Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

2013 MLB Team Previews: Miami Marlins


Miami Marlins

2013 in Review

Last season was as disgusting for the Miami Marlins as any season has been for any fledgling organization. With a record of 62-100, the Marlins finished better than only the Houston Astros. It was a year where star slugger Giancarlo Stanton missed two months due to a lingering hamstring injury. To add insult to Stanton’s injury, Placido Polanco of all players saw action as the clean-up hitter.

Their .383 winning percentage aside, some positives did arise out of South Beach. Rookie hurler Jose Fernandez showed everyone he was at the top of his game at just 20 years old. Young hitters Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna flashed potential as well. A well-traveled veteran by the name of Justin Ruggiano showed he could perform at a high level if necessary too. He was the second best hitter on the team behind Stanton.

Nobody expected a great season for the Marlins last April. However, nobody thought it would be nearly as bad as it turned out. Fans and reporters tweeted us pictures of attendances hovering near 1,000 in a stadium built to hold nearly 37,000. Goofy and tired promotions failed as the upper management fizzled in their implied understanding of what baseball fans want. Fans don’t care about Saturday Spectaculars with the Sugar Hill Gang. No, they care about wins and competing for a pennant, even in South Florida. Until owner Jeffrey Loria understands this, the Marlins will continue to be the laughingstock of Major League Baseball.

2014 Preview

Key Departures: RHP Chad Qualls, 3B Placido Polanco, OF Juan Pierre, 1B Logan Morrison, OF Justin Ruggiano

Key Additions: C Jarrod Saltalamacchia, 2B Rafael Furcal, 1B Garrett Jones, 3B Casey McGehee, RHP Carter Capps

Offense

Simply put, the Marlins offense stunk in 2013. Only three players posted a Wins Above Replacement greater than 1.0 (Stanton, Ozuna, Yelich). In sum, the Marlins finished last in the majors in WAR with -0.7, the only team to finish with a negative WAR. On the bright side, things should be a little bit better in 2014.

Garrett Jones. Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

The offense is moving into 2014 without its second and third best hitters from last year — Logan Morrison and Justin Ruggiano. Those two will be replaced by Garrett Jones and Yelich. This will be a substantial upgrade as Jones has been consistently underrated and Yelich is a young hitter with plenty of potential. Ozuna could begin the year in Triple-A but that is unlikely. Currently, MLBDepthCharts.com projects him to do so.

Stanton is the keystone for the Marlins lineup. With his 30-plus HR potential, all things work through him. Veteran’s Rafael Furcal and Jarrod Saltalamacchia should provide some decent hitting to help Stanton. Yelich will also contribute in a big way as he expects to step into the void as the best hitter after Stanton. Casey McGehee spent last season playing overseas so to expect anything better than mediocre might be wishful thinking. Brian Bogusevic and Adeiny Hechavarria present little to offer at the plate.

Defense

In 2013, the Marlins posted a defensive WAR of -3.2. As bad as that sounds, it was actually better than the St. Louis Cardinals, Oakland Athletics, Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians. When one looks more deeply into this, the Marlins shouldn’t be much better in 2014 though.

Stanton was a liability in the outfield. His -13.1 defensive WAR last season may have been exaggerated due to the hamstring issues he was having limiting his range. After all, 2013 was the first year he ever posted an Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) which was a negative. A healthier Stanton will help improve the Marlins defensive capabilities drastically.

Despite his age, Furcal will also help improve the Marlins defense. However, Saltalamacchia and McGehee might be options that will leave them more worse than last year. Overall, the defensive output of the Marlins is not very appetizing.

Rotation and Bullpen

It’s hard to imagine ace Jose Fernandez improving on his rookie campaign. It’s also unprecedented for a pitcher to jump from high Single-A straight to the majors but Fernandez did it seamlessly. A 12-6, 2.19 ERA campaign led Fernandez to bask in the honor of being named the National League Rookie of the Year. His numbers from last year will be hard to repeat but his Fielder Independent Pitching (FIP) suggests he will be nearly as good as he was in 2013.

Jose Fernandez. Image Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

His 2.73 FIP highlights the fact that Fernandez has ace-like qualities. With a smooth delivery, risk of injury is minimal too. The Cuban native wasn’t overworked and is projected to accrue more than 200 innings pitched in his second year with the Marlins.

Jacob Turner, Nate Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez compliment Fernandez. The trio is a bunch of former respectable prospects of other MLB clubs. While neither of the three boast top-of-the-rotation potential, they will all be more than serviceable for the time-being.

Tom Koehler will likely land the fifth spot in the rotation. The 27-year-old would be better served as a swing man from the bullpen to the rotation. Considering where the Marlins are presently, Koehler is more than adequate for his current projection.

The bullpen begins and ends with closer Steve Cishek. While not elite, Cishek posted an elite 9.56 K/9 rate in 2013. That should continue into 2014 as well. While wins will be tough to attain for Miami, Cishek will hold his own as one of the leaders in saves in the NL.

Rounding out the bullpen is Carlos Marmol, A.J. Ramos, Mike Dunn, Brad Hand, Dan Jennings and Arquimedes Caminero. This group will not post extravagant numbers late into the ball games. They are rather ordinary and one wouldn’t be surprised if Marmol is donning the colors of a new team by August.

Projected Starting Lineup

  1. 2B Rafael Furcal
  2. CF Christian Yelich
  3. RF Giancarlo Stanton
  4. 1B Garrett Jones
  5. C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
  6. LF Marcell Ozuna
  7. 3B Casey McGehee
  8. SS Adeiny Hechavarria

Projected Starting Rotation

  1. Jose Fernandez
  2. Nate Eovaldi
  3. Jacob Turner
  4. Henderson Alvarez
  5. Tom Koehler

Prospect to Watch

Starting pitcher Andrew Heaney is a left-handed pitcher with the potential to be the second best starter in the Marlins rotation. With just more than 30 innings pitched at the Double-A level, one could say Heaney is more seasoned than Fernandez was at the time of Fernandez’s promotion. Therefore, one wouldn’t be surprised if the Marlins shock us all and name Heaney to the Opening Day roster. With a projected starting rotation consisting of all right-handed pitching, the lefty Heaney would be a welcomed addition.

Heaney’s velocity typically reaches 93 mph despite topping out at 94 mph in college. He is working on his secondary pitches. While Heaney’s offerings aren’t considered elite, it doesn’t negate the fact that his easy delivery allows him to place the ball well. Not expected to have high strikeout numbers, Heaney has the potential to be a workhorse on the mound, eating up innings and making outs.

Best Case Scenario

Contending for a pennant is obviously out of the question. For the Marlins to place themselves in the best position possible, they will need to continue to develop their strong farm system. Keeping, not trading Giancarlo Stanton, is likely this year. With that in mind, they will need to depend on their own in-house development. The farm system is not as strong as the Houston Astros or Chicago Cubs but it is much more talented than that of the Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies. The best case scenario resides in the Marlins reaching 70 wins and seeing more progression with their talented younger players.

Worst Case Scenario

This organization is the epitome of a worst case scenario. In order to dump payroll, they traded away elite MLB talent for a mixed bag of prospects. They can’t do that again with Giancarlo Stanton. While no prospect is a guarantee, the Marlins would not be served well trading Stanton away for discouraging prospects that fell out of favor with their original clubs. Doing so would make things much worse for the Marlins.

Prediction

68-94 (5th in NL East)

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