This series will evaluate one team per day, starting on January 23, 2013 and ending on February 22, 2013 (the first game of spring training). It is based on last season's performance, offseason changes since and the author's outlook for the team in 2013. Please keep in mind that rosters can, and will, change before Opening Day. We started in the AL East and now go to the NL side, starting in the East and going in alphabetical order. Next up, the Miami Marlins.
2012 finish: 69-93 (5th place, NL East)
RHP Chad Qualls, RHP Henderson Alvarez, RHP Michael Wuertz, RHP Kevin Slowey, OF Juan Pierre, OF Austin Kearns, OF Pat White, 3B Placido Polanco, 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff, SS Yordy Cabrera, SS Adeiny Hechavarria
LHP Mark Buehrle, RHP Josh Johnson, RHP Heath Bell, RHP Carlos Zambrano, RHP Juan Carlos Oviedo, RHP Chad Gaudin, OF Adam Greenberg, OF Scott Cousins, OF Emilio Bonifacio, 1B Carlos Lee, SS Jose Reyes, C John Buck
Why they will improve this year
Let's start with the bright side: at least all those heavy expectations are off for 2013? In its place comes fury and confusion, mostly directed at the front office. But the Marlins' brass has to ignore their mistakes before, during and after the 2012 season and focus on rebuilding this team from scratch.
Even though all the big-name players that the Fish landed before last year are gone, there is still plenty of talent in Miami to be excited about. For example, the Marlins acquired a ton of young talent in the trades with Toronto for Reyes, Johnson and Buehrle, as well as some good pieces from the Diamondbacks for Bell.
Miami also snagged a couple promising pitching prospects from the Dodgers when they traded Randy Choate and Hanley Ramirez to Los Angeles mid-season. And two above average hitting prospects in Gorkys Hernandez (from Pittsburgh) and Zack Cox (from St. Louis) in other in-season trades.
My point is, the Marlins may not be a team we can bear to watch in 2012, but at least they cut their losses and are headed in the right direction. It can't get worse than last year for Miami, and they need to build around budding superstar Giancarlo Stanton in 2013. My advice? Wipe the slate clean, play for fun, get the young guys some playing time, and see if you can't surprise a few people.
Why they will regress this year
On paper, the Marlins look like the 2012 Astros. I doubt they will regress that far, given that they still have a couple decent pitchers and a lineup built around Stanton. But outside of him, there are very few notable players left in Miami, and I think the results will show it.
Even when Johnson was battling back from injury, he was at least an intimidating presence on the mound because of his stuff, stature and successful history. Now, the Marlins have downgraded to having former middle-of-the-rotation starter Ricky Nolasco at the top.
And though the young talent they acquired in the trades last year and this winter (Jacob Turner and Nathan Eovaldi, for example) is exciting, they are still very raw pitchers with a long way to go. And even though Alvarez and Wade LeBlanc, my presumed second and third starters, have had their moments in the big leagues, I'm not expecting much more than an average year from each.
What can one expect out of a team that has decent pitching, an okay bullpen, and a punch-less offense? A regression, for sure -- but even more likely, a long stretch of time before said team can contend again. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that losing your best overall player and two best pitchers is bad for business, but that's just the tip of the iceberg in Miami. It's going to be a long season.
The outlook for 2013
The Marlins screwed up last year. We all know it. But I have to give them a pat on the back for still turning a decent profit out of the guys whose salaries they had to dump. I really do think Turner, Eovaldi, Hechavarria and Alvarez will become good players eventually.
Just not in 2013. And if we're talking about 2013, it's going to be ugly. Aside from Stanton, there is not going to be much reason to watch the Fish this season. The pitching staff will get beat up, the bullpen will be overworked, and the offense will struggle mightily.
So a best-case scenario for Miami this year is that they play like the Padres have for the last couple seasons: let the young guys play and develop, and try to build some camaraderie around the one superstar hitter (in San Diego, it's Chase Headley).
With the right kind of instruction, and a little bit of luck in player development, the Marlins could at least be a fringe Wild Card team by 2015. Again, that's the best-case scenario for this franchise right now. In a worst-case situation, they lose over 100 games. Easily.
For 2013, it's the opinion of this writer that the Miami Marlins will almost certainly finished in last place in the division, but will settle around 65 wins. Given the roster that is in place, it's not as bad as it sounds.
Potential changes before Opening Day
It's hard to spin the rumor wheel in an organization clinging to a $40 million payroll, let alone for anyone of substance. And right now, it sounds like the Marlins are out on any potential free agents, no matter the significance. I think that's the right move, as they should be focusing on developing the talent they already have.
One thing to watch is whether former West Virginia quarterback Pat White decides to leave football and test his skills on the diamond. He's a remarkable athlete, and though it's ambitious, he could be a diamond in the rough for the Marlins.
Biggest surprise: Juan Pierre
Biggest disappointment: Ricky Nolasco
Bold prediction: Wade LeBlanc ends up in the top 10 in ERA in the National League
1. Juan Pierre, LF
2. Placido Polanco, 3B
3. Giancarlo Stanton, RF
4. Logan Morrison, 1B
5. Justin Ruggiano, CF
6. Rob Brantly, C
7. Donovan Solano, 2B
8. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
1. Ricky Nolasco, RHP
2. Henderson Alvarez, RHP
3. Wade LeBlanc, LHP
4. Nathan Eovaldi, RHP
5. Jacob Turner, RHP
Projected finish: 65-97, 5th place
For more preseason evaluations:
You can follow Jeremy on Twitter @Jamblinman.
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