The Miami Marlins wildly exceeded expectations in manager Skip Schumaker’s first season. A team projected to finish fourth in the NL East wound up winning 84 games and reaching the playoffs albeit getting knocked out in the best-of-3 wild card round.
And while the team takes pride in the growth it showed in Schumaker’s inaugural campaign, the skipper knows some areas of the organization need to improve if they want to make sure the 2023 season wasn’t just a one-year blip.
One area in particular stands out.
“To be sustainable,” Schumaker said Monday at MLB’s Winter Meetings in Nashville, “we have to develop hitters. It’s just what it is. We have to develop hitters. ... To continue to fight against some really big teams in our division, I think developing some hitters that we can control and can help us up and down the system, that’s probably the next step.”
The Marlins’ offense made improvements last season but still remained in the bottom half of the league in runs scored (26th, 666), home runs (tied for 22nd, 166), OPS (19th, .721) and slugging (19th, .405).
The Marlins have a core of players from their lineup returning in Luis Arraez, Jake Burger, Josh Bell and Jazz Chisholm Jr. — plus the hope that the likes of Bryan De La Cruz and Jesus Sanchez can take another step forward — but the ability to develop homegrown position players is paramount for a low-payroll team.
And the Marlins haven’t done that lately.
The only position player they drafted who was on their playoff roster was catcher Nick Fortes.
“I think drafting and developing is the biggest component to that; right?” Schumaker said. “I think that [president of baseball operations] Peter [Bendix] has done a really good job in Tampa of acquiring those type of hitters. You see that roster has a lot of Tampa guys on it that they developed. We don’t have that. We don’t have a lot of guys that were developed in our system. It’s just the reality. So getting to that point is going to be huge for us and to make this thing sustainable for a long time.”
In other news from Schumaker’s Monday press conference...
▪ Two pitchers Schumaker said he is excited to see over a full season are Max Meyer and Eury Perez. Meyer did not pitch in 2023 while recovering from Tommy John surgery and Perez was on an innings limit last season.
▪ The Marlins still need to figure out their plan for shortstop, but Schumaker said Jazz Chisholm Jr. most likely will not be part of that plan after showing he can handle center field.
“Jazz really took off kind of the second part of the season in the outfield as our center fielder,” Schumaker said, “so I don’t anticipate [Chisholm moving back to the infield] happening just yet.”-
According to Statcast, Chisholm ranked in the top quarter of the league in Fielding Run Value, which combines all defensive metrics into one value.
He was also one of 15 outfielders to make two five-star catches (defined as catches on balls in play with a catch probability of 25 percent or lower) and successfully made plays on 20 of 21 plays with catch probability of at least 76%.
▪ Schumaker’s thoughts on what he wants to see in a catcher as the Marlins try to improve at the position: “You want a catcher that is a leader that pitchers love throwing to that can figure out how guys can [improve], like, [Edward] Cabrera can throw more strikes or that [Jesus] Luzardo can now be a Cy Young or whatever it is, and can hold guys accountable. That’s a big position. It’s not just strictly an offensive position to me because we are so pitching-heavy that you need to be able to throw to a guy that you love throwing to. The offensive part obviously we would love to have, but I think having a leader back there that it’s really, really important that’s done it before.”
▪ Schumaker said there has been a lot of ‘organic conversation’ between him and Bendix over the past month. When asked about the dynamic between the two when it comes to getting Bendix caught up with the state of the organization, Schumaker said “it’s a combination.”
“I think Peter is one of the brightest guys around and obviously really smart,” Schumaker said. “I’ve already learned a lot from him in the last couple of weeks of how he sees things. I think if I give him my take on everybody, I don’t think that’s fair, because I want him also to make his own opinions of people in the organization or players or whatever. We can bounce ideas off of each other as far as the players and staff and that type of thing.”