With the unprecedented taking place all around them and for a time infiltrating their clubhouse, the 2020 Miami Marlins rose up in the face of every adversity that approached them and accomplished what most of the baseball world thought to be seemingly improbable, making the postseason for the first time in 17 years. A major catalyst in the Marlins’ success this season were the exports of young players, some of which were necessarily called upon to make their MLB debuts ahead of schedule.
“I’m so happy for them. I gave them a big hug after the last out,” club leader Miguel Rojas said after the Marlins’ final game of the season. “I’m happy and proud of every guy but especially every guy that wasn’t supposed to be here.”
Despite the cancelation of Minor League season, the cancelation of spring training and the closing of facilities due to the COVID-19 and despite trips back and forth between the alternate training site, many Marlins youngsters remained prepared, stayed ready to go and showed marked improvement while participating at the highest level of development. What did we see from whom and what are our impressions of them as we look ahead to 2021? Here are our thoughts.
RHP Sixto Sanchez
2020: 39 IP, 3.46 ERA, 1.205 WHIP, 33/11 K/BB
The prize of the JT Realmuto trade, Sixto brought his wrath to the bigs on August 22nd after building up his arm during spring and shedding weight during the COVID layoff.
— Fish On The Farm (@marlinsminors) July 7, 2020
A much brisker Sixto took the mound on August 22nd armed with better command over his staple, a spicy 97-101 mph heater and a wipe-out changeup that he showed the ability to locate on both sides of the plate for easy whiffs both in and out of the zone. The Sanchez changeup came to the plate turning at an average rate of 1800 RPMs, 55 above league average and with vertical movement 1.5 inches better than league average competition thus the reason for swings such as this:
— Fish On The Farm (@marlinsminors) August 23, 2020
Sixto’s fastball/changeup combo is downright deadly and provides him with the ability to become a very special talent in the not too distant future. How far Sixto goes will be dependent on two other variables: more consistent command and the development of a third pitch. Here are Sixto’s pitch charts (via Baseball Savant) from his second start in which he struck out 10 and his final start of the season in which he struggled:
More consistent command should work itself out naturally as Sixto gains more experience so we should start seeing the corner-painting, whiff-inducing Sixto who got ahead with a first pitch strike around 75% of the time in his first four starts as opposed to the one who only got ahead around 55% of the time in his last three starts more often next season. The question will be how often does that version of Sixto show up? His fiery arm and equally fiery style of play and the fact that he plays with so much emotion make Sanchez a prime candidate to bits of overthrowing. Coaching will play a huge part in keeping Sixto composed going forward. Lucky for the Marlins they have arguably the best developmental staff in all of baseball, so we like Sixto’s chances to mature advantageously and in a hurry.
The second hurdle if Sixto is to grow into the bonafide ace the Marlins hope he can become: he will need to further develop one of his third pitches into a plus pitch. Sanchez has good blueprints for two other offerings, a slider and a curveball both of which, like the changeup, hold superior spin rates but he lacks a current overall feel for both the 88-90 mph slide piece and the power 83-86 mph tight hook. Both pitches show flashes: the slider shows late wipe-out action and Sixto has shown he can place it both in the zone and on the back foot for true strikes and chase strikes. The curve shows flashes of good hard bite and downward action, giving it a future for high swing end miss rates coupled up against his heater but again, the consistency will need to arrive. The slider is further ahead than the curve, but Sixto has more often than not caught too much zone or not enough leading to either hard contact or an easy spit by opposing hitters. Hitters are picking the slider up out of Sixto’s hand because he slows down his arm speed leading to more difficulty when it comes to tunneling the pitch with the fastball. Upon release, Sixto is also prone to falling far off to his glove side, leading to lapses in control.
Polish Sixto would have received during a full 2020 MiLB season he began receiving against MLb hitters this year. He will start rounding into form during the offseason and spring training. Given his work ethic and determination on top of the fact that the Marlins have the best developmental staff in the game, we have no doubt Sixto will make the 2021 rotation as the best version of himself. Stay tuned, Marlins fans. You’ve only begun to be dazzled.
LHP Trevor Rogers
28 IP, 6.11 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, 39/13 K/BB
Rogers is no stranger to having his growth stunted. After being selected by the Marlins in the first round of the 2016 MLB Draft, the high school product out of New Mexico had Tommy John forcing him to miss the entire 2017 season. So when spring training was canceled and when the MiLB season was called off, Rogers knew exactly the course of action to take in order to keep improving. After only having the basic schematics for a third pitch in spring training 1.0, Rogers showed back up to camp in July armed with the same changeup seen here used to K Rays’ breakout star Randy Arozarena:
Asked about the quick development and maturity of the pitch after his third career start, a 6 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 10 K, 5 BB quality outing against the Phillies, Rogers credited the improvement to his ability to allow his windup to go through its entire cycle before release.
“I think it’s just getting to my top,” Rogers said. “I can kind of drift, kind of rush my delivery and cut across the baseball. So if I can just get to my top and get my legs underneath me with the ball out in front and have that good down action to it, it’s a very effective pitch.”
It’s a testament to Rogers’ work ethic and focus that he was able to bring that pitch from barely a mix-in offering to one that flashes plus and has plenty of opportunity to grow into a consistent plus pitch. He also added a couple ticks onto his heater which previously sat between 90-93 and topping at 96 but is now sitting 92-94 and hitting 97. Rogers also has the makings of a cut piece which is still inthe nascent stages given the amount of work he put in with the change up but if his recent past is any indication, he could quickly develop that offering as well.
If you look at Rogers’ stats from the 28 innings he threw with the Marlins this year, you’d think he really struggled but he only really got hit hard on one occasion, a 3 IP, 8 ER dousing at the hands of the Phillies. If you take that outing off his ledger, he had a 3.96 ERA in 25 IP. He also showed the mental maturity needed to succeed at the next level by bouncing back from that start with his aforementioned 10 K shutout performance against the AL Champion Tampa Bay Rays.
Perfecting one pitch while working on others isn’t easy, but it’s extremely difficult to do when you’re pushed into doing it at the big league level. Overall though, a few command and control woes aside (which, like Sixto, should work themselves out as Rogers fills out and the rest of the way into his frame), Trevor responded extremely well to everything this season threw at him. He will have some competition next spring if he wants to keep a rotation spot but knowing Trevor, he will use that as even more fuel for his fire. We predict Trevor will really impress this March and, armed with four pitches, make the 2021 Marlins rotation as the four/five slot starter.
IF Jazz Chisholm
2020: .164/.221/.321, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 19/5 K/BB, 2/2 SB/CS
The prize of the oft-criticized Zac Gallen trade last season, Jazz begun to make beautiful music to Marlins’ fans’ ears by hitting .284/.383/.494 in 81 games with the AA Jumbo Shrimp upon his change of scenery last season. The 22-year-old showed up at camp this year as a member of the Marlins’ 40-man and showed out on the field as well as in the clubhouse while beginning to endear himself to Marlins fans.
Check out this 🚀 (112 mph exit velocity) off the bat of Jazz Chisholm.
Read more about Chisholm on the #Marlins Top 30 Prospects list: https://t.co/o8XYUl1VjS pic.twitter.com/64e8gzapDP— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 8, 2020
Despite the impressions made, Jazz was likely headed for AAA Wichita for some final seasoning to begin 2020 but COVID had other plans and Jazz was called upon to make his MLB debut on September 1st. His first at bat came a night later and his first hit came four days later. In his seventh MLB appearance, Jazz did this:
Overall, in the regular season, Jazz hit .161/.242/.321. The stats don’t necessarily jump off the page but for a kid nearly seven years younger than his league average competition with less than a full season above A ball to jump into the majors and contribute positively in any regard should be commended and should be viewed as encouraging. But wait, there’s more. After making his final regular season appearance on the final day of the regular season, Jazz was included as part of the Marlins’ postseason roster. After being a glorified spectator for 10 days, Don Mattingly recognized Jazz’s ability to be a catalytic energizer and included him in the starting lineup for what would wind up being the Marlins’ final game of the season. Though the Marlins wound up being eliminated from the playoffs on that day, Jazz stepped into the biggest game of his career, reached base twice and nearly homered late.
Chisholm, a lefty hitting athletically built 6’, 185 pound specimen, has one of the sweetest swings in the Marlins’ organization. Even though his swing is mostly straight through his lightning quick hands and the ability to stay through the ball with good balance and posture promotes gap and fence power to all fields. He also owns plus speed which he has put on display in his minor league career (49/12 SB/CS) and early in his big league career (4/2 SB/CS this season, including spring training). Jazz’s flighty feet serve him just as well in the field where he shows good range to both sides of the middle infield and an above average glove capable of a plus dWAR. The Marlins began trying Jazz out at second base this season, a spot in which he had only ever played one career inning. Chisholm looked plenty comfortable and plenty capable of manning that spot regularly. With all the Marlins have coming at the shortstop position, it is advantageous to have flexibility with Jazz at a secondary position.
As good as Chisholm is on the field, he’s just as good if not better off the field. With an infectious personality and an uncanny ability to stay positive and keep the game fun for both his teammates and fans, Chisholm is a face of the franchise type talent capable of big things both tangible and intangible.
“Every game I play, I’m having fun,” Chisholm said. “That’s never going to change. I could be 50 out there, and I’m still going to have fun. Every day is 100-percent fun for me. All smiles.”
With the Marlins reportedly in the market for veteran middle infield pieces this offseason, it is possible Chisholm will head to AAA to begin 2021 in order to finish garnering seasoning, namely the one labeled “plate vision and discipline” (career MiLB K rate near 30%), an issue that could be fixed with better pitch recognition and by him allowing the ball to get deeper before swing execution. Wherever Jazz starts though, he will undoubtedly contribute to the Marlins next season. A 20/20 threat at premium positions, Jazz is a key cog in this rebuild and the long term future of the club. A joy to be around and watch play, those who hated the Gallen trade will soon begin hearing and loving the music.
OF Monte Harrison
2020: 47 AB, .170/.235/.255, HR, 3 RBI, 26/4, K/BB, 6/0 SB/CS
A product of the Yelich trade and the Marlins’ third ranked prospect entering this season, Harrison came to the Marlins on August 3rd after the COVID-19 outbreak. The results for the 2014 second round pick? Not great. In his first 37 big league ABs, Harrison went 4-33 with a 21/3 K/BB before being sent back to the ATS. An injury to Harold Ramirez gave Harrison a second chance to shine in September. Serving in a fill in/utility role, Harrison showed some improvement (extremely limited sample alert) equaling his previous hit total in less than half the amount of ABs.
Harrison’s development has been the victim of some serious snags, the first being a major wrist injury last season that limited him to 59 games and the second the canceling of the 2020 Minor League season. While he has been on the field, Marlins coaches have worked tirelessly with Monte shortening both his swing and shortening his timing trigger, turning it into a short downhill stride into the ball, promoting a better bat to ball tool. If and when Monte makes contact, the ball has the ability to absolutely fly; it’s improving that frequency that will make or break his big league future. And the Marlins are on the path to do so. Much like the club has done with Lewis Brinson who is playing the best baseball of his big league career, they are beginning to see Monte turn the corner in a very similar fashion.
Not too arguably the most athletically gifted figure in the entire system and maybe even in all of baseball, Monte was a two sport athlete in high school lettering in both baseball and basketball. On top of insurmountable raw strength, the 6’3”, 225 pound specimen owns plus plus speed, making him a threat for 20+ steals annually and giving him the ability to cover any outfield ground necessary and then some. Add on to that a powerful outfield arm and Harrison is a potential five tool standout. His struggles aside, there is still tons of upside here especially if and when Monte completely riddles out his bat-to-ball frequency. Harrison should be considered a favorite in the Marlins’ 2021 Opening Day outfield contest that will take place this spring.
“It’s up to them now to get better,” Miguel Rojas said at the end of the season. “To put in the work and come back to spring training better than ever and ready to battle.”
For Minor League Baseball players, the work never stops. The road to Spring Training 2021 started immediately after the final out of the 2020 season. And we, like the Marlins, are ecstatic to see where that road leads for these players and countless others.
Stay tuned to Fish On The Farm all offseason long here, via @marlinsminors on Twitter and Instagram and via our podcast Swimming Upstream for prospect reports and coverage leading in to the 2021 season.