Posted on March 8, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Miami Marlins made a lot of headlines during the winter, but for all the wrong reasons. Under new ownership, the club traded away most of its core in favor of cutting payroll and adding prospects for the future. As a result, the Marlins aren’t exactly set up to be competitive this season. So how bad will Miami be in 2018?
The top of Miami’s rotation remains largely intact, which is a silver lining for the Fish this season. Jose Urena had a breakout campaign in 2017, winning 14 games and posting a 3.82 ERA. He may be the de facto ace of the staff with Dan Strailly giving the Marlins a steady no. 2 starter. The wild card of the group is Adam Conley, who was outstanding in 2015 and 2016 but had a disastrous 2017 campaign. If he can return to the form he had two years ago, the Marlins would at least have three reliable starters.
Unfortunately for the Marlins, the questions in their rotation don’t stop at Conley. Wei-Yin Chen’s health remains a question after he started just five games last year. If healthy, he’d be a huge asset in the rotation, but that’s a huge “if.” The rest of Miami’s rotation will be made up of young pitchers like Dillon Peters, Sandy Alcantara, and Justin Nicolino. The club is high on Peters and Alcantara, and while both could benefit from more seasoning in the minors, they may be forced to spend most of the season in the big leagues.
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The good news for Miami’s bullpen is that they have veterans like Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa to lean on this season. The bad news is that both had disappointing seasons last year. Miami’s only potential star coming out of the bullpen may be Kyle Barraclough, who has pitched well enough the last two years to potentially take the closer’s job away from Ziegler.
The Marlins also have a few intriguing arms in their bullpen who could end up taking on prominent roles. Nick Wittgren, Darlin Garcia, and Drew Steckenrider all showed flashes of promise last season. But as a whole, there are few reasons to be excited about the Miami bullpen this season.
Offensively, the Marlins lost their four best players over the winter, creating quite a few holes in their lineup. However, a few key players remain, most notably Justin Bour and J.T. Realmuto, who will now be headliners rather than supporting players. Martin Prado could also be a key part of Miami’s lineup. But he struggled to stay healthy last season, which is a concern for the 34-year old heading into 2018.
To be fair, the Marlins did add some talented young players this winter who figure to be everyday players this year. Starlin Castro will be the team’s second baseman, and at age 27, he’s in his prime and coming off the best season of his career. Lewis Brinson is also an intriguing player with five-tool potential who’s in line to be Miami’s everyday center fielder. Braxton Lee is another top prospect who figures to get regular playing time in right field.
Of course, outside of Bour, Realmuto, and Castro, there are few guarantees in Miami’s lineup. Prado’s health is a question mark at third base. Neither Miguel Rojas or J.T. Riddle is a proven everyday player at shortstop. The Marlins are also piecing together their outfield with young players like Brinson and Lee.
Even if some of Miami’s younger players prove to be ready for prominent roles in the big leagues, it’s a safe bet that the Marlins will finish last place in the NL East. Even before they traded all of their stars over the winter, Miami was just 77-85 last year. Expect the Marlins to finish 58-104 this season, as the rebuilding effort gets started with a disaster of a season on South Beach.