This is one of a series of posts in which I will be breaking down every team in baseball. I am by no means a credible source—merely a casual fan who knows a little about baseball and would like to share my observations.
Today we look at the Marlins, whose strong young core has many optimistic fans talking about contention. But I’m here to squash those talks and tell you why it’ll be at least another year until the Marlins are seriously in the playoff discussion.
Projected Lineup: 2B Dee Gordon*, LF Christian Yelich, RF Giancarlo Stanton, 1B Michael Morse*, 3B Martin Prado*, CF Marcell Ozuna, C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, SS Adeiny Hechavarria
Projected Rotation: RHP Mat Latos*, RHP Henderson Alvarez, RHP Jarred Cosart, RHP Dan Haren*, RHP Tom Koehler
* new additions
Jeffrey Loria must have lost in his fantasy league last year to the guy who owned Dee Gordon, because I can think of no other explanation for the Marlins’ ridiculous push to get him this offseason.
His speed is legit, but Gordon owns only a career .314 on-base percentage, a far lower mark than you’d want from your leadoff batter. He also gets thrown out on the bases a lot. With the Marlins, he’s going to need to learn how to be a cog in the machine—doing things like getting on base for the hitters behind him, going first to third, and generally being the facilitator rather than the star.
If that means cutting back on his fantasy stats, then so be it. Sorry Loria, you’ll have to get your steals elsewhere.
Gordon is part of a revamped infield for the Marlins, joining fellow new acquisitions Michael Morse and Martin Prado. These three guys have never played together on a diamond before, so it’ll be interesting to see how the defense meshes. But defense or not, these guys will hit.
Morse has a ton of raw power, which is important for this offense. Even though he might not hit as many homers in his spacious new home ballpark, it’s more about the threat of power than the actual results. His presence will give Giancarlo Stanton some much-needed protection in the lineup. Last season, batters hitting after Stanton hit a combined six homers, and Morse can certainly improve on that mark.
With other guys like Marcell Ozuna, who had a breakout season last year, and even a bit of outfield depth with Ichiro, the Marlins’ offense is in good shape.
The question will be whether the pitching can hold up.
In the rotation, the only thing on anyone’s mind will be Jose Fernandez’ rehab, and the chances of seeing him in uniform this season. Current estimates say he’ll return to the mound sometime this summer, but my word of advice would be not to hold your breath for anything. He’ll probably pitch in a few games, but he’ll be on a strict pitch count, and by that point in the season the Marlins will probably be well out of contention. Fernandez will eventually be the shutdown pitcher he once was, but it won’t be this year.
So let’s take a look at the guys who actually will be taking the hill for the Marlins.
You’ll notice the guys in the rotation all have one thing in common—they’re all right-handed. The Marlins traded away their only decent lefty starter, Andrew Heaney, in the Dee Gordon deal. But it’s ok—it’s not like lefties are valuable in the NL East because the division is loaded with left-handed power hitters or anything. Guys with names like Harper, Duda, Freeman, Markakis, Granderson, Howard and Utley probably won’t be a problem.
When they’re not getting pummeled by lefties, the rotation could show glimpses of success. Mat Latos will hold down the top spot while Fernandez rehabilitates, and he has become one of the more consistent starters in the league, posting an ERA below 3.50 every full year he’s had in the majors. Henderson Alvarez has become a solid #2 starter, with a league-leading three shutouts and an All-Star selection last year to add to his resume.
Steve Cishek is also the best closer in baseball that no one knows about. He pitched to a career-best 2.17 FIP last season, while increasing his strikeout rate to a remarkable 11.6 per nine innings. Look for him to do big things this year.
Overall, it’s pretty obvious that it isn’t the Marlins’ year, but I don’t think they’re in any hurry for it to be. All their core players are signed to multi-year deals, so they’re just lining things up for when Fernandez can come back in full force. And when that day comes, watch out.
Projected Finish: 75-87, Fourth place in AL East