Posted on February 27, 2020, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Miami Marlins did something this offseason that they haven’t done in a few years: they made moves to get better in the short-term rather than just rebuild for the long term. Of course, after losing 105 games last year, the Fish have a long way to go. As they continue to rebuild, just how good can the Marlins be in 2020?
Miami’s rotation had plenty of growing pains last season, but we’re finally starting to see the rotation of the future come together. Presumed ace Sandy Alcantara started 32 games in 2019, posting a 3.88 ERA despite going 8-14. The Marlins also got over 20 starts from both Caleb Smith and Pablo Lopez, who will both be key figures in Miami’s rotation in 2020. Smith is at least a solid back-end starter while Lopez has a higher ceiling than he showed with his 5.09 ERA a year ago.
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Likely filling out the rotation to start the season will be Jordan Yamamoto and Elieser Hernandez, who both gave the Marlins 15 starts last season. Both had their moments, so Miami will be hoping for an improvement in both as they get more experience in the majors. The Marlins are also hopeful that prospects like Sixto Sanchez, Edward Cabrera, and Nick Neidert will be able to make an impact at some point in 2020, helping them take another step forward in the rebuilding process.
Not surprisingly, the bullpen was an issue for the Marlins last year, as two of their three most-used relievers posted ERAs over 6.00. However, Brandon Kintzler was signed to serve as the closer and create some semblance of stability at the back-end of the bullpen. Miami also traded for Ryne Stanek last summer, giving them an established reliever who can pitch late in games.
From there, it’s all about how Miami’s returning relievers bounce back from disappointing 2019 campaigns. The club remains high on Drew Steckenrider despite elbow trouble hindering him last season. The Marlins also have to think that Jose Urena and Adam Conley are both better than what they showed last season. Both were once promising starters and should be able to be reliable contributors out of the bullpen. If they can get their act together, Kintzler solidifies the closer’s role, and Stanek is solid, Miami’s bullpen could at least be middle of the pack in the National League this season. On the other hand, there are few guarantees given how much Miami’s bullpen disappointed last season.
It’s on offense where the Marlins hope their offseason moves pay off. Sluggers Jesus Aguilar and Corey Dickerson were brought in to provide some punch to the middle of the order. The same goes for Jonathan Villar, who isn’t necessarily a power hitter but had a career-high 24 home runs last year. Miami should also know what to expect from Brian Anderson, giving them a more formidable middle of the order than they’ve had the past two seasons.
Of course, the Marlins are still playing the waiting game with some of their younger players. They’re still waiting on Lewis Brinson to come around after two frustrating years in Miami. If the young center fielder doesn’t start to produce, Jon Berti, Harold Ramirez, and Magneuris Sierra could all see more playing time in the outfield. The Marlins also hope that second baseman Isnar Diaz is ready to take a step forward with the bat. Meanwhile, catcher Jorge Alfaro made nice contributions offensively last year in addition to being a strong defensive catcher. There are also a few prospects who are finally on their way and could be in the majors at some point in 2020, including outfielders Jesus Sanchez and Monte Harrison and shortstop Jazz Chisholm.
After 57 wins last year, betting odds have the Marlins at 64.5 win sin 2020. Getting there would indicate mild progress and keep Miami from losing 100 games. However, the Marlins overachieved for their talent a year ago and are probably another year away from any serious jump in wins. Plus, they still play in one of the most competitive divisions in baseball. Look for Miami to max out around 60 wins in 2020, falling short of the 64.5 win projection and losing over 100 games for the second straight season.