Selasa, 13 Maret 2012

Season Previews, Part 9: Miami Marlins

Miami Marlins
2011 Record: 72-90
Pythag Record: 72-90
Games out of First: 30 games

2011 Recap:

The Miami Marlins had a very disappointing season in 2011, mostly due to some key injuries and underperformances from their stars. The Fish were 23rd in runs scored with a very bad 625 mark due in part to their star SS Hanley Ramirez having the worst season of his career. Pitching wise, the Marlins were better coming in at 15th in runs allowed (702) and ERA (3.95). The main problem with Miami’s pitching staff was the loss of star SP Josh Johnson to injury. In the 60 IP before his injury, JJ had a stellar 1.64 ERA and a 3.32 xFIP. His injury clearly cost the Marlins quite a lot during the last 2/3 of the season. Two of the main bright spots for the Marlins season were rookie Mike Stanton and young starter Anibal Sanchez. Stanton slugged an impressed 34 home runs with an excellent .894 OPS and Sanchez pitched to a very strong 3.62 ERA and an even more impressive 3.25 xFIP with over 200 strikeouts.

Top 5 Performers by WAR:

1. Mike Stanton, 5.7 WAR
2. Anibal Sanchez, 3.8 WAR
3. Ricky Nolasco, 3.5 WAR
4. Omar Infante, 3.4 WAR
5. Javier Vazquez, 3.2 WAR

OffSeason Overview:

The Marlins made a huge splash in the 2012 offseason. A team that is usually pretty quiet in offseason made multiple huge deals that had baseball talking for months. The moves started very early on in the offseason, when the Fish traded Osvaldo Martinez and Jhan Marinez for manager Ozzie Guillen on September 27th. Once they had their manager in place, the Marlins moved to free agency to fill the rest of their holes. The first major free agent that the Marlins signed was closer Heath Bell who they inked to a 3year, $27M contract on December 2nd. The deal also has a vesting option for a 4th year for the same amount of money. Next, the Marlins upped the ante, signed star SS Jose Reyes to a very big 6 year, $106M deal on December 6th, a few days after the Bell deal. But the Marlins weren’t done yet. After committing $142M to the first two players, the Marlins made another big deal, signing SP Mark Buehrle to a 4 year deal worth $58M. All three deals combined, including the vesting option on Bell, the Marlins committed exactly $200M to the three big free agents in 2012. While many people are of the opinions that the Marlins greatly overpaid for these players, especially Bell and Buehrle, there is almost no argument that it’s nice to see a small market team such as this spending so much money in one offseason.

Notable Additions:

Jose Reyes
Health Bell
Mark Buehrle
Ozzie Guillen
Carlos Zambrano

Notable Subtractions:

Javier Vazquez
Osvaldo Martinez
Jhan Marinez
Mike Cameron

Projected Lineup:

SS Jose Reyes
CF Emilio Bonifacio
3B Hanley Ramirez
RF Mike Stanton
LF Logan Morrison
1B Gaby Sanchez
C John Buck
2B Omar Infante

This is a very strong lineup, especially for a team who hit poorly in 2011. The addition of Jose Reyes at the top is huge for the Marlins as he can hopefully get the offense going and get on base for Hanley and Stanton. Hanley should rebound greatly in 2012, as he went from being a stud offensive player to an average offensive SS in 2011. Finally, the young kids in Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison should all improve on their 2011 seasons. Stanton especially could realistically be looking at a 40+ HR, .900+ OPS season for the Miami Marlins. If Stanton progresses as expected, Hanley bounces back and Reyes does what he was signed to, the Marlins could be scary offensively in 2012.

Projected Rotation:

Josh Johnson
Anibal Sanchez
Mark Buehrle
Ricky Nolasco
Carlos Zambrano

This rotation is very strong, with the potential to be one of the best in baseball. Josh Johnson is one of the best pitchers in baseball and is healthy so far as we near the start of the 2012 season. Anibal Sanchez broke out last year as a very good pitcher and assuming he doesn’t take a step back, he should be one of the better #2 starters in the game. Mark Buehlre and Carlos Zambrano don’t have much star power anymore, but they should be reliable contributors and give the Marlins solid performances in the #3 and #5 spots of their rotation. That leaves Ricky Nolasco who, for me, is the Wild Card of the Marlins rotation. I have always been a fan of Nolasco who has great stuff and has always had great peripherals (as evidenced by his 3.5 WAR in 2011). However, the conventional stats have not backed that up so far in his career and he has continuously failed to put up even mediocre ERA’s. This is mostly due to the amount of hard hit balls he gives up, with a very poor 23% Line Drive% in 2011. If Nolasco can improve in that aspect in 2012, he could very easily end up as the Marlins 2nd or 3rd starter and join JJ and Sanchez in what has the potential to be a star studded top of the rotation.

Significant Relievers/Bench Players:

Health Bell
Edward Mujica
Matt Dominguez
Scott Cousins
Chris Coughlan

Roster Strength:

Pitching: I like the offense of this team, but the pitching is the stronger aspect for the Marlins. They have a very deep rotation with Johnson, Sanchez, Buehrle, Nolasco and Zambrano, 5 pitchers who have the ability to succeed and with the addition of Heath Bell, their bullpen is good too. Bell is joined by Edward Mujica, Randy Choate and Michael Dunn in the bullpen, a nice collection of arms. While there are some holes in their offense (catcher, center field, second base), I see no such holes in their pitching. I expect it to do very well in 2012.

Roster Weakness:

Durability: To be honest, I cannot see any real weakness on this team. It is extremely well rounded. They have a good offense, good starting pitching, a good bullpen and a solid enough defense. The aspect of the game that I could see hurting this team the most is durability. Two of their best players, Josh Johnson and Jose Reyes, missed significant time in 2011 to injuries. There’s a very real chance that one of them could go down again and if that were to happen, the Marlins could be in some trouble.

2012 Outlook:

I think the Marlins have a chance to be very successful in 2012. They have a good offense, a good pitching staff, a solid defense and some young pitchers who should improve with experience. If Josh Johnson and Jose Reyes can stay healthy, the Marlins should be able to easily contend this season. Unfortunately for them, they are in an excellent division with three other very good teams in the Phillies, Braves and Nats, so a playoff berth is far from a guarantee. However, the team has done what it needs to to keep Miami in the race for the long haul.
Potential Breakout Player:

Logan Morrison: One of the two young and talented corner outfielders for the Miami Marlins, LoMo had a solid season in 2011. He had 23 HR and a .797 OPS, quite good numbers for a rookie. However, he only hit .241, an area which should see great improvement in 2012. His .330 OBP should also improve in 2012. In LoMO can get his AVG and OBP up and can hit a few more HR’s, he could be a great contributor in the middle of that Marlins lineup in 2012. 

Potential Bust:

Mark Buehrle: A lot of people are expecting big things out of Mark Buehrle, mostly because there is a misguided impression around baseball that his “consistency” and “clutch performance” make him better than he actually is. That impression was compounded by the fact that the Marlins gave him much more money than he’s actually worth. The fact is, however, that Buehrle is simply a solid, slightly above average pitcher who’s getting older and could very well decline in 2012. I think there is a very good chance that he disappoints a lot of Marlins fans who expect him to be a great pitcher in the upcoming season.

Prospects with potential to help in 2012:

Matt Dominguez: The biggest problem for Matt Dominguez is going to be getting him playing time. With Infante, Hanley and Reyes in the infield, Dominguez is just a bench player entering the 2012 season. However, if any of those infielders goes down, Dominguez has the ability to really contribute for the Marlins. He has excellent defense in the infield and while his bat struggled in 2011, he has the potential to be a decent MLB hitter. At the very least, he’s great infield depth for the Miami Marlins.

Jose Ceda: Ceda is a young relief pitcher with extremely good stuff. In 39 IP in the minors in 2011, he struck out 53 batters with only 13 walks, a K/BB of about 4.00, and accompanied that with a stellar 1.36 ERA. He struggled a bit in the majors, but he only threw 20 major league innings and still showed good stuff with a K/9 over 9.00. Ceda will be a member of the bullpen on Opening Day and has the ability to make a real impact on that team in the 2012 season.


Projected Record: 89-73
Projected Finish: 3rd Place
Projected MVP: Josh Johnson (6 WAR)

Final Thoughts:

The front office of the Miami Marlins did a very good job this offseason, taking a decent team
that was struggling in the shadow of the Braves and Phillies and turned it into a very good legitimate contender. While I personally feel that the Marlins will still fail to make the playoffs and end the season in third place, they will not be far behind and if a few things to their way, they could realistically win that division in 2012. The biggest question for the Fish in 2012 will be “Can they stay healthy?” If they can, the Johnson, Hanley, Reyes, Stanton, Morrison, Sanchez, Buehrle, Bell, Nolasco etc. will be very hard to beat.

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