Miami Marlins 2020 Season Preview

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. 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.

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. 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. 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. 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. 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 to improve.

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. 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. 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. 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. 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 his 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. 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. He will try to beat out Jeff Brigham, who had a 4.46 ERA in 32 games last year.

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. 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.

The Marlins claimed Jesus Aguilar off 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. Isan Diaz, a top-100 prospect in the 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. He can start at AAA. If he does, Jonathan Villar will be the second baseman. 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. 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 two defensive runs saved. Brian Anderson played a lot of third base and right field last year. Maybe the best player on the team, Anderson hit 20 home runs with a career high .811 OPS last year. He is very underrated.

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. Right field will be a shared job between Garrett Cooper, Harold Ramirez and Matt Joyce. Joyce will be more of a bench bat while Cooper is also the backup first baseman. Cooper hit .281 with a .791 OPS and 15 home runs in 2019, his first full season. A 24 year old rookie, Harold Ramirez hit 11 home runs with a .276 average and .728 OPS. A former 25 home run hitter, Joyce hit seven last year, with a .295 average and an .858 OPS. 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. The final spot is between former top prospect Lewis Brinson and Magneuris Sierra. 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.

                    Projected Opening Day Lineup
CF Jonathan Villar (S)
3B Brian Anderson (R)
LF Corey Dickerson (L)
1B Jesus Aguilar (R)
C Jorge Alfaro (R)
RF Harold Ramirez (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)

                      Projected Bench
C Francisco Cervelli (R)
1B/RF Garrett Cooper (R)
OF Matt Joyce (L)
UT Jon Berti (R)
OF Lewis Brinson (R)

The Marlins are still years away from contention. They have done a decent job this offseason acquiring vets to supplement their young players. They still have a lot of work to do, and are still the worst team in the NL East.

Published by carterhud SI Kids Kid Reporter, Prime Time Sports Talk writer

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