Posted on March 7, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
A year ago, many expected the Miami Marlins to be historically bad. However, the Fish were slightly better than expected as they began their rebuilding effort, finishing 63-98. Of course, there’s still a long way to go for the Marlins to become competitive in the NL East. Will they take another step forward in 2019 or will they remain basement dwellers in what could be a challenging division?
The Miami rotation remains a work in progress, but there is a lot of young talent in the organization. Jose Urena has emerged as the team’s ace the past two seasons, posting back-to-back years with an ERA under 4.00. Sandy Alcantara, Trevor Richards, and Caleb Smith also showed plenty of promise last season and will have a chance to carve out more prominent roles in Miami’s rotation this season. The Marlins also have a slew of promising pitching prospects, although most of them are at least a year away from pitching in the majors.
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If the Marlins want to make some noise in the NL East this season, they’ll need veterans Dan Strailly and Wei-Yin Chen to help out Urena while their youngster starters establish themselves. Chen was able to shake off his elbow troubles enough to make 26 starts last season. However, his performance was disappointing, going 6-12 with a 4.79 ERA. Strailly was a little better, going 5-6 with a 4.12 ERA, but he also limited to just 23 starts due to injury. The Marlins need him to find the form he had in 2016 when he won 14 games with a 3.76 ERA with the Reds. If they can’t get more out of Strailly and Chen, the growing pains of their young starters could doom them.
The Marlins had the worst bullpen in the National League last season, and that could continue to be a problem area this season with Brad Ziegler retiring and Kyle Barraclough being traded. Drew Steckenrider figures to get a chance to be the closer, although he has limited experience in that role and posted a modest 3.90 ERA last year. Fortunately for the Marlins, they brought in Sergio Romo to give their bullpen some much-needed experience and another option at closer if Steckrider struggles.
Steckenrider and Romo will combine with lefty Adam Conley and flamethrower Tayron Guerrero to form the core of Miami’s bullpen. Of course, that group has much to prove despite having a fair amount of talent. Beyond that foursome, questions abound about Miami’s bullpen depth. The Marlins are high on Rule 5 pick Riley Ferrell, but he obviously lacks big league experience. The same is true for most of Miami’s relief options, so that unit should expect plenty of growing pains this season.
The Marlins were left a lot to be desired offensively last season, and it could be a similar story in 2019, especially after they traded away J.T. Realmuto. Starlin Castro is their best hitter who remains on the roster, but he doesn’t have much help around him. Third baseman Brian Anderson is starting to establish himself, but he needs to do a little better than the 11 home runs he had last year. Meanwhile, Jorge Alfaro should provide some productivity behind the plate, although he’s not the established hitter that Realmuto is. Meanwhile, the team is high on the power potential of Peter O’Brien. However, the Marlins didn’t get much offensively from center fielder Lewis Brinson or shortstop J.T. Riddle last year, and that will have to change.
While they wait for some of their young prospects to develop, the Marlins hope to catch lightning in a bottle from veterans like Neil Walker and Curtis Granderson. Walker had a dreadful 2018 season with the Yankees, but he had an OPS over .800 in three of the previous four seasons, so he could have a bounce-back season as Miami’s primary first baseman. As for Granderson, he isn’t the player he was a few years ago. But he could be a viable platoon partner with Austin Dean in left field while the Marlins wait for Magneuris Sierra to develop.
Despite showing a lot of fight last season, the Marlins may take a step backward this year. Most of their young prospects aren’t quite ready, and trading away Realmuto and Barraclough this winter won’t help. There are serious questions all over the field, and the NL East definitely looks stronger than it did a season ago. Look for Miami to finish 54-108 in what could be a long 2019 season in south Florida.