Looking ahead to '24, Xavier Edwards getting reps at short

September 14th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Christina De Nicola’s Marlins Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

Just because the Marlins are vying for their first full-season playoff berth since 2003 doesn't mean they can't keep an eye toward the future.

Before being recalled on Sept. 1, Miami's No. 4 prospect Xavier Edwards had been getting early work in at shortstop. That has continued on a daily basis since rejoining the big league club, but come first pitch, he has started seven of the club's last nine games at second base.

"You're not going to see it this year, but I think it's good for him and good for us to know if he can do it for next year and for his career," manager Skip Schumaker said of Edwards at short. "If you can play shortstop, you'll be here for 10 years. That's the reality of it. You see guys around the league that keep finding jobs because they can play shortstop."

Schumaker was with the Padres' organization when they selected Edwards -- a shortstop at North Broward Prep in Coconut Creek, Fla. -- with the 38th overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft. During Edwards' first professional season, he primarily played his natural position. Edwards then split time at short and second base between the Single-A and High-A levels in '19. Once he was dealt to the Rays, he primarily played second and third, and that has been the case ever since. Center field has been sprinkled in this season with Miami.

The 24-year-old Edwards practices for 15-20 minutes every day with infield coach Jody Reed before the Marlins take batting practice or grounders. If Edwards is starting that day, they'll go a bit lighter on the extra work. It has been a nice refresher for Edwards, who loves playing shortstop. He will carry those tips into the offseason, when he prepares for Spring Training.

"It's the hardest position on the dirt, so just get used to attacking the ball again, because it's really easy at second to sit back on the ball, because it's all about just securing it," Edwards said. "The guy should be out most of the time -- if not all the time -- once you secure the ball. It's a bit different at short. You have to get the hop you want, you have to attack the ball, and you can't sit back as much. Just kind of getting back to that mindset of just being able to play short."

According to MLB Pipeline's scouting report, Edwards' quickness allows him to cover ground in the infield, but his fringy arm strength limits his effectiveness at shortstop and third.

He's more reliable than flashy at second, the position at which he has the best chance to become a big league regular. Schumaker believes Edwards is capable of playing shortstop, pointing to former Cardinals teammate David Eckstein as a prime example. What he might've lacked in arm strength, he made up for in footwork and an internal clock.

Though Marlins pitchers record a lot of strikeouts, they also induce plenty of grounders, amplifying the importance of infield defense. Joey Wendle will be a free agent following the season, and Garrett Hampson and Jon Berti are better served in utility roles.

Jazz Chisholm Jr. came up as a shortstop, but his defensive metrics are better at second base. No. 6 prospect Jacob Amaya is at Triple-A Jacksonville and made a brief four-game debut in June, and No. 18 prospect Nasim Nuñez, who was named SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game MVP, is a glove-first shortstop at Double-A Pensacola.

"We think he's athletic enough to do it," Schumaker said of Edwards. "Now, [we're] just trying to figure out if he can do it. During this point of the season, we're trying to win this year. Don't get me wrong -- like the goal is to get to the playoffs -- but also in the future, what does our team look like heading into next year?

"Are there certain guys on our team that are everyday players that we can build around? Are there platoon guys? Are there guys that are going to fill in? Are they coming back next year? Who do we want back? So there's a lot of thought behind who we're working out and where we're working them out at, and X is one of them, and seeing what he can provide at short, because we know he can hit, and we know he can run. So let's see what he can do over there."