After finishing under .500 for five straight seasons, the Marlins finally felt the need to improve this offseason and solidified an increasingly strong lineup of former top prospects with some key veteran additions.
Coming into this season, the Marlins look like a much-improved offense and could have one of the best pitching staffs in the league, even with ace Jose Fernandez out until the summer.
Is this the year the Marlins finally return to relevance?
Batting Average: 15th
Notable Additions: Mat Latos, Dee Gordon, Dan Haren, Aaron Crow, Mike Morse, David Phelps, Martin Prado, Andre Rienzo, Vin Mazzaro, Ichiro Suzuki, Tyler Colvin, Preston Claiborne, Nick Masset, Don Kelly, Reid Brignac, Miguel Rojas
Morse has never returned to the 31 home run hitter we saw in 2011 and has battled through injuries every year since but he remains a solid bat at first base. His .279 BA, 16 HR, 61 RBI, 48 R, and 32 2B last year with the Giants are about what the Marlins can expect in a healthy season from Morse, though his glove is significantly below average, even at first.
Baker had a couple of nice seasons with the Cubs and Rangers but is an average veteran backup who can play several positions, though he doesn’t sport a great glove, and won’t hurt you at the plate.
Bour is the guy the Marlins hope can man first base for the longterm. In the minors, he showed a great ability to draw walks, hit as many as 23 home runs and 36 doubles in a single season, and owns a solid .279 BA and .811 OPS through 646 minor league games.
2B: Dee Gordon, Donovan Solano
A former top-30 prospect, Gordon struggled in his first three stints in the Bigs but broke out in a massive way last year at age 26. Gordon led the NL with 64 steals and 12 triples while batting a solid .289 with 24 doubles and 92 runs. He doesn’t walk and strikes out too much and his glove can sometimes be a liability but if he can replicate his success from last season the Marlins got a steal.
Solano has a better glove than Gordon but is a lackluster singles hitter at the plate. Last season he batted .252 with 15 extra-base hits, 28 RBI, and 26 R in 111 games and that’s about the best you’re going to get from him.
3B: Martin Prado
No longer a .300+ hitter, Prado remains a solid bat, posting a .282 average in each of his last two seasons while hitting double-digit home runs in six straight seasons. He’s a solid doubles hitter who doesn’t strike out a lot and owns a strong glove at third. He’s also managed to stay healthy which is a big plus for this infield.
Hechavarria improved significantly with his bat last season, hitting 31 extra-base hits and scoring 53 runs while batting .276. He’s got a solid glove but will need to continue to improve at the plate to be a starter-caliber shortstop for the longterm.
Though he played just 114 games last season, Saltalamacchia batted a career-low .220 with a career-high 143 strikeouts in 2014 while hitting just 11 home runs (lowest since 2010), 20 doubles, and driving in 44. He remains strong behind the plate but he’ll need to stay healthy and have a better approach at the plate if he’s going to return to the level of hitter he was just a couple seasons ago.
Jeff Mathis has a very solid glove but that’s about it.
Giancarlo Stanton is now the Marlins’ $325 million man and is coming off his best season in the league. Stanton led the NL with 37 home runs and a .555 slugging percentage while setting career-highs in doubles (31), RBI (105), runs (89), steals (13), and walks (94). Though he’s been in the league for five seasons, Stanton is still just 25 and continues to improve at the plate. As his contract suggests, he’s one of the league’s best as long as he can stay healthy once again this season.
Marcell Ozuna was quietly one of the league’s best hitting outfielders last year, batting .264 with 23 home runs, 85 RBI, 53 extra-base hits, and 72 runs in his first full season in the league. He also had a great glove and, at just 24, gives the Marlins a phenomenal young power combo in the outfield for a long time to come.
Christian Yelich rounds out the stellar collection of youngsters in the outfield after making good on his top-15 prospect potential. He doesn’t have the same power as Stanton or Ozuna but he’s great at drawing walks (70 last season), hit 45 extra-base hits, stole 21 bases, and scored 94 times in his first full season in the league. He has a strong glove and, at just 23, plenty of time to get even better. The Marlins outfield, with a combined age of 72, could easily be one of the best in the league.
Ichiro Suzuki is now 41 (nearly the same age as Yelich and Ozuna combined) and is a long way removed from his all-star years. He hasn’t batted above .284 since 2010 but is still a decent singles hitter good for double-digit steals each year. He gives the Marlins a veteran bat off the bench and should be a good presence for their youngsters.
Mat Latos only played half a season last year but has already established himself as one of the most consistent pitchers in the league. He hasn’t posted an ERA over 3.48 in a full season and has a combined 3.27 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 8.2 K/9 to 2.6 BB/9 over the last five seasons. Assuming he’s healthy, he’s a fantastic anchor for this staff, especially with their ace out until the summer.
Henderson Alvarez doesn’t wow people because of his low strikeout totals but he quietly turned in one of the best seasons of any pitcher last year, posting a 2.65 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. He keeps the ball in the park and seldom walks anyone. At 25, a top three featuring Alvarez, Fernandez, and Latos can give the Marlins one of the best front ends in the game for a long time to come.
Jarred Cosart didn’t look great with the Astros but immediately turned it around in 10 starts for the Marlins last year, posting a 2.39 ERA and 1.19 WHIP after being traded to South Florida. Cosart is a former top-50 prospect and has good potential but he struggles with his control and gives up too many hits to be consistently good. Of course, we’ve seen what Miami can do with these young former top prospects so the Marlins are likely the best place for Cosart to develop.
Tom Koehler was a solid backend guy last year, putting up a 3.81 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. He puts more runners on than you’d like but keeps the ball in the park and struck out batters at a much higher rate last season than in 2013.
Dan Haren was a throw-in in the Dee Gordon trade but is clearly at the tail end of his career. He hasn’t put up an ERA under 4.00 in three straight seasons and gives up way, way too many home runs to be successful despite seldom walking anyone. At this point, Haren is just a placeholder until Fernandez gets back.
Jose Fernandez is aiming for a mid-season return after undergoing Tommy John surgery last season. Just 22 with only 36 MLB starts under his belt, Fernandez is already easily one of the best pitchers in the game, owning a 2.25 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and 257 K to 71 BB. He keeps base hits to a minimum, rarely gives up a home run, and has a monstrous K:BB ratio. When healthy, there’s arguably no one better.
The Marlins also have Brad Hand and acquired David Phelps this offseason but they’ll likely man bullpen roles until someone gets hurt.
Steve Cishek rarely gets a lot of credit but he’s really blossomed into one of the best closers in the game, saving 73 games over the last two seasons while blowing just six. He has a 2.65 career ERA and 1.18 career WHIP and struck out a career-high 11.6 batters per nine innings last year.
Bryan Morris was solid with the Pirates but flat out dominant after being traded to the Marlins, posting an unholy 0.66 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 40.2 innings for Miami. A former starter, Morris found his first success in the minors after converting to the pen and looks like a real steal as he enters his third year in the Bigs.
A.J. Ramos had a good season in his 2013 rookie campaign but really hit his stride last season, going 7-0 with a 2.11 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, and 73 strikeouts in 64 innings. The only problem is he walks WAY too many batters. His 6.0 BB/9 last season is impossible to overcome longterm and he’ll need to work on his control is he’s going to be a reliably consistent option.
Mike Dunn went 10-6 out of the pen last year which shows that he’s a lefty specialist trusted to come out in critical parts of games. Over his last two seasons, Dunn owns a 2.89 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, and 139 K to 50 BB. He’s one of the better lefty relievers in the game.
Aaron Crow was a completely different pitcher last season than in his first three years as his strikeouts dropped from 9.0+ to just 5.2 per nine and he surrendered a whopping 10 home runs in 59 innings. Crow has always struggled with consistency but if he can’t keep the ball in the park he’ll find his way out of the league sooner than later.
Sam Dyson was impressive in limited time last year, putting up a 2.14 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in 42 innings. He looked solid as a starter in the minors but has been even better after converting to the pen and should be a reliable option if he can do a better job of limiting hits.
Starting Pitching: B+
Overall: B to B+