Marlins - 2014

Outlook - They have an owner in Jeffrey Loria who the fans dislike because of a perception of broken promises.  He reminds me a lot of Orioles owner Peter Angelos, a smart man in his business field who thinks this intellect can transfer over to the baseball field.  Their 2013 record (62-100) was the second worst in franchise history as a result of forcing the President of baseball operations Larry Beinfest to trade all their veteran players.  With only a number of rookies and journeymen to support the team they fired Beinfest at the end of the 2013 season for poor performance.  The Marlins were last in hitting, last in runs scored by close to 100 runs, last in on base percentage and last in slugging.  What they do have is one of the best young pitchers in baseball in Jose Fernandez and one of the best young sluggers in the game in Giancarlo Stanton.  So they have something to build from.

Key Additions: They recently signed Carlos Marmol for their bullpen.  He was a highly touted Cubs prospect that was anticipated to take over their closer role but failed miserably.  The Marlins will hope a change in scenery will help him get his fastball over.  To further assist their bullpen they traded Logan Morrison for another young prospect who disappointed as a closer Carter Capps.  They also signed catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a free agent contract to compete with Rob Brantley for the catching job.  Jarrod had the better offensive year but his defense is a little soft.  Rafael Furcal was signed as a free agent to play second base.  He has been a shortstop all of his major league career and last year did not play because of injuries.  His career at 36 is on a downhill slope.  Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee are two players they signed for first base.  Garett can also play left field, hits for a little pop but is poor with the batting average.  McGehee played for the champion Rakuten Eagles last year.  He can also play third.  They traded for outfielder Brian Bogusevic an ex-pitcher who is now more a journeyman outfielder.

Key Subtractions - They traded outfielder Justin Ruggiano to acquire Brian Bogusevic and got rid of Logan Morrison in a trade.  Ryan Webb, who had 66 solid bullpen appearances left via free agency.  They also designated number one pick catcher Kyle Skipworth.  It is a young team so most of the players will not be eligible for spring training for the next couple years.

Catcher - Jarrod Saltalamacchia seems to have this job sewn up despite the potential promise of last year’s young starter Rob Brantley.  Jarrod is not as strong as Rob defensively but did slug 14 homeruns.  Brantley only hit .186 in AAA and carried that failure to the major leagues with a .211 average.  They designated their number one pick of 2008 Kyle Skipworth, who made his major league debut with three at bats last year but has a .215 minor league career batting average.  Their new catcher of the future is 2010 third round pick J.T. Realmuto.   He only hit .239 last year in AA and is still a work in progress defensively.  Brantley will probably be sent to AAA for more seasoning which will allow defensive specialist Jeff Mathis to take over the backup catching duties.  Jeff only hit .181 last year, never being noted for his bat.

First base - Last year they used eight different players at first.  This year they hope to hand the job over to Garrett Jones.  He is not going to wow you offensively or defensively, a little short on power for the position.  He did hit 27 homeruns in 2012 but he has never driven in more than 86 runs.  Greg Dobbs (.228) and Ed Lucas (.256) are both corner infielders who have no real power to wrestle the job away from Jones.  Lucas was the primary third baseman last year after the struggles of Placido Polanco.  They have more young outfielders than positions for them to play so expect one of the lesser defensive players like Marcell Ozuna or Giancarlo Stanton to move here.

Second Base - Rafael Furcal takes over for Donavan Solano.  Rafael was hurt all of 2013 but primarily played shortstop prior to his injury.  He no longer carries stolen base speed.  If Rafael can’t handle the position defensively they can go with last year’s secondbaseman Donavan Solano.  Donavan is one of those vanilla like players who doesn’t hit for a lot of power, steal a lot of bases or perform spectacular defense, but he gets the job done.  Ed Lucas could turn into a utility player as he also played 20 games at second.  Derek Dietrich alienated Marlin management so that may not bode well for his future.  He hit .271 with 11 homeruns in AA.

Third Base - Casey McGehee came over from Japan where he won a championship for the Rakuten Golden Eagles.  McGehee hit .292, 28, 93 in his only year in Japan after failing to win the first base job the previous year with the Brewers.  If McGehee struggles the Marlins can turn to last year’s third baseman Ed Lucas.  He failed to hit for power (.336 slugging) and produced just a .256 average but only .224 against righthanders.  Gregg Dobbs is another body they can put here but he is best used in small doses.  Once you give him extended playing time his average drops like a bungee cord.  Zack Cox was a first round pick of the Cardinals in 2010 and later traded to the Marlins.  His bat has not shown any pop in the minor leagues.  The big hope for the Marlins at this position is last year’s number one pick Colin Moran.  Moran hit four homeruns in 42 games but is expected to generate more power as he matures.

Shortstop - Myworld liked what we saw of Adeiny Hechavarria at shortstop.  We think he will improve on his .227 average last year.  He has a solid glove but needs to improve his offense.  Ed Lucas saw a few games here as well.  This is an area weak in the minors with no viable candidate ready to take over in the upper echelons of the minor leagues.  Austin Nola was a 2012 fifth round pick who has a good glove but a questionable bat (.232).  He did draw 54 walks in his high A performance.  Danny Black was a 2010 14th round pick who showed promise with his .314 average in 2012 in the Florida State League.  Last year he struggled with a .200 average, slugging only .260 in AA.  Both show minimal power with little base stealing capability.

Left Field - Christian Yelich had a promising rookie season hitting .288 with a 10 for 10 stolen base performance.  He has the speed and range to play center but his arm is best for left field.  He will need to improve on his .396 slugging if he wants to make a permanent presence here.  He did slug .518 in AA.  The Marlins traded for Brian Bogusevic to act as a fourth outfielder.  He is a former pitcher turned outfielder who has now shown the tools to be a regular.  His range is not suited for center and he has not shown a power bat.  Kyle Jensen could be that power bat.  He is 6′3″ at 247 pounds slugging 28 homeruns between AA and AAA last year.  He still struggles to make contact striking out 144 times.  He will not be the defensive equal of Yelich but he could provide more offensive production.

Centerfield - If Jake Marisnick hits the position is his.  He has tremendous defensive potential but only hit .183 with the Marlins.  He probably needs a season in AAA after hitting .294 with a .502 slugging in AA.  That would leave the position to Marcell Ozuna who does not cover as much ground as Marisnick but he had a more successful bat in the majors (.265, 3, 32).  He should hit for more power in the major leagues and with a strong arm is probably better suited for right field.  If he struggles with his routes in center the Marlins could move Osuna to left and deal with the weak armed Yelich in center.  Bogusevic can also play here.  Brent Keys is a player to watch.  He put up some pretty impressive numbers in High A (.346) walking 46 times while striking out just 26 times.  He has the speed of a typical centerfielder but lacks the power for the corners.

Rightfield - Giancarlo Stanton has been plagued with minor injuries his last couple years that has limited his playing time.  He is a streaky hitter but last year without protection in the lineup his streaks went more to the swing and miss variety as he chased at bad pitches.  He has the potential for 40 homerun power if he can play a complete season and shows more patience.  He made his feelings known about the Marlins firesale and it is no secret he will become a free agent.  The Marlins may find a need to trade him before that happens or make him happy with a winning team.  Ozuna and Bogusevic can play here though the Marlins would be better off to see Giancarlo get his 150 plus starts here.

Starting Pitching - Jose Fernandez is one of the best pitchers in baseball at the ripe young age of 21.  Years ago the Marlins had a young pitching prospect who was considered the best in baseball.  His name was Dontrelle Willis.  The Marlins hope Fernandez takes a different path than Willis.  His innings should be increased next year and 200 strikeouts is a pretty sure bet after he struck out 187 last year in just 173 innings.  Nathan Eovaldi is one of the hardest throwers among starting pitchers.  His fastball is better than Fernandez, at least velocity wise.  Despite the heat on the fastball he only struck out 78 in 106 innings.  Nate finished the season 4-6, 3.39 in 18 starts.  The Marlins acquired Eovaldi from the Dodgers in the Hanley Ramirez trade.  Henderson Alvarez is another young pitching acquisition taken from the Blue Jays in their fire sale.  He threw a no hitter in his last start of the season and was 5-6, 3.59 ERA in 17 starts with only 57 whiffs in 103 innings.  Jacob Turner was acquired from the Tigers in the Anibel Sanchez trade.  He had problems with his command last year going 3-8, 3.74.  Those four should be a lock for the rotation.  It will be a battle for the fifth spot between Tom Koehler, who had 23 inconsistent starts last year (4.41 ERA) but is the veteran of this group, Brian Flynn, who pitched well in 23 AAA starts (2.80) but stumbled in four major league starts (8.50).  Brad Hand is another lefty like Flynn who got a couple major league starts (3.05) but still struggles with command.  Down on the farm Andrew Heaney, the Marlines first round pick in 2012 could see a mid-season callup.  He started the season in the Florida State League (0.88) and finished with six starts in AA (2.94).  He allowed the opposition to hit .242 in AA but only .193 in High A.  Justin Nicolino is another Blue Jay acquisition who could see some major league starts after following Heaney’s path (2.23 in High A, 4.96 in AA).  The Marlins system is loaded with young pitchers.

Bullpen Options - Steve Cishek piled up 34 saves last year.  He will be tasked with the closer job this year.  Mike Dunn (2.66) will again be asked to be the chief set up man.  He throws from the left side so A.J. Ramos and Carter Capps will be asked to get outs from the right side.  Capps has closer stuff but struggled with Seattle last year (5.49).  Carlos Marmol was recently signed.  At one time the Cubs made him their closer, but he failed at the job.  Arquimedes Caminaro throws hard and was effective in his brief major league appearances (2.77).  Dan Jennings had some moderate success last year (3.76).

Potential Rookie Candidates - With a good spring Andrew Heaney could make the rotation in the fifth spot.  He has much better stuff than those competing for the job but the Marlins may go slow with him to continue to limit his innings.  Justin Nicolino is another pitcher who could win the fifth rotation spot with a good spring.  Jake Marisnick just needs to hit to take over the centerfield job.  His defense is already major league ready.  Brian Flynn may not have the stuff of Heaney and Nicolino, but he could win the fifth starter job because of his experience last year in the majors.

2008 Draft - Number one pick Kyle Skipworth was recently designated, proving the theory drafting high school catchers is riddled with failure.  Brad Hand will compete for the fifth spot this season but he is only a short time answer.  Third round pick Edgar Olmos could crack the Marlins bullpen in 2014.  Ninth rounder Daniel Jennings saw some major league time in 2013 working out of the bullpen (3.76).  Thomas Koehler was an 18 round pick that started 23 games.  He will be competing for that fifth spot in 2013.  Elih Villanueva a 27th pick is progressing slowly.  He got to AAA finishing with a 3.50 ERA in 8 starts.

Expected Finish - They have a young, talented team for 2014, but that usually means struggles.  In the competitive NL East they will finish last in their division.

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