Baseball is back! We think. Each day, SportsIntel’s Matt DeSaro will take a look at two of the 30 teams in Major League Baseball as we head toward MLB Opening Day in late July and we begin today our look at the NL East with the Miami Marlins.
The owners and players agreed in late June to stage a 60-game season, beginning July 24. There are still many hurdles to overcome in this COVID-19 landscape, but for now, the teams are gathering for “Summer Camp,” a Spring Training reboot crammed into three weeks.
MLB Opening Day – Miami Marlins
Miami Marlins | O/U 24.5 Wins | +75000 to win World Series
The Miami Marlins will find themselves in a tight race as the 2020 season nears its end. Unfortunately for them, that race will not be toward a postseason berth but rather to avoid posting the worst record in the MLB. While they may avoid the shame of being the worst team in baseball, they will certainly be at the bottom of the NL East for yet another season. Miami lost 105 games in 2019 and each of the other teams in their division finished the year over .500.
But if you ask anyone involved with the Marlins team, they will happily tell you that after committing two full years to a rebuild, the dark days are finally behind them as they head into opening day 2020. They took a franchise that was truly in shambles and has put together a halfway decent team along with one of the best farm systems in the league. Don Mattingly still has a lot of work to do with this team if Miami has a chance to be competitive, but they did make some strong moves this offseason and could turn a few heads in 2020. Will the make any impact on the MLB standings? Unlikely. But they might just take another step toward relevance in the MLB.
Offseason Acquisitions: C Francisco Cervelli, C Jose Estrada, 1B Jesús Aguilar, 2B Jonathan Villar, 2B Angeudis Santos, 3B James Nelson, OF Corey Dickerson, OF Matt Joyce, OF Matt Kemp, OF Diowill Burgos, SHP Pat Venditte, RHP Ryan Cook, RHP Yimi García, RHP Tayron Guerrero, RHP Sterling Sharp.
Offseason Losses: C Bryan Holaday, 1B Neil Walker, 1B Martin Prado, 2B Starlin Castro, SS JT Riddle, OF Curtis Granderson, OF Austin Dean, RHP Tayron Guerrero,RHP Tyler Kinley, RHP Kyle Keller, RHP Austin Brice, LHP Wei-Yin Chen, LHP Stephen Tarpley, LHP Brian Moran, LHP Jarlin Garcia, LHP Jose Quijada.
What do the Marlins do Well?
Trying to find the answer to the question of what the Marlins do well was quite a tall order as we countdown to MLB season opening day. They are objectively a terrible team and did little to improve since October. But after thinking long and hard, I did come up with an actual strength for the Marlins.
The Miami Marlins have a very talented stable of young pitching talent which could develop into a rather potent rotation. Led by Sandy Alcántara, Pablo López and Caleb Smith, they have the talent to keep games close enough for the Marlins offense to eke out some tight wins. Waiting in the wings are Sixto Sanchez and Edward Cabrera, who will be competing for a spot as the “6th starter”. This pitching staff is better than you think, so don’t snooze on them, but they are still raw and need time to grow into a true threat.
Where Can They Improve?
If the Miami Marlins want to continue to get better in 2020 they have to improve on the offensive side of the ball. They ended 2019 right near the bottom of almost every major offensive category and really need their key signings to step up and make some noise at the plate. Trouble is, those signees, Jonathan Villar and Jesus Aguilar in particular, will have a lot of pressure on them to perform at levels they might not be capable of. They are both career .260 hitters and aside from a 35 HR season from Aguilar in 2018, don’t really hit for power. So what about the lineup around them?
I’ll be nice and just say not great.
Despite making a bunch of moves this winter, they have practically nothing to show for it at the MLB level. Look at that offseason acquisition list above, aside from Dickerson, do you see any name up there that would inspire a single Miami Marlins fan to have faith in this team being any better this year heading into opening day? Go ahead, ill wait.
At the end of the day, the pitching staff did get a bit better and the free-agent bats are at least a step up from what they had last year. But if you have a team that can’t score, nothing else really matters. The addition of James Rowson as bench coach might help their home run production after finishing dead last in 2019, but this team is still hard to trust until they can bolster their lineup somehow.
In this day and age, where MLB teams are setting home run records, the Marlins just don’t have the lumber to keep pace. They hit just 146 home runs and lost their top long-ball threat when Starin Castro wisely opted for free agency. They managed a bit better in runs scored, finishing just second to last with 615 trips to home plate, led again of course by Castro. When you can say with sincerity that Brian Anderson might be your best offensive player, it’s time to panic.
I really do like the youngsters who are already up in the bigs, but they are green and need time to develop. They also have a rotation that many bettors will sleep on sneaking up on and beating much better teams from time to time. Additionally, their farm system might make them a contender in the division within the next couple of seasons, with guys like Trevor Rogers and Braxton Garrett putting up strong numbers in the minors.
But none of that will be enough to save them from another fourth-place finish in the National League East MLB standings in 2020.
The Marlins did show some signs of life last year, but it’s no reason to get carried away and expect anything better than maybe not losing 100 games in back to back seasons. They are not any worse off than last year and should better their paltry 57 win effort, but did they get 8 games better? I just don’t see it. Unless they have multiple players who put up career numbers or have a lucky streak with their young prospects, they will again contend for the title of worst team in the MLB and struggle to win 20.
Miami Marlins Projected Starters:
C – Jorge Alfaro
1B – Jesus Aguilar
2B – Isan Diaz
3B – Jonathan Villar
SS – Miguel Rojas
LF – Corey Dickerson
CF – Lewis Brinson
RF – Brian Anderson
Miami Marlins Projected Rotation: