How long will the Marlins give Lewis Brinson to figure it out at the Major League level?
After Sunday’s 5-0 loss to the Nationals, manager Don Mattingly implied there is some urgency for Brinson to show improvement. A year ago, when Brinson was a rookie, he was given the entire season in the big leagues to work through his struggles, and he finished hitting .199 with 11 home runs and 42 RBIs in 109 games. He did miss some time due to injury. This year, the Marlins have a shorter leash on the 24-year-old center fielder. He’s off to a .179 start, and is 1-for-27 with 16 strikeouts in his last 11 games.
Unless things turn around soon, a Minor League stint is certainly possible. That could be soon. Among the issues Brinson is struggling with is making contact. His strikeout rate is 32.4 percent, higher than a year ago (29.6 percent). Bottom line is Brinson has to figure out how to hit breaking pitches. He is 1-for-23 (.043) against them so far.
When will Monte Harrison get called up?
There’s a lot to really be excited about regarding Harrison, the Marlins’ No. 3 ranked prospect, according to MLB Pipeline. The 23-year-old projects as their regular right fielder, and could be a late-season callup. Or he may need the full season in Triple-A to continue to get his at-bats and show he can make steady contact. In 11 games at New Orleans, he’s hitting .357/.449/.619 with two home runs, seven RBIs, 11 runs scored and three stolen bases. Most importantly, his strikeout rate is 26.5 percent, down significantly from 36.9 percent a year ago at Double-A.
According to Marlins internal data, Harrison’s hard-contact rate is extremely high. Entering Sunday, 44% of balls he’s put in play have an exit velocity of 105 mph or higher. The MLB average is 8%.
Who is the most “untouchable” player in the organization?
At the big league level, their controllable starting pitchers are pretty close to off limits. Trevor Richards, Pablo Lopez, Sandy Alcantara and Caleb Smith are extremely unlikely to be dealt any time soon. So are right field/third baseman Brian Anderson and catcher Jorge Alfaro. They’re all big parts of the building process. The club's top prospect, right-hander Sixto Sanchez, will soon be joining Double-A Jacksonville’s rotation. He isn’t going to be shopped either. I know Marlins fans are used to seeing their favorite players being traded, and no one is truly untouchable. But a good number of these players acquired are part of the bigger, long-term picture.
Does Garrett Cooper have a role on this team when he is healthy?
Absolutely. Cooper was the Marlins’ Opening Day right fielder, and he is making good progress recovering from the left calf strain he sustained in the second game of the season. Cooper could begin playing in rehab assignment games as early as this weekend. Once he is healthy, Cooper could be seeing time in left field, right field or first base.
How do you feel year two of the rebuild is going, based on the front office’s expectations? And, what do you think they need to do to continue improving into a contending team?
Off to a 6-16 start, it’s hard to make the case everything is going as planned, at least at the big league level. The team is going through some growing pains. Still, the front office is finding encouragement with the starting pitching.
Scoring runs, obviously, is an issue. Brinson’s struggles are a concern. Defensively, they haven’t been very good, either. But changes they've made in recent days to get more athletic have already improved the range in the outfield. In terms of the bigger picture, to me, it’s important to focus on the pitching at all levels. This is the deepest, top-to-bottom, the Marlins have been since Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, Scott Olsen and Dontrelle Willis were on the 2006 staff.
Class A Advanced Jupiter has five starters projected to be future big leaguers. At Triple-A New Orleans, you have, among others, Zac Gallen and Nick Neidert close to being ready. Double-A Jacksonville, on May 2, will get the services of Sanchez, the No. 26 prospect on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list. As long as the pitching is holds up, the rebuild will be just fine.