The Marlins are at it againby Jeff Moore
July 23, 2013
The Marlins front office gets a lot of free passes, unlike their major league roster, which does not. It's not easy having had to work with limited resources in a terrible stadium for all of those years, and even after owner Jeffrey Loria got his taxpayer-funded palace and painted it like the Emerald City of Oz, he all but forced his front office to go out and spend money to prove a point to the city, even if those contracts were misconstrued.
The front office, consisting primarily of President Larry Beinfest and VP/GM Michael Hill, should even be generally commended for rejuvenating the farm system while getting out from under said contracts, and they have to be given credit for drafting Jose Fernandez, Christian Yelich and others.
But man, once they get the talent in house, they don't have a damn clue what they're doing.
I should specify here, before I get into their recent history of mismanagement and the latest false step, that it may not be Beinfest or Hill who has the final say in the decisions the Marlins are making, which appear to be largely driven by a desperate marketing attempt to sell tickets. We don't know the role Loria plays in the internal decision making that's taking place.
That's why I'm lumping the entire Marlins organization together here as a whole, because as a whole, they're run the way you'd expect a 16-year-old with a learner's permit to handle an Aston Martin.
So what have they done now?
It was announced late Monday night that the Marlins have promoted outfield prospects Yelich and Jake Marisnick to the majors and have sent rookies Marcell Ozuna and Derek Dietrich back down to Double-A. Yes, that's right, the yo-yo-ing of Ozuna has begun, despite the fact that he never should have been promoted in the first place. I need to take the lunacy of these moves one at a time.
Yelich is almost universally considered the Marlins' top prospect and one of the top all-around prospects in the game. He is a premium athlete with a great natural hitting ability and is undoubtedly their center fielder of the future. The Marlins, it should be noted, fail at understanding the concept of future.
You see, despite having had success at every professional level to this point in his career, Yelich is still relatively inexperienced. The only season in which he didn't miss time with an injury was 2011, and this season he's played in just 48 games. But Yelich has succeeded when on the field and has the best shot to make the transition to the majors smoothly. Not Fernandez smoothly, but as well as can be expected by human prospects.
Marisnick, on the other hand, is best classified as an athlete playing baseball, which speaks both to his potential and the risk involved in this move. While Yelich has a refined approach at the plate that leads to strong plate discipline, Marisnick does not, as he relies more on his athletic ability to have success. It's a testament to his raw talent that he's been able to post a line of .295/.357/.504 this season in Double-A, a promising sign for his future.
But have the Marlins learned nothing from their extremely recent history? So recent in fact, it's involved in this transaction.
The Marlins rushed Ozuna to the majors less than three months ago only to watch him flail helplessly at advanced breaking pitches he'd yet to see and get set up by pitchers he was unprepared to face. There are some similarities between Ozuna and Marisnick in that both are toolsy athletes franchises love to dream on but who require the proper time to develop.
Neither received time from the Marlins. Instead, Ozuna returns to Double-A the proud owner of an 87 wRC+ and a 57/12 K/BB ratio. Additionally, the Marlins wasted over a third of a season of service time on a player who could be a legitimate piece of the future of his organization but who currently served no purpose to his major league team.
In no way did the Ozuna call-up work well for the Marlins, yet they are attempting virtually the same thing with Marisnick? What's the definition of insanity again?
I argued at the start of the season that, even if Fernandez won a Cy Young, that starting him in the majors was foolish. Even as much as I loved Fernandez as a minor leaguer, I had no idea he'd be this good this soon, but his presence on the Marlins in April served them no good towards their future. In fact, it damaged it.
Sure, there's been the excitement over having a 20-year-old All-Star pitcher, but his success and the hype that's surrounded it haven't drowned out an otherwise miserable season for the Marlins. Was it really worth a season of having him under team control?
The same thing applies to Yelich and Marlsnick. We're passed the Super-2 deadline, so there's no risk of either one getting to arbitration a year early, but if the pair was held off until next summer, it would give the Marlins control until 2020, instead of through 2019, which will be the case if they never return to the minors.
Again, we're not talking about holding back major league-ready prospects here the way the Rays did with Wil Myers. This is a pair of young players who have just a half-season each of Double-A baseball under their belts. They weren't knocking on the door or even making overly impressive cases for skipping a level.
Both were having strong seasons in Double-A, but most organizations would have had them spend at least some time in Triple-A before coming to the majors, especially to help a last-place team continue to be in last place. The difference between calling them up now or later this season doesn't have much effect, but given that the Marlins would have been perfectly justified waiting an entire year to call either one up, it absolutely factors into the equation.
Yelich won't struggle like Ozuna did because he has a better idea of how to control the strike zone, but he also won't succeed like Fernandez has. And even if he does, what good does it do the 2013 Marlins? Marisnick, on the other hand, could be in for a similarly rough ride to what Ozuna experienced as major league pitchers expose a raw, over-aggressive approach at the plate.
Regardless of the on-field performances, however, the Marlins are once again mis-managing their resources. They have the potential for a solid nucleus in a year or two, but as we saw with Ozuna, rushing prospects before they are ready can have dangerous consequences.
More than anything, however, the Marlins continue to show a complete lack of a long-term plan or a window of opportunity during which they are aiming to compete. Like a fat kid in home economics who eats the brownie before it's fully cooked, the Marlins are basing their decisions on immediate needs and urges, many of which are based not on long-term baseball planning but on marketing and public relations goals.
It's no way to run an organization, and it's no way to handle this moment in a kid's life. I hope Marisnick and Yelich, and the rest of the young talent in the Marlins organization, find nothing but success in the majors, but much like the luck involved on a ball in play, success in the end result doesn't necessarily mean the execution to get there was done properly.
References and Resources
Jeff Moore is the creator of MLBProspectWatch.com, your one-stop site for all the information you need about minor league prospects. He can be reached via e-mail at mlbprospectwatch AT gmail DOT com and can be followed on Twitter at @MLBPW