This is the second edition of Hope for the Hopeless, where we will take a look at the first ten teams in the league eliminated from playoff contention, and examine what their fans can be optimistic about after a disappointing 2013 season. Next up: the Miami Marlins
It's fun to kick a team while they're down, especially when that team has one of the most reviled owners in all of sports. The Marlins have an owner that no one likes and a business plan implemented by said owner that really makes no sense on the field, but believe it or not, they're not a total disaster.
in the major leagues, the Marlins have one of the most electrifying young hitters in baseball in Giancarlo Stanton. But with Stanton heading into his first arbitration year following the 2013 season, he might be dealt. That presents another opportunity for the Marlins to clean up with a bounty of prospects, much like they did a decade ago when trading Miguel Cabrera to the Tigers (even though those prospects didn't exactly work out in the long run).
If Stanton doesn't get dealt, the Marlins actually have surrounded him with some decent enough young talent, including 21-year old Christian Yelich. With those two in the outfield, the Marlins have a solid foundation to build upon, even if their infield has been disappointing this year. Throw in very raw 22-year old Jake Marisnick, who probably should start 2014 in AAA instead of in Miami's outfield, and there's definitely potential for future success.
But where Miami really shines is on the mound, where they're loaded with young talent. Jose Fernandez is the front runner for the NL Rookie of the Year award, striking out nearly ten batters per nine as a 21-year old in the majors. Henderson Alvarez and Jacob Turner are holding their own. Nate Eovaldi has flashed ace potential after coming over from the Dodgers last summer in the Hanley Ramirez trade. On the farm, Brian Flynn had a breakout 2013 and makes his major league debut on Wednesday. Anthony DeSclafani has been insanely good in his first year in the Marlins organization. Justin Nicolino is moving quickly. and Andrew Heaney is moving even quicker in his first full pro season.
As always though, when it comes to the Marlins, the erratic nature of their front office seems to take precedence over everything happening on the field. When you read stories about Jeffrey Loria overruling middling personnel moves in the organization, you have to wonder about the long-term viability of the franchise. Everything in Miami ends up coming down to the almighty dollar, and that severely impacts a fan's ability to enjoy the club. There are a total of two pitchers that started multiple games for the Marlins in 2011 that are still with the organization (Brad Hand and Alex Sanabia). Just five of the 15 players to tally at least 100 plate appearances with the 2011 Marlins are still with the organization, and Stanton is the only one of those five to receive at least 300 plate appearances in 2013.
The winds of change will continue to swirl in Miami, and despite the organization being loaded with talent, there's this sinking feeling among fans that the talent will simply be shuttled off to their next home once they get too pricey. So while there's hope in Miami, it's fleeting.