There is no sugar-coating it: the Marlins’ wild card hopes, which they went all in for at the deadline by making a series of buyer moves including some which mortgaged some big pieces of their future are in serious jeopardy. With injuries to some of their biggest power threats and key pieces to both their rotation and bullpen, Miami, who once looked like a favorite to secure a playoff berth, is suddenly an outsider. The most disturbing part? It seems in at least one regard, they are okay finishing out the rest of the season with that title attached to them.
In early July, the second best power threat on the team, Justin Bour hit the disabled list with an ankle injury. Not thought initially to be serious after MRI results came back negative, it appeared as though the Marlins could get by by platooning Chris Johnson against lefties and a call-up from the minors. This was the first time, at least in the short term, that Xavier Scruggs’ name surfaced. Hitting .290/.393/.536 with 12 homers in the minors at that point, he appeared to be the best candidate to replace the big bat of Bour against righties.
But instead, the Marlins selected Don Kelly, hitting .210/.284/.276. He appeared in 13 games before being sent back to the minors. During that time, Bour’s eligible date to be reinstated from the DL came and went with him not even beginning a rehab assignment. That came two weeks later when the 28-year-old finally returned to action for the Zephyrs, coincidentally playing on the same team as Scruggs. In that assignment, Bour went just 2-18. As a result, he did not return the following week and on August 12th, it was announced that Bour would not return until at least early September if at all this season. For a second time, every Marlins’ writer and scout predicted a Scruggs call up. It never came. Currently, the Marlins are a revolving door at the position with innings being given to a multitude of players including Johnson (sometimes even against righties whom he is a dismal 29-122 against this year), Derek Dietrich, and Miguel Rojas. To this date, without Bour, those three bats in addition to whomever else the Marlins may plug and play at the position from day to day are a cumulative .218/.277/.310 with a 4.41 K/BB. Since the injury to Bour, their slash line is .223/.291/.357 with a 2.70 K/BB. And still, Scruggs, with a slash line that includes the fourth highest SLG in his league (.565), an OBP that ranks third in his league (.408), and an OPS that ranks second (.973) still sits in AAA.
But the confusion doesn’t end there. Compounding it even more is the fact that the biggest power threat on the team, Giancarlo Stanton is out for the year. The Marlins’ slugger was hurt last Saturday running the bases and went to the 15-day the next day. An MRI revealed a grade 3 strain to Stanton’s groin, prolonging the problems Stanton has had his entire career finishing 162 game seasons. Upon the news, everyone interested thought for certain there was no way the Marlins could ignore Scruggs, who also plays outfield, this time.
Alas, the team proved everyone wrong on Monday when they selected Robert Andino to take Stanton’s roster spot. While Andino is having a good season in his own right and provides good depth to the team, the .267/.319/.427 hitting 32-year-old who is reviving his career after a year out of Major League Baseball and who is likely playing over his head considering he is a career .256/.305/.372 minors bat and an even lesser .232/.294/.318 bat over 470 Major League appearances doesn’t (to put it nicely) replace the power of Stanton nearly as adequately as Scruggs potentially would. What’s more is that even though he is eligible at most infield spots, Andino is barely eligible in the outfield having only played 14 career games in left and six in center. He is not eligible at all in right. With Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich holding down every day starting positions in left and center and neither one being eligible in right either, the Marlins will turn to a 43-year-old Ichiro Suzuki to sure up right field in Stanton’s absence, all, again, while Scruggs wastes away in AAA. As legendary as he is, Ichiro has zero power to speak of, very limited speed and defensive capability, and, as he proved last year when he took over for Stanton right around the same time of the year, is no longer fit to be an every day starter.
In a nutshell, the Marlins are doing a thing very similar to the one they did in 2014 to the aforementioned Bour who was in the midst of a .306/.372/.517 season as a 26-year-old but being left in the minors for the likes of a 33-year-old .246/.309/.411 hitting Garrett Jones until the season hit the 122 game mark. The difference there was that Jones was at least contributing something positive to the team at the plate, albeit on a stringy basis and at the cost of a ton of strikeouts and shaky defense. That team also managed to keep its biggest bat healthy for the entire year. In this situation, Stanton is gone as is the team’s next biggest bat, the current replacements at one of those positions are contributing next to nothing, and the the other is a 43-year-old who has never hit for much power at all. For a team that relied on the power threat for success in the first half, it makes very little sense for them to be content allowing their biggest in-house option waste away in New Orleans in the apparent hopes of trying to become something they are not.
So as for the answer to the question posed, what are the Marlins waiting for when it comes to calling up Scruggs, the answer is… I don’t know. Perhaps the Marlins will come to their senses after a few series losses which hopefully don’t cost them their season. Perhaps all the phone lines are down in New Orleans. Perhaps Scruggs can’t get a plane ticket. Or perhaps the Marlins just don’t like him. Right now, I only have one answer: only time will tell.