Since 2009, one of the traditions of the spring has been the Playing Pepper series. I ask a number of questions of blogs–some in the Baseball Bloggers Alliance, some not–that cover the other 29 teams in Major League Baseball. This year, not only is my son involved–he and I came up with the last question together–but the series is also brought to you by Purpose, Perseverance and Power Arms, the United Cardinal Bloggers annual publication. Only $2.99 at the Kindle store, so get yours today! But first, get out the bats and gloves and let’s play some pepper.
62-100, fifth in the NL East
There are plenty of jokes about the Marlins. There are plenty of slurs or ill thoughts about their owner. Many things have been said about the stadium, very few on the positive side. There are fan bases that are tough to be a part of and Miami is right there at the top of the list.
However, there are some faithful followers, those who may shake their heads in despair but still get excited once Opening Day rolls around. While 2014 may not be expected to be one of those rare winning seasons in south Florida, there are still people that have some hope that stranger things have happened.
A couple of those are with us today:
- Ehsan from Marlin Maniac, part of the Fansided network and a member of the BBA. He Tweets @marlinmaniac.
- David is one half of the writing team of Marlins Diehards, another BBA member. You’ll find him doing the Tweet thing @MarlinsDiehards.
C70: How would you grade the offseason?
MM: I’d have to give the Marlins offseason a B-. The Jarrod Saltalamacchia signing solidified a major weakness for the Marlins, as their catching tandem was the worst in the majors, by far. Even is Saltalamacchia is a 2 win player, he would represent a 3 win improvement from a season ago. The Jones and Furcal signings are still iffy at best, the Baker signing has some promise. The best part of the offseason has to be that the Marlins improved the team without giving up any of their top pitching prospects.
MD: B-. The “new” regime of Michael Hill and Dan Jennings made some (I think) genuine improvements to the lineup using the tried-and-true strategy their former boss Larry Beinfest favored: low-risk/hi-upside flyers on veterans like Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Garrett Jones, Rafael Furcal, et al. At least two of these signings won’t pan out at all, but considering the fact that the Marlins were trotting out the likes of Juan Pierre and Chris Coghlan last season, I’d call that a win for the front office.
But they lose major points for not even trying to lock up Jose Fernandez long-term by buying out his arbitration years at a discount. Same goes for Giancarlo Stanton. He is probably a lost cause, but the Marlins owe it to their fans to at least look like they are making a sales pitch to Stanton. The Marlins seem to be the only small-/mid-market team that has not figured out that they need to lock up their can’t-miss young guys early, which I find eternally frustrating.
C70: What are the expectations for Jose Fernandez this season?
MM: I’d expect Jose to come down to earth a little bit, posting an ERA closer to 3 than to 2 as he did last season. The hope is the Marlins getting 200+ innings out of him and allowing him to become the ace pitcher many envisioned for him. Jose, on the other hand, does not believe in the term “regression.” His 2014 goal is to post a 1.95 ERA.
MD: High. He was a 4.2 WAR pitcher last season, and the projections have him in the 3-4 range. He might not be able to match his .240 BABIP from last season, so I expect he won’t match his insane 2.19 2013 ERA, but it would be foolish to expect him to. The team was wise to shut him down after 170 IP last season, so hopefully he can stay healthy. But we’ve not been this excited about a young arm since Josh Beckett and Dontrelle Willis were lighting it up in 2003. As long as he throws 200 innings and keeps giving us quality gifs, I’ll be happy.
C70: Which roster battle will be the most intriguing during spring training?
MM: The Marlins don’t have many competitions to look forward to this spring, as the team has a rotation and lineup that are pretty much set. There are two major roles up for grabs, though. The fifth starter role and the center field starting job. The center field gig has to be the most intriguing, as both Jake Marisnick and Marcell Ozuna have flashed some of their potential on the big league level. I’d expect Ozuna to win the role and Marisnick to start the season in Triple-A.
MD: I don’t think you can classify any roster battle as intriguing this spring. The competition for the fifth rotation spot (between Tom Koehler, Brian Flynn, and Brad Hand) and centerfield starter (Marcell Ozuna and Jake Marisnick) are the only major ones to speak of, and neither get my blood pumping.
C70: What rookie, if any, will make the most impact on the team in 2014?
MM: Andrew Heaney could make a strong run at the NL Rookie of the Year award this season, depending on when he is promoted to the big leagues. While he is a long shot to make the club out of spring training, the Marlins have not closed that door, as they didn’t last season for Jose Fernandez. Heaney has all the tools to be a durable #2 guy behind Fernandez. It’s just a matter of proving if he is big league ready.
MD: Hopefully either Christian Yelich or Jake Marisnick will give Stanton some much-needed lineup protection. Both earned early call-ups last season, and while Yelich showed promise (going .288/.370/.396), Marisnick struggled mightily (.183/.231/.248). He did slash .294./358./502 in Class-AA Jacksonville before his call-up last year, so we remain optimistic.
C70: What will be the final record of the team and where will they finish in the division?
MM: I have the Marlins winning 74 games in 2014, a 12-game improvement from the 2013 season. The 74 wins should slot the Marlins in fourth place, ahead of the Mets and behind the Phillies by a game.
MD: This is probably a 70-win/4th place team that could push 80 wins/3rd place if they catch a lot of breaks. This team is much better offensively than it was last year, but the 2013 Marlins were the worst-hitting squad in franchise history. But hey, they should be better than the Mets, so we’ll take it.
C70: Which player from your team do you most enjoy watching?
MM: This has to be Jose Fernandez and it’s not even close. Some are rubbed the wrong way by his friendly chatter in-game and his cocky attitude, but I love it. He genuinely enjoys the game and proves it. He nearly drowned saving his mother’s life trying to flee Cuba, this kid has the right to have as much fun playing this game as anyone.
MD: Hard to choose between Fernandez and Stanton, but I give the nod to Giancarlo. As we are fond of saying over at MDH, Stanton’s #monsterdongs are now FDA-approved for treating erectile dysfunction.
My thanks to Ehsan and David for their thoughts on the other MLB tenant in Jupiter. We’ll get to see the Marlins a lot this spring, so perhaps this will help while you are watching those games!