The Marlins are the smartest market club in baseball. They walk the line between having and not having better than any other organization. What they do have is a shiny new stadium in Miami (Sun Life Stadium) and a promise, to the city no less, to compete in it (so the days of mass selling offs of talent could be a thing of the past). They have one of the elite talents in the game in Hanley Ramirez signed to a long term contract to build around. They use the money they have to land high impact, yet affordable players to boost their roster. Also, they have a mature, Major League-ready crop of young players already in the everyday mix. However, is this enough? What they don’t have is a clear path to how to break through to the next level. These tactics to maximize their resources do put a better team on the field than other small market clubs, but in the midst of a spending spree across the division; can the moves the Marlins make enough to keep them on par with the others?
1. NATIONAL HERO: With one of the best groups of young pitchers in the game already on display, they made a small investment (1 year, $7 million) in what could be one of the biggest payouts of the entire winter in Javier Vazquez. Last year, he struggled with his velocity with the Yankees and end up with as many wins as loses (10), and an ERA that had raised over two runs. However, a year before that he ended his season as the runner up to the Cy Young award in Atlanta. Matter of fact, each time he has been at his best (Atlanta and Montreal) have a common denominator: the National League. If the Marlins get the traditional NL Vazquez this year, they will sport one of the best rotations in either league.
2. BACK TO THE FUTURE: The Marlins for years have been a pipeline to supplying tremendous amounts of young talent to the game, from Edgar Renteria to Miguel Cabrera. Now whether they keep these guys or not is another matter completely, but they do host them for a while, and usually make a run at the postseason with them. With promising outfielders Mike Stanton and Logan Morrison in their everyday lineup, along with 2010 breakout, first baseman Gaby Sanchez, their future is now. Year two of this group on display should show the beginnings of what could be another promising Marlin lineup….for at least a few years.
3. ALL-STAR COUPONS: The Marlins realized they needed more talent to compete with the Braves, Phillies and even Mets, so making some moves in the free agent/trade market was a must. So they went out and landed two reasonable, first time All-Stars from 2010 that are capable of producing results that far outweigh their price tags. John Buck will help replace the power the Fish lost from Dan Uggla and Omar Infante (who was received for Uggla from Atlanta), will be a steady top of the order bat, that will be invaluable in his ability to play several positions for a team with questions at several spots.
1. YIN AND YANG RAMIREZ: There is no room to doubt Hanley Ramirez’s talent, he is not only the best shortstop in the game, but one of the few true 5-tool (speed, arm, glove, hit for power & average). The guy can do it all, and do a lot of it. However, he just as able of a disruptor off the field and in the clubhouse as well. After last summer’s fiasco that ended up with manager Fredi Gonzalez fired after a rift with him. This team isn’t talented enough to win on sheer will alone, it will need chemistry. Hanley’s example and actions have to mirror his play and his days of disruption have to be a thing of the past, especially with this young core surrounding him.
2. MIDDLE OF NOWHERE: Chris Coghlan is a great company man. For the third time in four years, he’ll move to a new position, this time making centerfield his new home. The Marlins trust in his is understandable. The converted minor league third baseman responded to a move to the leftfield in 2009 by taking home the NL Rookie of the Year. However, he won that for hitting .321, not being a great fielder. Now with the move to centerfield, he’ll be charged with being the captain of an outfield that already features a converted first baseman in left field in Logan Morrison. I smell an adventure on deck in the Florida outfield that the pitching staff probably won’t find much comedy in.
3. THIS IS IT? The Coghlan move is a prime example of what is this team biggest concern, depth. After the starting eight, there isn’t much to back this club up. Even that number may be a stretch, because rookie Matt Dominguez is far from a certain thing at third base. Emilo Bonifacio and Wes Helms are far from potential terrors off the bench, and don’t inspire much concern as pinch hitter either. This is a club that is one injury away from having a big problem they can’t fix.
LINEUP/PITCHING with 2010 stats/info (IMPACT PLAYER IN BOLD)
- Chris Coghlan-CF: .268 avg/5 HR/28 RBI/10 steals
- 2. Omar Infante-2B: Hit over .300 over the second consecutive year, but his ability to play 2B, 3B, LF and CF is his most valuable asset to his new club.
- Hanley Ramirez-SS: .300 avg/21 HR/76 RBI/32 steals
- Mike Stanton-RF: .259 avg/22 HR/59 RBI in 100 games after June promotion.
- Gaby Sanchez-1B: .273 avg/19 HR/85 RBI
- John Buck-C: .281 avg/20 HR/66 RBI
- Logan Morrison-LF: .283 avg/2 HR/18 RBI/20 doubles
- Matt Dominguez-3B (Rookie): – Major league ready glove, but bat is very much in question.
- Josh Johnson-RH: 11-6, 2.30 ERA, 186 K’s
- Ricky Nolasco-RH: 14-9, 4.51 ERA, 147 K’s
- 3. Anibal Sanchez-RH: Struggled for a few years after throwing No-Hitter as a rookie in 2006, but rebounded nicely with at 13-win, 157 strikeout year in 2010. Best days are ahead.
- Javier Vazquez-RH: 10-10, 5.32 ERA, 121 K’s
- Chris Volstad-RH: 12-9, 4.58 ERA, 102 K’s
Closer: Leo Nunez-RH: 30 Saves, 3.46 ERA, 71 K’s
RUNDOWN: This is a talented club, whose strength is definitely in their starting pitching. Josh Johnson is one the top 10 pitchers in the game, and has the ability to beat anybody he’s matched up against. Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez also display the flashes of brilliance that have been predicted for them for years now easier than ever. The mixture of vets that they added to offset their young power bats will pay off if they begin to struggle at any point or have the usual battles of inconsistency young hitters do. One thing the Marlins have proven to be over the past few years is to be a team that plays much better than they do on paper, and they can on the right day play with any team in the East. The issue is will they be able to do it often enough. This is a solid team that may need to have either a big breakout season from a youngster or a career year from an older guy to make a run at the Wild Card.