2010 FLORIDA MARLINS PREVIEW
Few people expected the level of success that the Marlins achieved in 2009. Florida put together an impressive 87-75 record and stayed in the hunt for the Wild Card until the final days of the regular season. The Marlins were 5 th in the National League in runs scored while putting together a surprisingly strong effort on the mound.
The big question for many observers is whether the Marlins can continue to compete for a postseason berth in 2010. This will once more be a very young team but having achieved such success last season can only be a good thing heading into this season.
Josh Johnson (15-5, 3.23 ERA, 33 Starts, 209 IP, 191 K) firmly established himself as the Marlins’ staff ace in 2009. Simply put, he put any concerns about a 2007 Tommy John surgery to rest with a vicious curveball and a menacing fastball and should be one of the National League’s top hurlers in 2010.
Johnson will be joined by a strong group of young hurlers. 28 year old Ricky Nolasco (13-9, 5.06 ERA, 31 Starts, 185 IP, 195 K) has won 28 games in the past two seasons and should be a solid 2 nd starter. 26 year old Anibal Sanchez (4-8, 3.87 ERA, 16 Starts) has been touted as one of the most talented young pitchers in baseball for the past two seasons and is expected to realize his enormous promise this year.
Meanwhile, there is serious competition for the final two spot. 24 year old Sean West (8-6, 4.79 ERA, 20 Starts) had a solid rookie year and flashed some serious star potential by holding opponents to two or less runs in half of his outings. Fellow 24 year old Chris Volstad (9-13, 5.21 ERA, 29 Starts) should rebound well from a tough sophomore campaign but both must hold off flame throwing 25 year old rick VandenHurk (3-2, 4.30 ERA, 11 Starts) and former star prospect Andrew Miller (3-5, 4.84 ERA, 14 Stars). In short, there is a wealth of talent in place and the Marlins should have a great starting rotation in 2010.
The youthful theme continues with the bullpen, where 26 year old Leo Nunez (4.06 ERA, 26 Saves in 33 Opportunities) took over as the closer at midseason and never looked back. Nunez throws lava but he still has to firmly establish himself as a long term option. Still, he’ll be given the opportunity to prove that he’s more than just a setup man in 2010.
Other top options in the pen include lefties Dan Meyer (3.09 ERA in 71 Games) and Renyel Pinto (3.23 ERA in 73 Games), veteran Brian Sanches (2.56 ERA in 47 Games) and youngster Burke Badenhop (3.75 ERA in 35 Games). With the expected addition of one of the aforementioned starters (likely Miller) who don’t make the rotation, there should be a lot of depth and talent in relief. This is a very good bullpen.
Florida’s infield is anchored by the team’s biggest star, shortstop Hanley Ramirez (.342, 24 HR, 106 RBI, 27 SB, 197 Hits .410 OBP). He’s simply the best shortstop in baseball, period. Double play partner Dan Uggla (.243, 31 HR, 90 RBI, .354 OBP) is also a major presence at the plate and Florida is simply loaded up the middle as even utility infielder Emilio Bonifacio stole 21 bases and scored 72 runs last year.
However, the Marlins aren’t just strong up the middle. 3 rd Baseman Jorge Cantu (.289, 16 HR, 100 RBI, .345 OBP) put together his 2 nd consecutive outstanding season in 2010 and is a big time run producer. Meanwhile, super prospect Gaby Sanchez is expected to take over at first base after suffering through an injury-plagued 2009. He should provide some solid pop in the lineup. Finally, catcher John Baker (.271, 9 HR, 50 RBI, .349 OBP in 112 Games) will be given the chance to prove that he can finally hit left handed pitching and end the platoon with Ronny Paulino from 2009. Overall, the Marlins have a ton of talent around the diamond and should have a great infield in 2010.
The most productive outfielder on the team is rightfielder Cody Ross (.270, 24 HR, 90 RBI, .321 OBP). However, leftfielder Chris Coghlan (.321, 9 HR, 47 RBI, 162 Hits, .390 OBP) was extremely productive in 2009 and was named the NL Rookie of the Year! Like the rest of the team, both are very young. Finally, centerfield should be the territory of 23 year old Cameron Maybin, who hit .319 during a September call up last season. He will be counted on to continue that production in 2010. While there is some concern due to extreme youth, the Marlins outfield is undeniably talented.
The Marlins have such an impressive pitching staff going into 2010 and that should be the basis for a really successful season. There is such a wealth of depth and baseball’s most basic axiom is ‘Good Pitching beats Good Hitting.’ The Marlins should reap success from their hurlers.
However, they also boast four big time power hitters and a lot of players who can hit in their lineup. Hanley Ramirez is one of the most elite players in the Major Leagues and the Marlins are going to score a lot of runs. The question is whether Florida can overcome Atlanta and Philadelphia in their own division, both of whom are going to be playoff contenders. Expect the Marlins to overcome the ageing and offensively challenged Braves but the two time defending division champion Phillies will be too much to overcome. Florida will be a major contender for the Wild Card in 2010 but will finish 2 nd in the NL East.
By Matt Baxendell
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