Tuesday, 20 March 2012

2012 Previews: Miami Marlins

Don't call me Mike.

The Majors

This is going to be a fun, fun team to watch this year. Giancarlo-Cruz Mike Stanton may have usurped Jose Bautista as the most watchable player in baseball, thanks to his outrageous power, leading to several oooh's and aaah's.  Guys like Logan Morrison, Gaby Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez were already the makings of a pretty good core, and the addition of Jose Reyes is only going to make it better.

Mark Buehrle (or however you spell that) joins a pretty decent rotation from top to bottom, consisting of Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco, and Carlos Zambrano (?).  Heath Bell will anchor a bullpen that, frankly, is probably going to disappoint a lot of people, now that the Marlins are expected to be good.  Bell himself is going to get a pretty rude awakening, as a 36 year old closer who had the luxury of being a reliever in the NL West, pitching in Petco most of the time, and the rest of the bullpen isn't really anything special.

If the bullpen were the biggest problem that this team was going to face this year, they'd probably be in pretty good shape as far as their chances of success went.  As it stands right now, though, their biggest problem is the competition.  The Nationals, with a full season of Stephen Strasburg and Jordan Zimmermann, plus the addition of Gio Gonzalez, are quite simply, a better team than the Marlins.  Further, the Braves and Phillies were significantly better than the Marlins last year, and will return very similar teams.  Now you know how the Jays feel.

The Minors
The Marlins will get a bit of a pass here, since their two biggest prospects of the last few years (Stanton and Morrison) have just graduated to the big leagues in recent years.  However, don't get me wrong: this system is terrible.  If it weren't for the Chicago White Sox, this would probably be the worst system in the game (Cleveland and Houston might have something to say about that).  If you remember back when Heath Bell and Jose Reyes signed, I had a little bone to pick with the Marlins' management regarding the timing of this deal.  Without any assets in the minor league system, the Marlins only have two options going forward; (1) They can sign a bunch more free agents and limit their competition window to the next 3 or 4 years before the decline phase of Buerhle, Reyes, and others begin, or (2) they can be perpetually average.  What they have right now isn't going to get the job done in this division, and I have no idea how they're going to try to fix that.

The Verdict
They would be good if it weren't for the Nats, Phillies and Braves.  I can see the Phillies declining pretty sharply over the next couple of seasons, but the Braves and Nats should be, at worst, fairly good for the next few years.  They're going to need some more pieces if they want to win, so they can either open the wallets, or settle for third.

Projection: 83-79, 4th in the NL East

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