By Dan Lagnado
At this moment two seasons ago, many MLB analysts predicted that the Miami Marlins would be a team to be reckoned with in the NL East. Now two full seasons later, we will be discussing the dire need for MLB caliber players. After the fire sale of 2012, the Marlins were left with very few players form their seemingly talented roster at the beginning of that season. In 2013, the trade of Ricky Nolasco completed the reboot of the old stars in favor more young, raw talent. The one big name that this team has left is Giancarlo Stanton. However, even he, one of the most prolific power hitters in the league, had a season in which he missed time due to injury and so he did not provide the statistics many people expected him to. Stanton hit only .249 with 24 homeruns and 62 RBI. He led the team in every offensive category except for stolen bases, despite only playing in 116 games. The Marlins’ starting lineup was a bit like musical chairs this season, with players coming and going. Over the course of the season, the Marlins used: five catchers, five first basemen, four second basemen, three third basemen, and nine outfielders. Many of these players were journeyman veterans such as Austin Kearns and Casey Kotchman, or prospects rushed to the majors, such as Christian Yelich, Jake Marisnick, and Derek Dietrich. Most of the veteran leaders such as Juan Pierre and Placido Polanco will move on to other teams in free agency causing the Marlins to rely even more heavily on their young players. If nothing is done in free agency the Marlins could have an infield consisting of Ed Lucas, Adeiny Hechavarria, Donovan Solano and Logan Morrison. There aren’t many pitchers who will fear that combination.
Where this team does show promise is the pitching staff. Despite the departure of Nolasco, this young rotation showed the ability to shut down hitters on a somewhat consistent basis. Jose Fernandez is a candidate for both Rookie of the Year and the Cy Young Award after posting a 12-6 record with a 2.19 ERA and 187 strikeouts. Henderson Alvarez (5-6) also showed he can develop into a top-notch pitcher with his no-hitter that he threw the last game of the season. In addition to the two top guns, some capable veterans like Nate Eovaldi and Kevin Slowey also support the rotation. Miami’s bullpen is spearheaded by closer Steve Cishek (34/36 saves, 2.33 ERA), Ryan Webb (2.91 ERA), AJ Ramos (86 K in 80 innings, 3.15 ERA) and Mike Dunn (72 K in 67.2 inn, 2.66 ERA).
It remains to be seen what actions owner Jeffrey Loria and General Manager Dan Jennings choose to take but it is safe to say that it is in the best interest of the team to go out and sign at the very least, a few low risk veteran players on in order to beef up the offense and sure up the back end of what can become a very solid pitching rotation. However I do not believe that a solution to the Marlins’ problems is imminent. It will take a few years but as young players begin to develop and some bigger, longer-term free agent contracts start to be signed this team’s future can be as bright as the summer sun in South Beach.
Dan Lagnado is studying communications, law economics and government at American University. He’s a fan of both the Mets and Jets and has been writing about sports for four years. You can follow him on twitter at @dlag1995