2009 FLORIDA MARLINS PREVIEW
The Marlins surprised a lot of observers last year by winning 84 games with a young rotation and baseball’s lowest payroll. The Marlins found themselves in the NL East race for much of the year and definitely put their young prospects in position to succeed in the future.
However, 2009 probably won’t be the year that their efforts come to fruition. The Marlins dealt a number of solid players, including veteran bats Josh Willingham and Mike Jacobs, and also said goodbye to solid pitchers Scott Olsen and Kevin Gregg. Their only major league return from all that wheeling and dealing was excellent reliever Leo Nunez. However, the Marlins have a lot of young talent on hand and will still be a good team in 2009.
The Marlins rotation appears set entering Spring Training. Ricky Nolasco (15-8, 3.52 ERA, 32 starts, 212 IP, 186 K last year) had a great breakout season and will be counted on to be solid again. Josh Johnson (7-1, 3.61 ERA, 14 starts) and Chris Volstad (6-4, 2.88 ERA, 14 starts) were both solid in a half season’s work. While it would be difficult to expect both to extrapolate such success over the entire season during their sophomore campaign, both should continue their development as solid major league starters. Andrew Miller (6-10, 5.87 ERA, 20 starts) is another young arm that the Marlins are very high on and will be expected to have a solid year. The most talented hurler is undoubtedly young fireballer Anibal Sanchez (2-5, 5.57 ERA, 10 starts), who is raw but extremely gifted. If he can find his groove this year, the Marlins could be a big surprise. However, this rotation is extremely young and inexperienced and it would be too much to expect day to day consistency from all five starters. In short, every starter has the potential to beat any opponent on any given day but they will need more development before the Fish can count on them.
The bullpen is also going through some changes. Young Matt Lindstrom (3-3, 3.14 ERA, 66 Gm, 5 Saves) is expected to be the closer after performing fairly well in that role late last year. However, he isn’t proven and will likely need some time to develop consistency in the 9 th inning. If he can’t, look for former Royal Leo Nunez (2.98 ERA) to be given a chance to close games. Beyond them, the Fish have a decent bullpen but will probably have some struggles. Like the rest of the team, this is a young group.
The Marlins have a solid infield, highlighted by superstar shortstop Hanley Ramirez (.301, 33 HR, 67 RBI, .400 OBP, 35 SB). Ramirez’s double play partner, Dan Uggla (.260, 32 HR, 92 RBI, .360 OBP) is also an excellent hitter and both should cause a ton of trouble for opposing pitchers this year. They might be the most dangerous combination up the middle in the National League. Third baseman Jorge Cantu (.277, 29 HR, 95 RBI, .327 OBP) had a career renaissance last year so it would be unrealistic for him to be expected to match his excellent production of 2008. However, Cantu will still be more than capable at third this year and should still post very good numbers. First base is expected to be manned by highly touted prospect Gaby Sanchez and veteran Wes Helms (.243, 5 HR, 31 RBI, .299 OBP). Expect Sanchez to get the majority of the at bats as the Marlins will have an eye towards the future. Catcher John Baker (.299, 5 HR, 32 RBI, .392 OBP in 61 Gm) was also very good last year and the Marlins are anxious to see how he plays over the course of a full year. The Marlins infield is quite good at the plate but they have struggled defensively the past few years. Overall though, this is a good group.
The Marlins will shuffle their outfield a little bit this year after some offseason moves. Jeremy Hermida (.249, 17 Hr, 61 RBI, .323 OBP) is expected to patrol left field and should see an improvement in his production. Remember, he was very highly thought of coming into the league and has the talent to be very good. In center, 22 year old rookie Cameron Maybin and Alfredo Amezaga (.264, 3 HR, 32 RBI, .312 OBP) will split time, though Maybin will have an edge as the Marlins’ brass is very high on him. Cody Ross (.260, 22 HR, 73 RBI, .316 OBP) will start in right field after a solid rookie year last season. Young Brett Carroll, who appeared in 26 games last year, could also find his way into the lineup. This is a very young group but Hermida is a candidate to have a breakout season.
The Marlins are a very young team, which isn’t a big surprise given the franchise’s history. However, they are even more devoid of veteran talent than they have been in recent years and are in many aspects a fairly large unknown. What is known is that the Marlins should have a pretty good lineup and will feature a number of players that can knock in plenty of runs.
However, their unknowns simply outweigh the known positives. Will the young pitching rotation hold up over the course of an entire season? Can the Marlins find consistency closing games? Will any of their young players take a step back this year? Couple all that with the fact that the Marlins have struggled defensively the past two years and that’s simply too many questions for the Marlins to truly compete for the division this year.
That said, there is more than enough talent on hand for the Fish to fall too far back from last year’s 84 wins. Expect the Marlins to finish the season with a .500 record and just fall short of catching the Braves in the NL East. Fourth place and a .500 record will be a big springboard to what could be a great 2010 in South Florida.
By Matt Baxendell
> View all of the 2009 MLB team previews from Pro Baseball Fans