Leading up to the 2013 MLB regular season, Greg Kaplan will be taking a close look at all 30 teams, division by division. Along with previewing each team heading into the season, Kaplan will try to predict which teams will be playing baseball deep into the October playoffs, and which teams will be playing golf come that time of year.
Fifth Place – Miami Marlins
Starting Line-up -
Catcher - Rob Brantly (23) - 31 games, .290/.372/.460, 3HR 8RBI, 14 runs, 8 doubles, 29 hits
First Base - Logan Morrison (25) – 93 games, .230/.308/.399, 11HR 36RBI, 30 runs, 15 doubles, 68 hits
Second Base - Donovan Solano (25) – 93 games, .295/.342/.375, 2HR 28RBI, 29 runs, 11 doubles, 7 stolen bases
Third Base - Placido Polanco (37) – 90 games, .257/.302/.327, 2HR 19RBI, 28 runs, 15 doubles, 78 hits (w/ Philadelphia Phillies)
Shortstop - Adeiny Hechavarria (23) – 41 games, .254/.280/.365, 2HR 15RBI, 10 runs, 8 doubles, 32 hits (w/ Toronto Blue Jays)
Left Field - Juan Pierre (35) – 130 games, .307/.351/.371, 1HR 25RBI, 59 runs, 10 doubles, 6 triples, 37 stolen bases (w/ Philadelphia Phillies)
Center Field - Justin Ruggiano (30) – 91 games, .313/.374/.535, 13HR 36RBI, 38 runs, 23 doubles, 14 stolen bases
Right Field - Giancarlo Stanton (23) – 123 games, .290/.361/.608, 37HR 86RBI, 75 runs, 30 doubles, 158 OPS+ – 2012 All-Star
Well, the good news is that even after the massive makeover the Marlins voluntarily underwent in the off-season, they elected to hold onto All World right fielder Giancarlo Stanton. Despite missing 39 games last season, Stanton still led the National League in slugging percentage and bashed 37 home runs and 30 doubles in a stadium that is borderline unfair for power hitters. I mean, this guy is strong enough that one of his home runs last year broke the video board in Marlins Stadium. Just imagine the type of power numbers Stanton could be capable of if he played a full slate of 162 games.
The Bad News -
Self explanatory. The bad news is all the Miami Marlins have heading into 2013 is Giancarlo Stanton. Who in this line-up is going to provide the type of protection needed for Stanton in the line-up? When opposing teams prepare for the Marlins, they’re going to single out Stanton and identify him as the guy they will not let beat them. Yes, Juan Pierre should do fine as a lead-off man for the Marlins. But, if Pierre steals second and there are two outs with an open base at first with Stanton at the plate, what pitcher in their right mind is going to pitch to him?
It’s not even just that there is an incredible dearth of talent in the line-up. It’s that this is the same line-up that not even a year ago included players like Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes. By simply inserting those two into the left side of this current infield, you could make do with everything else and rebuild on the fly without exposing yourself too much to opponents. Ramirez would provide the necessary protection to Stanton, and you’d have Reyes and Pierre at the top of the order, two of the fastest players in the game. If you go a step further and had they kept Emilio Bonifacio as well, and this line-up would be uncontrollable on the base paths. It’s frustrating, and I’m not even a Marlins fan, looking at what this team is and what this team easily could’ve been.
The Marlins are hoping Adeiny Hechavarria will hit almost immediately, moreso than he did in his first 41 games last year, hoping Logan Morrison finally blossoms into the player they thought he could be after an injury-riddled few seasons and that veterans like Placido Polanco and Justin Ruggiano play at a high level. They’re just asking too much. It’s really that simple. This is not a Major League line-up. For the sake of Marlins fans, I would love to be wrong, but I honestly don’t think that’s possible at this point.
The Mets might have a joke of an outfield, but the Marlins have a joke of a line-up.The frustrating part of it all is they did it to themselves by completely stripping the team to the bone. I feel for Marlins fans. They didn’t deserve this, truly didn’t.
Starting Rotation -
Ace - Ricky Nolasco (30) – 31 starts, 191.0 IP, 12-13, 4.48 ERA, 125 Ks (5.9 K/9), 2.66 K/BB, 1.37 WHIP
#2 - Henderson Alvarez (22) – 31 starts, 187.1 IP, 9-14, 4.85 ERA, 79 Ks (3.8 K/9), 1.46 K/BB, 1.44 WHIP (w/ Toronto Blue Jays)
#3 - Wade LeBlanc (28) – 9 starts (25 games total), 68.2 IP, 2-5, 3.67 ERA, 43 Ks (5.6 K/9), 2.26 K/BB, 1.31 WHIP
#4 - Nathan Eovaldi (23) – 22 starts, 119.1 IP, 4-13, 4.30 ERA, 78 Ks (5.9 K/9), 1.66 K/BB, 1.51 WHIP (w/ Los Angeles Dodgers and Miami Marlins)
#5 - Jacob Turner (21) – 10 starts, 55.0 IP, 2-5, 4.42 ERA, 36 Ks (5.9 K/9), 2.25 K/BB, 1.20 WHIP (w/ Detroit Tigers and Miami Marlins)
This is a rather young starting rotation, and it’s only getting younger and stronger with the likes of Jose Fernandez waiting in the wings in the Minor Leagues. Jacob Turner is going to be given every opportunity to blossom at the Major League level and prove that the hype surrounding him in his young career his more than just hype. Nathan Eovaldi, the prize of the Hanley Ramirez trade, will be given the same opportunities, as will young Henderson Alvarez.
Ricky Nolasco will be one of the best pitchers available on the trade market, should the Marlins choose to go down that route. Who am I kidding, of course they’re going down that route eventually. He’s the highest paid player on the team right now and, besides Stanton, is the only proven player that could possibly net anything in a trade. All that aside, while he’s not an ace by any means, he’s a gritty pitcher that can boost the middle of any rotation in the Majors to add depth to a potential playoff team.
The Bad News –
Look, you can talk me into one or two of the young trio (Alvarez, Eovaldi, Turner) breaking camp to start the season in the Major League rotation. But, all three? When your two other starters are Ricky Nolasco and Wade LeBlanc? This isn’t a rotation ready to compete on a daily basis in a division that is so pitching and hitting rich. It’s an unfair task to put on young players, and it could either serve as a strong learning lesson that enhances their career down the road, or it could completely ruin their confidence and shake them for years to come.
After that, yeah. It’s the strength of the division as a whole against the bottom of the barrel the Marlins are working with. The Braves, Nationals and Phillies have strong line-ups. The Mets will be halfway decent at least. And all four teams have much stronger rotations and depth than what the Marlins are offering up. If Nolasco gets moved in the middle of the season, I’m not sure there is a pitcher currently on Miami’s roster that is truly capable of winning 10 games this season. I think Turner and Eovaldi will definitely get there at some point. But in 2013, they may not be ready.
C Kyle Skipworth (23) – Did Not Appear in MLB Last Season
IF Nick Green (34) – 7 games, .174/.208/.304, 0HR 1RBI, 1 run, 3 doubles, 4 hits
UTIL Greg Dobbs (34) – 120 games, .285/.313/.386, 5HR 39RBI, 26 runs, 13 doubles, 91 hits
UTIL Chone Figgins (35) – 66 games, .181/.262/.271, 2HR 11RBI, 18 runs, 5 doubles, 4 stolen bases (w/ Seattle Mariners)
OF Gorkys Hernandez (25) – 70 games, .192/.267/.301, 3HR 13RBI, 18 runs, 3 triples, 7 stolen bases (w/ Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins)
The Skinny –
It’s an interesting cast of characters on the bench. On one hand, Dobbs is one of the more feared pinch hitters in the league that, again, may be forced into a starting role because of the lack of talent on the rest of the roster. Then, you have to like having two guys like Hernandez and Figgins on your bench that want to prove to the league that they’re worthy of getting at bats in the Majors. On the other hand, there’s a reason why they’re in these situations.
If you were trying to find some hidden gems that could potentially step up and have an impact for the Marlins this year, this isn’t the group to be looking at. Honestly, they feel like the Indians in Major League. Who the hell are these guys?
Closer - Steve Cishek (R) (26) – 68 games, 63.2 IP, 5-2, 2.69 ERA, 15 saves, 68 Ks (9.6 K/9), 2.34 K/BB, 1.30 WHIP
Set-Up Man - Jon Rauch (R) (34) – 73 games, 57.2 IP, 3-7, 3.59 ERA, 4 saves, 42 Ks (6.6 K/9), 3.50 K/BB, 0.99 WHIP (w/ New York Mets)
Middle Reliever - Ryan Webb (R) (27) – 65 games, 60.1 IP, 4-3, 4.03 ERA, 44 Ks (6.6 K/9), 2.20 K/BB, 1.53 WHIP
Middle Reliever - Mike Dunn (L) (27) – 60 games, 44.0 IP, 0-3, 4.91 ERA, 1 save, 47 Ks (9.6 K/9), 1.62 K/BB, 1.77 WHIP
Middle Reliever - Chris Hatcher (R) (28) – 11 games, 14.2 IP, 0-0, 4.30 ERA, 10 Ks (6.1 K/9), 1.67 K/BB, 1.57 WHIP
Middle Reliever - Daniel Jennings (L) (25) – 22 games, 19.0 IP, 1-0, 1.89 ERA, 8 Ks (3.8 K/9), 0.73 K/BB, 1.53 WHIP
Long Reliever - Tom Koehler (R) (26) – 8 games (1 start), 13.1 IP, 0-1, 5.40 ERA, 13 Ks (8.8 K/9), 6.50 K/BB, 1.28 WHIP
Steve Cishek is a nice righty to have in the bullpen, and though he ideally may not be a closer, he has an opportunity to establish some value on a team that otherwise has very few bright spots. Like the bench, however, outside of Cishek, there is nobody of true value that would on paper make this bullpen stand out from the rest.
Only two relievers had a strikeout-per-nine inning ratio better than nine, and one of those pitchers (Mike Dunn) was utterly ineffective against the league last year. Even worse, only Jon Rauch had a WHIP below 1.20, and as a Mets fan, when I found out that his WHIP was that low, I did a triple take. He had moments last year where he was absolutely atrocious and everything he threw would end up getting hit hard. I don’t know which pitcher out of this group has the potential to step up and shine. At the same time, bullpens are the most cerebral aspects of every team, and you never truly know who’s going to be solid and who’s going to stink. Maybe the Marlins bullpen would turn out to be the best aspect of this team.
But, is that something you really want to hang your hat on as a Marlins fan?
Top 10 Prospects (courtesy of MLB.com)
1. RHP Jose Fernandez – Expected to start 2013 in AA
If there is any reason to be excited about the Marlins future, it starts with Jose Fernandez. Only 20-years old, he spent the whole year last year between both Single-A levels. In 134 innings, he struck out 158 batters, had a WHIP under 1 and an ERA under 2. His fastball is already an elite pitch, and his three other pitches score out as no worse than average right now. With more time and development, he could turn into a true top-of-the-rotation ace.
2. OF Christian Yelich – Expected to start 2013 in AA
Yelich is without question the best position player prospect the Marlins currently have. He profiles as a true 20+ home run, 20+ stolen base duel threat at the next level that will provide protection for other power hitters in future Marlins line-ups. He still maintains plenty of speed to hold down center field which helps increase his ultimate value, though there are whispers he may have to move to a corner the more his body fills in.
3. OF Jake Marisnick – Expected to start 2013 in AA
Marisnick was the best prospect the Marlins got in the massive blockbuster with the Blue Jays, but he still has some polishing to do. Like Yelich, he has definite speed and a little pop to compliment it, but he struggled when he reached AA last year and will have to put those struggles behind him before he can climb the corporate ladder. Still, this is a guy that can hit 30+ doubles, 15+ home runs and steal 20+ bases.
4. LHP Justin Nicolino – Expected to start 2013 in AA
Another Blue Jay farmhand the Marlins received in the off-season, Nicolino is classified as one of the 10 best left-handed pitching prospects in the game. While he doesn’t flash an overly powerful fastball, his command of all his pitches put him ahead of many prospects around his age. He profiles as a perfect left-handed complement to Fernandez near the top of a Marlins rotation sometime in the near future.
5. LHP Andrew Heaney – Expected to start 2013 in High-A
Joining Nicolino as a Top 10 left-handed pitching prospect is the Marlins first round pick in 2012 out of Oklahoma State. Usually, the top college arms can fly through organizations and make a fast impact at the Major League level, and Heaney fits that profile. Like Nicolino, he’s a pitcher that will have better command than the majority of his peers, which will help him reach the potential the Marlins believe he can.
6. SS Adeiny Hechavarria – Expected to start 2013 in MLB
Of all the players the Marlins received from the Blue Jays, Hechavarria is the one that they hope will make an almost immediate impact at the Major League level. They moved Yunel Escobar to the Rays to guarantee an opening at shortstop for Hechavarria. He has strong speed and is an even better fielder, but his bat is still lagging a little bit behind. Even if he could develop average plate discipline and power, he’ll stick in Major League infields.
7. OF Marcell Ozuna – Expected to start 2013 in AA
Nobody in the Marlins system has as much power as Ozuna. He also has a lethal arm and good speed, which makes him a prime candidate for one of the corner outfield spots at the next level. However, right now it’s the power that has everyone talking. He bashed 24 home runs in a very pitcher-friendly Florida State League in only 489 at bats. He may not have Stanton-esque power, but it’s close.
8. LHP Adam Conley – Expected to start 2013 in High-A
Unlike both Nicolino and Heaney, Conley sports a plus fastball that makes him a perfect candidate for, at worst, a spot in a Major League bullpen in his future. He started and relieved in college, but made the South Atlantic League All-Star game as a starter last year. He has some work to do with his secondary offerings in order to stay as a starter, but he’ll have plenty of time to figure that out along the way of his development.
9. 2B Derek Dietrich – Expected to start 2013 in AA
The Marlins turned Yunel Escobar into Dietrich, who will likely stick at second base in their organization. Should he stay there, he has plus power for the position, along with a strong approach at the plate. He doesn’t possess a great amount of speed, which will make his development at second a little more difficult. But, the bat will get him to the Majors potentially as soon as sometime this summer.
10. 3B Zack Cox – Expected to start 2013 in AAA
Speaking of prospects the Marlins have traded for, Cox was acquired at last year’s trade deadline for Edward Mujica. Cox was once one of the best third base prospects in the game, but his stock has fallen steadily since then as concerns have mounted regarding his bat. Should those problems at the plate be corrected, the Marlins could use any sort of production long-term at the hot corner.
In Summary -
Jeffrey Loria hasn’t given the Miami Marlins a chance to compete this season. It’s really as simple as that. When you look at how other teams are trying to rebuild on the fly, it’s shameful to see how the Marlins and Houston Astros are going about it. The expectation is that these two teams will combine for over 200 loses in 2013, and I don’t see a best-case scenario that changes that very much.
The Marlins are going to finish last for a second consecutive year in a new ballpark taxpayers didn’t want for an owner nobody likes. Normally, I’d look for the silver lining in these cases, but I truly don’t believe there is one to be found.
Jeffrey Loria destroyed the Montreal Expos back in the day. Now, he’s doing his best to demolish the Marlins, too.
Season Prediction - 58-104, last place in the National League East