The 2021 Spring Training in Major League Baseball has just started and the season is right around the corner. The 2021 Miami Marlins, meanwhile, are on a notable undefeated streak, losing just one of their nine games thus far in Jupiter. These matchups are merely a formality before the real deal begins on April 1st with the Marlins’ home clash against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Miami has not headed into such an important campaign in at least five years. Last summer, the Marlins reached the postseason for the first time in 17 years. Furthermore, the club even won a memorable NL Wildcard series at Wrigley Field before getting knocked out by the East division champions, the Atlanta Braves.
This degree of success was almost unprecedented for the Miami Marlins given their franchise history. There’s just one problem, though – the 2020 MLB season was shortened from 162 games to only 60, which gave teams with a lack of depth, the leverage they would’ve never had in a full season. This doesn’t just apply to the Marlins – Cincinnati, Milwaukee, and Toronto were all in the same boat.
With the brand-new campaign set to start in its previous, complete format, those playoff contenders will face a consistency test. It’s perfectly realistic to believe that a good amount of those clubs will not pass that test – the Marlins may be a good example of that.
Miami’s starting rotation had a great year, as per usual, but the same cannot be said about its other two crucial units. For instance, the team’s bullpen was amongst the worst in the league last summer. That group was addressed by incoming general manager Kim Ng with some cheap yet efficient acquisitions.
The Marlins’ lineup is yet another incomplete component for the NL East underdog heading into one of its most vital seasons in recent memory. Scoring 263 runs in 2020, the Marlins ranked a mere 21st in production at the plate. Ng’s answer to the biggest opening – that in right field – was Adam Duvall, meaning that the lineup remains largely unchanged. Therefore, virtually only this group will produce bounceback candidates for the 2021 Miami Marlins.
Here are three players who could turn their luck around after a tough 2020 showing.
2021 Miami Marlins Bounceback Candidates: Corey Dickerson
After two tremendous campaigns with the Pirates and the Phillies, Corey Dickerson remained within the National League during the 2020 MLB offseason. The Mississippi native signed a two-year, $17.5-million deal with Miami. Based on his inaugural year with the Marlins, this contract is unlikely to pay off.
Now, heading into his last year before entering free agency, Dickerson has to register a huge improvement as compared to last year to increase his market demand and value. Subsequently, this will fill in what was a hole in left field for the Marlins in 2020.
Last season, Corey Dickerson missed just eight games but recorded one of the most underwhelming campaigns in his career. Previously great in the base-reaching and slugging departments, he posted an on-base percentage of only .311. This was the first time this figure had fallen under the league average (.322 for 2020) since 2016. Moreover, his .402 slugging percentage was the lowest in Dickerson’s eight-year major-league tenure.
Dickerson has averaged an OBP number north of .320 in three of his last four campaigns that saw him as an everyday member of a lineup (in other words, more than 400 at-bats). In addition, he has averaged a career on-base percentage of .327 and a slugging percentage of .497, both over the current MLB averages.
Therefore, as Corey Dickerson is heading into the peak of his career, he is perhaps a solid bet to be a productive batter over the next few years. He could be in line to get his numbers back to the previous 2018-2019 norm as a starting left-fielder for the 2021 Miami Marlins. Furthermore, he has tended to be very consistent, regarding both OBP and slugging in his career.
Yet, reservations exist, mostly based on him not being a starting player during his strong 2019 campaign, which could be just as deceiving as the shortened 2020 season. That’s a problem for his next potential buyer. As for the 2021 Miami Marlins, the chances of him turning in a bounceback year should be very appealing.
2021 Miami Marlins Bounceback Candidates: Isan Diaz
Back in the winter of 2018, Isan Diaz was one of the four big names to join the Marlins in the infamous Christian Yelich trade with the Brewers. However, all four pieces have faired more and more disappointingly. Isan Diaz has been no different.
Diaz made his debut in 2019 but has yet to play a campaign as a starting second baseman throughout the entirety of the season. In 2019, Isan Diaz only appeared in 49 games as he was called up in August. Furthermore, the following year he only took part in nine games due to initially opting out of the 2020 MLB season.
These two campaigns, together, resemble an average workload for a backup in a full season, or a starter in a COVID-shortened year. The result certainly has not been satisfying.
Over 223 plate appearances, the Puerto Rico native has posted an on-base percentage of .251 and a slugging figure of .294. In other words – shameful numbers that only compare, in the context of that trade, to the awful display presented by Lewis Brinson in over 700 at-bats.
Isan Diaz was once the organization’s #5 prospect, ranking as high as #86 per MLB Pipeline prior to his call-up in August 2019. This by itself, coupled with his lack of playing time during his short tenure, probably serves as a reason for the club to utilize him in a starting-caliber role in a full campaign in order to exploit his full potential. As frequently noted, however, he could face serious competition for the starting post at second base in youngster Jazz Chisholm.
The upcoming 2021 Miami Marlins season promises to be a huge year for Isan Diaz. The high-profile Marlins prospect has mightily disappointed at the start of his major-league career. Moreover, suffering another unproductive slate of lineup opportunities would likely result in him losing his job for the short term.
Diaz is still very far from his prime, which means that he still has a great deal of improvement to register to near his ceiling in the next few years. During his six-year MiLB career, Isan Diaz was incredibly prolific at the plate with a .360 OBP, including an OBP of .365 in 590 plate appearances in Triple-A.
The conditions for a breakthrough performance – a full, 162-game schedule – seem better than ever. All in all, there is no reason to rule out Diaz finally getting to prove his capabilities. As this is his real first chance, the presence of stiff competition could cause him to quickly get lost in the mix.
On the other hand, his slow start probably doesn’t set a stage too positive ahead of his campaign with the 2021 Miami Marlins. Furthermore, the upcoming season will rather serve as one that will show the real state of the seeds that will grow over the course of his MLB career. It will also show if those seeds are worth any future price or opportunity.
2021 Miami Marlins Bounceback Candidates: Jorge Alfaro
Alfaro’s outlook regarding the 2021 season is just as pessimistic as his display in 2020. Although he is coming off his worst year, his previous four weren’t much more productive. Across a five-year span, Jorge Alfaro has never posted an over-average on-base percentage while recording more than 300 PA.
This workload was a part of his stat line just twice – in 2018 and 2019 – and Alfaro averaged a combined .317 OBP over those two seasons. Moreover, his latest full season, the latter of the aforementioned years, saw him register merely a .312 on-base figure over 465 plate appearances, the most in his career.
So his underwhelming performance at the plate wasn’t a phenomenon just in 2020. Last year, however, Alfaro’s numbers hit a rock bottom. His OBP plummeted to .280, while his slugging percentage regressed to .344. The former of those figures was the third-worst on the team amongst players with at least 100 PA, after Lewis Brinson and Starling Marte. Factoring in the latter’s statistical accomplishments with Arizona prior to August 31st moves Alfaro to second-worst.
Jorge Alfaro’s decline was sharp, however, it wasn’t an isolated occurrence amongst solid seasons. Instead, it was a norm, even arguably an ongoing trend, going at an increased level and likely to stay in the same range in 2021 and the foreseeable future. It is perfectly clear that Alfaro doesn’t promise to grow his contributions to the 2021 Miami Marlins to the extent that Isan Diaz and Corey Dickerson can at their best.
Nonetheless, the National League is set to move on from the designated-hitter post in 2021, and severe holes in the lineup could be costly. The Marlins were already at the bottom of the NL in run-scoring and an extra pitcher spot isn’t doing them any justice. Despite the need for that, it is extremely difficult to foresee Alfaro registering a significant improvement, even as the starting catcher for the 2021 Miami Marlins.
Follow me on Twitter at @TeodorTsenov for more of my content! Don’t forget to join our OT Heroics MLB Facebook group, and feel free to join our new Instagram – @overtimeheroics_MLB. We’ll see ya there!
Come join the discussion made by the fans at the Overtime Heroics forums! A place for all sports!
main image credit