Here I’ll be continuing my assessment of the National League East entering the 2016 season. Thus far I’ve covered the Philadelphia Phillies and the Atlanta Braves.
The Marlins are consistently the hardest team to predict in the NL East, in my humble opinion. They consistently come into seasons with eyebrow-raising lineups riddled with talent, but always seem to fall well-short of their ceiling. The Marlins went just 71-91 last season, taking 3rd place in the division.
Coming into this season, the Marlins make a strong case offensively, with their top three hitters from last season all returning from last season. You can’t talk about the Marlins offense without mentioning Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton belted 27 homers last season in just 74 games. Analysts everywhere (including TGH’s own Scott Taylor) believe Giancarlo Stanton is poised to help the Marlins to a big year.
Stanton’s partner in the middle of the order, first baseman Justin Bour, who led the team with 73 RBI in 2015, is also returning to the Marlins in 2016. If Stanton lives up to expectations, and Dee Gordon can continue his success in the leadoff position (posting a .333 batting average in 145 games last season) Bour should have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs throughout the year. It’s definitely worth noting that Gordon swiped a monstrous 58 bases last year, so he’ll be in the back of pitchers’ minds every time he’s on base.
The rest of the Marlins’ batting order is nothing to scoff at, with a lot of very impressive young talent. Left fielder Christian Yelich posted a .300 batting average around the top of the order, further enabling Stanton and Bour. Another frequent two-hole hitter was Martin Prado, the veteran of this Marlins offense. After being a long-time staple for Atlanta, Prado found himself back in the NL East with the Marlins last season, where he hit .288. A lot of this young roster has only improved as they’ve progressed throughout their careers, if they are able to continue this trend and big bats Justin Bour and Giancarlo Stanton are able to produce, the Marlins could be a scary team.
A lot of the hype surrounding the Marlins’ pitching staff is centered around their young ace Jose Fernandez. While the Marlins have been careful with him, not allowing him to pitch a full season since 2013, his performances have been fantastic. He went 6-1 last year in 11 starts with a 2.92 ERA and 79 strikeouts. The young phenom has a lot of hype surrounding him, and with the offense looking stronger around him, he may be poised for yet another standout year.
The rest of the rotation does not have quite the same track record as Fernandez, but still consists of a lot of young pitchers who have the potential to succeed. Wei-Yin Chen was snagged over the offseason after four years with the Orioles. Chen continues the Marlins’ trend of having young talent that has only gotten better since entering the league. Chen posted a 3.34 ERA in 191.1 innings last season for the O’s.
One other starter worth mentioning is Edwin Jackson. Jackson has been on nine different teams throughout his 13 year career (the Marlins being his tenth) with mixed success seen throughout. Last year Jackson spent time with both the Cubs and the Braves, but only saw bullpen action. The biggest struggle for Jackson has always been his consistency, posting a sub 2 strikeout to walk ratio. Marlins fans can only hope that his restoration into the starter role restores some confidence in the veteran, and that the (potential) increased offensive production means Jackson will be able to paint the plate with more authority in 2016.
I think the Marlins have the potential to surprise a lot of teams this year. The biggest issue for them always seems to be translating their ability on paper into tangible results. It will be interesting to see if new hitting coach Barry Bonds (yes, the one that has the career most home runs in MLB history) can help this offense live up to its full potential. If the offense can provide run support for pitchers like Jared Cosart and Tom Koehler, it could do wonders for their confidence.