Cleat Geeks

NL East 2nd Place Prediction-Miami Marlins

marlins

The Miami Marlins are my surprise National League team to be in contention this September. Not many believe the Fish will finish higher than third place in the National League East but if healthy, this is a team that can make serious noise. Winning the division over the New York Mets is not likely but surpassing the Washington Nationals is a high possibility. Slugger Giancarlo Stanton is the most feared power hitter in baseball. Jose Fernandez is one of the most unhittable starting pitchers in the game. Fernandez is coming off of a season where he pitched just 64 innings due to coming back from Tommy John Surgery on July 2nd. He also missed some time with a bicep strain in August. He was flat out dominating in his 11 starts last season in which he went 6-1. In 64 innings, Fernandez had a K/9 of 11.0, a 1.16 WHIP and a 2.92 ERA.stantonhomerun

Take this into consideration: Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez have not played in a game together since May 2014. Their left-handed hitting outfielder, Christian Yelich, has already won a gold glove and has the ability to win a batting title one day. Speaking of batting titles, Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon is the reigning batting champion after hitting a major league leading .333 in 2015. The speedster swiped 58 bags and won the stolen base crown.

DEEfense

Dee has improved drastically throughout his five year career especially in 2015, his first as a Marlin, where he was tremendous offensively and on the base paths. Don’t forget his glove work. He won his first gold glove in 2015. Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria and outfielder Marcell Ozuna are two key ingredients to the Marlins’ chances of competing this year. There is still lots of confidence in these two young hitters as they are entering their third full season in the big leagues. Hechavarria missed all of September last year with a hamstring injury. He continued to amaze people with his stellar showcase of acrobatic defense at shortstop. Hechavarria was a finalist for the gold glove in 2015. He hit .281 in 130 games and can still improve in hits, slugging percentage and RBI.

outfield

Marcell Ozuna struggled mightily in 2015 and was sent down to AAA New Orleans during the summer. The Marlins believe he will benefit from his extra time in the minors. After all, he played only 10 games in AA Jacksonville when he was called up in May 2013 because of Giancarlo Stanton’s hamstring injury. The Marlins are hoping to see him return to his 2014 form or better. That was the year where he hit 23 homers, 25 doubles and drove in 85 runs. The Marlins are also confident in 1B Justin Bour who hit 23 homeruns last season with 73 RBI and a .479 SLG in 129 games. It’s a matter of him improving against lefties. If he struggles versus lefties this season, the Marlins have the newly acquired Chris Johnson, a right handed hitting corner infielder, to platoon with Bour.bour2

 

chen2Miami likes its starting rotation which is anchored by the 23-year-old phenom Jose Fernandez. They upgraded their rotation by going the free agency route and acquiring former Oriole Wei-Yin Chen, a left handed innings eater who gets batters out by both pitching to contact and striking them out. Tom Koehler is returning and so is Jarred Cosart. The 25-year-old Cosart is seen as the x-factor in the Marlins’ rotation. He made only 13 starts last year, spending a lot of time on the DL with vertigo. The Fish have two lefties who made their MLB debuts in summer 2015: Justin Nicolino and Adam Conley. They both look to keep improving and contribute to the team in the short term and long term. Veteran right hander Edwin Jackson has been signed to the team and will be given the shot to make the rotation and if not, he can pitch out of the bullpen.

 

donnieThe biggest Marlins improvements are perhaps off the field. Former Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is on board to help develop this young ballclub while also leading them to a probable playoff berth this season. Barry Bonds, won of the game’s greatest hitters of all time, was hired to be their new hitting coach. Frank Menechino is staying and will serve as the team’s assistant hitting coach. Bonds is looking forward to working with the young hitters and also showing Giancarlo Stanton a thing or two which is scary to think of for NL pitchers. Former Red Sox pitching coach Juan Nieves has joined the Marlins to serve the same role.

 

*2016 Projected Lineup

2B Dee Gordon  .297/.329/.367

yelich

RF Giancarlo Stanton  .273/.371/.562

1B Justin Bour  .263/.327/.443

CF Marcell Ozuna  .263/.311/.411

3B Martin Prado  .283/.330/.398

C J.T. Realmuto  .251/.289/.370

SS Adeiny Hechavarria  .271/.307/.345

*2015 BA/OBP/SLG

2016 Projected Rotation

Jose Fernandez

josefernandez2

Wei-Yin Chen

Tom Koehler

Jarred Cosart

Edwin Jackson

Adam Conley

2016 Projected Bullpen:

A.J. Ramos

 Miami Marlins relief pitcher A.J. Ramos Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Miami Marlins relief pitcher A.J. Ramos Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Carter Capps

Bryan Morris

Mike Dunn

Kyle Barraclough

Brad Hand

Brian Ellington

Final Word: For all of the skepticism by fans and the media, the Marlins do care about winning and want to keep their young core together for a long time. It’s not for sure that Jose Fernandez will be moved within the next two years. We still don’t know how things will play out. A lot can happen from here until 2018, which is when Fernandez becomes a free agent. The Marlins have very talented ballplayers who are already locked up to an extension or have at least been approached about it. The Fish reeled in their number two starter they were looking for in Wei-Yin Chen. Their hitters are looking to be more productive this season which will happen with health. The Marlins’ managerial and coaching leadership has been upgraded greatly, as well as their areas of scouting and player development (Senior VP Marc Delpiano and VP of Pitching Development Jim Benedict). The Nationals are not looking as good on paper as they did last year. This could finally be the year the Marlins end their playoff drought.

 

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