In 2015, the Miami Marlins had a pretty weird season. After starting the season 16-22, Jeffrey Loria decided that this was not good enough, and after a loss to the Braves, he fired Mike Redmond. We're all used to seeing Loria make rash decisions when it comes to his baseball club, but the next move was shocking even for him -- he hired General Manager Dan Jennings (who had no field managerial experience at the time) to become the manager in the dugout. The Marlins won 55 games with Jennings at the helm, and finished the season with a 71-91. This resulted in Jennings being removed as both manager and GM, and he was replaced at the managerial spot with former Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.
The Marlins are now on their fourth manager since 2012. Is now the time for some stability in Miami, so that they can build around a talented core of Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon, Jose Fernandez, and others?
New Additions: Wei-Yin Chen, Edwin Jackson, Chris Johnson, Craig Breslow
Key Departures: Henderson Alvarez
Projected Lineup (from MLB Daily Dish):
When you take a quick glance at that lineup, you get the idea that it's not a horrible lineup in any sense of the word. Granted, there's a distinct lack of power -- aside from the gargantuan power that you're going to get from Stanton -- but that is a lineup that can get on base and score some runs the old-school A-B-C way. This definitely isn't a crew of mashers, but they can do a job for you. However, this is obviously a lineup that's centered around Stanton and his fearsome power. If the Marlins' star right fielder can stay healthy for the vast majority of the season, then this is a lineup that has to be taken seriously.
Now, we can't go any further without talking about the elephant in the room who's wearing #25 -- Barry Bonds. I don't know if I've ever been more intrigued by a signing of a hitting coach than I am with this particular move. Like him or not, Bonds was by far the greatest hitter of his generation, so it'll be interesting to see whether or not he can translate that talent into coaching ability. Will Bonds be able to have any sort of positive effect on the team by teaching his approach to the players -- particularly guys like Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna? Or will the former Giants slugger be another one of those "I can show you far better than I can tell/teach you" cases in sports? It's intriguing, and the cynic/hot taker/conspiracy theorist in me also believes that Loria is secretly trying to coax Bonds out of retirement. Apparently Bonds still has decent power left at the ripe old age of 51, and if this was an AL team, I'd 100% be on the "Let Bonds DH" bandwagon. But that's all just an aside from the point, which is that this is definitely going to be an interesting season to follow for both the Marlins and Bonds' progress as a coach.
Defensively, the Marlins project to be pretty solid in that regard. The keystone combo of Dee Gordon and Adeiny Hechavarria is one of the better ones you'll see in baseball, Martin Prado still figures to be a plus defender, and Christian Yelich is one of the top defensive outfielders in the game, as he's racked up 26 DRS over the past two seasons. Also, Stanton has proven himself to be a capable outfielder when it comes to defense.
Projected Rotation (from MLB Daily Dish):
Meanwhile on the mound, the Marlins have another player who currently has the "If he's healthy, watch out" qualifying tag on him, and that's Jose Fernandez. He'll be making a full return from Tommy John surgery this year, but he'll also be on an innings limit to make sure that the 23-year-old doesn't rush things or wear himself out. That's why the top spot in the rotation (for the time being) has been given to newcomer Wei-Yin Chen. Chen pitched pretty well for the Baltimore Orioles over the past four seasons (career 3.72 ERA and 4.14 FIP), and normally pitchers who pitch that well in the American League tend to have a good time translating that success over into the Senior Circuit, and he'll also benefit from moving to a pitcher's park as well.
After that, you've got a whole lot of average pitching between Cosart, Koehler, and Conley. To tell you what the Marlins' situation is like when it comes to the fifth starter, Edwin Jackson was playing a role in this competition. If that's happening for you in 2016, then the bottom of your rotation isn't exactly the most solid in the world.
Miami's bullpen took a major hit, though, when Carter Capps ended up having to have Tommy John surgery. Capps was in line to take the closer job after he had himself a fantastic 2015 season (1.16 ERA and 1.17 xFIP with an absurd 16.84 K/9 rate), so they'll definitely miss having him in the bullpen. They still have a decent bullpen, but having Capps in there to close games would've really been a great asset for them to have.
Most likely player to randomly terrorize the Braves?
Justin Bour is a monster against right-handed pitching, to the point where every one of the 23 homers he hit in 2015 came against a right-handed pitcher. In case you haven't noticed, the Braves are pretty heavy on right-handed pitching at the moment, so I'll just let you put two-and-two together right now. I'm not expecting Barry Bonds to lay hands on him and turn him into an even bigger masher against righties, but I think Bour figures to be the one to give the Braves some serious problems on random nights in that cavernous stadium in Miami.
In the current landscape of the National League, you've got a bunch of powerhouses (teams like the Mets, Dodgers, Cubs, just to name a few), a bunch of clunkers (like the Phillies, Reds, Rockies, and our beloved local baseball team), and then a couple of teams who are going to be in the middle. The Miami Marlins are probably going to be one of those middle teams. The talent for a solid team is there, but it's a matter of health and development for a lot of the players.
It's possible that some of the role players could take quantum leaps in their first season under new management and coaching, but it probably won't happen this season. Miami figures to be a decent team this year, but the postseason is still a ways away for them. They'll probably end this season further away from the cellar dwellers than they did last season, but they're still pretty solidly a third place team in this division. Whether or not that'll be enough to satiate Jeffrey Loria is anybody's guess, though.
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