The Miami Marlins were a very busy team over the course of the winter. They overhauled much of the infield, with three of the five starting positions represented by new faces. They added Mat Latos and Dan Haren to their rotation. They’re getting Giancarlo Stanton back, and Jose Fernandez should rejoin the team sometime this summer. It seems that every few years, after seemingly no glimmer of hope is present, the Marlins go on a run toward a World Series title, before shocking the world and actually pulling it off only to sell off their assets and rebuild the farm. They have a team in place that could certainly be just that, if its upside is realized.
Depth Chart (as of 2/24)
C: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
1B: Mike Morse
2B: Dee Gordon
SS: Adeiny Hechavarria
3B: Martin Prado
LF: Christian Yelich
CF: Marcell Ozuna
RF: Giancarlo Stanton
SP: Jose Fernandez (DL to start the year)
SP: Henderson Alvarez
SP: Mat Latos
SP: Jarred Cosart
SP: Dan Haren
SP: Tom Koehler
CL: Steve Cishek
New Faces: Tyler Colvin, Aaron Crow, Dee Gordon, Dan Haren, Mat Latos, Nick Masset, Michael Morse, David Phelps, Martin Prado, Andre Rienzo, Miguel Rojas, Ichiro Suzuki
Departures: Anthony DeSclafani, Nathan Eovaldi, Rafael Furcal, Kevin Gregg, Chris Hatcher, Andrew Heaney, Kike Hernandez, Dan Jennings, Garrett Jones, Casey McGehee, Brad Penny
Impact Rookies: It’s difficult to project too many players breaking through, at least early on. The Marlins are pretty set as far as their group of veterans is concerned, especially with their young, high upside pitching now taking the mound for other teams.
Position Battles: There’s a pretty clear cut setup in the field right now for the Marlins. That leaves any remaining position battles for the pitching staff. Brad Hand and David Phelps could be in the mix for the fifth spot in the rotation to start the year. Aaron Crow was believed to be in that same mix for a potential fifth spot in the rotation, but he seems destined for a bullpen spot.
Injury Concerns: Jose Fernandez is expected back at some point in 2015, but the actual timetable is not terribly clear at this point. He could miss the first three months, but if the Marlins are in a playoff race this summer, he’ll be a tremendous addition in July. Mat Latos battled injury and only made 16 starts in 2014. Giancarlo Stanton could be a bit gun shy after taking a pitch to the face last year. He’ll wear a protective guard, but hasn’t faced live pitching since that brutal injury.
Most Important Player: Giancarlo Stanton is the obvious choice here. He’s not only the most important player on the Marlins, he’s also facing some pretty major questions heading into the upcoming season. His performance last year was as good as we’ve seen him, prior to taking that pitch to the face in September. The question is if he can just jump right back into the mix and find success against live pitching without some sort of mental hurdles to overcome. He’ll wear a face protector, but we’ll have to see if that’ll do the job. If he can get back into the swing of things quickly, he’s a National League MVP candidate.
X-Factor: The Marlins need Christian Yelich to take the next step forward as an outfielder, both with the bat and in the field. He had a strong first full season with the Marlins last year, reaching base at a .362 clip. If he can cut down on the strikeouts and his power continues to develop as expected, he’s going to be a weapon for this Marlins team. They’re constantly being touted as one of the best outfields in baseball. The continued development of Yelich should be a big reason as to why.
Key Question: Outside of the health of Jose Fernandez, the Marlins have to prove that the Dee Gordon trade was worth it. They sent over a top quantity like Heaney in order to bring in a legitimate threat at the top of the order, but many were unhappy that they gave up so much for a player that the front office likely overrated. Regardless, Gordon’s skill set should play extremely well at home, with the outfield perfectly set up for him to notch triples for days. He’s a major stolen base threat that will add RBI opportunities for Stanton and the middle of the order. But he has a long way to go before proving that the front office made the right decision.
Best Case Scenario: Best case scenario features the Marlins edging out the Washington Nationals for a playoff spot. They utilize their new veterans effectively, and Jose Fernandez comes back and regains his form just in time for the postseason. They do their World Series thing for a third time and promptly sell off the majority of their team.
Worst Case Scenario: Fernandez takes longer than expected to recover from Tommy John surgery, and the addition of multiple veterans doesn’t pan out. Dee Gordon disappoints, Giancarlo Stanton regresses, and Mat Latos continues to struggle to overcome his injury woes. Even worst case scenario, though, could see this team grabbing third in the National League East.
Realistic Prediction: The Marlins are going to be in the mix for a playoff spot. They’re probably just a notch below the Nats for NL East superiority. They should very well be in the mix for one of the wild card spots, provided they can stay healthy and Stanton bounces back. They’ve built up a contender in South Beach, and this team is certainly that on paper.