Introduction: urgency drove actions by the Diamondbacks.
Mike Hazen has a sense of urgency to win games. He demonstrated that urgency by deciding to DFA Madison Bumgarner sooner instead of later.
“I ask our players and staff to have urgency around how we are going to play, and attack. And so I have to do the same thing. I can’t be a hypocrite, ask for that and not do it in my job. And so that was part of the reason we made a decision.” — Mike Hazen, April 20, 2023
Urgency drove actions by the Marlins.
In her first two seasons as GM, the Marlins experienced two seasons of losing baseball (95 losses and 93 losses). The win-loss record gave very little indication that the team was improving.
Like the Diamondbacks, the Marlins are a team with lower-than-average payroll. The Marlins payroll is less than the Diamondbacks. If the Marlins want to be a winning team, they need great skill and great execution in scouting and developing prospects.
What about player development? Let’s look at the Marlins’ active roster on 20 April. Three players were drafted between 2016 and 2018 and developed by the Marlins. Two players were signed as international free agents in 2015 and developed by the Marlins. That’s a total of 5 out of 26 players who were scouted and developed by the Marlins. That compares poorly with 12 on the Diamondbacks (counting Tommy Henry).
Kim Ng had an urgency to acquire and develop prospects in the Marlin farm system. She saw that it did not happen. This offseason her urgency drove her to take action.
- She replaced her director of player development (Jeoff DeGroot). Note that prior to the offseason (June) the vice president of player development and scouting, Gary Denbo, was replaced.
- She replaced her director of pro scouting (Hadi Reed) and five scouts.
Undoubtedly, the replacements have their marching orders to immediately make changes that fix the problems in acquiring and developing prospects. Likely, tangible results will not be seen for several years.
What about this season? Patience with a losing team was waning. Kim Ng had an urgency to make an immediate improvement. How could her team win more games this season? She made coaching changes and player changes.
She replaced her manager with Skip Shumaker. Several coaches were replaced: former D-back coach Luis Urueta is the new bench coach, Rod Barajas is the new field coordinator, Jon Jay is the new first base and outfield coach, John Mabry is the new assistant hitting coach, and Jody Reed is the new third base and infield coach.
Last season, her team had great pitching (especially their rotation) but poor hitting (they ranked 28th in runs scored). They lost 40 out of 64 one-run games. She focused on acquiring players who could hit the baseball and get on base (power was less important).
Her centerpiece trade was to acquire Luis Arraez. Last season he was the AL Batting Champion and a Silver Slugger. This season through 21 April, he led the Majors with his .438 batting average and .493 on-base-percentage. The Marlins are happy that he will be an arbitration player until he reaches free agency in 2026. Nevertheless, she paid a high price to acquire Luis Arraez.
- She traded away pitcher Pablo Lopez. This season through 21 April, his .226 wOBA ranked 43rd best among qualified pitchers and his .248 expected wOBA ranked 48th best among qualified pitchers. The Twins quickly signed him to a 4 year extension.
- She traded away her fourth best prospect Jose Salas. Keith Law (writer for the Athletic) did not “love” that Salas was traded away for Arraez. In the preseason, Baseball Prospectus ranked Salas as the 93rd best prospect in baseball.
- She traded away 17-year old outfield prospect Byron Chourio. It’s way too soon to speculate on his future in baseball.
- Although Arraez hits very well, his defense is not as good. Last season, he had positive DRS at first base and second base per The Fielding Bible. The Marlins will play him at second base. Former Diamondback Jazz Chisholm will move from second base to center field, knowing that he will make some mistakes as he learns a new position. It will be surprising if his defense in center field reaches average, but her urgent need to improve the offense was a priority.
Other player changes were made.
- She acquired former Diamondback Jean Segura who is playing third base. As of 21 April, his negative 2 DRS shows his defense slipped over the years. His .412 OPS is the second lowest on the Marlins.
- She acquired Yuri Gurriel who is a bench first baseman. His negative 1 DRS shows his defense slipped over the years. His .668 OPS is below average in the Majors.
- She acquired Johnny Cueto for the rotation. He is on the 15 day IL with biceps tightness.
- New faces in the bullpen include AJ Puk, Matt Barnes, JT Chargois, Jeff Lingren, Devin Smeltzer, and Jacob Stallings.
Looking at the broader perspective, the Marlins have 3 new position players and one like-new center fielder (Jazz Chisholm). When you consider that last season none of the other position players played more than 119 games for the Marlins, the Marlins have a different look than last season. This season the Marlins are a different team.
Because Kim Ng took actions with a sense of urgency, she earned good karma. Although there are no guarantees, this season the Marlins will very likely be a better team.
How well are the Marlins playing?
The Marlins started the season 12-9. That looks like a significant team improvement compared to the last two losing seasons (67-95 and 69-93). Although it’s early in the season, there are strong indications her team may break .500 for the first time in years. And looking at the draft, my gut tells me that her rebuilt scouting will shrewdly pick players that they can successfully develop in their farm system, which is on the mend.
Kim Ng’s sense of urgency drove her actions that improved the Marlins this season and drove her actions that will improve the Marlins’ player acquisition and development.