020, the rotation projects to have Sandy Alcantara, Caleb Smith, Pablo López and Jordan Yamamoto anchoring the staff, with prospects like Sixto Sanchez, Edward Cabrera and Nick Neidert not far behind. Behind them are left-handers Braxton Garrett and Trevor Rogers and right-hander Jordan Holloway. So, the hope is to get the pitching in order and improve in '20, and by 2021-22, the Marlins should be better positioned to become realistic contenders.

I loved the [2019] Draft class. We all know about JJ Bleday. Kameron Misner seems like an intriguing prospect with a high ceiling. Could you give us your thoughts on him, and breakdown his game and potential? Thanks. -- @Mick6298 via Twitter

There is a lot to like about Misner, taken 35th overall by Miami in the Competitive Balance Round A portion of the Draft. A left-handed hitting outfielder from the University of Missouri, Misner has above average bat speed and makes solid contact. He also has a swing that doesn’t need much tinkering with.

Misner, ranked the club's No. 9 prospect by MLB Pipeline, can play all three outfield positions and first base, making him highly versatile. After signing, he started off with eight games in rookie ball in the Gulf Coast League, and then played in 34 games at Class A Clinton, hitting .270/.388/.362 with two home runs, 20 RBIs and 25 runs scored in 34 games. He has speed, shown by his eight stolen bases.

As his pro career progresses, pay attention to his strikeout rate. Misner struck out 22.2 percent of the time and walked 13.3 percent at Clinton. If he makes consistent contact, he can move quickly through the system. He turns 22 in January and probably will open 2020 at Class A Advanced Jupiter.

Any news on Nicholas Castellanos, Yasiel Puig or Justin Smoak? -- @Argayu09

Look for activity to pick up by the Winter Meetings, held Dec. 9-12 in San Diego. Right now, every club is dealing with a lot of internal business. On Wednesday, for instance, they had to add Rule 5 eligible prospects. In a corresponding move, they designated left-hander Wei-Yin Chen for assignment. That decision alone was time-consuming, and the organization is still on the hook for all or most of the $22 million Chen will make next year. Dec. 2 is the deadline to tender arbitration-eligible players.

All this affects how the Marlins approach free agents like Castellanos, Puig and Smoak. The team has, however, already reached out to the agents of players they are interested in. Also remember that clubs are monitoring which players may not be tendered on Dec. 2. So after that deadline and around the Winter Meetings, activity should pick up.

Are the Marlins in the market for a veteran starting pitcher to help lead the young staff? -- @EspoBoomin

The priorities are offense, first and foremost. I’m expecting the Marlins to sign or acquire at least two established position players. After that, the focus is on the bullpen. Whatever dollars are left after that could possibly go towards signing a veteran starter. I don’t see having a veteran starter to help lead a young staff as a priority. Smith, Alcantara, López and Yamamoto have experience, and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. handles the staff well. There’s also Elieser Hernandez and Robert Dugger, who have pitched in the big leagues. So there are plenty of candidates to start. If there is a clear upgrade that makes sense, then perhaps they will pursue it. But it isn’t the top priority.

With ’s struggles the last two seasons, is this a make-or-break season for him? -- @real_fish_fan

Yes, 2020 is an important season for Brinson. Whether it is “make or break” will be determined by how much he shows in Spring Training, and we’re not just talking about how he does statistically. That often can be misleading. But remember that Brinson has one option left. Even if he struggles in Spring Training, he can start off at Triple-A Wichita. Or if he makes the Opening Day roster and at any time looks like he needs more refinement, he can be optioned to the Minor Leagues. Either way, it’s up to Brinson to show that he can produce at the highest level.