2013 Miami Marlins Preview
One year removed from the opening of a unique ball park and spending over $190 million on free agents, the Marlins enter 2013 as a team of unknown players with an unknown direction.
What has happened to the Miami Marlins? A year ago, the Marlins were the buzz of baseball, a team that was about to open a $634 million ballpark, and who had signed three of the biggest free agents on the market in Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell. To top it all off, the team brought in former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen to manage their club and looked like they were ready to make a huge impact on the National League Eastern Division. Then the season started, and everything about the ball club collapsed, and by the end of May the club was out of contention, and out of fans.
By July, the writing was on the wall for many players and ownership began to jettison talent to save what little money they had left to play with. Omar Infante, Anibel Sanchez, Hanley Ramierz, Randy Choate, Gaby Sanchez and Edward Mujica were all dealt away on July 31 st. After the miserable season came to a close, Guillen was fired, Bell was sent to Arizona and Reyes, Buehrle, Josh Johnson, John Buck and Emilio Bonifacio were all traded to Toronto. What remains now is a ball club of largely unknown players with a very disinterested fan base and the ball club will be lucky to draw more than 10,000 fans per game this season. After blowing up the team, owner Jeffrey Loria offered no apologies to the tax payers who coughed up $508.8 million of the cost for their new stadium, and it is unlikely that they will be terribly interested in going to the ball park to support what looks to be a horrible team destined to lose triple-digit games this year.
Of the men expected to make up the Marlins’ rotation this year, none had a winning record in 2012. Ricky Nolasco, who will have the unenviable task of being the club’s ace this season, came close, going 12-13 with a 4.48 ERA, hardly the numbers you’d be looking for from an ace pitcher. If the Marlins expect to come anywhere close to their 69-93 record from last year, they will need Nolasco to somehow bounce back to his 2009 numbers where he won 15 games and won himself a huge contract for it.
Jacob Turner went 2-5 with a 4.42 ERA overall in 2012 and has the best shot at winning the second spot in the rotation. Turner is just 21-years old, so nobody really knows what he is going to be capable of doing for the club. He has four good pitches, and if he can figure out how to make them work at the major league level, he could have a halfway decent season, but he is likely to struggle throughout the 2013 campaign as he gets used to seeing big league hitters on a full-time basis.
At 22-years old, Henderson Alvarez came over in the 12-player deal with Toronto that took the baseball world by storm and had a pretty good rookie campaign last season going 9-13 with a 4.85 ERA. In the power-hitting American League East, that wasn’t bad for a rookie and a switch to the National League could give him a fighting chance to add a win or two and finish at .500 with an ERA in the lower 4’s this year.
Nathan Eovaldi came over from the Dodgers last season at the trade deadline and went 3-7 with a 4.43 ERA the rest of the way and 4-14 with a 4.30 ERA overall. Eovaldi has a good fastball and a decent slider, but beyond that his pitches are shaky at best. Whether or not Eovaldi will have any success developing a third pitch remains to be seen, but if he does not, expect a similar season from him this year. As of now, the number five spot is completely up for grabs as Brad Hand, Tom Koehler, Wade LeBlanc, John Maine, Kevin Slowey and Alex Sanabia are all in camp to compete for it. LeBlanc has been good this spring, and given that he is out of options probably has the best chance to land the spot, but Maine and Slowey are making good cases for their consideration as well.
The Marlins have a good, young closer in Steve Cishek, who took over for Heath Bell at the All-Star break last season and finished the year with 1-1 record, a 3.42 ERA and 14 saves. He certainly earned the right to be named the club’s closer heading into camp now that Bell is gone and the Marlins hope that he will be able to continue to be a dominant 9 th inning pitcher this season. Given the immaturity of the ball club’s starting rotation, they will need a lot of help from their bullpen to give them a shot at winning any games that are close this season. The team will rely on the combination of John Rauch, Ryan Webb and Mike Dunn to close the gap between their starters and Cishek. Beyond those four, the rest of the bullpen has yet to be determined with Chad Qualls, A.J. Ramos, Chris Hatcher, Dan Jennings, Scott Maine, Arquimedes Caminero and Evan Reed all competing for spots as either specialists or long-relievers.
It will be hard for the Marlins to do worse than they did offensively last season, after all they finished second-to-last in all of baseball season averaging 3.76 runs per game. However if any line-up could do worse than scoring just 609 runs all season this just may be the one. As of now, the line-up looks to have left fielder Juan Pierre leading off, followed by third baseman Placido Polanco and then right fielder Giancarlo Stanton. It’s not a bad one, two, three combination provided that Polanco is able to stay healthy, but his recent history suggests that will be unlikely. However if somehow he is able to avoid the injury bug this season, he and Pierre could be a good combination with one or both likely to get on base for Stanton, who is arguably the best hitter on the ball club.
Stanton blew down the doors in 2012 smashing 37 homers in just 123 games and should hit the century mark for his career sometime in early April at age 23. Opposing pitchers don’t really want to pitch to him, and despite having one or two guys on base ahead of them they may not have to because behind him there isn’t much power left in the Marlins’ line-up as it looks less and less likely that power-hitting first baseman Logan Morris will be ready to play by Opening Day. Morris is still rehabbing from season ending knee surgery last year, and will probably have to open the season either on the DL or in extended spring training. That leaves the Marlins with the choice of Casey Kotchman, who was a major disappointment with the Indians last season, or Greg Dobbs who hit .285 but had just 5 homers and 39 RBIs in 120 games for Florida last season.
The rest of the line-up will consist of center fielder Justin Ruggiano, who hit .313 in 91 games for the club last season, catcher Rob Brantly who hit .290 with 3 homers in 100 at-bats last season, second baseman Donovan Solano who hit .295 in 285 at-bats last season and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria who is a great defensive player but has no discipline at the plate. None of them are likely to produce more than 15 home runs, and most will be lucky to get to double-digits and their inexperience will cause some very frustrating hitless streaks throughout the season.
It is hard to tell if the Marlins are trying to rebuild or if they are trying to put together the worst team in the history of the game. Their starting pitching is very young and they have no true ace, their offense has tons of holes in it and while their bullpen looks like they could be pretty solid, it is unlikely that they will be much of a factor when the ball club will almost certainly struggle to score runs this year. If a team can truly go from bad to worse, it looks likely that the Marlins are going to do it, and a 100 loss season is not out of the question, especially if Morris is sidelined for any extended period of time early in the season and Polanco spends significant time on the DL again. Given what they will likely have to work with as the season wears on, anything better than a 48-114 record for this ball club will be considered not just a success, but a miracle.
By Robert Gonzalez