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2018 MLB preview: Miami Marlins

2017: 77-85 (second place in NL East)

Last Postseason Appearance: 2003

Last World Series Title: 2003

2017 Recap

It’s crazy to think that the two times the Marlins have made the postseason in franchise history, 1997 and 2003, they won the World Series. It’s also wild to think that it’s been 15 years since they played more than 162 games in a season. Miami finished second in the NL East for the first time since 2009, but ultimately finished 20 games back from the Washington Nationals.

If the Marlins had any pitching, they would have absolutely made a run at a spot in the NL Wild Card Game. Unfortunately, they finished with the third most walks in the MLB, as well as 26th in ERA, 27th in strikeouts, 29th in team pitching WAR, and tied with Seattle and Toronto with the most blown saves in the MLB.

The best outfield in 2017 was Stanton, Yelich, and Ozuna. (Grantland)

Aside from the pitching staff, Miami played really good baseball. They had the fourth highest war among position players, and ranked third in hits and batting average, eighth in total bases, and 11th in runs. Defensively, they were the number one ranked fielding team in the league.

Miami was also number one in WAR among outfielders. Without a doubt, they had the best outfield core in the bigs. Giancarlo Stanton won the NL MVP, slashing .281/.376/.631 with 59 home runs and 132 RBIs.  Marcell Ozuna, a Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Award winner, hit .312/.376/.548 with 191 hits, 37 home runs, and 124 RBIs. He finished seventh in total bases. Christian Yelich ranked 10th in times on base, and hit 18 home runs, 36 doubles, while driving in 81 runs.

Clearly, the production from the outfield was absolutely outlandish, but don’t forget about the infielders. Dee Gordon had 201 hits, led the MLB with 60 steals, and finished fifth in runs. Justin Bour who dealt with injuries and played in just 108 games, managed to slash .289/.366/.536 with 25 home runs and 83 RBIs. J.T. Realmuto hit 17 home runs, 31 doubles, and also had the second most steals among catchers. Clearly, he cemented a spot as one of the top-five catchers in the game.

2018: Around the Diamond

In steps Derek Jeter, and out goes Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna. While Marlins fans are angry, Jeter, the current Marlins CEO, wants everybody to be patient, and realize that the only way to create success over a long-period of time is to invest in the farm system.

This team has a legitimate shot to lose 100 games. They still have Realmuto and Bour, and received Starlin Castro in the Stanton trade, but the average MLB fan might not know the rest of the players around the field.  Competing at shortstop will be JT Riddle and Miguel Rojas. Riddle, who became the everyday shortstop after the Adeiny Hechavarria trade, hit .250 with 3 home runs before tearing a shoulder labrum in July. He is younger, and a better defender than Rojas, but Rojas hit .290 with a .361 OBP in his 90 games.

Justin Bour could have his first 30-HR season in 2018. (FanRag Sports)

The 12-year-veteran, Martin Prado, will hopefully be good to go for opening day. A lifetime .291 hitter, Prado injured himself during the World Baseball Classic, played 37 regular season games, and eventually needed surgery. In 2016, Prado’s last full-season, he hit .305 with 183 hits and a .359 OBP. If Prado is not good to go, look for Brian Anderson to start the season at third.

Derek Dietrich, who has spent the last five years with the Marlins, will start in left. Dietrich is a solid utility player who hit 13 home runs in 2017. The other two outfield spots will most likely belong to the prospects received in the trades for Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna.

Lewis Brinson, the 27th ranked prospect, was the main piece acquired from Milwaukee in the Yelich deal. He struggled in his time with the Brewers last year, but 21 games is not a big enough sample size. In his 76 AAA games in 2017, Brinson hit 13 home runs, with a .331 batting average, 11 steals, and a .400 OBP. He has some nice pop, and above average speed with the potential to be a 20-20 type player. Brinson looks like the next Melvin Upton, who has had four 20-20 seasons in his 12-year-career.

Acquired as part of the Ozuna trade with the Cardinals, right fielder Magneuris Sierra has a legitimate shot to start in the outfield. Sierra is not a power guy, but he hit .317 in 22 games with the Cardinals. He also stole 17 bases in AA. To compete with Sierra for the spot in right, Miami has, Scott Van Slyke, who is 5-for-11 with two home runs and seven RBIs so far this spring, Cameron Maybin, and Braxton Lee. Lee is 3-for-10 this spring with a pair of steals.

For inter-league play, look for Garrett Cooper, first basemen, to get some playing time at DH. Cooper broke out in 2017, hitting .366 with 17 home runs in 75 AAA games.

On the Bump

“I’m glad they’re gone. If they don’t want to be here, good for them.” Wise words from Dan Straily, who was answering a question regarding Stanton, Yelich, and Ozuna. If I was a Marlins fan, I would much rather have that outfield than Straily, who allowed the 10th most home runs last year, and finished with a 4.26 ERA. Sadly, he is most likely the Opening Day starter for Miami.

A true fantasy baseball sleeper, Jose Urena (ESPN)

A fantasy baseball sleeper has to be Jose Urena. Last season, Urena went 14-8 with a 3.82 ERA. Only 26, Urena has shown the ability to succeed at every level. From 2012-2016, in a mix between A/A+/AA/AAA, Urena, in 104 games, went 41-25 with a 3.35 ERA.

In 2016, Adam Conley posted a 3.85 ERA in 133.1 innings, which isn’t terrible, but he greatly regressed the following season. For his sake, he was a little banged up, but in 22 games, Conley had a 1.52 WHIP and a 6.14 ERA.

The most likely candidate for the fourth spot in the rotation is Dillon Peters. Peters didn’t do great in his six starts last year, posting a 5.17 ERA, but this kid has potential. In AA, during the 2017 season, Peters posted a 1.97 ERA in 45.2 innings. The 25-year-old threw 106 innings in his 2016 stint at A+, and posted a 11-6 record with a 2.46 ERA. He is just 5’9”, but we all know that height doesn’t measure heart (Thanks Marcus Stroman). Peters looks a lot like a young Wandy Rodriguez.

The fifth spot will belong to either Wei-Yin Chen, Justin Nicolino, Sandy Alcantara, Jacob Turner, or Odrisamer Despaigne. Alcantara has looked great this spring, giving up just four hits, and one run over five innings of work.

Brad Zielgler, who converted 10 of his 16 save opportunities in 2017, will start the season as the closer. Kyle Barraclough, a career 2.87 ERA in 163 innings, will serve as the set-up man.

The Future

Not counting Brinson, Miami has one other prospect that earned a spot in MLB.com’s Top 100 Prospects list. An outfielder, No.71 on the list, Monte Harrison. Harrison is quick, with a great arm in the field. In 122 games between A/A+, he hit 21 home runs with 27 steals. The 2nd round pick in 2014, Harrison’s ceiling is most likely Carlos Gomez.

2018 Prediction: 64-98 

Just like Philadelphia trusted the process with the 76ers, Miami must be patient with Jeter and their Marlins. This will be a very tough year, but you gotta have faith that the future first-ballot Hall of Famer can turn this team into a yearly contender.

Featured image by MLB.com

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