MIAMI — Giancarlo Stanton makes hitting home runs look easy anywhere. The two-time All-Star struck again on Thursday night, blistering a three-run homer in the first inning in Miami’s 6-0 win over the Rockies at Marlins Park.
With 22 homers, Stanton paces the Majors. He’s also set a team record, becoming the only Marlin ever to homer as many as nine times over a 12-game span.
Stanton is on pace for 58 homers.
What all this says is just how much impact Stanton has. Still, you can’t help but wonder what he might be doing in a more hitter-friendly home park.
Marlins Park, state-of-the-art, and spectacular in so many ways, also is a place that frustrates even the most powerful of sluggers. Its immense size and high walls are well known. And the ball simply doesn’t travel as well as other places.
You don’t often hear Miami players talk about the building, because they have to deal with it. The also don’t want to seem like they are making excuses. So, they go about their business knowing that they often aren’t awarded with an up-the-middle approach.
The front office is open to considering moving in the walls to make it play more fairly. It may happen in a year or two. Nothing is guaranteed. But the fact that Stanton pretty much is the only player to consistently homer in the building should send a signal that something has to be done.
Nine of Stanton’s 22 homers have been at home. Also consider this, the slugger had a 424-foot triple at Marlins Park, according to Statcast.
Fans may wonder how a ball could be measured at 424 feet that wasn’t a homer? Well, the 418 sign in center isn’t the deepest part of the building. Also, that 418 measures the foot of the wall, not the top. So to clear the fence at that spot is well over 418.
A year ago, Marcell Ozuna had 23 home runs. This year, Ozuna has four homers, all on the road. Make no mistake, several of his drives to center this year would have been out pretty much everywhere else. Not that Ozuna would have 15 plus homers, but he’s hit enough balls to have as many as eight or 10.
Also worth noting, behind Stanton’s nine homers at home, the only other Marlins with more than one homer at home are Martin Prado and Jeff Baker, each with two.
Since Marlins Park opened in 2012, Stanton has 64 home runs at Marlins Park. Ozuna is second with 12.
Guess who is third? Show of hands of how many picked Garrett Jones, Hanley Ramirez and Justin Ruggiano? Each of them had seven.
It’s easy to see why Miami selected lefty slugger Josh Naylor with the 12th pick on Monday in the MLB Draft. Naylor has immense power. If he lives up to potential, Miami may have a real impact bat. But that is several years down the road, and perhaps the fences will be in by then.
Jones’ seven homers are the most by a left-handed hitter ever at Marlins Park.
Yes, Stanton makes home runs look easy. When you dig deep into what he really is doing, especially at Marlins Park, you’re seeing a modern-day Babe Ruth.
All-time HR leaders at Marlins Park
Giancarlo Stanton 64
Marcell Ozuna 12
Garrett Jones 7
Hanley Ramirez 7
Justin Ruggiano 7
Evan Gattis 6
Jarrod Saltalamacchia 6
Ryan Zimmerman 6
Jeff Baker 5
John Buck 5
Logan Morrison 5
— Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — As a 15-year-old, Josh Naylor crushed a ball 457 feet at Marlins Park in a youth home run contest. We’re talking Marlins Park, where 400 foot drives routinely become outs.
When you possess that kind of power, it is hard to overlook. And the Marlins didn’t do so, selecting Naylor, now 17, with the 12th pick in Monday’s Draft.
For a franchise desperate for power, the pick made sense. To other, it was a reach, mainly because Naylor was not projected to be taken in the first round. MLB.com, for instance, ranked the first baseman from Canada as the 59th overall player available.
Did Naylor go too high? Maybe. Perhaps a safer, more rounded player could have been outfielder Garrett Whitley, who went one pick later to the Rays.
Bottom line with the Draft is, you never know. It’s not like the NFL Draft where first-rounders are college seasoned and many are ages 20-23 when selected. NFL teams have a better idea of what they’re getting.
More projection is involved in baseball. Naylor, for instance, turns 18 on June 22.
With Miami, we do know he fills a need. Regardless of if he went in the first or second round, the Marlins have a short supply of power in their system. Power was scarce in the Draft. So Naylor fit what the Marlins were seeking. Besides, there is no guarantee first-round position players will strike it big anyway.
The Marlins are well aware of that. Jeremy Hermida (2002), Matt Dominguez (2007), Kyle Skipworth (2008) and Colin Moran (2013) were all regarded as pure hitters with power potential when they were picked. None panned out. Moran, now in Double-A with the Astros, has yet to show power.
The biggest slugger the Marlins ever drafted happens to be their all-time home run leader, Giancarlo Stanton.
Stanton was a second-round choice in 2007, going 76th overall.
If Naylor develops into a middle of the lineup threat, then he is worth it.
Left-handed power also is in short supply in the big leagues. So while Naylor doesn’t offer much speed, and he appears limited to first base, he potentially can change a game with one swing.
We do know across Major League Baseball, home runs are down, especially from left-handed hitters.
Here’s a look at the home run leaders since 2012, the year Marlins Park opened.
1. Miguel Cabrera 125
2. Edwin Encarnacion 124
3. Giancarlo Stanton 117
4. Nelson Cruz/Mike Trout 109
5. Adam Jones 103
6. Jose Bautista 101
7. Chris Carter 92
8. Adrian Beltre/Paul Goldschmidt 91
9. Albert Pujols 90
10. Mark Trumbo 89
1. Chris Davis 124
2. Adam Dunn 97
3. David Ortiz 94
4. Pedro Alvarez 93
5. Jay Bruce 91
6. Adam LaRoche/Brandon Moss 86
7. Anthony Rizzo 81
8. Adrian Gonzalez/Curtis Granderson 78
9. Robinson Cano/Josh Hamilton/Kyle Seager 76
10. Freddie Freeman/Bryce Harper 74
— Joe Frisaro
Where they stand right now, the Marlins are not buyers or sellers. They’re pretty much staying the course with the pieces they already have, but the organization is searching for reasonably-priced bullpen options.
Primarily, Miami is monitoring relievers who might be ready for a change of scenery. They organization is discussing internally if David Carpenter, recently designated for assignment by the Yankees, would be an upgrade over what they already have.
Carpenter’s fastball velocity, according to fangraphs.com, is 94.9 mph. So he is throwing hard, and his stuff hasn’t been that bad. So the right-hander could make sense in Miami.
Internally, there just isn’t much there in the minors. Steve Cishek, recently optioned to Double-A Jacksonville, is tinkering with his mechanics as the club hopes he can make a speedy return back to the big leagues. However, it appears it is going to take more than a couple of innings with the Suns before the club believes he is ready to help out in the late innings.
The timing of sending Cishek down was curious. The move was made when the right-hander’s velocity was up to 92-93 mph, after he was in the 89-91 mph range in mid-May, when he blew saves in successive games at San Francisco and the Dodgers.
After those two rough road outings in May, the club considered optioning Cishek, but didn’t because they were hoping the veteran could fix things pitching in earlier innings.
Regardless of why now over then, the main thing is getting Cishek right, because he may be needed over the course of 162 games.
Other than Cishek, pretty much all the other internal options are already here.
Carter Capps has become a huge weapon, blazing fastballs that have reached as high as 100 mph. Fangraphs.com has his fastball velo average at 97.5 mph. His slider has become a sharp, making him extremely tough to hit. But how will Capps hold up? He’s thrown 11 innings at the big league level after starting the season at Triple-A New Orleans. He’s fanned 19 and walked two.
We’re seeing what happens when Capps throws strikes. His stuff is pure nasty.
But the club has to be careful with how much he is used. Last year he dealt with an arm injury and he threw 20 1/3 innings with Miami, and another 14 1/3 innings in the Minor Leagues.
Sam Dyson already is being heavily used, throwing 27 2/3 innings in 26 games.
Clearly, the Marlins are trying to load up on power arms for their late innings. Capps, Dyson and Bryan Morris all regularly top 95 mph. Lefty Mike Dunn also reaches 95. So even if Cishek returns in a few weeks, his role likely would be in setup situations.
As noted in previous blogs, the team may find some bullpen answers from their own starting pitching depth.
Once Jarred Cosart and Mat Latos come off the disabled list — which could be next week — then Tom Koehler and/or David Phelps may become bullpen pieces.
Cosart is throwing in a rehab assignment game on Saturday. It’s expected at to be with Class A Jupiter in Port Charlotte. The plan is for Jose Fernandez to pitch the first two innings, or around 40 pitches, and have Cosart follow.
If Cosart’s outing is smooth, he could be back in the big league rotation late next week when Miami returns home.
— Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — Sometimes rattling the cage is necessary to wake up a team. Especially a team that hasn’t had much to get fired up about.
So when Junior Lake admired his first homer of the season Wednesday night, and then hushed the Miami dugout, the Marlins reacted accordingly. Catcher J.T. Realmuto gave Lake an earful at home plate, and within seconds, both benches cleared. Jose Fernandez, Mat Latos and Jarred Cosart, three starters on the DL, all were in the thick of things, chirping back and forth.
Lake said he was motioning at Latos. But gesturing to one on the bench was basically calling out all 25 Miami players.
Order was quickly restored, and the Marlins prevailed, 7-3, over the Cubs, taking two of three in the spirited series.
Will one game or series wake the Marlins up? Who knows. With so much uncertainty surrounding the team all season, the general reaction is everything is still day-to-day. They’re still 10 games under .500, and some are wondering if they will be traded before the end of July.
If anything, Wednesday’s win may spark something, and perhaps unite a team that has been searching for cohesiveness.
“It’s hard to win in the big leagues,” manager Dan Jennings said. “Every game is a big win. Winning series are huge. This was a fun, competitive game. To see everybody pick everybody up, have everybody’s back, that’s how you build team.”
Clearly, Jennings message was to get the focus back on the team, and not the distractions of the past few weeks.
Lake showboating in what was a six-run game struck a nerve with the Marlins.
“Guys that pimp homers in our park must really feel they accomplished something,” Miami hitting coach Frank Menechino said. “Especially the guys that get to hit in those launching pad stadiums.”
Marlins Park is one of the toughest places in the Majors to hit homers, and Lake plays his home games at Wrigley Field, which is more hitter-friendly.
It was certainly a tension-filled and interesting night at Marlins Park. But it is still too early to tell if an emotional game will carry over to the road trip, which begins Friday at Colorado.
More than screaming matches at home plate, or Jennings’ ejection in the eighth inning, the Marlins foremost need to have Fernandez, Latos and Cosart off the DL and back in the rotation. It’s nice that all three had their teammates’ backs, but to get the club winning consistently, Miami needs all three on the mound.
— Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — Jose Fernandez begins his rehab assignment with Class A Jupiter on Saturday at Port Carlotte, and the speculation has already started on when the 22-year-old ace will join the Marlins.
It’s shaping up that Fernandez could be back anywhere from July 1, when Miami is at home against the Giants. Or it could be on July 7 at the Red Sox. Or, it could be any time in between, which means it could be at Wrigley Field, when Miami plays the Cubs July 3-5.
First things first, Fernandez must show he is ready. We’ll get a better indication after each rehab assignment start. The Marlins appear willing to use the full 30 days for his assignment.
The team’s approach now appears to be mirroring what any starter would do in Spring Training. On Monday, Fernandez threw 42 pitches in an extended spring game on a back field at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla.
On Saturday, Fernandez may be throwing just two innings. If that is the case, it would be like a normal first outing for any pitcher in his first Spring Training game. From there, Fernandez will follow a routine, and build up accordingly.
How many innings would Fernandez need to be big league ready? Let’s take Dan Haren, for an example.
Haren made five Grapefruit League starts this spring, and logged 19 1/3 innings. So anywhere in the neighborhood should be about right for Fernandez.
If Fernandez gets five rehab starts and builds up one inning at a time, he would reach 18 innings throwing — two Saturday, followed by three, four, five and six.
Under that schedule, the six innings would be on July 1.
Should that be the case, Fernandez could be pitching for the Marlins at Fenway Park on July 7.
* The promotion of right-hander Kendry Flores has many Marlins’ fans wondering what about lefty Justin Nicolino, the club’s No. 3 prospect, according to MLB.com.
The simple answer as to why Flores over Nicolino is the front office feels the right-hander is more ready as of right now.
Nicolino is a very interesting prospect because he has talent but is not overpowering. He’s also enjoying a strong season at Triple-A New Orleans. However, on Tuesday night, he got knocked around, in an 11-2 loss to Tacoma.
The lefty gave up eight runs (seven earned) in three innings, and Tacoma belted three homers.
The rough start dropped Nicolino’s record to 4-2 and raised his ERA to 2.94.
Miami wants to make sure Nicolino is polished enough to stick in the big leagues. The scouting report is he has plus command to go with an average fastball. His pitching savvy, ability to change speeds, and work both sides of the plate impress the scouts. They’re also impressed that he can throw quality strikes when he has to. But he has to be sharp, because if he isn’t, his stuff can get hit hard.
Once Nicolino gets called up, his service time clock starts, which means his options may kick in. The organization would like to avoid bouncing him up and down, like they did last year with Andrew Heaney.
The other thing to keep in mind with Nicolino is his ceiling isn’t much higher than what he is now. Basically, he is close to being big league ready. But at this point, from the team’s perspective, it makes more sense to wait closer to July or later. Doing that guarantees he avoids being a Super 2, and reaching arbitration a season early.
Nicolino is part of the future.
Also factoring into the thinking is Brad Hand has stepped up in his starts, and Miami has Jarred Cosart close to coming off the DL.
— Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — Taking two of three from the Mets at Citi Field doesn’t push the Marlins back into contention, but it also doesn’t mean the club is thinking about selling any time soon.
Obviously, June is going to be a crucial month for the Marlins, who put themselves in a big hole at 20-31. Already, some in the New York media are speculating that the Mets may be able to pry Martin Prado away from Miami to provide insurance in case David Wright doesn’t return.
From what I’m told, the Marlins have not quit on the season. They aren’t thinking about trading away core pieces. Dealing Prado doesn’t make much sense for Miami, especially since he is under contract through 2016. The Yankees are picking up $3 million of the $11 million Prado is making this year and next.
Miami doesn’t have a third baseman ready to take over. Brian Anderson, an interesting prospect at Class A Jupiter, has potential to someday be a regular. But the former University of Arkansas star is several years away from being big league ready.
Prado is a leader on this team. Dealing him would be a tremendous blow to the clubhouse, and a signal of retreat to a market that is tired of rebuilding. Giancarlo Stanton didn’t sign here long term to see the towel thrown in after two months.
With the second Wild Card, we’ve seen teams rebound every year and make a run at the postseason.
When the Marlins named Dan Jennings manager, they did so not to give up on the season. If they are wanting to build for tomorrow, then they would have gone with someone in their Minor League system that has managing experience, like Triple-A manager Andy Haines or former Double-A manager Andy Barkett, now a hitting instructor.
Miami’s main objective is to try to get as close to .500 as possible by the All-Star Break and then figure what direction to go.
It’s not like the club has been at full strength from the start, and the mix of players didn’t come together. The Marlins have been without Jose Fernandez all year, and Mat Latos wasn’t completely healthy in April and May, which is why he is on the DL. Jarred Cosart is also close to returning from the DL.
Henderson Alvarez may be out at least a month or two. But he could return in the second half to provide a lift.
The Marlins’ priority now is getting their pitching in order, and try to make a run. They aren’t thinking about moving a core player like Prado to a team that Miami still may catch in the standings.
— Joe Frisaro
NEW YORK — Some “outside the box” thinking led to the Marlins moving Dan Jennings from general manager to manager two weeks ago.
Jennings, who never had any prior coaching or managing experience at the professional level, has not been shy about trying new things with his roster. In Saturday’s 9-5 win over the Mets at Citi Field, he called upon closer A.J. Ramos to pick up a four-out save. The strategy worked as Ramos gave Miami its first four-out save since Steve Cishek did it last May.
In the series finale against the Mets on Sunday, Jennings didn’t hesitate to trying something different again. He batted starting pitcher David Phelps eighth and light-hitting catcher Jhonatan Solano ninth.
It’s the first time a Marlins starter has batted higher than ninth since Dontrelle Willis did it four times in 2005. Then manager Jack McKeon twice batted D-Train seventh and two times more had him hit eighth.
Willis, and now Phelps, are the only two starters in franchise history ever to bat other than ninth.
“Trying to be a little creative with the personnel that was playing today,” Jennings said. “We knew these guys were going to play today.”
Ichiro Suzuki started in center in place of Marcell Ozuna, and batted fifth. Ichiro has a .317 batting average in 102 plate appearances against Bartolo Colon.
Adeiny Hechavarria is still out with a bruised left shoulder, so Donovan Solano started at shortstop.
Catcher J.T. Realmuto was given the day off, common for a regular catcher to sit the day after a night game, especially after playing all week.
Jhonatan Solano entered the game hitting .059 (1-for-17) and Phelps .071 (1-for-14). But that had little to do with the decision to hit a position player ninth.
“We’re essentially trying to get a little more meat on the bone for the top of the order when it rolls around,” Jennings said. “Bunt situation thing, as well as some double-switch thoughts. We’ll see how it unfolds.”
Jennings doesn’t anticipate batting the pitcher eighth when Realmuto and Hechavarria are in the lineup.
There is no definitive statistic that suggests more runners will be on base for the top of the order if a pitcher bats eight. But the general idea is the number of guys on base for the two, three, four hitters goes up slightly as the game progresses.
— Joe Frisaro
NEW YORK –- Marlins shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria expects to miss at least a couple of games after he was involved in a collision in the ninth inning of Friday’s 4-3 win over the Mets at Citi Field.
Hechavarria, who started all of Miami’s first 49 games, injured his left shoulder after running into left fielder Christian Yelich on Daniel Murphy’s bloop double. Donovan Solano got the nod at shortstop on Saturday.
More on Hechavarria’s status will be known after he is examined by a doctor at Citi Field on Saturday. Hechavarria did say he wouldn’t be able to play on Sunday, either.
“I’m just waiting for the doctor to come in and evaluate me, and then I’ll have a better understanding of where I’ll be after today,” Hechavarria said.
Hechavarria and Yelich were both shaken up on Murphy’s floater that landed between the two Miami defenders.
“I was looking to see how deep Yelich was playing,” Hechavarria said. “I noticed he was getting close to me, and I slowed down. I went down to the ground, and he slid at the same time. That’s when it happened.”
The collision occurred with one out, but Hechavarria opted to remain in the game, although he knew he wouldn’t have been able to hit if the game went to extra innings.
“As far as hitting, I knew I couldn’t hit,” he said. “My shoulder was bothering me. It was tight. As far as getting taken out of the game at that moment. My shoulder hurt. I got the wind knocked out of me, and it was tough for me to breath. There was one out. If a play was hit to me, I was going to do whatever I could to get them out.”
If Hechavarria is out for an extended period, shortstop Miguel Rojas is a likely candidate to be called up from Triple-A New Orleans.
— Joe Frisaro
NEW YORK — When you are going through a collective slump like the Marlins are, there is plenty of blame to spread around. The offense has struggled to score. The rotation has been hobbled with three Opening Day starters on the disabled list.
Then, there is the bullpen. Granted, it has been overused. But it also has let a number of late-leads slip away. The most recent missed chance came on Wednesday, when the Pirates rallied with two outs and no one on in the seventh inning to score five runs. Miami’s two-run lead was erased in a 5-2 loss at PNC Park.
With each loss comes more scrutiny.
Again, we can dissect all parts of the club. We can question (and many are) if Dan Jennings is the right choice to manage. Well the bottom line is simple, it doesn’t matter who is calling the shots if late-inning leads aren’t preserved.
To stay on point with the bullpen, these are games in the late innings where Miami had a lead, only to either lose or have to rally.
In the last two road trips alone, four blown saves resulted in four losses. Three came during their 10-game swing, with one at Washington, one at San Francisco and the final one at the Dodgers. Say Miami wins three or all four of those? Suddenly a 18-30 record is either 21-27 or 22-26 mark. Either way, that’s much more manageable when you’re striving to get to .500 by the All-Star Break.
For the season, the Marlins have an MLB-low five saves — Steve Cishek (three) and A.J. Ramos (two).
The Marlins are 5-for-14 in save opportunities. Their save percentage of 35.7 is the lowest in the Majors. Their nine blown saves are second only to the D-backs’ 10.
Cishek, who converted three of seven chances, still has the most blown saves in the Majors.
I noted recently that if Miami is to get back into the mix, pitching will have to lead the way. The starters must go deep into games. But clearly, when there are late-leads, the bullpen must do its part to lock down potential wins.
— Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — If the Marlins are going to turn things around, they’ll be counting heavily on some of their young pitching prospects. Injuries have placed them in this tough predicament.
After Friday’s 8-5 loss to the Orioles, Miami placed Henderson Alvarez (right shoulder inflammation) and Mat Latos (left knee inflammation) on the disabled list. So the club will be without the starters who were Nos. 1 and 2 in its rotation when the season opened.
The ailing rotation also has Jarred Cosart (vertigo) on the DL, so they are down three from the group that opened the year.
For immediate help, the Marlins are bringing up two relievers from Triple-A New Orleans — Andre Rienzo and Vin Mazzaro, who will have his contract selected. Rienzo offers flexibility because he can start.
The team won’t need another starter until Tuesday. It’s expected to be either prospect Justin Nicolino or Jose Urena. Both are at New Orleans. Kendry Flores at Double-A Jacksonville is also knocking on the door, being ready for a promotion to the big leagues.
Alvarez’s injury will be one to watch. Jon Heyman of CBSsports.com reported Alvarez has been pitching for years with a partial ucl tear in his elbow. I’ve confirmed that, and heard the Marlins were aware of his medical situation when they made their 12-player trade with the Blue Jays after the 2012 season. Miami was comfortable with Alvarez’s medical
report, just as Toronto knew Josh Johnson had arm issues. So each team was willing to accept the potential risks.
Latos going on the DL was not unexpected. He admitted a few weeks ago in San Francisco that he had his left knee drained in Spring Training, which explains some of his April struggles.
Clearly, Latos was laboring. The fact Latos and Alvarez struggled to get through six innings put added stress on an already shaky bullpen.
As big of a hole as the Marlins placed themselves in, the objective is to get close to .500 by the All-Star Break. If they can do that, they will have Jose Fernandez back, and they could still make a playoff push.
In order to get there, prospects like Nicolino, Urena and perhaps Flores could play a major role.
It’s a tall task. Maybe an unrealistic one. But they are healthy, and right now, appear to give the Marlins their best chances to win.
— Joe Frisaro