When the talk started about the 2014 Marlins good start, few thought it was something that could be sustained. As April turned into May, we started to look at the younger players, mainly Jose Fernandez and Giancarlo Stanton, and realize that maybe this team was starting to build itself a little earlier than was expected. The Marlins managed to remain above .500 through the month of June and the fact that they fell below it coincided with the end of Fernandez’ season which was May 9th. For the season, the Marlins finished at 77-85, 4th place in the NL East. Baseball Prospectus thought the Marlins would finish in last place in the NL East so their season had to be a fluke, right?
The development of the younger players, led by Stanton (.288, 37, 105) and fellow OFs Christian Yelich (.284, 9, 54, 21 SB, 94 RS) and Marcell Ozuna (.269, 23, 85) and pitchers Henderson Alvarez (12-7, 2.65, 30 starts) and Jarred Cosart (13-11, 3.69, 30 starts- 4-4, 2.39, 10 starts with Marlins) gave the Marlins FO the feeling that future is coming a little quicker than they thought. It seems like the other day the Marlins were ripping down their entire roster with one of their patented “fire sales.” Though the team is not looking to win the World Series in 2015, their offseason showed that they have an interest in being competitive now as opposed to waiting another couple years.
The Marlins acquired RHP Mat Latos (5-5, 3.25, 15 starts) from the Reds in a deal for younger RHP Anthony DeSclafani (2-2, 6.27, 13 games, 5 starts). At the Baseball Winter Meetings in San Diego, the Marlins were one of the teams that stole the show. They acquired infielder Martin Prado (.282, 12, 58 for D’Backs and Yankees) and RHP David Phelps (5-5, 4.38, 32 games, 17 starts) from the Yankees in exchange for 1B Garrett Jones (.246, 15, 53) and RHP Nathan Eovaldi (6-14, 4.37, 33 starts). After that, they made a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers to get 2B Dee Gordon (.289, 2, 34 with NL leading 12 3B and 64 SB) and RHP Dan Haren (13-11, 4.02, 32 starts) in exchange for LHP Andrew Heaney and RHP Chris Hatcher (0-3, 3.38, 52 games). To make room for Prado, the Marlins dealt 3B Casey McGehee (.287, 4, 76) to the Giants then signed free agents Michael Morse (.279, 16, 61) and Ichiro Suzuki (.284, 1, 22). The Marlins also added relievers Aaron Crow (6-1, 4.12, 67 games) from the Royals and Preston Claiborne (3-0, 3.00, 18 games) from the Yankees.
The Marlins have a decent starting pitching staff, even if Fernandez is not projected to be ready for the season opener. Obviously, it will be a better rotation with Fernandez, but Alvarez, Cosart, Latos, Haren and Tom Koehler (10-10, 3.81, 32 starts) leave the team in much better shape than they were in at the start of last season. Koehler had a solid season, much like former Marlins RHP Ricky Nolasco. After contemplating retirement after his trade to Miami (he wanted to stay on the West Coast), Haren looks ready to help the Marlins. Phelps and LHP Brad Hand (3-8, 4.38, 32 games, 16 starts) look to be on the outside looking in unless another injury occurs.
The Marlins traded Hatcher in the Gordon trade to the Dodgers and LHP Dan Jennings (0-2, 1.34, 47 games) to the White Sox for starting pitcher Andre Rienzo (4-5, 6.82, 18 games, 11 starts). Crow and Claiborne will get an important role as will RHPs Carter Capps (3.98, 17 games, 25 Ks in just over 20 IP) and Sam Dyson (3-1, 2.14, 31 games). RHPs Bryan Morris (8-1, 1.82, 60 games for Pirates and Marlins) and A.J. Ramos (7-0, 2.11, 68 games) along with LHP Mike Dunn (10-6, 3.16, 75 games) will be the main bridge to get to closer Steve Cishek (4-5, 3.17, 67 games, 84 Ks in just over 65 IP). RHPs Nick Masset and Vin Mazzaro (guest on the Passed Ball Show) should have an opportunity to prove their worth.
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (.220, 11, 44) and SS Adeiny Hechavarria (.276, 1, 34) combine for 11 syllables and 25 letters in their last names and both return to bat towards the bottom of the lineup. The Marlins lineup should look like this: Gordon 2B, Yelich LF, Prado 3B, Stanton RF, Morse 1B, Ozuna CF, Saltalamacchia C, Hechavarria SS. Ichiro, Donovan Solano (.252, 3, 28), Jeff Baker (.264, 3, 28) and backup catcher Jeff Mathis (.200, 2, 12). NRIs Don Kelly, Reid Brignac and Reed Johnson all have good chances to make the team. Jhonatan Solano (Donovan’s brother) is in camp to compete for the backup catcher spot.
On the farm, C J.T. Realmuto looks like he has a chance to crack the team this season. Not a big power hitter, but certainly has some gap to gap power. Pitchers Justin Nicolino, Trevor Williams and Adam Conley should also make their debuts in 2015 with the lefty Nicolino having the biggest upside. Keep an eye on Dominican RHP Jose Urena (13-8, 3.33) who seems to have the most electric stuff out of the pitchers in the Marlins system.
The Marlins O/U was a very healthy 81 1/2. I will go with the over, with the Marlins finishing at 83-79, 3rd place in the NL East division. If Fernandez returns earlier than expected, perhaps the Marlins can compete for a Wild Card spot. Even if he doesn’t, this team certainly looks improved and has the resources to improve itself if it needs to- something we haven’t heard in a couple years. Given the history though, it would behoove the Marlins to get off to a good start, because with this ownership- you never know.