The 2022 Marlins. We’ll start with Sandy Alcantara, of course, and, you know what? It’s probably not a bad idea to end there, too. I’m kidding, of course, there’s Pablo López and Jazz Chisholm Jr. Outside of that, though, it’s not exactly a goldmine, and if you wanted to just ignore the rest of the roster entirely, I wouldn’t argue.
The Marlins were one of the top offenses to stream pitchers against, as their .290 team wOBA ranked 27th on the year. Once Jazz Chisholm Jr. (.365 wOBA/ 139 wRC+) went down on June 29th, they were dead last at .274. If you weren’t playing Jon Berti and his league-leading 41 stolen bases, chances are you might’ve ignored this lineup entirely. Garrett Cooper led the team with a .330 wOBA (min 300 PA), but underwhelming counting stats and an injury late in the year, muted his season. The soon-to-be 32-year-old first-time All-Star has a career .341 wOBA, but with only 18 home runs over his last 719 PA, it’s hard to get too excited, barring a change of scenery.
Jorge Soler should serve as the team’s primary DH after logging 56 games in the OF last year. The 2021 WS MVP, who clobbered 48 home runs with the Royals in 2019, posted his lowest OPS since 2017 and was held to 72 games because of injuries to his back and pelvis. Avisaíl García also had a season to forget with a .583 OPS and a hamstring strain that limited him to 98 games. But he hit 29 home runs with a .820 OPS with the Brewers in 2021. So we’ve seen both bats be difference-makers before and couldn’t rule out a bounce-back.
Jesús Sánchez is a potential post-hype bat to be aware of in very deep formats. The lefty has exceptional raw power (114.7 Max EV) and hit 14 home runs in 251 PA in ’21 and should get another opportunity to prove himself after being demoted last year. Again, this lineup really struggled last year. However, there was at least one batter that ended the season on a good note…
2022 stats (355 PA): .252 AVG, 38 R, 13 HR, 43 RBI, 4 SB
Eight years after signing with the Astros as an international free agent from the Dominican Republic, De La Cruz turned heads by slashing .324/ .362/ .518 in 293 PA with Triple-A Sugar Land in 2021. At the deadline, the Astros sent him to the Marlins for reliever Yimi García. In 58 games with Miami, he closed out 2021 slashing .296/ .356/ .427.
At first, it looked like he was going to be a big part of the Marlins’ plans for 2022 but the additions of Soler and García pushed him into a reserve role. And he had a hard time at the plate, slashing .205/ .249/ .332 through the first 90 games of the year. The Marlins then optioned him again on August 12th.
After posting a .990 OPS in 13 games with Triple-A Jacksonville, the Marlins called him back up on September 1st. And the righty went gangbusters, slashing .388/ .419/ .718 through the last 25 games (94 PA) of the 2022 season. His .476 wOBA in September/October was second only to Aaron Judge (min 90 PA).
Below you’ll see a snapshot of some of his metrics for the past two seasons compared to league averages (blue) from our player pages. It’s an abbreviated sample but his metrics were well above average across the board and you can see the improvements from 2021 (top row), most notably, a big bump in flyball exit velocity from 84.7 to 92.8 and in barrel rate from 5.4% to 11.5%. Of course, we can’t expect those rates to stick, but they give us a better idea of last year’s results.
During his stint in the minors, he worked on something that he shared upon his return in September: “I’ve been working really hard on making adjustments with the changeup.” He also mentioned changing his timing at the plate with a toe tap rather than a big leg kick as a timing mechanism. It’s a small sample, but the righty might have been on to something; His K rate dipped to 21.3% after being recalled, an improvement from the 24.2% he posted in 2021. He’s an aggressive hitter, though, so if you’re in a league that factors walks, he gets dinged a bit.
He recently received a vote of confidence from new manager Skip Schumaker who said that he’s looking forward to seeing what the former Astro can do with 500 at-bats as the team’s left fielder. We’ve now seen De La Cruz put together two impressive stints. Maybe in year three, everything clicks and he can put it together for a whole season, especially now with a secure role from the get-go. Outside of their shortstop, this lineup is probably off the board in standard 12-team formats. But keep an eye on the 25-year-old; He might’ve ended last year in the midst of a breakout.
2022 Stats (100.1 IP): 3.32 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 120 K, 4 W
OK, I might be cheating because Luzardo might not technically fit your sleeper label, considering he ended the season with sharp ratios fueled by a huge bump in K rate from 22.4% to 30.0%. But I still feel like his draft cost might be a little muted because of the injury that wiped out a good part of his season, combined with being on a last-place team.
If you bought in last year, it was a total roller coaster; Things started great with 12 strikeouts on 76 pitches in his first start, but then a left forearm strain in May put him on ice until August before he punctuated the season with a 12 punchout performance against Atlanta.
The former Oakland prospect has two excellent offspeed pitches; His changeup and curveball, which you’ll see below with visuals from our player pages.
I’m always on the lookout for money pitches; 40% zone rate, 40% chase rate, and 15% SwStr rate. Basically, can he locate and get whiffs with it? His changeup nailed the criteria with a chase rate (O-Swg%) of 43.5% and a zone rate of 39.9%.
His hook wasn’t too far off either, with a chase rate of 31.2% and a zone rate of 35.7%. And if you go back to 2021 (95.1 IP), his curveball held a chase rate and zone rate above 40% and an even better SwStr% of 22.5%. So we’ve seen this pitch peak before.
Luzardo, who grew up in Florida and is the only player in MLB history born in Peru, although his parents are Venezuelan, has had his fair share of injuries. There was last year’s left forearm strain that shortened his season. And he also had his debut in 2019 pushed back with a rotator cuff strain. Shortly before he was drafted by the Nationals in 2016, he had Tommy John surgery. Durability is a concern for sure, as he’s yet to cross 100 innings.
One of the things I like to do when I’m trying to learn about a pitcher is to look at the game logs on our player pages; You can follow along from start to start and get an idea as to what’s working and what isn’t, is it legit, or is it smoke and mirrors? And you can read Nick Pollack’s notes from his awesome SP roundups, too. Altogether, it’s a very useful resource that almost narrates the ups and downs of the season. In which case, I think we should be really encouraged by how Luzardo ended the season.
I might be guilty of cherry-picking, but his final start of the year against a tough Atlanta lineup (game log pictured above) really stuck out to me. In particular, how he handled Austin Riley, a slugger who has torched LHP to the tune of a .384 career wOBA (441 PA).
In their first meeting, the southpaw took advantage of a favorable called strike on a high heater at 96. before getting Riley to strike out on a curveball in the dirt.
In Riley’s second at-bat (above), Luzardo starts him off with a great change-up down in the zone for the whiff.
After bouncing the second pitch, another change, the lefty unleashed some serious Bob Ross and paints the outside corner with this heater.
Luzardo exhibits some impressive confidence and command with back-to-back fastballs, this one buzzing the inside part of the plate. He’s shown a pretty good ability to pound his heater inside to righties (his glove side), which he does here for his seventh punchout. It was great to see him dial up his heater to 97, what he averaged in his first start of the year against the Angels.
In the sixth, the southpaw punctuates a five-pitch battle with finesse by coaxing this whiff on a beautiful curve ball just out of the zone to strike out Riley for the third time.
The 25-year-old put together a 3.09 ERA and 47 Ks through his final six starts (35 IP). He did give up five home runs during that span, and that stung him as lack of run support is something he’ll have to grapple with. But, overall, I thought the former top prospect ended the season looking poised, especially with his velocity trending up. If he qualified, his 21.3% K-BB% would have tied Zack Wheeler for 16th among SPs.
In terms of busts, the Marlins don’t offer a ton of candidates. Sure, Sandy Alcantara almost has to regress a little bit, but I can’t go there; He’s sublime and as good of a bet for 200 IP as anyone.
You could make a case against Jazz Chisholm Jr. considering he’s slashed .223/ .267/ .394 with a 32% K rate against LHP for his career (203 PA). But despite that and the added risk of coming off a knee injury, I’m not opposed to chasing his power and speed upside. Besides, it wouldn’t be too terribly surprising to see him improve against LHP, considering the sample size isn’t all that great on the eve of what will hopefully be his second full season.
2022 stats (71.2 IP): 3.01 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 75 K, 6 W
Let’s consider Cabrera; Given his impressive arsenal, he might catch some attention with a strong spring. After debuting in 2021 with a 5.81 ERA and 1.63 WHIP through seven starts, the 24-year-old Dominican showcased the stuff that made him among the team’s top pitching prospects alongside Max Meyer and Sixto Sánchez, who were derailed by injuries.
This has become the pitch for Cabrera. The slowball led his arsenal at 33.3% and flashed a terrific chase rate of 44.1% (33.5% was league average). But what makes it really stand out is the incredible velocity. The only knock against it was a below-average zone rate of 30.6% (35.4% was league average).
Because GIFs are fun, here’s a nasty change from Cabrera as he victimizes Sean Murphy with some right-on-right crime during his best start of the year on August 22nd (8 IP, 7 Ks, 3 BB, 2 H, 0 ER). When Cabrera is at his best, you’ll see him command the change well to his arm side.
The right-hander also has two impressive breakers. The first is his curveball, which he threw for strikes at a 44.2% clip (40% was league-average), and it also held an impressive chase rate of 36.4% (28.5% was league-average).
The slider was his preferred breaker against righties, and he threw it a few ticks harder. But similar to his curve, it missed plenty of bats and held a zone rate north of 40%.
So what gives? He has a potentially great changeup, an impressive curveball, and a slider that can miss bats too. But his control is lacking. Last year’s 1.07 WHIP is misleading, given his walk rate of 11.3%. If that walk rate sticks, it’ll be very difficult for him to repeat. Last year’s .207 BABIP (.291 was league average among SP) and an 86.1% LOB% (73.2% was league average) certainly helped his cause.
The fastball looks like a liability right now; The velocity is great at 96, but last year his four-seamer held a zone rate of just 41.3%, well below the league average of 50.1%. So his fastball control seems lacking right now.
Granted, Cabrera seemed to lean into his secondary pitches more as the season went on, and that’s generally a good thing. But when it’s paired with what looks like subpar fastball control, it’s a tightrope act that’s going to be tough to pull off consistently, especially for a young pitcher. He’ll have some excellent strikeout starts against light-hitting teams, like the Nationals. But, based on what we saw last year, I suspect he might have trouble against patient lineups that are willing to wait out his secondary pitches and make him throw his heater for strikes.
Until he harnesses his fastball, he could be a liability in WHIP and difficult to hold throughout the season, especially in a division that features some tough lineups in Philadelphia, Atlanta, and New York. That last part applies to Luzardo, too, of course. But I think the southpaw is further along in the development curve and has shown better control; His four-seamer held a 50.7% zone rate last season and his walk rate was more palatable at 8.8%.
Cabrera’s ADP shouldn’t be too prohibitive even if he has a great spring, so the bust label is a bit of a misnomer. But given his questionable control, I’m more tempted to look elsewhere for a dart late in drafts.
2022 stats (404 PA): .240 AVG, 47 R, 4 HR, 28 RBI, 41 SB
Fantasy baseball is great, isn’t it? Unfettered by COVID-related symptoms and a groin strain, a career journeyman emerged as the unlikeliest of superheroes and swung leagues when he stole every base in sight. Berti ended up leading the league in stolen bases despite playing in only 102 games. Now imagine if he played in…Nope! I refuse to participate in that thought experiment. Anyways, it more or less encapsulates the state of stolen bases in today’s game which might make Berti a target that some managers might chase.
He did walk at a 10.4% clip which helps his OBP, but the rest of the profile, seen below with league averages, isn’t remotely interesting. But that’s not news. Anyone drafting Berti is doing it for one reason; Hoping that his defensive versatility keeps him in the lineup and we get a repeat of last year.
Steamer does have Berti projected for 32 steals in 489 PA. But, I’m not sold on the playing time. As a soon-to-be 33-year-old whose previous high was 287 PA, he seems like an odd fit on a team that is far from contention. The stolen bases are great, but with next to no juice in any other category, the smarter play is to probably let someone else chase last year’s perfect storm. Remember Mallex Smith? I don’t either.
Photos by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Redler @reldernitsuj on Twitter
This is really good stuff, Ryan. I appreciate the more thorough examinations from you on these – the extra work shows.