Marlins continue to improve minor league system

WEST PALM BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 28: Tyler White #13 of the Houston Astros scores in the fourth inning against the Miami Marlins at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on February 28, 2019 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
WEST PALM BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 28: Tyler White #13 of the Houston Astros scores in the fourth inning against the Miami Marlins at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on February 28, 2019 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

The Miami Marlins are continuing to make improvements to a minor league system that at one time was thought to be one of the thinnest in baseball.

Last season, while attending Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp games here in town, I had a chance to see the Marlins future.

Peter O’Brien crushed baseballs out of Peter Bragan Field. Pablo Lopez and Nick Neidert mowed down opposing hitters with consistency. Joe Dunand and Isan Diaz flashed what should become a dynamic infield combination in Miami sooner rather than later. And let’s not forget the power of Monte Harrison that left fans wondering how far he could hit a baseball.

The Marlins continued committment to making the Minors a priority has changed the course of this franchise. It might not be immediately seen this season, but in a yar or two it will be these names and faces fans identify with for the future.

When Derek Jeter took over as team CEO, he made trades that weren’t popular, but they have built the foundation we speak of. His game plan, building from the minors and bringing along talent slowly is exactly how the New York Yankess brought him to New York with Jorge Posada.

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It’s a formula that has been popular with the Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians. It’s one that is finding success in Atlanta once again.

"As Jim Callis of wrote, “The Marlins traded the six best position players from their 2017 club — Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, J.T. Realmuto, Dee Gordon and Justin Bour — in an attempt to cut costs and add some much-needed prospects to a system that had been regarded as baseball’s thinnest. In addition to adding talented young players, Miami also has tried to make the development experience better for them.”"

The old formula under the Jeffrey Loria era did not work. Jeter has taken an approach to starting over again that over time will produce playoff berths and possible World Series opportunities. The  moves weren’t popular when they happened with the fan base and some are still stewing over breaking up such a talented group. Jeter, however, is showing that if he builds it, hopefully the fans will forgive him and join others at the ballpark.

As a fan of the game first, I see what the front office is doing here. As a fan of the Marlins, I am adjusting to the changes in the organization. Seeing talent develop firsthand is easier to make the connection to the future. Fans come out in droves in Jacksonville for the talent on the field and the great work of the Jumbo Shrimp organization. And along the way, youngsters get to meet the stars of tomorrow.

It was that way with Brian Anderson. It was the same for Austin Dean. And back in the day, when they were the Suns, Jacksonville boasted Stanton, Yelich, Ozuna, and Realmuto at one point or another.

"“We moved all of our player development staff from Miami to Jupiter,” Marlins farm director Dick Scott said. “We improved the clubhouse, the food, better equipment in the training room, upgraded the weight room and the pitching machines. We did it in the Dominican Republic as well.“It’s seemingly small stuff but it made a difference with the players. They notice the organization is trying to take care of them.”"

This season, the second one in Jeter’s master plan, is pivotal because the success on the diamond right now may have us all believing Miami can be a playoff contender with one or two more hitters. Believe me when I say this team isn’t there yet. A lot must happen for the Marlins to break the .500 barrier in 2019.

But it’s fun to hope and believe in a team that was at rock bottom last season. It’s possible Miami will lose another 85-90 games in 2019, but the play on the field and on the mound should be improved. It could also lead to the franchise becoming a top 10 minor league system. No one thought that just three seasons ago.

I’m betting the Marlins as an organization will be better than advertized in 2019. It may not lead to a playoff berth or even close to a .500 record. It doesn’t have to be. The franchise is growing, even if it’s incremental. That’s good enough to drum up more support from the fan base.

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As long as the minor league system continues to produce solid stars of the future, the Marlins will be a team on the rise the next few seasons.