I have a confession to make, dear reader: I’m glad my wife doesn’t read my work here because I simply can’t stop thinking about it. . . . Michael Garcia.
We’ll be having dinner, and she’ll be talking about her day, and I’ll be nodding along, or maybe even asking a follow-up question or two, but really all I’m thinking about is Maikel Garcia.
Well, Nate Eaton, too. And Michael Massey sometimes. This week, Kansas City opened up 1,000 or so hypothetical plate appearances by trading center fielder Michael A. Taylor and shortstop Adalberto Mondesi. Word is the White Sox checked in on Nicky Lopez after that, and the Royals told them they view him as key depth. Sigh. Just when things were getting good. Roster resource plugged Hunter Dozier in at third base, and while that’s certainly plausible, how cool would it be if KC just kept trading these prospect-blockers? An infield of Witt, Garcia, Massey and Vinnie P looks like a lot of fun. So does an outfield of Edward Olivares, Drew Waters, and Nate Eaton with MJ Melendez at DH. Kyle Isbel and Samad Taylor factor in here somewhere, too. The club also signed Johan Camargo, so there’s no real reason to stop trading now. Can just play Camargo if they get scared of the youth movement.
Let’s build an ideal May 1 lineup.
LF Edward Olivares
DH MJ Melendez
1B Vinnie Pasquantino
C Sal Perez
3B Bobby Witt Jr.
CF Drew Waters
SS Maikel Garcia
2B Michael Massey
RF Nate Eaton (Tyler Gentry sometime in June)
Hey that ain’t bad. Hunter Dozier, Nicky Lopez and Johan Camargo could muck it up, but it wouldn’t make much sense. The organization hit the Go button on its rebuild, so there’s no reason to slow-play the follow-up prospects like Garcia, Tyler Gentry, or Nick Loftin. A team like this, I don’t understand why they’ve been loading up on veteran bats anyways. They should’ve been heavy in the veteran pitching market, leveraging their run-suppressing home park to help bounceback hurlers revitalize their profiles. KC inks a veteran hitter off a decent season, they’re typically going to take a value-hit of some kind as that park just tends to win out against hitting stats over time.
From one run-suppressing park to another, Miami has been scrambling to create something that resembles an offense of the past couple of years. Jorge Soler, Avisail Garcia, Joey Wendle and Jacob Stallings all feel like bad luck to some extent, but none of these guys has ever been a consistent hitter, so their total disappearance from the batter’s box is not a total shocker. It’s a little surprising that all four totally forgot how to hit at the same time, but that’s how it goes, especially when the coaching has shown as little as Miami’s has.
Enter Luis Arraez, a great get for Miami, in the context of Miami. The Marlins get Arraez for a year more than they would’ve had Pablo Lopezwho is a very good pitcher but one who isn’t mission critical to the Marlins. Eury Perez was coming through no matter who was in the fifth spot, and this team is so pitching-rich that they’ll open 2023 with Trevor Rogers at the back. Johnny Cueto feels like a smart signing for them. Good for the fan base. Good for young pitchers. Good for the bullpen as a veteran innings eater. Good because he allowed the team to trade from strength to address weakness. It’s not ideal that they had to include SS Jose Salaswho signed for $2.8 million in 2019 and is the older brother of top 2023 signing C Ethan Salas ($5.6 million with San Diego). I’m not sure who fits in as the club’s shortstop of the future without Salas in the picture. I still like Kahlil Watson more than most, but he’s a half-decade away. Joey Wendle will turn 33 in April, not that he’s your long-term answer anyway. I suspect you’re playing some Jazz in the back of your mind, but the team says Chisholm is headed to centerfield. I like that because it should let his athleticism breathe and relax. Throwing accuracy has always been a bugaboo for Chisholm, so let’s just remove that from the equation. He’s the best hitter. Need him in the lineup more than anywhere else.
Let’s take a look at the lineup.
2B Luis Arraez
CF Jazz Chisholm
3B Jean Segura
1B Garrett Cooper
LF Bryan De La Cruz
DH Jorge Soler
RF Avisail Garcia
SS Joey Wendle
C Jacob Stallings
Not the worst lineup you’ll ever see. I had Arraez as the two hitter, then the three hitter, but they don’t really have another option at the top, OBP-wise. Could be Segura, I guess. Or Jazz, but then your most impactful bat is up with the bases empty a lot. Could be Soler. Remember when he smashed out of the lead-off spot for Atlanta after Acuña went down? Has Miami even tried that? Meh, probably wouldn’t work for them anyway. Looking at the lineup, you can make a case that Arraez is their best option at every spot in the order.
I didn’t love the Zac Gallen trade for Miami when they made it, but it looks good now, and as long as they can keep developing quality major league starters, they should be hounding the market for these kinds of swaps. If you assume that Jose Salas and Bryan Chourio (not related to Jackson and Jaison) would struggle the way most Marlin prospects have, the trade looks even better. Why should they walk away from a trade because the cost is a little high in position-player prospects? Never works out for them anyway. Jazz, Cooper, De La Cruz: they’re all imports. Zero homegrown players on the position side. Jon Berti and Nick Fortes are the only homegrown hitters on the roster. Toronto import Jordan Groshans and homegrown JJ Bleday could both help at some point, though I don’t think either is particularly good. Same for Tampa import Jesus Sanchez.
I’ll say this for these Marlins: they’re fascinating. They snuck into the playoffs during the covid season and followed that up by adding the veterans mentioned in this article: Soler, Garcia, Stallings and Wendle. Seemed kinda great, actually, at the moment: excellent pitching combined with steady hitting coming off a playoff berth. But there’s often a tax for a playoff berth that comes early on a team’s win-curve arc. Baltimore seemed scared to death of that tax in 2022, I think, doing their level best to trade their way out of the playoffs. It’s a simple concept: you start blocking young players with medium-good veterans, which cuts off a key path to value for a building franchise: opportunity and discovery. Joey Meneses was just sitting out there, for instance, raking for basically his entire baseball life. They discovered some value in Jesus Aguilar down this path. Found money is key to building a sustainable winner, particularly for the teams that want to keep payroll low. Easier said than done, but this team should’ve been working to unearth their own Wendle and Stallings types–not trading from their system to get them.
In Minnesota, Carlos Correa reroutes Royce Lewis and Brooks Lee to what might’ve been their ultimate destinations anyway. Lewis could be a dynamic outfielder, and Lee should take swimmingly to third or second base or both. I really like how the signing reshapes their future infields, and by extension trading Arraez, their rotation. Bringing SP Pablo Lopez to Minnesota might cause some heartache in the fantasy community, where Bailey Ober is beloved. Maybe he won’t automatically get bounced from the rotation, but his outlook is certainly clouded at a glance.
These five are locked in if healthy, which pushes Ober, Louis Varland and Josh Winder to sixth, seventh and eighth. Simeon Woods-Richardson, Jordan Balazovic and Matt Canterino now feel light years away. Canterino is a good fit in the bullpen and could almost certainly help the major league team there at some point in 2023. It’s a good problem to have, but it’s a better problem to have when you’re Minnesota than when you’re Miami. The Twins are pretty close to the Marlins polar opposite when it comes to developing young hitters. Let’s have a look at the lineup.
CF Byron Buxton
SS Carlos Correa
2B Jorge Polanco
DH Jose Miranda
1B Alex Kirilloff
LF Joey Gallo
RF Max Kepler
3B Nick Gordon and Kyle Farmer
C Christian Vazquez
I might not have all the spots right, but the key takeaway is that six of their nine starters are homegrown. OF Trevor Larnach and C Ryan Jeffers make eight on the roster. Royce Lewis makes nine whenever he gets back. I can’t say I really love the lineup, and I think the team will miss Arraez, and not just “oh gosh oh boy the fans sure miss this guy” but “oh man I think we goofed in letting this guy go.” He’d be perfect for the team, who doesn’t have much of a leadoff option at the moment. As constructed, the Twins will need Buxton, Kirilloff and Correa to get and stay healthy; they’ll need Joey Gallo to make contact, and they’ll need Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler to rebound from dismal seasons. It’s not ideal, but there’s real bounce potential in Jose Miranda and Alex Kirilloff. If either or both click, the offense could be excellent. Could be even better if Miranda proves he can handle third base and opens up DH to a mid-season promotion or trade.
Thanks for reading!
I’m @theprospectitch on Twitter.