Alex Kielar | February 19th, 2020
Let’s head down South to Miami next to preview the Marlins season. The rebuild is underway as part-owner Derek Jeter tries to return them to the playoffs. The fish obviously won’t be able to compete in a stacked NL East, but they have some young promise. First, we’ll look back at the 2019 season and then look ahead to this season.
Make sure to check out our other Team Previews here.
Last season the Miami Marlins finished in last place at 57-105. They were not only a really bad team, but they also had to play in the only division in the Majors with all four other teams being .500 or better. The rebuild is off to a pretty slow start as the Marlins’ record actually got six games worse from 2018. Time for them to improve in 2020 and get it kickstarted.
C: Jorge Alfaro
1B: Jesús Aguilar
2B: Isan Diaz
SS: Miguel Rojas
3B: Jonathan Villar
The Marlins made a couple solid additions in Aguilar and Villar who should help revamp the lineup. Aguilar has some solid pop in his bat, but it did regress a bit last season (HH% 42.6 to 37.7, Barrel% 11.4 to 7.4) as he only hit 12 home runs between the Brewers and Rays in 131 games. His HH% was still at a high enough rate that he can give solid production. Villar, as I mentioned here in the second baseman fantasy rankings, improved a number of his metrics last season in his seventh season. His barrel% (6.8%), HH% (37.1%), and K% (8.5%) all improved by over one percent, while his BB% improved by 0.5% (8.5%). Villar also brings speed with 40 stolen bases last season. Some slight regression will be expected with the change to the NL, but I expect solid numbers. Alfaro ranked at the top of the league in HH% (44.8%), Exit Velocity (90.8 MPH), Pop Time (1.94), and Sprint Speed (28.8) last year. Despite his top sprint speed, he only stole four bases last year, but as a catcher, that’s expected. He is only 26, so he could break out some more. Diaz made his debut last season and struggled with just a .173 BA and a 29.4 K% in 49 games. I expect an improvement, but don’t expect anything that special. He is the second baseman of the future, and I think he has a good spring to win the 2B job. Rojas had an okay season (.284/.331/.379, 46 RBI, 5 HR), but his underlying metrics point towards not too much production. I don’t expect him to bat over .280 this year.
LF: Harold Ramirez
CF: Jonathan Berti
RF: Brian Anderson
Ramirez can play all three OF spots and showed some spark last year with a .276/.312/.416 slash line with 50 RBI and 11 HR. He needs to work on his plate discipline with just a 4.0% BB% but he will give some production. Berti burst onto the scene last season as he slashed .273/.348/.406 and smashed six home runs, drove in 24 runs and stole 17 bases in 73 games. His K-BB rate is a bit concerning at 3.22 but he hits the ball hard with a 37.5% HH%, and his speed is top of the line with a 29.8 sprint speed. This makes him a good bet to lead off and he also plays the infield and anywhere in the outfield. Anderson is the Marlins best player and will either play third base or right field and will probably split time between the two. His 2019 season ended in August after getting hit by a pitch on his left hand, fracturing a bone, but he put up very solid numbers before that. The 26-year old hit the ball very hard with a 45.7% HH% and even showed some pop last year with 20 long balls. I could see even more of a step forward for Anderson in 2020 as he gets more solid bats around him.
Starting Rotation Projections
Elieser Hernandez/Robert Dugger
Alcantara was Miami’s only All-Star in 2019 while he posted a 3.88 ERA and closed in on 200 IP with 197.1. His ERA is a bit deceiving while his xFIP of 5.17 is a lot more telling, and he gives up homers off nearly 11% of fly balls. He does induce grounders, however, forcing the ball on the ground last year at a 44.6% clip. Smith is probably actually the Marlins’ best pitcher, but his second half was atrocious as he held a 5.42 ERA. He was dealing with some injury, however, so staying healthy should help him improve his numbers and return to the first half of 2019 form. Yamamoto made his debut last year and started in 15 games; he is expected to start Miami’s Spring opener this weekend and will look to show the Marlins he can be a constant in their rotation. Yama has excellent stuff, striking out 82 batters in 78.2 IP. After the first three, the rotation is a bit of a question mark, with at least three pitchers in the running for the fourth and fifth starter spots. Lopez missed time with a shoulder injury and made just 21 starts, while Hernandez might get a shot at one of the spots but could be in more of a long-man/opener type role. Dugger was called up a couple times and made seven starts, but gave up 22 earned runs in 34 IP.
Brandon Kintzler, José Ureña, Jarlin García, Ryne Stanek, Tyler Kinley
Adam Conley, Wei-Yin Chen, Austin Brice, Jeff Brigham
The addition of Kintzler gives them a solid closer and Ureña will give them innings as he was a starter, starting the past two Opening Days. Ureña could get a shot to close games as well, while Chen enters a contract year as a long reliever. Stanek could be used as a setup man along with opening some games (as he did with the Rays). There are certainly a number of options in the bullpen, but it is a big question mark past the late innings.
Players to Watch For
Jesus Sanchez – Acquired in July from the Rays, Sanchez is the Marlins third-ranked prospect and the 80th ranked overall in all of MLB. The corner outfielder is an advanced hitter for his age and reached Double-A at age 20, but had his worst season last year at age 22. His numbers still weren’t terrible (.260/.325/.398) so if that’s his worst, the Marlins are in for a treat. Sanchez just has to work on plate discipline and he could be a constant .280, 25 HR player, as he has excellent bat speed and makes hard contact. With question marks in the outfield, I expect Sanchez up with the big club by early in the second half.
Sixto Sanchez – Another Sanchez to watch out for, Sixto was the centerpiece of the trade that sent J.T. Realmuto to Philadelphia. Sanchez is the Marlins top prospect and 22nd overall and has some of the best stuff to be one of the best pitching prospects. He can get a shot later this season with question marks deeper in the Marlins rotation. He pounds the strike zone and despite not missing many bats, he posted a 4.6 K/BB rate over his first five minor league seasons.
Garret Cooper – Cooper should see some playing time at first base and be a utility man as he backs up newly-acquired Aguilar. Coop put up very good numbers last year, hitting .281 and bashing 15 homers while hitting the ball hard with a 40.4% HH%. His .340 xwOBA shows his numbers can be sustainable and he should get fairly consistent playing time, as he can also play in the outfield (where he started Opening Day at last season).
The Marlins will have a tough time in the packed NL East this year. The rebuild is started and will take a long, long time to see results. They should definitely see an improvement from their 57 wins last year. I will go with 63-99 as they barely avoid a second straight season with 100 losses.
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