Miami Marlins Preview
With the fifth team in the National League East, I will be doing one of the two teams that has a lot of mental rebuilding to do, the Miami Marlins. In September, Marlins star pitcher Jose Fernandez died in a boating accident, and in my opinion he was a candidate for the Cy Young. This team now has done what it can to replace him, but it's almost impossible to replace a 16-8 record, 253 strikeouts and a 2.89 ERA in 29 appearances. There are some solid pitchers in the farm system, but none have the potential he had. I'd like the Marlins to be the feel good story of baseball and make a postseason appearance, but I don't see that happening.
PROJECTED ROTATION: Wei-Yin Chen, Edinson Volquez, Adam Conley, Tom Koehler, Dan Straily
This rotation has a lot of "number three guys" from the look of things, with Wei-Yin Chen being the default ace. Bringing him in last year now looks very important, and although injuries took a toll on his performance, expect him to bounce back. Newcomers Edinson Volquez and Dan Straily are going to fortify the rotation after the loss of Fernandez, and Adam Conley looked like the best "non-Fernandez" pitcher last season. Tom Koehler had the most appearances, and was just decent. Another newcomer in Jeff Locke is fighting for a job, along with Jose Urena and Justin Nicolino.
BULLPEN: AJ Ramos, Brad Ziegler, David Phelps, Kyle Barraclough, Junichi Tazawa, Nick Wittgren, Hunter Cervenka, Jeff Locke
This bullpen could be very good this season, as AJ Ramos is yet another closer who quietly had an All-Star season. Brad Ziegler was a dominant closer in Arizona last year, and he will be part of a great foursome of setup men including himself, Phelps, Barraclough and another newcomer in Junichi Tazawa. Nick Wittgren also was very solid in about 50 appearances, and Hunter Cervenka will likely take the last spot. Jeff Locke is going to move from the rotation to the bullpen as a long reliever, but keep an eye on Dustin McGowan, Odrisamer Despaigne, Brian Ellington, and prospect Jake Esch.
CATCHERS: JT Realmuto, AJ Ellis
Not a lot of catchers have the ability to hit .300, but JT Realmuto was able to do just that last season. He is the catcher of the future, where newcomer AJ Ellis is going to be a younger version of veteran Jeff Mathis, and likely will be more productive. Tomas Telis had a brief stint in the majors last year, and will likely start off the season in Triple-A. He is a top ten prospect in their farm system.
INFIELDERS: Dee Gordon, Martin Prado, Justin Bour, Adeiny Hechavarria, Derek Dietrich, Miguel Rojas
No suspensions this year for Dee Gordon, at the moment, is good news for Marlins' fans. He is one of the fastest players in baseball, and is capable of hitting .300 as well. Martin Prado led the team in batting average last season, and he is a key part of their lineup with his ability to be an all-around productive player. Justin Bour is a power hitter, and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria is decent at the plate but is definitely more glove than bat. Derek Dietrich can backup the infield at outfield, and did a solid job filling in for Dee Gordon and Justin Bour last season when they weren't active. Miguel Rojas is a good pinch runner and can also backup the infield. JT Riddle and Yefri Perez are the main competition for a spot in the infield.
OUTFIELDERS: Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Ichiro Suzuki
If the Marlins have any chance of going anywhere, Giancarlo Stanton must stay healthy. He only played in 119 out of 162 games last season, and even though he only played that much and hit .240, he still had 27 home runs. If his average would go back up to where it normally is, and if he were to play in 140 games, he could easily top 40 home runs. Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna finally hit their strides last season, and a healthy outfield in Miami is one of the best in all of baseball. Ichiro Suzuki can't hit for power anymore, but he can still play defense and hit for average. Destin Hood is the only other outfielder on the 40-man roster.
LINEUP: Gordon (2B), Prado (3B), Yelich (LF), Stanton (RF), Bour (1B), Ozuna (CF), Realmuto (C), Hechavarria (SS)
This lineup is one of the most underrated in baseball, and part of that is due to people not realizing that there is more here than Giancarlo Stanton. Everybody in this lineup except Justin Bour can hit .300, and many of them have at some point in their careers. The rotation isn't bad, but it's hard to rebuild a rotation when you lose an ace unexpectedly. The bullpen could be among the best in baseball. Overall, I think this team is going to at least try to contend for a wild card spot, but I don't think the rotation is strong enough for them to get there. I'm going with 83 wins in Miami.