Tuesday, February 5, 2013

2013 Preview: Miami Marlins

Miami Marlins
(2012: 69-93, last place NL East)
(FC Prediction: Last place NL East)

Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has become the most hated man in South Florida, just a year after making huge promises to both the city and the fan base.  After building a stadium on tax payer dollars and signings players like Jose Reyes, Heath Bell, and Mark Buehrle to huge contracts, the only thing that remained in Miami on the first day of 2013 was the stadium, giant Marlin sculpture and all.  

After trading Bell to Arizona, and Reyes, Buehrle, Josh Johnson, John Buck, and Emilio Bonifaco to Toronto (They did get a good prospect package in return), the Marlins have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball.  There is a very good chance this leads to one of the lowest win totals in baseball.

This team is very young and might be lacking in talent, but hey, they still have Giancarlo Stanton, right???  Ozzie Guillen is long gone as manager, and former Marlins catcher Mike Redmond will be his replacement.  I wonder if Redmond will employ the same techniques he used as a player during the 2003 World Series run to get the Marlins out of long losing streaks.  I hope for the Marlins' clubhouse attendants that he does not.  (What did he do???? Find out by reading HERE to get the NAKED truth)

So what do the new, lower cost Marlins look like heading into 2013:

After trading Johnson and Buehrle, The de facto staff ace is now Ricky Nolasco.  After Nolasco, the staff will be filled out by Marlins youngsters Jacob Turner, Nate Eovaldi, Henderson Alvarez, and Wade LeBlanc.  Leblanc is the elder statesman of that group at age 29, while the other 3 will start opening day at the average age of 22.  Turner, Eovaldi, and Alvarez have plenty of talent, but they take their lumps throughout the long season.

The bullpen has tons of names that I'm sure you've never heard of.  Closer Steve Cishek had some success last year filling in for Heath Bell, and looks for that to carry over into 2013.  Michael Dunn and Ryan Webb also return to the Marlins bullpen and will help to close games out if Cishek struggles.  A guy to watch may be AJ Ramos.  He has a power arm, and in limited innings last year, struck out over a batter per inning.  

While they are not ready for the show just yet, the Marlins have a couple of quality arms in the minors.  Jose Fernandez is a power arm who should be a starter for years to come, with his ETA in the big leagues being late 2014 or 2015.  Justin Nicolino was part of the return in the Marlins huge trade, and he is a bit further along than Fernandez.  Look for him to possible contribute late this year, although 2014 is much more likely for the young lefty.

The Marlins lineup will have an interesting mix of experience and youth entering 2013.  Left fielder Juan Pierre and third baseman Placido Polanco offer quality experience and consistency, while youngsters like second baseman Donovan Solano, catcher Rob Brantly, and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria will almost assuredly experience some growing pains.  Long time minor leaguer Justin Ruggiano will man center fielder and look to add to his successful 2013 campaign.  

There isn't much to say about right fielder Giancarlo Stanton.  The guy is an absolute beast, and should be a lock to hit 40 home runs and drive in 90-100 runs if he can stay healthy.  The most interesting Marlin to me is Logan Morrison, and that's not just because of his Twitter account (seriously, take a hint, go follow him).  After a great freshman campaign, LoMo has struggled to hit and stay healthy.  Maybe first base will help him accomplish the latter, but he really needs to buckle down and have the season that everyone expects him to have.

Two interesting minor leaguers are Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick.  Both could realistically be taking their talents to South Beach in 2013.  Successful minor league campaigns partnered with Ruggiano and Pierre struggling or getting hurt could have both of them on the fast track to the big leagues. 

There are a couple interesting names to watch on this list, including reliever Michael Wuertz and outfielder Austin Kearns, but to me, third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff could be the guy to watch.  Placido Polanco has really struggled to stay healthy the past couple of years and is really getting up there in age, so there might be an opening at the hot corner, where Kouzmanoff could enter into a platoon with left handed hitting Greg Dobbs.  Look for Kouzmanoff to make the team as a backup corner infielder and to at the very least, get some at bats against lefties.

The Marlins are very young and lack some talent in key areas, especially on the pitching staff.  It is hard to imagine a scenario where the Marlins will compete against the Braves and the Nationals in the NL East.  They could perhaps catch lightning in a bottle and pass the Mets or Phillies in the divisional race, but I think a realistic expectation for this team is somewhere between 60 and 70 wins, with 100 losses being a definite possibility

@FullCountBlog because there truly is no such thing as too many shameless plugs.  Or, if you don't really care for us (you've made it this far so who's the clown now??), follow @Giancarlo818 because I'm tired of telling you to follow @LoMoMarlins