Miami Marlins

The Florida Marlins were a mess. They were a bland, unexciting team as recently as a year ago despite having Mike Stanton, Logan Morrison, Hanley Ramirez, and Josh Jonson on roster. Their stadium was run down and disheveled, and even their uniforms were lifeless and uninspired (despite having a dope hat). These Miami Marlins are far from their predecessor. Add some orange to the color scheme, bring in Ozzie Guillen, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Carlos Zambrano, and Heath Bell (as well as a few name changes) to a brand new aquarium inspired stadium made the Marlins one of the most talked about franchises in baseball. But, will offseason noise equal regular season success?

Projected Position Players

Catcher – John Buck (Brett Hayes)

First Base – Gaby Sanchez

Second Base – Omar Infante

Third Base – Hanley Ramirez (Greg Dobbs)

Shortstop – Jose Reyes

Left Field – Logan Morrison (Austin Kearns)

Centerfield – Emilio Bonifacio (Chris Coghlan)

Right Field – Giancarlo Stanton

The Good

The outfielder formally known as Mike Stanton is entering his third season. With his track record I couldn’t agree with his name change more. “Giancarlo” certainly sounds like a name forged from legend in the likes of Paul Bunyan. Just a hulking beast who slugs homers with a club cast from fire and brimstone. Over his first 250 games, Stanton only carries a .261 average but he has also cracked 56 homeruns, 51 doubles, and six triples over that time. I am 22. Giancarlo Stanton is two months younger than me. Not only does he have a bright future alone, he is now surrounded with a surplus of talent. Expect Stanton to crush his career high of 87 RBI this season.

It’s a luxury to have one of the top offensive shortstops in baseball. It’s just plain gluttony to have two of the top five offensive shortstops on the same team. This offseason, the Marlins accomplished just that when they signed Jose Reyes to take over for Hanley Ramirez, who gladly shifted to third. I will touch on their defense later, but their is no denying their offense. In fact, Reyes and HanRam have already bonded by going all ’90s Eminem and peroxiding their hair bleach blonde. Throw in First Team Twitter All Star Logan Morrison and you have one of the most fun teams in the league.
The Bad

While the Marlins offense looks as flashy and exciting as their new stadium, their defense is suspect at best. While they bolstered their pitching and their offensive pop, there are glaring holes in the infield. Reyes in a decent shortstop, not the best but certainly an upgrade over Ramirez. Ramirez was a lazy and unfocused at short, two traits that will not translate well at third. Bonifacio is also not a traditional center fielder, leaving question marks at two of the most important positions on the diamond. If there is a demise on this team, barring injury, expect it to be their defense.

Projected Rotation & Bullpen

SP – Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco, Carlos Zambrano
RP – Chad Gaudin, Randy Chote, Michael Dunn, Edward Mujica, Steve Cishek, Jose Ceda
CL – Heath Bell

The Good

Mark Buehrle has been one of the most consistent pitchers in the majors for the past decade. A perennial 200 inning hurler, the lefty has never finished a season with less than ten wins since he became a full time starter in 2001. In the AL Central, Buehrle’s career low for innings pitched was 201. As reliable as reliable gets. 2006 was the only time Buehrle finished under .500 with a 12-13 record and a 4.99 ERA over 204 innings, and that was coming off of a 2005 where Buehrle helped lead the White Sox to their first World Series title in 88 years.

Over the past two seasons, no pitcher in baseball has as many complete games allowing one hit or less than Anibal Sanchez. Not Roy Halladay. Not Cliff Lee. Not Felix Hernandez. A career 39-38 pitcher, the 28-year old Sanchez will be a key factor in determining how far this team goes this season. As the slotted number three or four starter, his career 3.72 ERA will be pivotal in determining whether this team is in the playoffs or not. Despite an 8-9 record last year, Sanchez threw two complete game shutouts while registering 202 strikeouts over 196.1 innings. While Sanchez can steal Miami a few games throughout the course of the season, he also isn’t going to pitch them out of many games. With this improved offense behind him, watch Sanchez set a career high in wins this season.

The Bad

Many talented pitchers come and go in this league. Some are incredibly durable in the likes of CY Young, Satchel Paige, and Roy Halladay. Others just can’t seem to shake injuries like Mark Prior, Scot Kazmir, or Joel Zumaya. There is a chance Josh Johnson will be remembered in the latter group rather than the prior. And if that’s the case, the Marlins don’t have a fighting chance.

Johnson has the perfect pitching frame: 6’7″, 250 pound hard throwing righty. At 28-years old he should be in for a banner season entering his prime. Out of his six seasons as a “full time” starter, Johnson has only started 30 games once. Two other years he reached at least 24 starts. Johnson’s other three seasons he only started four, nine, and 14 games. Since his best season in 2009 (15-5, 209 innings pitched, 191 K’s, 3.23 ERA, 1.16 WHIP), he has only thrown 244 innings over two seasons.

If healthy, Johnson is a legitimate CY Young candidate. His career 48-23 record, 2.98 ERA, and 1.22 WHIP make him one of the best pitchers in the league when healthy. That “when healthy” is and will remain the determining factor until he can string together back-to-back 190 inning seasons.

2012 Projection

Rob Parker and Skip Bayless picked the Marlins to win the National League. Parker had them losing to the Yankees in the World Series. Skip, out of self admitted spite, pick the Marlins to win it all. While it certainly is not out of the realm of possibility, I don’t feel comfortable handing them the entire National League when there’s a strong possibility they’re the fourth best team in their own division. Giancarlo Stanton is a legit MVP candidate IF he can raise his average. Josh Johnson is a CY Young candidate IF he stays healthy. With too many question marks and a club house that contains Logan Morrison, Carlos Zambrano, Hanley Ramirez, and Ozzie Guillen, I’ll give this team anywhere between 70-90 wins. Yup. There is a wide spectrum with this club. But, they are young enough to grow past this season.

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