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Wei-Yin Chen Jersey

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The Miami Marlins announced that pitcher Wei-Yin Chen has been designated for assignment on Wednesday. The reliever has been with the team since 2016.

The Miami Marlins finally made a decision about reliever Wei-Yin Chen by designating him for assignment. It wasn’t the only news of the day as the team made changes to its 40-man roster on Wednesday.

“It is a challenge, and it’s a good challenge to have,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. “As we’ve built the layers of talent throughout the system, we still believe he is a very good Major League prospect.”

Now, the Marlins prepare for the 2020 season without him, knowing it can maneuver a bit more in free agency and potential trades to aid the pitching staff.
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“We knew what was involved with Wei-Yin Chen,” Hill said. “We just felt like, as we looked to 2020 and beyond, that we have to make tough decisions. But in the end, we felt like this was the best use of our 40-man roster spots, and one that put us in the best position in moving into the future.”

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The Marlins scarcely used Chen in the second half of the 2019 season.

According to Joe Frisaro of MLB.com, “The decision to move on from Chen left the Marlins with six openings on the 40-man roster, which were filled by right-handers Sixto Sanchez, Edward Cabrera, Nick Neidert, and Humberto Mejia, along with shortstop Jazz Chisholm and first baseman Lewin Diaz.”

In his four seasons in Miami, Chen was less than exciting on the mound, posting a 13-19 record with a 5.10 ERA. He has a 46-32 and a 3.72 ERA in four seasons with the Orioles prior to signing with Miami in the offseason of 2016.

The name that might be the most talked-about within the organization to make the 26-man roster is Neidert, who will come to Spring Training as a contender for the rotation after a season in Triple-A that was marred by a knee injury. Neidert rebounded to have a solid second half of 2019 and was dominant in the Arizona Fall League.

It is also an indication of how far this minor league system has grown since Derek Jeter took over as the team’s CEO. He and Hill have built a feeder system that has proven to one of the best with both men making decisions.

And there is more to come because of shrewd decisions in the MLB Draft the past two years and how the Marlins have been able to acquire talent at the trade deadline. The only thing that is missing is the production translation from the minors to the Major Leagues. The pitching staff appears to be ahead of the hitters.

This is the reason Jeter put such an emphasis on grabbing outfield prospects with high-home run potential this past season. And his ability to grab top prospects is starting to pay off, even if it has been a slow process since September of 2017.

When Jeter took over the team, there was the need to add arms to the minor league system to build the pitching foundation for the future.
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With the front office waiting for him to prove he can be an everyday outfielder, time might be running out for the Marlins Lewis Brinson.

Lewis Brinson was supposed to the face of the Miami Marlins. A young, athletic outfielder who was living his dream, playing Major League Baseball in his hometown, doing what he loves. It was a Hollywood type of story, being traded to Miami after being in the Milwaukee Brewers minor league system.

The Brewers for Christian Yelich in exchange for Brinson, Jordan Yamamoto, Monte Harrison, and Isan Diaz. It’s a good bet all four of the prospects the Marlins acquired will be on the team’s Opening Day roster – if Brinson can turn things around and play baseball at a more consistent, and reliable rate. For the 25-year-old, this is the crossroads season of his early career. With a .183 lifetime batting average as 13 home runs to show for his effort, the doubts and whispers are getting louder.
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Lewis Brinson must turn his career around to remain with this organization. The sand in the hourglass is emptying at a high rate.

“For Brinson, the numbers in 2019 weren’t pretty. In 75 big league games, he had a slash line of .173/.236/.221 with no home runs and 15 RBIs,” writes Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. “He had a minus 1.7 WAR, according to Fangraphs. And that followed up a 2018 campaign, when he hit .199 with 11 homers and 42 RBIs.”

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And with the changes expected this offseason, where the Marlins will go Christmas shopping for a power hitter or two, which could include an outfielder and first baseman, the need for production becomes that much greater. The man who was part of the deal for Yelich, Harrison, could be the teammate who sends him back to the minors or even released or traded this offseason.

“He’s going to have to produce,” manager Don Mattingly said at the end of the 2019 season, per MLB.com. “I think he’s had a lot of opportunity. He’s going to have to produce.”

The Marlins have an abundance of outfielders to choose from and could add Harrison and Jesus Sanchez to their Opening Day roster. That’s a good problem to have, but not when there are many names and faces to evaluate, knowing Brinson is at the lower end of the list of players who are dependable when the team needs a timely hit. It’s not about defense, strictly a problem at the plate.

He was demoted in the first two months of the MLB season in 2019 and was outstanding at Triple-A New Orleans. The last thing Brinson needs is to be known as a player who cannot hit Major League pitching. It’s like a scarlet letter.

“At Triple-A, Brinson was able to work with hitting coach Justin Mashore,” Frisaro explained. “The two have history together — they once were both in the Rangers’ system at the same time.”

And the front office has expressed its desire to see their prospect more forward with his progression.

“When you look at Lewis’ abilities, there’s bat speed, there’s athleticism,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. “There’s hand speed, there’s power, there’s foot speed. There’s a lot of things that you like.”

Lewis will be given another opportunity to make an impression in Spring Training. If the green light goes on, he will more than likely win a spot on the roster. If his struggles continue, then the front office has a real decision to make. It’s still early in his career, but Brinson must jump off the charts to prove he can be the player he was once billed to be.
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“When we talk about Lewis, he had all of 2018 to figure things out in the big leagues,” Hill said. “In 2019, he spent time in the Minor Leagues. Consistency is what you search for with him.”

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There were some big personalities on the 1993 Phillies. But they weren’t the only ones. As part of a commemoration of the team’s 25th anniversary, we’re taking a look at the back-ups, drop-ins, and less-remembered Phillies who didn’t make it into a lot of the archival footage.
Donn Pall, RHP

Position: September getter-in-trade

Age: 31

Stats: 2.55 ERA, 17.2 IP, 11 SO, 3 BB, 8 G

To anyone watching, Donn Pall was living the dream.

Chicago wasn’t just where he was from. It was the blood in his veins.

He was born there. He went to high school slightly southwest of there. He got as far as Champaign, Illinois for college. Growing up in Evergreen Park, his biggest rival on the mound was future three-time Stanley Cup champion Chris Chelios, who in his biography blames Pall’s father, their coach, for smothering his baseball dreams.
Chris Chelios: Made in America, by Chris Chelios and Kevin Allen

And when Pall went in the 1985 MLB Amateur Draft, you better believe it was the Chicago White Sox—his favorite team—who took him.

His mom called him “Donn” (She liked the name “Don” but not the name “Donald,” so this new spelling was the compromise). But his baseball nickname became “The Pope.” Why? Because “Pope Donn Pall” sounded like “Pope John Paul,” who was the pope at the time. And, well, that’s about as much thought as Hawk Harrelson puts into a nickname.

Pall remained as much of a fan of the White Sox as he was a player, and that was reflected in the kindness with which he treated the employees and fans, as well as in the reverence he showed Old Comiskey Park. Before the White Sox’ stadium was demolished in 1991, he walked through the empty seats, sitting at various viewpoints and taking in the gentle quiewt, until a camera crew from This Week in Baseball spotted him and had him give them an impromptu tour. Pall related that story in “Old Comiskey Park: Essays and Memories of the Historic Home of the Chicago White Sox”, as well as the story of attending the infamous Old Comiskey Park “Disco Demolition Night.”

“I might have been the only major league ball player sitting in the stands for that event,” Pall wrote:
Old Comiskey Park: Essays and Memories of the Historic Home of the Chicago White Sox by Floyd Sullivan, David Cicotello, and Angelo J. Louisa

In 1993, Pall was cruising through a solid season of relief at New Comiskey Park. The White Sox were pounding the AL West (in their last year before joining the AL Central) with the likes of Frank Thomas, Tim Raines, and Robin Ventura, and Pall’s output in the pen wasn’t going unrecognized: His ERA stayed under 3.00 for most of the season, and he was trusted enough to be dropped strategically into games for anything from a single batter to three innings. After a stumble on May 21 when he gave up four earned runs in relief, Pall didn’t allow more than a run until August 27, having made 39 relief appearances in between.

The next day, the Phillies ruined everything.

The bullpen had been Phillies GM Lee Thomas’ ongoing project since spring training, when he’d invited a plethora of arms in hopes that an effective arsenal would take shape. It did, but as the homestretch neared, he eyed up other rosters in hopes of securing the Phillies’ late game needs as the post season loomed. Thomas saw Pall’s numbers in Chicago and made a deal for the reliever in exchange for the Phillies’ back-up back-up catcher, Doug Lindsey. Pall left behind his hometown and his home team; a Chicago kid forced to abandon playing for the squad of his boyhood, just as they were pushing toward the playoffs. He was abandoning his wildest fantasies.

Fortunately for Pall, he was leaving one pennant race and joining another. He was solid for Philadelphia, apart from a wobbly appearance on September 28 in which he allowed three earned runs, but the Phillies still clinched the NL East with him on the roster. Past Septembers had haunted the Phillies, and columnists pounced on the opportunity to make the comparison to past Phillies teams who’d shown promise but ultimately couldn’t get out of the regular season’s final month. Pall largely did his job in the 1993 Phillies bullpen, which was to get out outs, sure; but in that pen, you could get away with simply not allowing more runs than the Phillies’ potent offense could score.

Sadly, in a reverse-Doug Lindsey, the Phillies went the same way as Pall’s White Sox: eliminated in the post season by the Blue Jays. On December 20, he became a free agent.

And thus began Donn Pall’s dance on and off rosters for a series of years; a typical move for relievers without long term deals, darting in for a few innings in New York, back to Chicago with the Cubs, back to the south side with the White Sox, and then down to Florida with the Marlins, where he inadvertently rubbed up against baseball history.

In 1998, the shredded baseball fandom that had resulted from the 1994 labor stoppage was being slowly healed by drugs—the performance enhancing kind, to be specific. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa had begun their race for the single-season home run record, and as they dropped bombs on the National League all season, they made casualties of any pitchers who got in their way.

By September 1, McGwire had set the tone, and with 55 home runs, the history of his accomplishment and inevitability of its completion were starting to set in. Curtain calls began erupting even when McGwire’s Cardinals were the visiting team, and during a road trip to Florida, he made sure people would remember him.

McGwire’s first home run of the night came off Livian Hernandez, who hadn’t wanted to walk the slugger, despite the danger in pitching to him, but also hadn’t wanted to give up a home run. It was a fine line to walk with McGwire, at whom a lot of hurlers were waving white flags by this point. And despite Hernandez’s best efforts, McGwire clobbered an outside fastball 450 feet to get number 56 on the season. McGwire hadn’t homered in his last game, and Hernandez knew that could be bad news:

‘’When a hitter like that doesn’t hit a home run, he comes back hungrier,’’ Hernandez said in the New York Times.

McGwire was indeed ravenous. It would take more than a Livian Hernandez offering to fill up his steroid-fueled hunger, and when Donn Pall took over on the mound in the top of the ninth, the Marlins already down 5-1, he had to face a McGwire who was ready to eat.

It took one pitch.

One low splitter that McGwire went down and clubbed for number 57 on the season. Pall watched it sail on pretty much the same course as McGwire’s last dinger, landing 472 feet away from where he’d connected with it. Pall likely had to stand there and adjust his cap as the fans gave McGwire an ovation—in Florida, remember—and compose himself to finish out this meaningless September game for a Marlins team that had yet to win 50 games.

He failed to. Ray Lankford came up next and went back-to-back with McGwire.

This was one of Pall’s last appearances in both 1998 and the his career. He would finish the season, and his baseball career, in Philadelphia, facing a ‘98 Phillies squad that was just about futile as the Marlins they were playing. Pall pitched three innings of relief and got the hold.

And that was a series wrap on Donn Pall. His career spanned ten seasons, from the 17 games he appeared in as a rookie, to the 56 the White Sox dropped him into in his third year in the majors, to the eight games he gave the 1993 Phillies down the stretch, to that one inning he gave both the Marlins and Mark McGwire in 1998. One could argue—and has argued—that the home run race of 1998 saved baseball from the ill will it collected during the 1994 strike. And in that vein, Donn Pall was an ambassador of the game, becoming one of the countless pitchers against whom Mark McGwire homered that year on his way to history. If you squint hard enough, Donn Pall did his part to help bring people back to baseball.

He just, you know, wasn’t trying to. Any decent Chicago kid isn’t going to be gifting meatballs to a Cardinals slugger. But regardless of his intentions, Pall was there, throwing low splitters for McGwire to get a hold of, and unintentionally becoming a part of history. We tip our cap. Because on his way to that moment, he helped author some of ours.

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Over 1,600 players reached 50 innings pitched during the 2019 Minor League Baseball season, from Triple-A all the way down to the various Rookie ball circuits. Out of all of those pitchers, a Marlins prospect ranked sixth overall in terms of strikeout percentage—sixth—and you may not even know his name. That prospect is reliever Alex Vesia, a 2018 17th-round draft pick from NCAA Divison II Cal State East Bay.

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You will not find Vesia on MLB Pipeline’s Top 30 Marlins prospects list, but you will find him in the bullpen during the Arizona Fall League’s Fall Stars Game on Saturday.

The distinction is the latest chapter in a dominant 2019 for the left-hander. Vesia started the year at Single-A Clinton after getting his feet wet with the GCL Marlins and Batavia Muckdogs the previous summer. In 19 appearances, the 23-year-old went 1-2 with a 2.56 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 51:17 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Those stats earned him a promotion to High-A Jupiter on June 20, but that would actually turn out to be his worst “slump” all season.

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With the Hammerheads Vesia pitched 18 2⁄3 innings, allowing only one walk compared to 24 punch-outs. He picked up one save in two attempts, and finished with a 4-0 record and a 1.93 ERA. Going from strength to strength, Vesia was promoted again on August 1, and did not allow a single run for the rest of the season. Over 16 1⁄3 frames at Double-A Jacksonville he struck out 25 batters and produced a WHIP of 0.55. Overall, Vesia posted a 1.76 ERA over 66 2⁄3 innings across three levels during the regular season, along with a 38.2 K% and 13.50 K/9. Just in case that did not impress, he has struck out 11 batters over 7 1⁄3 scoreless innings in the AFL thus far.

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The Miami Marlins need to solidify who’s going to be their backup catcher in 2020.
Jorge Alfaro is the undisputed starter for the 2020 Miami Marlins at backstop, but being a catcher in the majors is physically demanding. A backup catcher is important in that they can step in when the starter goes down, or give the starter an off day now and then.

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For two seasons now, Bryan Holaday has been a very solid backup to Alfaro and J.T. Realmuto before him. Holaday was weak at the plate in 2018, with a .205/.261/.258 slashline, but more than made up for it by leading the National League with a 45 percent kill-rate on runners trying to steal.

This past season, Holaday only nabbed 20 percent, but his hitting was much improved over 43 games, to the tune of a .278/.344/.435 line. In 668 1/3 innings combined between the two seasons, he was guilty of one error and two passed balls. That’s incredible, if you didn’t know already.

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Also logging time at catcher for the 2019 Miami Marlins were Chad Wallach, Tyler Heineman, and Wilkin Castillo. Will one of these four fill the coveted number two catcher roster spot for the Marlins? Will they dig deeper into the existing system? Will they look outside for help through free agency? How about a trade? We’ll have to wait and see how things develop in Spring Training, but in the meantime, we can make a few guesses.

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I went on about this at some length in an article a few days ago, here. The Crib notes version is this – J.D. Osborne is likely the best hitting catcher in the system, outside of Alfaro and the 2019 version of Holaday. Nick Fortes, Dustin Skelton, and Will Banfield all wait in the wings, with Banfield as the heir apparent to Alfaro in a few years. Down at the rookie level, Casey Combs and Cameron Barstad lurk, if one of the others don’t work out.

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As I’ve previously stated, I believe that Banfield is the answer to the long-term question behind the dish, and I think Skelton will shape into a fine backup in time. They won’t be ready for the 2020 season, so what about looking outside?

Livin life with no complaints pic.twitter.com/CfRPWbRycH

— Alex Vesia (@Alex_Vesia) September 28, 2019
Vesia may just be growing into a dominant closer on a currently closer-less team. While he was not often used in such a role in 2019, he displays all of the tools of a lock-down, late-inning specialist. He possesses a mid-90s fastball, has great control of the strike zone, and definitely owns a strikeout pitch. Only one of those things can be said about José Ureña, who posted a 9.00 ERA after being moved to the bullpen this year.

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All in all, the Marlins ‘pen is arguably the worst in MLB, the only one in the league that performed below replacement level in 2019, according to FanGraphs. The current talent level may be even lower than that suggests, moving forward without the services of Sergio Romo and Nick Anderson.

Continuing on this trajectory, Vesia is a potential major league call-up as early as next season. Easier said than done, though—fellow prospect Tommy Eveld looked to have similar promise after being acquired by trade from the Diamondbacks, but seemed to hit a wall (7.71 ERA) when he reached Triple-A and still hasn’t debuted at the highest level.

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In short, Alex Vesia is very, very good and could end up being one of the steals of the 2018 draft. The lefty should start to appear across the industry’s top prospect lists during the offseason. Look for Vesia to be seriously considered for a non-roster invite to 2020 Spring Training.