The Miami Marlins made their latest round of cuts Tuesday before facing the Washington Nationals at Roger Dean Stadium. While none of the players sent down to the minors are particularly surprising, they were some of the Marlins’ most exciting players this spring.
Miami optioned first baseman Lewin Diaz, shortstop Jazz Chisholm and outfielder Jesus Sanchez to Triple A Wichita (Kansas). The Marlins reassigned shortstop Jose Devers, and outfielders JJ Bleday and Jerar Encarnacion to minor-league camp. All six are top 15 prospects for Miami, according to the MLB.com prospect rankings.
“It’s been really good to have those guys in camp and every one of them you’re excited to have been able to watch them play the games, to an extent, and see how they react out there, but just to see the level of talent and seeing their work ethic,” manager Don Mattingly said. “From their standpoint, honestly they need to play. To sit over here and watch games, it’s OK being in big-league camp — you’re getting at-bats — but when you’re kind of getting down to what you know what your club kind of looks like, the at-bats go away.”
Additionally, left-handed pitcher Dylan Lee was granted a leave of absence by the Marlins to compete with Brazil in the World Baseball Classic qualifiers. The seven cuts leave Miami with 48 players in major-league camp.
Chisholm, Sanchez and Encarnacion, in particular, were some of the top performers in the first few weeks of Grapefruit League play for the Marlins. Chisholm, Miami’s No. 3 prospect and No. 66 prospect in baseball, went 4 for 13 with a double, a home run, two steals, five walks and a 1.115 on-base-plus slugging percentage. Sanchez, the Marlins’ No. 4 prospect and the No. 80 prospect in baseball, went 6 for 12 with a triple, a homer and a 1.455 OPS. Encarnacion, the No. 15 prospect in the organization, went 6 for 14 with a double, two homers and a 1.357 OPS.
Bleday went 3 for 13, Diaz went 7 for 23 with two doubles and a homer and Devers went 3 for 15 with two doubles. Bleday, Miami’s No. 2 prospect, is ranked No. 28 overall.
While Sanchez finished last season in Triple A, both Chisholm and Diaz will make their debuts at the highest level of the minors with the Wichita Wind Surge. Chisholm, whom the Marlins acquired in a midseason trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks last year, finished 2019 with Double A Jacksonville, batting .284 with three homers and three steals in 23 games. Diaz, who joined the organization in a midseason trade with the Minnesota Twins n 2019, batted .200 with six doubles and eight homers in 31 games with the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.
Sanchez went 13 for 63 with two doubles, a triple and a homer in 18 games with Triple A New Orleans, Miami’s old affiliate, to end last season.
“These kids are all good kids that work hard, have good habits and some of them are a lot closer than the other ones, but even those are not that far away,” Mattingly said. “They’re right on the door. Some of them just seem like they’re trying to knock it down.”
While destinations have not been formally announced for the other three reassigned to the minors Tuesday, all three could begin the 2020 season with the Jumbo Shrimp. Bleday, Devers and Encarnacion all finished last year with Class A Advanced Jupiter, and all three played at least 30 games there. The Marlins could opt to have any of the three begin 2020 again with the Jupiter Hammerheads or send them straight to Jacksonville.
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With the latest round of cuts, none of Miami’s prospects ranked in the overall top 100 remain in major-league camp. The Marlins optioned starting pitchers Sixto Sanchez, the organization’s top-ranked prospect, and Edward Cabrera to the minors Friday. Outfielder Monte Harrison is the top-ranked prospect remaining in major-league camp, followed by starting pitcher Nick Neidert. Both have an outside shot at earning an Opening Day roster spot after spending nearly all of last season with the New Orleans Baby Cakes.
More Miami Marlins takeaways
▪ Caleb Smith faced the Nationals on Tuesday focused on his fastball command and felt good about the way he threw. The starting pitcher struck out four, and gave up two hits in a walk across four innings Tuesday. He gave up two earned runs on a two-run home run by All-Star outfielder Juan Soto and threw 44 strikes on 65 pitches.
▪ Outfielder Monte Harrison continues to impress, particularly with his legs, as he fights for one of the Marlins’ final roster spots. He walked in the bottom of the eighth inning, stole second base and later scored the game-winning run on a single by fellow outfielder Harold Ramirez to give Miami a 3-2 win against Washington in Jupiter. Harrison now has an on-base-plus-slugging percentage of 1.070 this spring.
▪ Mattingly said this is about the time he’d like to see some veterans get into a groove and two of the Marlins’ more accomplished hitters both looked good Tuesday. Infielders Jesus Aguilar and Jonathan Villar both collected two hits in Miami’s win, and both now have on-base-plus-slugging percentages better than .800.
▪ Matt Kemp got some work at first base in the late innings. The outfielder has been putting in a little bit of work at the position, but Mattingly said he was at first Tuesday primarily to get a few extra at-bats with the outfield spots all occupied.