We are only a few games into Marlins spring training schedule, but already, storylines are starting to form around young Marlins players, prospects, new positioning, new rules and more. Here a few things we have seen and heard so far.
Skip Schumaker wants to win, wants to know everyone who can help
In his entire baseball career both as a player and a manager, being a part of organizations who prioritize the W is all Skip Schumaker has ever known. In 2023, he’s bringing that culture to the Miami Marlins. In both his introductory press conference earlier this winter and his conversations with the media early in camp, the word “win” is spoken regularly.
“You’re in the major leagues to win. I’ve never been on a development kind of style or mindset,” Schumaker said. “All I’ve known is, you come here, you try to win the game today.”
As he gets acclimated with the Marlins’ organization, Skip wants to get familiar with who can help 2023 squad win and how. To do so, Schumaker spent part of his afternoons of early camp on the backfields getting a look at minor league scrimmage games. All of them.
“I was never a top prospect. So it’s important to me to watch our so called prospects and watch the guys that are not on that top prospect list because if you think about the guys that are in that World Series team when I was on there was Daniel Descalso, myself. They weren’t top prospects,” Schumaker said. “It’s important not forget all the guys in camp and make those guys feel like they have a chance too. Once you’re in the system, it’s now can you help the big league team win. The prospect status is the prospect status. But to me it’s can that guy help us win in the next couple of years.”
With respect to those who held the mantle in year’s past, the culture feels, looks and sounds different at Marlins camp this year. And Skip Schumaker is a big reason why.
Eury Perez learning, impressing in big league camp
This spring, the Marlins are getting their first look at their top pitching prospect and one of the top pitching prospects in baseball going up against big league bats. The early results: promising.
Eury Perez took the mound against the Cardinals during the Marlins’ spring home opener this past Sunday. During the two inning outing, Perez showed his fastball up to 100 mph, his staple changeup, and worked on his newest pitch the slider which he threw 24% of the time. It flashed plus.
Though he didn’t have his most dominant stuff, Perez allowed just one run on four hits while collecting a strikeout. Without his heat stuff, the Marlins’ prized arm who will not turn 20 until April 15th, Perez is a 6’8” righty who is working to expand his arsenal even further. He will throw again against big leaguers next week before a likely assignment to the upper minors. Perez, who has palled around with NL Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara all spring, is and will remain one of the Marlins’ most intriguing storylines as the season gets under way. Perez is scheduled to throw again this week.
It’s only been four games but the gambles the Marlins have made to shore up their offense while potentially sacrificing defense have been clear and present.
The most profound and recognized difference has been the transition of Jazz Chisholm Jr to outfield work. On the early campaign, Chisholm has made a few questionable decisions at the eight spot. Last week, Chisholm was challenged with a hard hit fly ball into a cavernous Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium outfield. In direct sunlight, Jazz made an incorrect first read off the bat which led to him being late into his charge to the baseball which dropped as a single. Jazz’s explanation was that he was trying to deke the runner. In last nights game against the Red Sox, Chisholm charged a ground ball up the middle and rifled the ball over his cutoff man all the way to the plate.
According to Schumaker, this is the time for those plays to occur. In fact, he encourages it.
“I’m glad it happened. When you see stuff like that happen, you can’t replicate that stuff in batting practice,” Schumaker said. “You can’t replicate a guy with really good speed at second base who is gonna score on a 10 hopper through the infield. What are you supposed to do in that situation? That’s what you gotta think about and remind yourself before the play happens. This is all part of it.”
While Jazz is the center point of attention, the Marlins have also been working developing Jordan Groshans at first and third base, continuing to work on the future of Troy Johnston at first base, Peyton Burdick in center field, and other scenarios.
“There’s a lot of different guys I want to see and how they react,” Schumaker said.
With bullpen depth needed, there are opportunities abound for relievers at Marlins camp to impress the team. The club has arms, including many who performed well at the minor league level in 2022. throwing this spring. One of them is righty Sean Reynolds.
Reynolds, the second tallest guy in camp next to Perez, has made an impression since the first time he threw a live bullpen session last week. At that time, Reynolds, a converted infielder, handled his teammates who have been hitting for much longer than he has been pitching pretty well. A 6’8” specimen who started pitching again for the first time since high school in 2021, Reynolds has flashed three plus pitches: a fastball which can approach triple digits that he can elevate, a slurvy slider down to the low 80s that he can bury, and a plus changeup which Reynolds described to us this winter as his best pitch.
While he’s improving on the mound, Reynolds is also remembering where he came from. Speaking to us during the first week of camp, Reynolds was all smiles as he spoke about his experience in Marlins camp thus far.
“A long way from Batavia and Clinton,” Reynolds said. “I’m just riding the wave.”
Schumaker has also been impressed with what he’s seen from Reynolds and likens his production to a former teammate.
“I remember Jason Motte coming through the system really quick and contributed to a World Series the next year,” Schumaker said. “That’s the type of arm and power he has. He’s fun to watch. He’s not a finished product by any means but he is a very very exciting prospect. Another power arm.”
Along with Reynolds, another arm who has done well thus far in early camp is Bryan Hoeing. A seventh round pick by Miami in 2019 (the third time he was drafted), Hoeing made it to the majors last year after holding down a 4.45 ERA via a 1.3 WHIP and 188/68 K/BB in 263 IP. After making his big league debut in August, Hoeing is back with the Marlins this spring as an NRI. In returning, Hoeing has some newfound velocity. Throwing in a spring game on Wednesday, Hoeing regularly hit 95 with his fastball and 85 with his slider while mixing in his sinker. In 2022, Hoeing’s four seamer averaged 93 while his slider averaged 82.2.
“The two seam, slider, with a good changeup is really working for him,” Schumaker said. “I’ve watched it in his lives and same type of thing we saw just now was a lot of soft contact, early counts, efficient outs, and he has some strikeout stuff right now. It’s good to see.”
Schumaker left the door open for a potential role for Hoeing on the 2023 squad and lauded his versatility.
“Whether he builds up as a starter or a reliever, we’ll kind of monitor that,” Skip said. “He threw two innings today, so he’s the guy that can do both which is obviously exciting for us.”
Hoeing stated he has been focusing on improving his overall size and strength which has attributed to his rise in velo.
“This offseason I focused on putting on a little more weight and more muscle but also staying flexible,” Hoeing said.
Regarding the strikeout stuff, Hoeing illustrated his improvement by eluding to a span in 2022 where he went 18 innings and collected just six strikeouts.
“It’s nice to be on the other side of things, for sure,” Hoeing said laughhing.
Full minor league squad reports Sunday
Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium’s backfields are about to get a bit more crowded. While many guys are already in town for camp, this Sunday marks the official report day for Marlins’ minor leaguers to report. Minor league camp consists of workouts and intrasquad scrimmage games before players learn of their assignments to begin the regular season. The Marlins are also working on potentially bringing in outside competition for scrimmage games as they have done in years past.
I like hearing Marlins minor league news especially AA and AAA since I have the privilege of working the Wahoos dugout area at Pensacola .