Miami Marlins Season Preview

Heading back to sunny Florida now with Lee Dobbs who is braced for a rough ride in 2018 with the Marlins. Lee is one of the admins at the excellent UK MLB Supporters Forum, where UK-based fans get together to discuss everything baseball, sports, and more besides. It is definitely worth a visit, and give Lee a follow on Twitter too.

Looking Back
Off the Field 2017 was a Franchise changing one as Jeffrey Loria finally sold the team much to the delight of all of South Florida, if not all of baseball, but more of that in a bit.

On the field 2017 was an up and down season for the Marlins, on July 20th the team was 9 games under .500 at 42-51 and heading towards a 14th consecutive season outside the playoffs however suddenly things clicked and after beating the Padres on Aug 27th the team was 3 games over at 66-63 and right in the thick of the wildcard race. However as quickly as we arrived at the Wildcard party we left, a demoralising 2-15 stretch saw us 10 games under .500 in the middle of September and an 8th successive losing season was all but secured. The team recovered slightly and ended the season at 77-85, 2 wins worse off than in 2016 but 2nd best in the NL East.

The season will, of course, be remembered for the Heroics of Giancarlo Stanton who smashed an incredible 59 Home Runs (at one stage it looked like 70 would be surpassed) and brought the 1st Ever NL MVP award to Miami, Marcell Ozuna broke out in a big way and former batting champ Dee Gordon returned to form after a disappointing 2016.

As mentioned above the 2017 season and off season is going to be remembered most for the sale of the team to Derek Jeter and his partners who brought the Miami Marlins from the much despised Jeffrey Loria whos 15 year reign amounted to one Playoff appearance (What an appearance it was though as the upstart Marins of 2003 went on a magical journey and beat funnily enough Jeter’s Yankees and in a way ended a dynasty that had ruled over baseball especially the AL since 1996 as it would be 5 years and in course a very different Yankee team before they reached the World Series again).

So Jeter is in and the hope when he took over was that he would bring that winning Yankee mentality to the Franchise, after all in 20 years as a player he never once experienced a losing season. However, rumours surfaced almost immediately that Jeter would be looking to start from scratch but we just didn’t envisage him literally meaning from scratch as the Major league roster was gutted of any talent with value or (more importantly to Jeter and his team) of cost to the team.

Dee Gordon, Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Christain Yelich the 4 biggest names on the Marlins were traded away and in their place came a pile of Minor leaguers and Starlin Castro and the 2017 season is now looking like it might be our last fairly competitive one for a while.

Comings and Goings
NOTE: I’ve only included players who have a good shot at making the team out of Camp as we have acquired quite a lot of Minor league players through the various trades.

INs: Starlin Castro (2B), Sandy Alcantara (SP), Magneuris Sierra (OF), Lewis Brinson (OF), Jacob Turner (SP), Scott Van Slyke (OF), Cameron Maybin (OF), Eric Campbell (3B)

Outs: Ichiro (OF), A.J Ellis (C), Giancarlo Stanton (OF), Marcell Ozuna (OF), Christian Yelich (OF), Dee Gordon (2B), Edinson Volquez (SP), Jeff Locke (SP), Vance Worley (SP) Mike Aviles (INF)

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Play Ball!
“Spring has sprung, the smell of cut grass is in the air, the sound of ball hitting bat is in the air and Hope springs eternal for all 30 Major league teams and its fans”

That phrasing gets bandied about every year as the calendar turns to March but as a Marlins fan this year it feels the complete opposite, spring has sprung and its awoken the fans of other teams just how dismantled this roster has been. Here we are in early March and many have the Marlins down for not just a losing season but challenging for the worst record of all time.

So are we really going to be that bad? Let’s take a tour through the Lineup and find out as I introduce you to the Miami Marlins of 2018.

The trades have obviously left a big hole in the roster most notably in the outfield and a question that was on many Miami fans lips having traded away possibly baseball’s best outfield could we now be showcasing baseballs worst?

Mattingly said early in camp that Dietrich would start in left, he has seen plenty of action there in previous seasons with varying degrees of success but has primarily been an infielder since his debut in 2013 so will need to transition to being a permanent outfielder in 2018 he has some power but is inconsistent and that will likely remain the story of his season.

Lewis Bring on, acquired in the Yelich trade, could well be the starting center fielder as you read this, he is having an impressive spring and displaying the form expected of a no. 1 prospect, the team may decide however to keep him in the minors to begin with but expect him up by at least May if he isn’t on the team come March 29th.

The right field spot was wide open but the signing of Cameron Maybin a few days in camp may have ended any true battle and it seems the right field job is his to lose now, a veteran who should bring some experience and help Brinson in his development but offensively I can’t see him adding much other than being another answer to be added to the question who has been both a Florida Marlin and a Miami Marlin?

The infield is a bit more stable at least with Martin Prado, Justin Bour and JT Riddle all returning with the addition of Starlin Castro adding an extra bat that power wise will be an upgrade over Gordon. However injury concerns surround both Prado who only played in 37 games in 2017 having suffered 3 separate injuries and Riddle who sustained an injury early July and wasn’t seen again. Prado it has been announced will already start the season on the DL though its hoped it will be a brief stint.

Brian Anderson will hold down third base for the time being. One of our top prospects before the winter moves, he saw some game time late last year and if he performs well Prado will be a prime trade candidate come July’s deadline.

I personally think Miguel Rojas, who impressed in a multiple of roles in 2017 is the better option at shortstop but his versatility may actually be hindering his chances at a starting gig as he has proven to be so important he should however still see plenty of at-bats covering the infield.

Bour is undoubtedly the most important player on this team now, he will be relied upon for the majority of power coming from the lineup and if we are to surprise a few people and win more than 60-65 games I’m sure come late September we will have him to thank. He too though has concerns over his durability having never played more than 129 games in a season and should he go down the offense could really hit a brick wall.

JT Realmuto, who despite reports of handing in a trade request will be the catcher, is quietly one of the top offensive backstops in the game for my money and will be relied upon more than ever to show that in 2018. The final few bench spots will consist of retreads just trying to maintain a spot in the Big Leagues with the likes of Scott Van Slyke, Eric Campbell battling you can see the strength in depth just isn’t there on this team and if any of the injury concerns prove to be true on the above players we could be in for a long summer.

Now you could look at that lineup and think yes it’s far from great but it’s not a complete wreck and has enough to ensure a mildly competitive team and you may be right. However, let me introduce you to the Marlins 2018 rotation and you’ll see why many experts have us down for no more than 50 odd wins.

Dan Straily and Jose Urena return at the top rotation coming off decent 2017 seasons, Urena was very impressive for a spell once he was inserted into the rotation having started the year in the pen and I expect more of the same from them in 2018.

Not ideally want you want as your 1-2 tandem and maybe more of a 3-4 but beggars can’t be choosers. It’s behind them where things really become a bit of a mess as its under 3 weeks till the regular season and we are still auditioning a number of arms for the 3 remaining spots.

Prospect Sandy Alcantara (landed in the Ozuna trade) is in with a shot and he will almost certainly be in the 3 role at some stage this season but it remains to be seen if he is in it on opening day or later on in May/June time. Conley has probably the best shot, after a fairly promising first two2 seasons he really regressed last season and was in and out the rotation, he will have a chance to stake his claim once more and despite a less than stellar spring thus far I think he’ll be in the rotation and maybe in with a chance at the “surprisingly decent season”.

Dillon Peters, Jacob Turner, Justin Nicolino, Odrismer Despaigne, Jarlin Garcia, Chris O’Grady are all in the mix and being given a shot to earn a role. Wei-Yin Chen will be in the rotation at some point but as he has done for most of his time in Miami he currently occupies a spot on the DL and there appears to be no set timetable for when he will be back. As you can see from that list of names, we might as well set up a revolving door in the Marlins rotation this season as I can see a lot of call-ups and people being taken in and out.

The Bullpen is the only real stable area with everyone practically returning from last season, Ziegler who surprisingly did ok after taking over the closer role following the Ramos trade and he will be backed up by Steckenrider, Barraclough, Tazawa in what should be a fairly dependable if overworked bullpen that may well break down come the summer.

Justin Bour
Justin Bour fields a foul ball. Photo credit David on Flickr

65-97 – Maybe optimistic but I don’t think we’ll be quite as bad as people maybe think we are going to be, I think the offense is at least Ok on the whole but it will be the pitching that will truly decide if we avoid 100 losses which I think we’ll just about do with some of the rookies showing promise for the future ahead which let’s face with no Pennant race on the cards is what this season is really going to be about for us as fans.
Justin Bour: This is The Big Bourbinos offense now to carry, he hit 25 home runs and 83 RBI with a .289 avg in just 108 games in 2017. If he can stay fit he’ll be right in the upper tier of feared hitters in the NL, the question is of course health with him as he has yet to play more than 129 games in a season but look for this to be the year as he carries the team to respectability at least.
One to watch
Lewis Brinson. Born and bred in South Florida, the top piece we got back in all the offseason trades and immediately installed as the teams no. 1 prospect, he looks set to make the team on opening day as the starting center fielder and is having a great spring hitting close to .400 through 12 games and is a viable candidate to be NL Rookie of the Year.
Lee Dobbs
@leemarlin87 / UK MLB Supporters Forum

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