Good or Terrible: The yearly game about the Miami Marlins

Will Stanton headline a lovable loser or a perennial power?

A year after going all in in 2012, or as all in as the Marlins have been willing to go, The Miami Marlins dumped salary to Toronto and looked more like a classic Marlins team in 2013. As a result of this changing roster, and Giancarlo Stanton missing more games due to injury again this year (85 over the past 2 years) the Marlins finished with 100 losses. But the Question is back this year, “Will the marlins be good or terrible?”

Despite losing the core of their salary the Marlins found out they have the best young pitcher, and one of the best pitchers overall, in Major League Baseball. Jose Fernandez was a god-send for a young rotation in need of a dominant arm, but he was not the only revelation. The Marlins had three pitchers under the age of 24 with ERAs under four — Nathan Eovaldi at 3.39, Jacob Turner at 3.74 and Henderson Alvarez at 3.59 – and Alvarez even threw in a no-hitter on the final game of the season.

With all of that information in house, the Marlins went to work this offseason to bolster this young but talented team, but they do still have a stingy front office. Because they have little monetary support, the additions this off season were a bit underwhelming.

Saltalamacchia brings championship experience but will it be enough?

First was Jarrod Saltalamachia. After winning the World Series as a platoon catcher, Saltalamachia hit the open market. The Marlins snatched him up, and will put him behind the plate. This should be a massive improvement over the catchers from 2013. Marlins catchers combined to hit .194, tied for last in baseball, and Salty set a career high with a .274 average. He may not be a strong defender or thrower behind the plate, but he will be a more veteran voice for the young staff to listen to.

Garrett Jones will replace Logan Morrison at first base. Jones was not strong at the plate or with the glove in 2013, but he played almost every day until the Pirates traded for Justin Morneau. He has played in at least 140 games in each of the last four seasons.

Rafael Furcal was the final free agent addition for the Marlins this year. The last full season for Furcal featured an all-star selection but an elbow injury that ended his season.  Tommy John surgery came in the following offseason, and Furcal never saw the field in 2013. The Marlins have, presumably,  acquired Furcal to play second base with Adeiny Hechavarria manning short. This is the biggest gamble the Marlins made this offseason, but they needed some veteran presence to round out the young roster.

The final move of the offseason was a trade that sent aging prospect Justin Ruggiano for aging prospect Brian Bogusevic. Boguesevic hit six homers in 47 games while Ruggiano clubbed 18 out in 128 games. This essentially looks like a swap of the same player, and shouldn’t really do much for the Marlins with Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich expected to hold down the remaining outfield spots beside Stanton.

The losses of veteran relievers Ryan Webb and Chad Qualls will factor into the overall ERA of the Marlins this year, but if they can find some young fireballers, and follow a similar track as the 2013 Cardinals, they may be able to pitch well this season.

As usual, the Marlins will have no issues with their salary. They have just $36 million on the payroll, which will likely increase with minor league call ups, but they will not be worried about going too high.

Finally, we move on to the 2014 season, and Marlins’ fans are going to like me after this one.

Player to Watch

In any of the first four years of Stanton’s career, this spot would be his, but last year a star was born. Jose Fernandez was the only reason to watch the Marlins last year. While I believe they will be much better this year, Fernandez will be the most exciting player to watch on the Fish.

If he makes a natural progression in his innings and everything else stays the same, Fernandez will be in contention for the Cy Young. According to BB-Ref’s 162 game averages, Fernandez would have won 15 games, struck-out 227 batters and pitched 210 innings in his rookie season if he had pitched all of the way through. There is no reason to think a sophomore slump is coming for the Cuban fireaballer, I mean have you seen that slider!

The X-Factor

After seeing him for just 70 games, I am willing to go all in on Marcell Ozuna. In those 70 games, Ozuna hit 17 doubles, had a .265 average and 31 runs scored. His on-base of .303 left a lot to be desired, but I see him as a poor man’s Yasiel Puig.

The facet of his game that I am most excited about is his reckless and aggressive defense in the outfield. With such a massive outfield, the Marlins need good speed and defense in all three positions, and Ozuna certainly brings that. In his 70 games, Ozuna made 52 plays outside of his range like this one, and when averaged to 150 defensive games his UZR was 20.6, which was better than Mike Trout, Jacoby Ellsbury and Andrew McCutchen.

Closing argument

While I may be jumping the gun by one year, I think the Marlins will make one of the biggest win jumps in all of baseball in 2014. Vegas has the Marlins at 69.5 wins this year, but I like them a lot. With a young rotation and line-up, the Marlins may be looking at a mass development of young talent. If the team continues to progress the way they are expected to, I could see a deep playoff run fueled by young pitching in the near future.

Say what you will about the Marlins’ franchise strategy, but they have two World Series Championships by following this very track, and this group appears to be no different. I look for them to make the playoffs in the next 3 years.

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