TDG’S Triple Play: Miami Marlins!
The Triple Play is back for a fifth season! This regular feature is broken down by senior writer Phil Barrington and he is joined by a rotating panel of some of the best Dynasty Baseball writers in the business. If you’re new to the Triple Play, this series breaks down an arm, a bat, and a prospect within each organization for your reading pleasure!
Garrett Cooper, Age: 31, Position: 1B/DH
Analysis by: Andrew Jurewicz
Were you hoping it was going to be Jazz Chisholm Jr. for this week’s Triple Play on the Miami Marlins? I definitely thought about it but decided to take this in for a different direction, instead making the case for one of my favorite under the radar performers, Garrett Cooper.
The 31-year-old right-handed batter is currently having his best season as a pro consistently hitting at the top half of the Marlins lineup (often batting 2nd). As of July 5th through 70 games played he has a line of .315/.382/.472 with six home runs and 63 Runs + RBI. While the home runs seem a bit disappointing, the extra base hits are still showing up with 20 doubles and a triple. With runners in scoring position, Cooper has been rising to the occasion and slashing an even better .333/.412/.556. For those advanced stats lovers he’s in the top 10% in the league for xBA and doing well in xwOBA and xSLG.
There is data to support that this season isn’t just Cooper getting hot for a short period of time. In both the 2020 and 2021 season Cooper has had an OPS of .853 and .845 when he’s been on the field. Additionally, through 1,000+ career at bats in the majors he’s batting .290/.361/.458 while using the entire field. This is also supported with his minor league career stats where he batted .306/.372/.472 over 1600+ at bats.
Hey Alexa, add Coopaloop’s to my shopping list
Marlins are sitting about three games behind for the final wild card spot, however, knowing what we know about the management practices of the Marlins it seems like the odds weigh towards selling at the deadline rather than looking for a player (or two) to make a playoff push. As such, it makes Cooper a great trade target for a team shopping for a productive bat looking to make a deep playoff run; most likely improving his fantasy outlook as well. I would make the same recommendation to fantasy managers looking for some offensive help and as it shouldn’t seem like it would cost too much to acquire Cooper from a manager on a rebuild.
He is on an affordable salary for the remainder of the year (2.5M for 2022) and is under team control for another year through arbitration before becoming a free agent in 2024. It would make sense for the Marlins to leverage that to get a better prospect in return. With the DH in the NL here to stay it would also I’d anticipate it would add length to his career while maintaining 1B eligibility.
Jesus Luzardo, Age: 24, Position: SP
Analysis by: Ben Sanders
Jesus Luzardo’s career feels like a TV drama. When you lose hope, he gets better. When you think everything is wonderful, something goes wrong. The former top prospect seemed to be on the right track during the 2020 season, but got off to a disastrous start in 2021 and found himself struggling at AAA in July. Then the Marlins came to the rescue, acquiring him for a rental of Starling Marte and starting him on the path to a turnaround. He ended last season with an 11-strikeout game and opened this one by punching out 12 against the Angels.
But then it went wrong again, as his impressive run to open the season lasted just six starts before he headed to the IL with a forearm strain. The injury was initially viewed as minor, but anytime a forearm is involved it’s scary, especially for a player who has already had Tommy John surgery. He’s begun throwing again, including a bullpen session last week, but the return timetable isn’t entirely clear.
THE COMMAND OF JESUS
Luzardo took a 4.03 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, and an impressive 34.5% K-rate with him to the IL. He also had a less exciting 13.4% BB-rate, up from his 11% mark in 2021. Despite that number, there are reasons to be encouraged about his command. For one, his first-pitch strike percentage has soared from 58.4% to 68.9%. His swinging strike rate has improved only slightly, from 13.2% to 13.7%, but his called strike rate has gone up from 14.2% to 20.1%.
Luzardo’s pitch mix has changed to emphasize his excellent curve ball, which he now throws 38% of the time. The downside of relying so heavily on a breaking pitch is the platoon splits. Luzardo has an amazing .107 wOBA allowed against lefties, but a very pedestrian .343 vs. righthanders. Considering most batters hit right-handed, that’s not great. One of Luzardo’s worst starts of the season came against the Cardinals, who stacked their lineup entirely with righties and switch-hitters.
There is a potential solution in the works, however – the changeup. The Marlins are masters of teaching the changeup, and it’s key to the success of Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, and Trevor Rogers (when he was doing well, anyway). Luzardo has only thrown his changeup 15% of the time this season, but he’s got a 52.4% whiff rate with it. If he can continue to develop it and make it a more regular part of his arsenal, he’ll be able to lessen the platoon splits and ascend to ace status.
JESUS WILL BE BACK
Luzardo’s inconsistent career made him hard to value even before the injury. He could be pitching later this month, but another setback could keep him out until next season or even beyond. As of this moment, it’s hard to recommend trading for him in a dynasty league with that cloud hanging over him. That said, he’s a talented pitcher who I think is very close to making a huge leap, and I’d be willing to incur some risk to have him on my team. There have been many ups and downs on his road, but the next up could be a big one.
Paul McIntosh, Age: 24, Position: C, Level: Double-A
Analysis by: Ken Balderston
The Apple of My Eye
I’ll admit, writing up Paul McIntosh is digging real deep in the prospect world. Of the five industry prospect lists I checked he was not listed, some going 400 players deep or 30 deep for the organization. Some background on the player, drafted by the Angles in the 34th round of the 2018 draft, McIntosh elected not to sign and went to West Virginia University for three years. He then went undrafted in the shortened 2021 MLB draft but was signed by the Marlins after playing in the MLB draft league.
A barrel-chested athlete with thick thighs, McIntosh has a classic build for a catcher standing 6’1” and 220 lbs. The batting stance is somewhat upright and quiet, showing a quick toe-tap at delivery before unleashing a heavy bat with above-average bat speed. The bat plays well when he’s able to pull his hands in and use his core strength, as the swing gets long with balls on the outer half of the plate.
An Apple a Day
Since being signed, the Marlins have moved McIntosh aggressively, beginning him at rookie ball in 2021, then quickly moving him up to full-season A ball where he hit six home runs in only 94 plate appearances, and produced a 20:15 K:BB ratio. 2022 the Marlins bumped McIntosh all the way up to AA Pensacola, and he’s responded very well, slashing .280/.394/.513 (.233 ISO) with eight home runs and only 21% strikeout rate. True he’s a bit old for the level at 24, but this is a player who recently went undrafted and skipped a full level, so the results are impressive netting a 137.8 WRC+.
While McIntosh is not fast, he has stolen nine bases in AA this year, suggesting he might not be a zero at the highest level. Defensively he’s improving as a receiver but shows a strong if somewhat inaccurate arm and quick pop times, suggesting he has the tools to control the running game at the highest level.
How Do You Like Them Apples?
While not an elite prospect, McIntosh is showing the results at a high enough level to be on dynasty owners’ radars. The power is real, and the proximity is as well. While blocked by Jacob Stallings, the Marlins clearly like what they’ve seen from McIntosh to give such an aggressive assignment to AA, but the results with little pro experience are likely opening their eyes even wider. In one catcher league, maybe you pass on him, but an argument could very well be made he should be rostered in two catcher leagues rostering 300 prospects or more. I’d guess this is a player who is available for free from waivers in 99% of dynasty leagues.