Overview: The 2009 Florida Marlins are full of players that are going to take 2 months for even the most avid MLB fans to be able to answer the question: who was that? Yet, this continues the Marlins historical trend of being able to take young players and build competitive teams with them. The Marlins also have one of the best players in baseball. Hanley Ramirez blew up last season into being considered the most valuable fantasy player in the game by many including Yahoo! sports. It's really a shame that Ramirez is a Marlin because he would be a superstar in many other markets. Though as their 2008 offseason shows, it will only be another 2 more seasons before he is traded because they cannot (or is it will not?) afford his services after that. The Marlins should field another competitive team, but it will most likely not be enough to keep in touch with the top three NL East teams.
Starting Pitching: This is a staff of guys that are incredibly talented, yet nobody has gotten to know them yet. After Ricky Nolasco (26) and Josh Johnson (25) the Marlins offer Chris Volstad (22), Anibal Sanchez (25) and Andrew Miller (23). Nolasco wound up the 2008 season with 15 wins and Johnson returned from injury strongly with a 7-1 record and sub-4.00 ERA. The top of their rotation could certainly win 30+ games for them if healthy. Volstad pitched very well in his first major-league season last year and could end up being the ace of their staff if he continues to pitch as he did in 2008 (6-4, 2.88ERA). Sanchez has a no-hitter under his belt and is also returning from injury, but he did not fare as well as Johnson. He will be given the opportunity to return to form, though there is always another talented young pitcher ready for Fredi Gonzalez to give a shot. The fifth starter for this rotation is former first-round pick, Andrew Miller. Acquired in the trade for Miguel Cabrera last season, Miller struggled mightily with his control. At 23, there is plenty of time for him to turn into an ace, but he is going to have to harnass his control issues in order to become that ace. Burke Badenhop and Rich Vanden Hurk were both given starting opportunities in 2008 and would be first in line if an injury were to occur or Sanchez/Miller are unable to be effective. 1-3, the Marlins staff is going to keep games close. There will be some dominating performances as well by those top three, though there are no guarantees about the bottom two in the rotation.
This is going to be where a lot of the "who was that?" comes from during the season. ESPN shows a bullpen of Matt Lindstrom, Leo Nunez, Scott Proctor, Logan Kensing, Jose Ceda and Taylor Tankersley. Lindstrom will be getting the save opportunities now that Kevin Gregg was sent to Chicago, and you can expect him to succeed in that role. Getting to him could be an adventure, though the Marlins have a lot of depth. Not mentioned in their bullpen is Henry Owens, Kiko Calero and Renyel Pinto. Each of whom are quality major league arms. Owens is returning from injury, but has closed games for the Marlins in the past. Calero is older now, but he has been around in the late innings before and Pinto is a lefty with decent stuff. This bullpen lacks a lights-out arm, but the Marlins have 8-9 quality relief arms. This will not be a strength of a weakness for the Marlins.
Last season, the Florida Marlins offense was known for power in the infield. They received 29+ homers from each player on their infield, Mike Jacobs, Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez and Jorge Cantu. Mike Jacobs was traded to the Kansas City Royals this offseason for financial reasons, though the other three are back. One player that was harmed because of the success of the others on the infield was Dallas McPherson who hit 40+ homers in AAA Albequerque. Now he has earned the starting spot at third-base, moving Cantu across the diamond to first-base. The power on the infield should be just about the same, time will tell if Cantu can maintain his success and if McPherson can hit above. 220 against Major League pitching. Consistency is also an issue for Dan Uggla, who can be one of the hardest or easiest outs in baseball depending on the week. Their offense will be best classified as being inconsistent because of these guys. The outfield situation looks to be Cody Ross, Cameron Maybin and Jeremy Hermida. Ross has tons of raw power, but his batting average will most likely never eclipse .240. Maybin was another top prospect acquired from Detroit for Miguel Cabrera. Maybin did not explode onto the scene in 2008 as was expected, but he will be in good position to take the lead-off spot in the lineup with Jorge Cantu, Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla behind him for protection that should certainly help. Jeremy Hermida has been another inconsistent bat for the Marlins. He is still young as well and could become a 30 home run hitter this season, but he needs to cut down on the strike outs to be a solid hitter. The catching situation falls to John Baker and Mike Rabelo. Baker and Rabelo are high-contact, low-power hitters. Watch Baker who posted very solid (.299, 5, 32) numbers in 2008, with an OBP nearly 100 points higher than his batting average. I like Baker's numbers a lot and he could be a fantasy sleeper at a traditionally weak position. The Marlins bench will populated by Rabelo, Wes Helms, Alfredo Amezaga for sure, with the other few spots up for grabs. This will be a weakness for the Marlins as they will not have much to offer in pinch-hitting situations.
Projections: The Florida Marlins are not going to be in conversation for the NL East crown this year, the reason for this is that their offense is just going to be too inconsistent. Injuries are too much of a question with their starting staff, though do not take them lightly 1-3. The Marlins are absolutely going to be a factor in who wins the division, though do not expect them to make a play at the crown. Make yourself familiar with Hanley Ramirez, John Baker and Ricky Nolasco this season.