Thursday, July 9, 2020

Miami Marlins 2020 Season Preview 2.0


From The Athletic
      The NL East was hyped up to be the best division in baseball entering 2019. Every team but one was a serious contender to win the division. That one exception was the Marlins. Miami was still in a rebuilding phase after their firesale prior to 2018 that saw them deal their entire outfield and infielder Dee Gordon, plus catcher JT Realmuto before last year. A year later, the Marlins are still the worst team in the division, but they might not be the worst in the National League anymore. They acquired some low cost veterans to hold down the fort while their young talent develops. It won't be the most entertaining season of Marlins baseball, but the trade deadline will see a lot of the new acquisitions go.

       Offseason additions: IF Jonathan Villar, 1B Jesus Aguilar, OF Corey Dickerson, C Francisco Cervelli, OF Matt Joyce, RHP Brandon Kintzler, RHP Yimi Garcia, LHP Stephen Tarpley, RHP Brad Boxberger, SHP Pat Venditte, OF Matt Kemp, UT Sean Rodriguez, IF Gosuke Katoh.

       Offseason subtractions: 2B Starlin Castro, OF Curtis Granderson, IF Neil Walker, IF Martin Prado, OF Austin Dean, C Bryan Holaday, OF Rosell Herrera, LHP Jarlin Garcia, RHP Tyler Kinley, LHP Wei-Yin Chen, RHP Austin Brice, LHP Brian Moran, RHP Hector Noesi.

       Rotation
The rotation won't see much changes from its 2019 form, as Nick Neidert and Sixto Sanchez are not ready yet to hold a spot. Sandy Alcantara was the Marlins only all-star in 2019, and was still technically a rookie. He lead the league with 14 losses, but had a 3.88 ERA with 151 strikeouts in 197.1 innings, with two complete game shutouts. He allowed 3.7 walks per nine innings, a lot but an improvement from his previous 14 career games. Alcantara allows soft contact, averaging an exit velocity of 86.7 mph. Caleb Smith had a great first half, but injuries derailed his season and finished with a 4.52 ERA with 168 strikeouts and 33 home runs allowed in 153.1 innings. Smith's fastball had an average against of .210, but allowed 20 home runs. Jose Urena was considered a closer, but will likely return to the rotation to start the year. In 24 games (13 starts), Urena made three saves in 84.2 innings with a 5.21 ERA. He throws hard but is not a strikeout guy. He only hit two batters after leading the league in that category in 2017 and 2018. Urena allowed hard contact, with a 90.1 mph average exit velocity. Pablo Lopez was limited to 21 starts by a shoulder injury. He struck out 95 batters in 111.1 innings. His 5.09 ERA was awful. Jordan Yamamoto was not bad in his 15 start debut. He struck out 82 batters in 78.2 innings with a 4.46 ERA. He allowed 36 walks, so that is a problem. Yamamoto had an xBA against of .230. Elieser Hernandez had a 9.3 K/9 in 21 games (15 starts), but had a 5.03 ERA. At 24, he is still young enough to go to AAA next year to improve. If he can make the team, Hernandez can limit hard contact, with an 85.9 mph average exit velocity.

       Bullpen
Brandon Kintzler will likely be the one that moved Urena from closer back to starter. He only had one save last year, but had a 2.68 ERA in 57 innings with a 7.6 K/9, his highest since 2015. He has 49 saves in his career, with a career best 29 in 2017. Kintzler is good at limiting walks, with a 5.7% BB percentage. Ryan Stanek, acquired at the deadline from the Rays, can be an opener and a starter. He had a 3.40 ERA in 41 games before the trade, but struggled as a Marlin, with a 5.48 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 21.1 innings. His struggles are due to an abnormally high 8.0 BB/9. Stanek's split finger struck out 39 batters with a .094 average against. Drew Steckenrider was in the mix for a closing role entering 2019. He allowed six home runs in his 15 games before going on the IL with elbow inflammation. He never got Tommy John surgery, but also never returned. He has a career K/9 of 11.2. Only one of Steckenrider's hits allowed was off of his curveball. The Marlins scooped up Yimi Garcia after the Dodgers non-tendered him. He had a 3.61 ERA with 66 Ks and a 0.866 WHIP in 62.1 innings. Garcia allowed hard contact just 27.3% of the time, and his main three pitches (fastball, curveball, slider) all had an average under .200. It will be hard for him to keep up with his very low 5.8 H/9 rate. Adam Conley was solid as a reliever in 2018, but was terrible last year, with a 6.53 ERA in 60.2 innings. He had a 1.731 WHIP and a 65 ERA+. Thanks to Conley's struggles, the team will want to carry another lefty in Stephen Tarpley. Acquired from the Yankees, Tarpley struck out 34 batters in 24.2 innings. Nothing else went right, as he had a 6.93 ERA with a 12.4 H/9 and 5.5 BB/9. His slider is a plus pitch, with a .175 xBA against. Rule 5 pick Sterling Sharp (not that one) will get a good chance to make the team. He had a 3.53 ERA in 58.2 innings in the Nats system. He had a 1.50 ERA in 24 games in the Arizona Fall League. Former Rays and D-Backs closer Brad Boxberger has a 3.59 ERA and 77 saves in his career. He was awful for the Royals last year, with a 5.40 ERA with 27 Ks in 26.2 innings. Still, Boxberger's average exit velocity against of 85.3 mph was his best since 2015. Jeff Brigham can lock down a spot. Brigham, who had a 4.46 ERA in 32 games last year, sports a fastball that averaged 96.6 mph last year. Nick Vincent, a non-roster addition, has a 3.32 ERA and a 9.1 K/9 in his eight year career. Last year was his worst season, due to his 5.58 ERA in 18 games with San Francisco. After being released and signed by the Phillies, Vincent improved, with a 1.93 ERA and 17 strikeouts in 14 innings.

       Catchers
Right before the season, the Marlins traded away all-star catcher JT Realmuto to the Phillies. They got back Jorge Alfaro. He hit 18 home runs, with four stolen bases, hit .262 and had a decent .736 OPS for a catcher. With a 28.8 ft/s sprint speed, Alfaro is in the top ten percent of the league, and is one of the fastest catchers. Francisco Cervelli comes in as an experienced catcher. He hit 12 home runs with an .809 OPS in 2018. He had a .649 OPS for the Pirates and Braves last year. As 12-year veteran, Cervelli is one of the few Marlins with a World Series ring, coming with the Yankees in 2009.

       Infielders
The Marlins claimed Jesus Aguilar off of waivers from Tampa Bay after a disappointing 2019. He hit 12 home runs with a .714 OPS coming off a year with 35 home runs, an .890 OPS and an all-star appearance. In his career, Aguilar has an average exit velocity of 89.4 mph. Isan Diaz, a former top-100 prospect in MLB, hit .305 with 26 home runs and a .973 OPS at AAA. He did not fare well in the big leagues, with a .173 average, five home runs and a .566 OPS in 49 games. The second base job is his to lose. Jonathan Villar can play second base. Acquired from the Orioles, Villar can play all around the field, but will likely be the Opening Day center fielder. He played in all 162 games last year, with a .274 average, .792 OPS, 24 home runs and 40 stolen bases. There is no doubt that Villar can be a serviceable outfielder, but he has only played in 13 games at the position at the big league level, eight of them in center. Villar randomly had his worst defensive season ever last year, with -12 outs above average at second and short combined, after only having -1 OAA in 2018. The Marlins signed shortstop Miguel Rojas to a multi-year extension, something the team rarely does. He hit .284 last year with nine stolen bases and six outs above average. Rojas doesn't strike out often, with an 11.8 K% last year. Brian Anderson played a lot of third base and right field last year, but with Martin Prado gone, Anderson can focus on third. Maybe the best player on the team, Anderson hit 20 home runs with a career high .811 OPS last year. Anderson hit the ball hard 45.7% of the time. He is very underrated. Jon Berti can play the infield as well as the outfield. A 29 year old rookie, Berti stole 17 bases in 20 attempts, with six home runs and a .348 OBP. Berti is one of the league's fastest players, with a 29.8 ft/s sprint speed, putting himself in the top two percent of the league.

       Outfielders
The Marlins signed 2017 all-star Corey Dickerson to a two year deal. Dickerson hit just 12 home runs last year, his lowest since 2015. He played in just 78 games, but had a .304 average, the second best of his career. He played for both Pennsylvania teams last year, the Pirates and Phillies. Dickerson had a .627 slugging against fastballs. Right field will be a shared job between Garrett Cooper, Harold Ramirez and Matt Joyce. An above average fielder at first base as well, Cooper hit .281 with a .791 OPS and 15 home runs in 2019, his first full season. With the new DH rule, Cooper can play first while Aguilar is the DH. Cooper hit above .290 against both fastball and breaking balls in 2019. A 24 year old rookie, Harold Ramirez hit 11 home runs with a .276 average and .728 OPS in 2019. Ramirez has good speed, with a sprint speed of 28.9 ft/s. A former 25 home run hitter, Joyce hit seven last year, with a .295 average and an .858 OPS. He could platoon with Ramirez (he will be in the starting lineup below because the Marlins will likely face right-hander Aaron Nola on Opening Day). The final spot is between former top prospect Lewis Brinson and Magneuris Sierra, although both can be on the roster for two weeks. In 15 MLB games, Sierra hit .350 with three stolen bases. Brinson played in 75 MLB games and more at AAA. He was awful, with a -2.2 bWAR. He hit no home runs, and had a .173 average and .457 OPS. The clock is ticking for the almost 26 year old to prove he is more than an AAA player. Both Sierra and Brinson are very fast. Sierra had an average sprint speed of 29.8 ft/s last year, just .3 ft/s ahead of Brinson.

       Projected Opening Day Lineup
CF Jonathan Villar (S)
3B Brian Anderson (R)
LF Corey Dickerson (L)
DH Jesus Aguilar (R)
C Jorge Alfaro (R)
RF Matt Joyce (L)
1B Garrett Cooper (R)
2B Isan Diaz (L)
SS Miguel Rojas (R)

       Projected Rotation
Sandy Alcantara (R)
Caleb Smith (L)
Jose Urena (R)
Jordan Yamamoto (R)
Pablo Lopez (R)

       Projected Bullpen
Brandon Kintzler, closer (R)
Yimi Garcia (R)
Drew Steckenrider (R)
Ryne Stanek (R)
Adam Conley (L)
Stephen Tarpley (L)
Brad Boxberger (R)
Sterling Sharp (R)
Nick Vincent (R)
Jeff Brigham (R)
Elieser Hernandez (R)

       Projected Bench
C Francisco Cervelli (R)
OF Harold Ramirez (R)
UT Jon Berti (R)
OF Lewis Brinson (R)
OF Magneuris Sierra (L)

Baseball-Reference OOTP Simulator Stats
35-57 record, 5th in NL East
Most home runs: Jesus Aguilar (11)
Highest batting average: Miguel Rojas (.305)
Highest OPS: Miguel Rojas (.804)
Best ERA, starters: Caleb Smith (3.02)
Best ERA, relievers: Ryne Stanek (3.90)
Most innings pitched: Caleb Smith (116.1)
Most strikeouts: Caleb Smith (120)
Best K/9: Drew Steckenrider (11.1)

Record through 60 games, last five seasons:
2019: 23-37
2018: 21-39
2017: 27-33
2016: 31-29
2015: 24-36

       Prediction:
The Marlins aren't good. They know that they aren't good. However, I have to hand it to them after they actually had a productive offseason. They got some very good veterans in Villar, Dickerson, Aguilar and Kintzler to make their roster competitive. When their core develops, they could be a decent team. However, that isn't going to happen soon, and the Marlins will finish 5th in the NL East once again, in 2020.

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