Last Updated: 2017-03-29
There were supposed to be things to celebrate over the offseason for the Miami Marlins. Christian Yelich had a breakout season. Marcell Ozuna got back on track. Giancarlo Stanton was healthy enough to play 119 games after playing just 74 the season before. Adam Conley had a quality season. David Phelps and Kyle Barraclough proved to be dominant relievers. Instead, the tragic death of star pitcher Jose Fernandez overshadowed it all.
It seems cruel that the starting rotation is far and away the worst group with this ballclub. It would have been the weakest area of the team with #16 going every five days anyway, but the thing that could keep a very promising team from its ceiling is the collection of guys that will start every five days. Expectations aren’t all that high for the Marlins anyway, so they could be a surprise team this season if some of the newly-acquired starters inject some life into the holdovers from last season.
The Marlins were 79-82 last season. By Pythagorean Win-Loss, they were a 78-83 team with a -27 run differential. Miami’s BaseRuns record was 79-82, so they didn’t have any big outliers. They were a little bit unlucky from an offensive standpoint, as BaseRuns had the Marlins with 4.19 runs per game instead of the 4.07 runs per game they actually scored, but the Marlins were pretty much as good as they were supposed to be per those two alternative standings metrics.
Most seem to believe that the NL East will be a two-horse race between the Washington Nationals and the New York Mets and some believe that the gap is pretty big between those two teams. Can a surprise third-party join the fray down the stretch? If it’s going to be one of the three other teams in the East, the smart money would be on the Marlins, despite what the Braves did in the second half. The question is whether or not the Marlins can get to that point.
Season Win Total Odds
BetDSI: 76.5 (-104/-116)
BetOnline: 76.5 (-115/-115)
5Dimes: 77.5 (125/-155)
Additions: AJ Ellis, Edinson Volquez, Dan Straily, Brad Ziegler, Junichi Tazawa, Jeff Locke, Brandon Barnes, Kyle Lobstein, Severino Gonzalez, Javy Guerra, Elvis Araujo
Losses: Mike Dunn, David Lough, Bryan Morris, Andrew Cashner, Jeff Francoeur, Chris Johnson, Jeff Mathis, Fernando Rodney
The Marlins quietly had a strong offseason. They avoided overpaying Mike Dunn and swapped him out for Brad Ziegler instead. Junichi Tazawa will give the Marlins another reliable arm in middle relief. There’s also some bullpen/swingman depth with Jeff Locke, Kyle Lobstein, and Severino Gonzalez.
Edinson Volquez and Dan Straily will slot into the starting rotation as upgrades over what the Marlins had last season. AJ Ellis is a good defensive catcher that should be a very good mentor for JT Realmuto. None of the losses were overly significant except for one.
I didn’t list Jose Fernandez because he was not lost over the offseason and this section is for offseason transactions. The death of Jose Fernandez hit me much harder than losses of other professional athletes, including the recent death of Yordano Ventura. I never met Jose Fernandez. I never got to watch him pitch live. Selfishly, one of my many thoughts the day he died is that I will never have the chance and that is a major disappointment. The saddest part about all of it is the story of Jose Fernandez. The way he left Cuba. The way he saved his drowning mother. His emotional reunion with his grandmother. His zest for life and passion for the game. He was given another chance in the water that day he saved his mom and then successfully made it to North America. Then, he died from a boating accident. It’s unfair.
Like most, I simply shook my head when the toxicology reports and other accounts came out about what led up to Fernandez’s passing. While his final hours were littered with bad choices that resulted in deaths that could have been prevented, in all likelihood, I choose to remember the smiling pitcher that he knew was good and let other players know it, too. Some thought his antics were brash or arrogant. For a kid that had conquered so much to pitch on the biggest stage in the world, to me, he had earned that right.
Some of baseball’s problems stem from an inability to market its stars. Fernandez was one of them. It’s still surreal to speak about him in the past tense. He was a huge loss for baseball, a monumental loss for the Marlins, and a downright devastating loss for his family and friends.
Twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years from now, those in my generation and the generations before and after mine will remember what could have been with #16. He already was great. Who knows what he could have become. Sadly, we will never know. RIP JDF.
Why bet the over?
This is a lineup that has a lot of potential. Last year, the Marlins were only 27th in runs scored and I feel like they underachieved in a pretty big way. Christian Yelich’s breakout season really stood out. Yelich posted a .298/.376/.483 slash line with a .367 wOBA and a 130 wRC+. Yelich hit 21 homers and made a ton of exceptional contact. He also nearly took 10 bases. The 25-year-old looks like a legit building block near the top of this order. He walked nearly 11 percent of the time and the spike in power would suggest that his pitch recognition skills have improved. His defensive value will be trimmed a bit by moving from left field, where he was +32 defensive runs saved over four years, to center fielder, where he is -6 defensive runs saved, but it’s a much more challenging position and that is weighted accordingly. He should be a four-win player once again.
Giancarlo Stanton’s health is such a key to the season. Stanton missed about a month last year with a strained groin and he just wasn’t the same hitter after missing more than half of the 2015 season. Stanton hit 27 home runs in 318 plate appearances in 2015. He hit 27 home runs in 470 plate appearances last season. His overall slash line went from .265/.346/.606 to .240/.326/.489. Stanton is a guy that has shown the ability to repeat high slugging percentages and carry well above average HR/FB% in the past. Hopefully he’s healthy because he’s one of the game’s most dynamic players when he is. Projection systems like about a 20 percent boost from Stanton relative to last season’s wRC+. He’s a slightly above average defender, so a bounce back offensively would net a lot of positive value for the Fish. Stanton is only 27, so it’s not like his best days are fully behind him. There’s a lot of hope here. He posted a 3.9-win season in 74 games in 2015 and only managed 1.7 fWAR in 119 games last season. Hopefully he gets back on track.
One of the problems in projecting out the Marlins is that they don’t have a lot of guys like Yelich and Stanton with well above average potential. They do, however, have quite a few solid big leaguers. Not many people speak about Martin Prado, but the versatile 33-year-old has carved out a very nice career. Last season, he posted his second straight 3.2-win season by carrying a .305/.359/.417 slash. There’s not a lot of power there, but there’s a ton of bat-to-ball and some good contact quality. Prado has also rated above average at the hot corner each of the last two seasons. The 33-year-old saw a batting average drop in the second half, but he other peripherals improved, so he should be okay in terms of the aging curve for another year or two. He also smashes left-handed pitching. Prado now has a .309/.377/.472 slash against southpaws. Overall, the Marlins should be a pretty good team against lefties this season, for those also thinking about game-by-game betting. I’ve said the same thing over the last couple of years. Last season, the Marlins were 22-12 against left-handed starters.
JT Realmuto hit 11 HR and stole 12 bases as a catcher. He’s also a very good defensive catcher, so he carried a ton of value with 3.5 fWAR. Realmuto is slated for some time at first base this season with a competent backup in AJ Ellis, but he’s really worked hard at the offensive side of the game and it shows. His prospect stock wasn’t all that high because of his hitting in the minor leagues, but he’s really picked it up at the MLB level. He batted .303/.343/.428 with a 107 wRC+ last year. As mentioned, Ellis is a good defensive backup, so this is one of the more valuable tandems in the NL.
Marcell Ozuna wasn’t very good in center field and only posted a .321 OBP, so his advanced metrics value doesn’t really do justice to what he meant for the Marlins. His 2016 season meant hope. After falling out of favor in 2015 and spending some time in purgatory between the minor leagues and the trade rumors, Ozuna stepped up and hit 23 HR last season with a 105 wRC+. It seems like Don Mattingly is going to move Ozuna to a corner to let Christian Yelich patrol center field, so that could help Ozuna’s overall value tremendously.
Dee Gordon doesn’t provide a whole lot of offensive value, but he creates value on the basepaths and in the field. He also only managed to play 79 games last season, but he wasn’t going to replicate his 4.7-win season in 2015. He carried a .383 BABIP all year and that was simply way out of range, even for a guy with his speed. With better health, Gordon could be in line for a bounce back. Remember, we’re looking for all possible gains to lead up to bigger gains. Gordon fits the mold there if he can elevate his BABIP back to career levels to post an average or better OBP with his usual contributions. There’s good defense up the middle at the shortstop spot with Adeiny Hechavarria as well. Like Gordon, he’s not much of a hitter, but he’s a great defender.
Justin Bour is carving out a nice niche as a player that has value, but it seems to be hidden from the advanced metrics. Bour plays the platoon role on the fat side very nice at first base. He’s hit 39 HR in 850 MLB plate appearances with a .265/.335/.467 slash. He’s pretty useless against lefties, but he’s a .271/.345/.494 guy against righties. There’s value in that.
My biggest miss in 2016 was Wei-Yin Chen. I thought this was an outstanding signing for the Marlins. Chen was coming over from the American League and had to bob and weave his way to success at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. That’s not a good place for a pitch-to-contact guy. Chen’s K% actually declined, which was stunning to me in a league where pitchers hit. The biggest thing about Chen last season is that he lost his elite skill of inducing pop ups. Chen’s IFFB% had never been below 10 percent in any MLB season and was actually 14 percent in 2015. Pop ups are basically strikeouts caught by somebody generally not wearing a mask. Unfortunately, Chen’s command took a massive hit and his pop up rate dropped to 6.8 percent while his hard-contact rate went through the roof. As it turned out, Chen missed two months with a sprained elbow right in the middle of the season. I think we see a much better season from Wei-Yin Chen. It can be hard for some of these Asian pitchers to get comfortable in a city and then switch to a different city, especially one as vastly different as Miami. He has a better feel for the hitters and for his catcher. Who knows, maybe he’d do well to have AJ Ellis as a personal catcher. Either way, I think we see the home run rate drop. Marlins Park is such a good venue for pitchers and Chen didn’t get to experience that last season. If you’re looking at an NL-only league or the late rounds of a MLB fantasy draft, I like Chen to bounce back and carry a decent WHIP with a 3.50 or 3.60 ERA and a spike in strikeouts.
I’m not an Edinson Volquez fan, but the dude found another good fit. Volquez settled with the Kansas City Royals and rode that defense to one of his best seasons before the wheels fell off last year. Now, he draws into a Miami roster that features three plus defenders on the infield. Last season, his command evaded him and his walk rate went up and his home run rate skyrocketed. He’s back in the NL now with a better park to pitch in and another strong infield defense. There’s some room for a bounce back here as well.
I’m very intrigued by Adam Conley this season. The southpaw made 25 starts last year and threw 133.1 innings. He missed some time with left ring finger tendinitis, which, seems oddly specific, but he struck out 124 batters. Conley basically had one outlier of a month in May when a lot of balls found holes. He kept hitters to a .235/.328/.378 slash in 99.1 innings in the first half of the season. I think there’s a middle-of-the-rotation starter here and that’s a plus.
Dan Straily is another very interesting guy. Straily became an extreme fly ball pitcher last season and that didn’t really fit very well at Great American Ball Park. Straily posted a 3.76 ERA by carrying a .239 BABIP and posting a reasonable strikeout rate. He also gave up 31 home runs. Marlins Park is a lot more forgiving. The outfield defense for the Marlins isn’t great, but it’s about average, and that could help Straily out in a big way. For a guy that only throws 89-90, Straily had a pretty good rate of swings and misses inside the strike zone, which is a sign of his good tunneling and pitch mixing. Straily had one of the highest Zone% marks in the league at 48.6 percent, so his walk rate of 9.2 percent seems unnaturally high. There’s a lot of room for improvement here.
There’s not a ton of depth here, but Tom Koehler is a decent pitcher at home. Justin Nicolino misses virtually no bats, but can pitch to this above average defense. There are a couple prospects like Dillon Peters and Jarlin Garcia that could see some MLB time.
The best part of this team is the bullpen. It is deep and loaded with excellent arms. AJ Ramos has 160 strikeouts over his last 134.1 innings of work. He’s slated to start as the closer after racking up 40 saves last season, but Kyle Barraclough will be beating on the door. Barraclough struck out 113 in 72.2 innings last season. He’s a little bit erratic, but he’s also extremely hard to square up. He gave up one home run out of 306 batters last season. Brad Ziegler’s submarine arm slot is a different look for teams, especially with some of the hard-throwers with sharp breaking stuff that the Marlins can throw at the opposition. Junichi Tazawa posted good K/BB rates last season, but the long ball hurt him. Again, Marlins Park will help that. David Phelps struck out 114 over 86.2 innings. The Marlins pen is legitimately strong. For a reaffirmation of that, here’s Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs.
Why bet the under?
The health of Giancarlo Stanton tops the list. Stanton is the straw that truly stirs the drink for this offense. Christian Yelich’s breakout season was excellent (more on that in a minute), but Stanton’s inability to stay healthy hurts this team a lot. Even though he made it through 119 games last season, he still wasn’t all there. It’s hard to say that about a guy that hit 27 HR in just 470 plate appearances, but this is a guy that has posted wRC+ marks of 154, 161, and 158. He posted a 114 last season. The league-wide power spike mitigated some of his production in that regard, but his batting average dropped 25 points, his OBP dropped 20 points, and his SLG dropped over 100 points. The Marlins finished 27th in runs for a reason.
I think Christian Yelich is safe offensively. He’s carried high BABIPs for three full seasons now, so we can’t really argue with the contact quality. The thing that worries me about Yelich is moving to center field. It is a much more demanding position. It will cut into his value first and foremost because he’s been better in a corner. Overall, it could help the team because he should be better than Marcell Ozuna in CF, but it could also cut into his numbers as we get deeper into the season. If anybody has seen any research on offensive production when moving from a corner to center, I’d love to see it. Maybe I could be proven wrong. I’d be okay with that.
I would be shocked if JT Realmuto has the same type of offensive season this year. Realmuto carried a .357 BABIP, which is just not sustainable for him. He has a bit of pop, so 10 or 11 home runs are certainly repeatable numbers, but the .357 BABIP is not. Let’s say he drops 30 points in BABIP down to .327, which is still high, but whatever. That would, theoretically, shave 20-30 points off of his OBP, thus making his OBP around league average. When Realmuto carried an 88 wRC+ in 2015 with a .259/.290/.406 slash and a .285 BABIP, he was worth 1.9 wins. Projection systems have his offense dropping off by a pretty decent amount. He’s still a high-floor players as a great defensive catcher, but, again, this is an offense that was pretty bad overall last season.
Dee Gordon and Adeiny Hechavarria are major negatives offensively. Martin Prado’s contact quality could go down as he ages. Marcell Ozuna already teeters around a league average on-base percentage. This could be a poor offensive ballclub once again. That’s going to put a lot of pressure on a rotation that basically has a bunch of 3-4-5 starters. Nobody stands out as a front of the rotation guy. If I’m wrong about Wei-Yin Chen, he’ll be another subpar starter in a group that features low-strikeout guys like Edinson Volquez and Tom Koehler.
Dan Straily’s home run problem might not get fixed. Wei-Yin Chen’s didn’t. Straily home run problem wasn’t that big of an issue because he limited baserunners by carrying a low BABIP on so much weak aerial contact, but you just never know with balls in play. Per the Fangraphs Depth Charts projections, which incorporate Steamer and ZiPS with playing time adjustments, only the Reds and Padres are projected to get less WAR from the starting pitchers and there’s a significant gap between the Marlins and the Atlanta Braves in the “race’ for 27th on that chart.
The death of Jose Fernandez has long-lasting impacts on this organization. Obviously, it will be tough for the players to take the field without him for a while and it will never be the same. Also, he was their best starting pitcher by a wide margin. Last season, Fernandez was worth 6.1 fWAR. The next highest Marlin was Kyle Barraclough at 2.1 fWAR. Next was David Phelps at 1.9 fWAR and he only made five starts. Adam Conley was next at 1.4, tied with reliever AJ Ramos. Tom Koehler was the only other starter over 1 fWAR. To lose a player of Fernandez’s caliber is very devastating. That goes without saying, but he gave the Marlins 180 exceptional innings that absolutely nobody on this team can replace.
Season Win Total Pick: Under 76.5 (-115; BetOnline)
This is not a strong pick at all. It would have been, but the Miami bullpen is extremely strong and that’s going to be a saving grace in south Florida throughout the season. The starting rotation just isn’t up to par and there are a lot of below average players in the starting lineup. A similar season from Giancarlo Stanton is going to be a big problem. There’s no way to replace what Jose Fernandez gave the team.
I really wanted to like the Marlins. I wanted to buy a bounce back candidate like Wei-Yin Chen. I want to play on top bullpens because of how specialized the game has gotten. The Marlins will have a lot of five-and-fly types of starts with a deep bullpen like that and some guys like David Phelps capable of going multiple innings. I just can’t do it. There’s a very wide range of outcomes for this team. If Stanton is less than 100 percent and Christian Yelich’s breakout doesn’t carry over, this is a team that could win 72 or 73 games. If everything comes together, a .500 mark is not out of the question. That’s just too much variance for me.
-END OF 2017 PREVIEW-
You don’t have to dig all that deep to see the potential upside of the Miami Marlins. Last year’s 71-91 record isn’t indicative of much, except that a slugger in the middle of the order is a very important piece of the puzzle. The Marlins weren’t a great team with Giancarlo Stanton in the lineup last season, going 30-44 in his 74 starts, but his return and some interesting offseason transactions have created some buzz about the team.
The National League East has some interesting dynamics this season. There are two clear front-runners in the New York Mets and the Washington Nationals and two clear bottom-feeders in the Atlanta Braves and the Philadelphia Phillies. The Marlins are the only team in the middle, so things could go in all sorts of different directions for this team. They could win 85 and threaten for a wild card. They could win 75 and be nowhere near the chase. They could be a .500 team, which would be a 10-game improvement from last season.
At the very least, there should be a lot more stability this season. Jeffrey Loria channeled his inner Notre Dame by firing another coach that he would have to pay to be unemployed when he let Mike Redmond go after just 38 games. Instead of paying another manager, Loria simply reworked the contract of GM Dan Jennings to send him to the dugout. Interim GMs took over while Jennings suffered in the dugout. For his troubles, Jennings was fired on October 29. The Marlins tabbed Don Mattingly as the next manager and he decided that facial hair was not allowed on the mugs of his players. Barry Bonds is also in the fold as a hitting coach. The inevitable ESPN 30 for 30 on Jeffrey Loria will be great TV, if you like watching train wrecks.
The fences are coming in at Marlins Park this season, which could be a blessing and a curse. It will obviously help Stanton and some of the other Marlins with power, like Marcell Ozuna and Justin Bour. It will also hurt a pitching staff that ranked eighth in fly ball percentage at 34.9 percent and added a fly ball pitcher in Wei-Yin Chen to the starting rotation. The best thing Miami had going for it was the home field advantage of being able to get by with marginal starters in a pitcher-friendly environment. It will be interesting to see if that can continue.
By Pythagorean win-loss, the Marlins were a 74-88 team. By BaseRuns, they were one game better at 75-87. They went 30-51 on the road, which isn’t all that surprising given the pitching staff, especially one without Jose Fernandez for too many turns through the rotation. They don’t have many outstanding outliers, outside of the road record, and went 35-41 in the NL East, though they had a losing record against all four teams in the division.
Season win total odds:
BetOnline: 79.5 (-130/100)
5Dimes: 78.5 (-140/110)
Bovada: 79.5 (-115/-115)
Key additions: Wei-Yin Chen, Chris Johnson, Edwin Jackson, Justin Maxwell, Craig Breslow
Key losses: Henderson Alvarez
Above, I said “interesting transactions”. Most of these aren’t all that interesting, but they are moves that can really help a team like Miami that is stuck in mediocrity. Wei-Yin Chen is an excellent addition. The Marlins were sixth in BB% and Chen doesn’t issue many walks. This park, even with the fences moved in, should be a good home yard for him to pitch in.
Chris Johnson hits lefties well, as does Justin Maxwell. The Marlins were 14-19 against left-handed starters last season, so these are two supplemental moves that could pay off from a platoon standpoint. Edwin Jackson could be a spot starter for a team that doesn’t have a lot of starting depth and Craig Breslow slots very nicely into a LOOGY (Lefty One Out GuY) role in the middle innings.
Henderson Alvarez is a fairly notable loss, but he also wasn’t healthy and only pitched 22.1 innings last season. He found a home in Oakland, with a similar park setup.
Why bet the over?
Any time you have two superstars, you have a good core in place. That’s the case for the Miami Marlins with Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez. Stanton hit 27 home runs in 74 games last season, which is an absurd number. Battling injuries, Stanton’s numbers were pretty similar to what he has been putting up in the past, which is about 40 to 50 percent above league average. He’s an elite hitter with elite power and pretty good defense in right field. If Stanton’s K and BB rates regress back to normal, he’s in line for another top-10 offensive season.
The Marlins only got 11 starts from Jose Fernandez, but he racked up 2.1 fWAR in those 11 starts. He’s one of the game’s elite pitchers, with a devastating arsenal, plus control, and plus command. The only flaw right now is his health. The right-hander had Tommy John surgery and then experienced some shoulder discomfort last season. He’s going to be limited to 160 to 180 innings this season, barring an unforeseen playoff chase, but he’s going to accumulate plenty of value in those 26 to 30 starts. In his 2013 rookie season, Fernandez amassed 4.1 fWAR in 172.2 innings over 28 starts. He’s picked up 3.7 fWAR over 116.1 innings in the last two seasons. There’s a lot of upside here, even if his season will be shorter than most.
The supporting cast in the lineup is actually pretty good. Christian Yelich is just now hitting his prime at 24 and should be able to build off of two quality offensive seasons. Amazingly, Yelich has posted a 117 wRC+ in each of his three Major League seasons. Seventeen percent above league average is very good, especially for left field, which has become a pretty poor offensive position overall. Yelich has really good contact quality and the fences coming in might add a little bit of power to his game. He’s cut his strikeouts down in each of his three seasons and has 30 doubles in each of the last two years. He’s a really valuable player that gets overshadowed because his corner outfield mate is a superstar.
Much to Jeffrey Loria’s chagrin, it’s in the team’s best interest to play Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna has been the subject of lots of trade talks as a right-handed hitting power bat with pretty decent defensive skills in center field. He chases and strikes out a little bit more than you would like, but the trade-off is that he hits missiles when he does make contact. With 36 HR in 1,299 AB, he’s a good bet for 20 home runs and 30 doubles with good defense. His offensive profile isn’t beloved by advanced stats with a high K, low BB profile, but the power is there. The same can be said of part-time player Derek Dietrich, who has hit righties well, but doesn’t excel defensively in any facet. Dietrich has decent K/BB rates and hit 10 HR in just 289 PA last season.
It feels like Dee Gordon has been around forever, but he’s only 27, so the value of his legs shouldn’t go away anytime soon. Gordon puts the ball on the ground and legs out a lot of hits. He batted .333/.359/.418 last season with 58 stolen bases in 78 attempts. He’s not a big power guy, but his speed creates triples and that elevates his power stats like ISO and SLG. He also played really well defensively at second base last season. Moving away from shortstop is a help to him and having a healthy Giancarlo Stanton to drive him in will be fun.
Justin Bour’s minor league power came out last season when he hit 23 home runs and clubbed right-handed pitching to the tune of a .270/.326/.519 slash. He excels on the big side of the platoon, which is important, and that carries value. His 21.5 percent HR/FB% will come down, but the fences have come in, so that may mitigate some regression in that stat. His corner infield teammate at third, Martin Prado, is a really versatile player that owns lefties, holds his own against righties, and he puts a lot of balls in play. Quietly, Prado has been a really good defender at third. He’s a very valuable asset on this team. With Adeiny Hechevarria on his left, the Marlins infield defense isn’t bad at all. In fact, it’s a pretty big plus if Hechevarria’s defensive gains stick around.
Wei-Yin Chen is a tremendous addition to this rotation. Chen can munch up 200 innings with spectacular control and moving to the NL should help his command immensely. Chen goes from band box Oriole Park at Camden Yards to the forgiving conditions of Marlins Park. He also faces one less hitter per trip through the lineup with the pitcher batting. A 3.25 ERA with higher peripherals is not out of the question for Chen, especially with a pretty solid defensive team.
Tom Koehler is an above average pitcher at home, but you hope and pray for rain on the road. Regardless, he’ll make about half of his starts in Miami, so he’s going to be useful. Jarred Cosart’s performance has never lived up to his stuff, but the 25-year-old has room to grow and only has 310 innings under his belt. He was hurt last season and he walks too many guys, but he’s got a very heavy, hard sinker, almost like a lite version of Anaheim’s Garrett Richards.
There are some guys in the mix for the Marlins rotation that aren’t going to move the needle, like David Phelps and Justin Nicolino. The best of the bunch is probably Adam Conley who struck out 55 batters in 58 innings as a starter. The lanky lefty did showcase some good command in the minor leagues. His walk rate is a little bit concerning, but league average is not a stretch with the home pitching conditions.
The big three in the Marlins bullpen – Carter Capps, AJ Ramos, and Mike Dunn – will do a good job of shortening games. In 31 innings, Capps struck out 49.2 percent of the batters that he faced. That’s a 16.84 K/9 and his season included a 5.9 percent BB%. That’s elite-level stuff. He has the league’s best fastball by perceived velocity. Capps hasn’t been handed the closer’s role and may actually work in a setup capacity. Truthfully, he should be used as a “relief ace”, in which he’s deployed in the highest leverage situation, but Mattingly (and almost every other manager) won’t do that. Ramos and Dunn are both good.
Why bet the under?
This team is screwed if any one of Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Fernandez, or Wei-Yin Chen goes down long-term. The lineup, the top two starters in the rotation, and the top three guys in the bullpen are all really strong and that group has the potential to be well above average. Unfortunately, this team has absolutely no depth whatsoever. The starting rotation is incredibly thin behind Fernandez and Chen and teams average probably nine or 10 starters per season.
As it stands, the team has lost Carter Capps for an extended period of time. A Monday visit to Doctor of Doom James Andrews is on the horizon and the odds of Tommy John surgery being the answer nobody wants to hear are about -600. This bullpen is now below average and teams will pay a mint for bullpen help at the Trade Deadline. By August, this might be the worst bullpen in baseball.
(Author’s note: left Capps in the bullpen bit for the over until we know for sure)
Over 162 games, depth concerns show up. They showed up last season in a big way when the Marlins only managed 71 wins and that has to be a consideration for anybody thinking about playing their season win total over. If Ichiro Suzuki gets 438 plate appearances again in his age-42 season, the Marlins are in for a very long season. Injuries cripple a lot of teams, but the Marlins are a special case. Unlike a lot of teams with similar payrolls, the Marlins have a lot of everyday players. Platoon situations can sometimes survive through injury, especially if the injury occurs to the right-handed batter between the two players. However, the Marlins can’t afford to lose anybody, from Adeiny Hechevarria to Martin Prado even to Justin Bour.
Another consideration here is that noted cheap-ass owner Jeffrey Loria is going to bail on these players at the first sight of not contending. Martin Prado will be exceptionally valuable and AJ Ramos and Mike Dunn are both guys that could be traded. Like the other positions, the bullpen has very little depth. Bryan Morris had a fine season, but he’s more of a 6th inning type of guy. Edwin Jackson might wind up in the rotation after making 47 relief appearances last season and that just seems like a bad idea. The rotation is marginal at best already and Jackson’s declining skill set won’t be very helpful in that role.
There’s always the possibility that Marcell Ozuna doesn’t hit and strikes out too much for the organization’s liking. He’s already in the doghouse for some reason, so a slow start could ship him back to Triple-A, at which point the Marlins basically have to trade him because they’re holding him back and it makes no sense.
It’s really hard to make a long-winded case for the under because it’s exclusively about depth in the lineup and the bullpen. Everybody knows that the rotation is mediocre behind the top two and has guys that are only going to have success at home. With the new outfield dimensions, that’s not even a given. In his career, Tom Koehler owns a 4.54 ERA with a 4.66 FIP and a 4.58 xFIP in 277.1 innings away from home. Between injuries and ineffectiveness, Jarred Cosart doesn’t have a big sample size, but he had a 4.60 xFIP on the road in 33 innings last season. It’s a small sample size, obviously, but he’s not that good of a pitcher right now overall. Justin Nicolino struck out 23 of the 301 batters he faced last season, so you know that’s not a guy you want making starts. Adam Conley’s probably the best bet, but the Marlins don’t seem all that interested in going with the 25-year-old.
There’s also the unquantifiable element of dysfunction. One would assume that the worst of it is in the past with the Mattingly hiring and a new front office, but Jeffrey Loria’s mood changes make angsty teenage years seem like a walk in the park. There aren’t many organizations in baseball that give off as bad of an impression as this one. That’s always something that rear its ugly head at the worst possible time.
Pick: Miami Marlins Under 79.5 (Even – BetOnline)
I hate making this pick. I love the Marlins lineup. It’s full of young, toolsy offensive threats that have really good skill sets and this is actually a very fine defensive team. In fact, it could be a top-10 defensive team. Realistically speaking, this is a team that should have a ceiling in the 85-win range if Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez stay in tact. Unfortunately, the value side is the under. This is one of my weakest picks in the NL East and possibly the NL as a whole.
Wei-Yin Chen is a tremendous add to the rotation, but there’s not much certainty behind him. Marlins Park is moving the fences in, so maybe guys that have had success there, specifically Tom Koehler, lose some of that edge. I don’t want to say that a closer affects a season outlook that much, but Carter Capps is that kind of arm. The bigger issue is that Capps going out pushes somebody else into the closer’s role, which moves everybody up a spot. That weakens depth in a big way. Perhaps the Marlins find another arm and overcome this adversity. The likelihood is that they don’t.
This team has a high ceiling, but I’m not sure that they can reach it.
-END OF 2016 PREVIEW-