After losing 105 games last year, not many people expected the Marlins' season to last as long as it did.
Defying expectations, Miami took a massive leap forward in the third year of its rebuild, making the postseason for the first time since 2003 and reaching the National League Divisional Series.
But on Thursday, the Marlins' 2020 run came to a close after being swept by the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS. One of the wildest stories in sports, Miami had 18 players miss time early this season due to COVID-19 and was forced to utilize more players than any team in the league during the shortened 60-game regular season.
While the team’s playoff run ended earlier than they hoped, Marlins manager Don Mattingly said this season wasn’t a fluke and that the franchise has turned a corner after years of losing.
“The main thing is we’re getting better,” Mattingly said. "We’ve taken steps forward. We’ve gotten a lot of young guys experience this year. We’ll have a tremendous amount of competition within our camp next year for jobs and who’s going to be where. This is just the start of it. One of our slogans a couple of years ago was ‘Just getting started’ and that’s what I feel like now.
“We’re just getting started and it’s not going to get easier for us. It’s going to get harder. We’ll have a full season of a lot of people saying we wouldn’t have been able to [make the playoffs in a regular 162-game season], so we’ll have doubters again next year and we’re going to have to go out and improve over the winter, get better and show ourselves again next season.”
Due to the circumstances surrounding the season, the Marlins were forced to bring a number of their talented young prospects up earlier than expected. On the pitching side, Miami received incredibly strong returns — especially from Sixto Sanchez and Trevor Rogers.
The Marlins' young hitters had a tougher time, with talented prospects such as Monte Harrison, Jesus Sanchez, Lewin Diaz, Jazz Chisholm and Isan Diaz struggling throughout the course of the season. Despite that, Mattingly feels that experience can only help in their development as they head into next season.
“We had a lot of [position players] come up this year," Mattingly said. "Some of them struggled, some of them looked OK. So I think we’ll see in spring training how much this has helped them. Starting pitching got a lot of exposure and a lot of pitchers did. Our position players got exposure which will be good for them.”
“All these guys have to get better. We’ve got a number of guys that will have to take steps forward and there are still guys coming. You’re talking about JJ Bleday, [Jerar] Encarnacion and there’s other cats coming too. There’s going to be a lot of competition. You have to continue to improve to be able to make this club better.”
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