Thursday, March 14, 2019

Miami Marlins 2019 season preview

Trevor Richards. Photo from the New York Post


        Things were tough for the Marlins in 2018. They were bad, but they weren't absolutely terrible. They lost 98 games, even after being projected by many to lose over 100. This came after trading Giancarlo Stanton, Marcel Ozuna, Dee Gordon and NL MVP Christian Yelich in the offseason. The Marlins had one star left, catcher JT Realmuto, who they held on to through the offseason with trade rumors swirling, before finally dealing him to Philly. Their top three players in home runs in 2018, Realmuto, Justin Bour and Derek Dietrich, are all gone. So are Brad Ziegler and Kyle Barraclough, who led the team with 10 saves each, and as well as breakout reliever Nick Wittgren. The Marlins are still painfully bad. Oh, and they have new uniforms.

          Offseason additions: C Jorge Alfaro, INF Neil Walker, RHP Sergio Romo, OF Curtis Granderson, INF Dixon Machado, INF Deven Marerro, 1B Pedro Alvarez, RHP Austin Brice, RHP Javy Guerra, RHP Drew Rucinski

          Offseason subtractions: C JT Realmuto, RHP Kyle Barraclough, RHP Brad Ziegler, RHP Nick Wittgren, UT Derek Dietrich, LHP Dillon Peters, RHP Odrisamer Despaigne

           Rotation
Jose Urena wouldn't be a starter for some teams, but for the Marlins he is their ace. His 3.98 ERA led the team. So did his 31 starts. Dan Straily had a second decent season, but was hurt for parts of the season. Wei-Yin Chen had a 1.62 home ERA, which is good, but also a 9.27 ERA, which is not good. Sandy Alcantara, the main part of the Ozuna trade, impressed in six starts. Trevor Richards impressed as a rookie from the independent Frontier League. Both Caleb Smith and Pablo Lopez are starters that missed a lot of 2018. When he went down with a lat strain, Smith was the rookie strikeout leader, but could be better for the bullpen.

           Bullpen
The team said goodbye to Brad Ziegler, who retired, and traded away Kyle Barraclough and Nick Wittgren. Lopez and Smith could see more bullpen time, though neither made an appearance from the pen in '18. Drew Steckenrider was one of their most impressive relievers, with a 3.90 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 64.2 innings. Tayron Guerrero's numbers don't look pretty, but he has one of the hardest fastballs in baseball. The team brought in Sergio Romo, a swiss army knife pitcher for the Rays last season, pitching in 73 games. He converted 25 saves, but also made five starts as an opener. Adam Conley, a former starter, was a key lefty for Miami in 2018. Two rule-5 picks spent 2018 with big league club, Elieser Hernandez and Brett Graves. Graves and Hernandez both won't start 2019 with the big club. But, Riley Ferrell could. Ferrell is a rule-5 pick from Houston. Lefty Jarlin Garcia and righty Austin Brice compete for the final spot.

            Catching
In exchange for Realmuto, the Marlins received Jorge Alfaro. He hit 10 home runs with a  .731 OPS in his rookie season, 2018, but will be 26 in 2019. The only other catcher on the 40-man roster is Chad Wallach, who played in 15 games last year. Bryan Holaday is back on a minor league deal. Holaday was Realmuto's primary backup last year, and led the NL with a 45% caught stealing rate.

            Infield
Power hitting first baseman Justin Bour was sent to Philly at the waiver deadline, and Peter O'Brien entered as the first baseman. He hit six home runs in 66 at bats, and has been a minor league slugger in his career. Starlin Castro will almost certainly be dealt. He hit 12 home runs last year, which is tops among returning Marlins. He is a free agent after this year. Both JT Riddle and Miguel Rojas split time at shortstop, but since the Marlins' lineup is very right handed dominant, Riddle has the upper hand. Martin Prado has always had injury issues, and hasn't been exceptionally good when healthy, but for this year is the third baseman.

              Outfield
Brian Anderson quietly finished fourth in rookie of the year voting, playing third base and right field. His .367 batting average with runners in scoring position led the NL. Lewis Brinson, the key part of the Yelich trade, struggled heavily, but is trusted in the organization and looks to start over this year. Left fielder Austin Dean was the Marlins' minor league player of the year, and hit four home runs in 34 MLB games.

               Bench
Rojas will definitely be on the bench. So will the backup catcher. President Derek Jeter brought in two former Yankees in Neil Walker and Curtis Granderson, but only the latter was a former teammate of his. Walker is a definite for the team, and could be the starting first baseman over O'Brien. Speedy outfielder Magneuris Sierra will play at some point. Should the Marlins go with five bench players, the last spot would go to Garrett Cooper.

                Lineup
CF Lewis Brinson
2B Starlin Castro
RF Brian Anderson
1B Peter O'Brien
C Jorge Alfaro
SS JT Riddle
LF Austin Dean
3B Martin Prado

                 Rotation
Jose Urena (R)
Dan Straily (R)
Wei-Yin Chen (L)
Sandy Alcantara (R)
Trevor Richards (R)

                   Bullpen
Sergio Romo (R)
Drew Steckenrider (R)
Adam Conley (L)
Tayron Guerrero (R)
Caleb Smith (L)
Pablo Lopez (R)
Riley Ferrell (R)
Jarlin Garcia (L) 63-98

                    Bench
SS Miguel Rojas
INF Neil Walker
OF Curtis Granderson
C Bryan Holaday

                     Additional Information
Ballpark: Marlins Park
Manager: Don Mattingly
GM: Mike Hill
World Series Championships: 2
2018 record: 63-98

                     Steal of the Decade
The Marlins really don't have any good trades since 2010. But, one trade was decent. It was a 12 player deal with the Blue Jays. They gave up Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck, plus cash. In return, they received Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez, Jeff Mathis, Anthony DeScalfani, Jake Marisnick, Justin Nicolino and Yunel Escobar. That's a mouth full. This trade was mostly a salary dump. Reyes and Buehrle were aging veterans who had just signed big deals with Miami the year before, and Johnson was one of their starters. In return, they got seven major leaguers. Well, eventual major leaguers. DeScalfani and Marisnick currently are decent players, but for other teams. Hechavarria was a defensive specialist. Alvarez was an all-star in Miami and threw a no-hitter, ending up the best player they received. Mathis was an ok backup catcher. Nicolino was a starter/reliever for the Marlins. Escobar was immediately flipped for Derek Dietrich. The big positive for them was that this trade freed up money for them to sign star outfielder Giancarlo Stanton to a record setting 13 year deal. This was a trade from 2012, and none of the 12 players are still with the teams that acquired them.

                          Prediction
Every other team in the NL East went for it this offseason. Meanwhile, the Marlins continued their tank. It would be very hard for them to make the playoffs this year.

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