Last year the Marlins entered Spring Training with very low expectations. The pundits picked them to finish in the cellar and with more than 100 wins. Looks like the Fish didn’t receive that news well and went on to defy their critics by finishing with exactly 100 wins and not completely in the basement – the Astros proved to be worse.
So, it wasn’t the miraculous-look-out season that we Marlin fans secretly hoped for. Yet, a lot of blame could fall simply on the injuries that plagued the Marlins at the start of the season. They would go on to win only 14 games in their first two months of the season. Giancarlo Stanton, Logan Morrison, and many others were missing and with what proved to be one of the worst offenses in baseball, losing those two hitters and their potential seriously hamstrung the team. That said, the pitching shined. Jose Fernandez led a young corps that surprised a lot of ball clubs and the Fish were able to finish 48-59. Overall, the team made strong progress in several areas. Will it continue this season?
Mike Redmond (manager) – returns as the skipper of the ball club. In his debut season he had a tough task, to not only learn how to manage at the MLB level but to do with with a largely green product on the field. He proved to learn quick and get this team to play for him, establishing a clubhouse that maintained a vision on building for tomorrow and not so much worrying about the results today. That shift, however, begins to change this season as the team will look to stop talking and start doing.
Chuck Hernandez (pitching coach) continues to hold down the pitching side of things and looks to show that his pitchers were not flukes.
Frank Menechino (hitting coach) is one of several new faces on the staff and will look to improve the worst offense in baseball.
Perry Hill (first base coach, fielding) returns as the fielding guru this team needs to continue to improve its defense. Under his tutelage, Adeiny Hechavarria really blossomed and shows great potential for a gold glove down the road.
Brett Butler (third base coach) will fill Joe Espada’s spot and will also bring his vast experience for shortening the game and getting on base to this team. A surprising pickup for the franchise considering he was pegged to be a manager within the Diamondbacks organization.
Rob Leary (bench) returns and looks to continue to build on what Mike Redmond has established as the clubhouse culture, having himself served with the Marlins, Red Sox, and Indians over his coaching career.
Reid Cornelius (bullpen) and Jeff Urgelles (bullpen coordinator) will round out the staff and handle the arms in the bullpen, of which there are several key new faces that will factor into the 2014 season.
1 Rafael Furcal (2B) – a former all star and 13 year veteran will be making the shift from SS to 2B to help shore up the defense up the middle and supply more consistency to the top of the lineup. A .281 career hitter, he’s coming off a major arm injury but shortening up his throws will help him adjust, not to mention working with Hechavarria and Hill should provide some dazzling defensive highlights.
2 Christian Yelich (LF) – the big time prospect has earned his spot on the roster and will look to have his first full season of MLB service by manning LF. A five tool talent, he reminds many scouts of Shawn Green. He projects to have pretty good power but his ability to drive the ball into the gaps will make him a dangerous talent at Marlins Park.
3 Giancarlo Stanton (RF) – having a down year doesn’t really affect his potential. Hitting in a lineup where he was basically the only real threat, opposing teams left him on an island and forced the Marlins to beat them with other players. With over $6M in hand, Stanton is happy financially but looking to take the next step as a player and expects his franchise to prove to him this is a team moving in the right direction.
4 Garrett Jones (1B) – brought over from the Pittsburgh Pirates to replace Logan Morrison, the Marlins wanted consistency at 1B after having 8 different players at the position last season. Jones will require a lefty platoon, most likely, but he has averaged 15 home runs over the past 5 seasons.
5 Jarrod Saltalamacchia (C) – the World Series champion was brought in as a definite answer to the Marlins backstop woes. Rob Brantly regressed as a hitter and defender last year and although Jeff Mathis masterly handled the young pitching staff, his offense was largely ineffective. Saltalamacchia brings more offensive production and the ability to switch hit along with his experience to be the voice on the diamond for manager Mike Redmond.
6 Casey McGehee (3B) – could hit anywhere from 4th to 6th, it will be interesting to see where he places in the lineup. His production level remains somewhat of a mystery having hit 28 home runs with 93 RBIs in Japan last year alongside Andruw Jones and Masahiro Tanaka. He was productive in a Brewers lineup with Prince Fielder (2010 hit .285 with 23 HRs and 103 RBIs).
7 Marcell Ozuna (CF) – making quite a splash in his debut as a replacement for the injured Stanton, Ozuna played with great flair and a nose for driving in runs. He fractured his left thumb diving for a ball in the outfield and finished out the season at the minor league level. Projected to be a RF, Ozuna has a cannon of an arm and should provide a bit more power than his initial numbers reveal. He may even slide up to 4th in the lineup on occasion.
8 Adeiny Hechavarria (SS) – although his offensive numbers are not sexy (.227 AVG), he did post 8 triples and has tremendous speed on the base paths. With more discipline and polish, he could emerge as a candidate for a leadoff spot one day. The defense is already stellar and gold glove worthy.
Greg Dobbs (INF), Jeff Baker (INF), Brian Bogusevic (OF), and Jeff Mathis (C).
These are the 4 of the 5 possible bench players, as we already outlined here. Jeff Mathis will provide steady veteran experience behind Saltalamacchia, as we noted earlier; his handling of this young staff proved critical to their development last season. Jeff Baker can platoon for Jones against lefties and also spell time at 3B and 2B if needed. Bogusevic figures to be a cheaper version of Justin Ruggiano, providing strong play as the reserve OF and can man all three positions. The 5th spot, however, will be a heated competition between Ed Lucas, Donovan Solano, Reed Johnson, and Ty Wigginton. Lucas should be the favorite due to his flexibility but don’t discount the others as well. Solano goes from being an everyday 2B to now a role player if he can make the team.
1 Jose Fernandez RHP (12-6, 2.19 ERA) – already one of the faces of the franchise; won 2013 NL ROY and placed 3rd in CY Young. He will take the mound on opening night against the Rockies, which will garner brief attention from ESPN.
2 Nathan Eovaldi RHP (4-6, 3.39 ERA) – started last season on the DL with right shoulder inflammation but has one of the most electric fastballs in the game and can top 100 MPH. Unable to strike out as high a clip as you’d expect (78 in 106 1/3 IP) and is looking to make the leap into recognition this season.
3 Henderson Alvarez RHP (5-6, 3.59 ERA) – also started on the DL last season; most notable for his season-ending no hitter, Alvarez has lots of promise but still needs to refine his tendency to give up home runs and also his strike to ball ratio. Gained lots of confidence last season.
4 Jacob Turner RHP (3-8, 3.74 ERA) – struggled in the spring last season and was sent to AAA to work; came back and won 3 of his first 4 decisions. Although his velocity is not where it was projected to be, Turner is a headsy pitcher with good gamesmanship. If his control is not there, he is prone to being knocked around but has a very mature approach to the game and could surprise a lot of people.
5 Tom Koehler RHP (5-10, 4.41 ERA) – he stepped in for the injured Kevin Slowey last season and put together solid numbers overall but was very impressive in his wins. The 5th spot may be his to hold on to, for now, but Slowey is back and who knows what the fate of spring will reveal.
Steve Cishek LHP (Closer), Carter Capps RHP, Carlos Marmol RHP, Mike Dunn LHP, AJ Ramos RHP, and Dan Jennings RHP.
Cishek will man the backend of the pen after proving himself last season; he struggled at the outset but finished with 29 straight saves. Carter Capps comes over in the Morrison trade and has a lively fastball and can get the K but also can give up the home run a little too often. Marmol was signed as a free agent and was once one of the elite closers in the game. The Cubs traded him to the Dodgers once signs of his control started to wear on his production but if he could get things right, he could be a very strong set up man for the 8th inning. Dunn continues to be a stud in appearances and his sheer consistency. He provides more than lefty specialization but also great situational pitching – which actually prevent him from being a backend guy. Ramos was impressive in his rookie campaign leading with 86Ks in his service. Jennings will get strong consideration because of his 36 scoreless appearances last season but keep an eye on Arquimedes Caminero, whom the Marlins scouts and coaching staff have been raving about with is very live fastball – they signed him as a 16 year old out of the Dominican Republic. Another guy to keep an eye on is Henry Rodriguez, whom the Marlins signed and has a lively arm but again, control problems were an issue.