Do the Miami Marlins have a dilemma at second base?

MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 23: Starlin Castro #13 of the Miami Marlins throws towards first base as he turns a game ending double play in the ninth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Marlins Park on September 23, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - SEPTEMBER 23: Starlin Castro #13 of the Miami Marlins throws towards first base as he turns a game ending double play in the ninth inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Marlins Park on September 23, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images) /
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The Miami Marlins have a veteran presence at second base in Starlin Castro and a budding star at Triple-A in Isan Diaz. When will a change happen?

If the minor league season ended today for all of the Marlins affiliates, it would be hard not to name second baseman Isan Diaz the organization’s top hitter. The 23-year-old native of Puerto Rico has been as good as advertised this season, biding his time at Triple-A New Orleans while veteran Starlin Castro continues to keep a stronghold on the second bag in the Marlins infield.

At some point, it will be Diaz who takes over for the veteran, most presumably at the MLB Trade Deadline. The Marlins aren’t in a rush to bring Diaz up from Triple-A, but if there is a player in the organization who is Major League ready – besides pitcher Zac Gallen – you would be hard pressed to find someone.

Just like Gallen has owned opposing hitters on the mound this season, Diaz has been on a tear of late at the plate. Per Mike Rosenbaum and William Boor of MLB.com, Diaz’s performance on Saturday was one of the highlights of their “Top Prospect Performers” piece.

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"“Diaz extended his hitting streak to 10 games with another multihit performance,” the MLB experts wrote. “The 23-year-old hit his 13th homer of the season, his third during his current hitting streak, and boosted his Triple-A average to .284. Diaz hit .204 over 36 games with New Orleans at the end of last season, but is clearly more comfortable in Triple-A this time around. Diaz has also seen an increase in power this year as he’s already matched last year’s home run total in roughly half the games.”"

The Marlins have solid infield prospects to groom at the Single-A level and at the Double-A (Jacksonville) and Triple-A level with the Baby Cakes. Finding a place for all of them, which include Diaz, Jose Devers, and Joe Dunand, could be a challenge in the next couple of seasons. Of the three, Diaz appears to be a lock to make the 25-man roster in Spring Training in 2020.

Castro’s numbers aren’t as solid as they were last season – with only four home runs and a .230 average, but his leadership on the diamond is welcomed as the Marlins continue to mix in young talent in their nightly lineup.

The Marlins are paying Castro $11 million this season of a contract that jumps to $16 million next year before he would become a free agent. The front office in all likelihood will not pay that much for one player when there is a solid yet less expensive alternative.

On Friday night, Castro eclipsed the 1.500-hit plateau in his career and at 29 years old, does not show signs of slowing down. If he aims for 2,000 hits in the next few seasons, it won’t be in a Marlins uniform.

"“Starlin’s got a lot left,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “You see guys sometimes get better at this age. I think you look at him as old, just because of how long you’ve seen him. There’s a lot left in there.”"

A team making a playoff run could use his bat off the bench. He should draw some interest once the second half of the MLB season kicks off.

"“Castro is drawing some interest,” Joe Frisaro of MLB.com writes. “But until something happens, he’s anchoring second base for Miami.”"

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