MIAMI MARLINS (NL EAST)
2013 record: 62-100 (fifth, 34 GB)
Projected 2014: 69.5 wins
World Series odds: 100/1
Key additions: Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Garrett Jones
X factor: Rafael Furcal
Projected starting lineup: Infield: C – J. Saltalamacchia; 1B – G. Jones; 2B – R. Furcal; 3B E. Lucas; SS – A. Hechevarria. Outfield: LF – C. Yelich; CF – M. Ozuna; RF – G. Stanton.
Starting rotation: J. Fernandez, N. Eovaldi, H. Alvarez, J. Turner, T.Kuehler.
Closer: S. Cishek
The 1970’s R&B group the Stylistics cut the big hit “Breakup To Makeup” and over the years the Miami Marlins did several remakes and called them fire sales.
The list of discarded Marlins reads like a Who’s Who of baseball studs – Miguel Cabrera, Josh Beckett, Hanley Ramirez, AJ Burnett, Pudge Rodriguez, Dan Uggla, Josh Johnson etc, etc. And yet not long after each fire sale following a World Series championship, the Marlins continue to produce A-1 list talent.
It’s a living hell for South Florida fans to support the team, but do you really have a choice? After all there is the new stadium, Jimmy Buffett concerts plus Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez as the faces of the franchise.
While LVH only expects the Marlins to win 69.5 games, they are definitely on the rise and not beyond the realm of possibility to finish ahead of both the Phillies and Mets in third place. Expecting to beat out both Atlanta and Washington would probably be uncivilized.
That said, Miami could easily win 70. Heck, they could be a .500 ballclub if both Stanton and Rodriguez have breakout seasons. Stanton doesn’t just hit homers, he drives them into Broward County. The Marlins play in North Dade.
Stanton, at just 24, became just the ninth player in major league history to have 100 homers in his first 400 games. He could walk 200 times this season because pitchers would rather face anyone but him in the Miami lineup.
So the Marlins went to work in the offseason and hit Savers for a couple of bargains – 1B Garrett Jones (Pirates) and C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Red Sox). As recently as 2012, Jones hit 27 homers and Salty 25. That’s the kind of protection Giancarlo needs.
Fernandez, 22, is a bull at 6-foot-2, 242 pounds. Another Cuban sensation, Jose was 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA, a microscopic 0.98 WHIP (walks and hits to innings pitched) and 187 strikeouts in less than 173 innings. Number 2 starter Nate Eovaldi showed flashes of brilliance and closer Steve Cishek had 38 saves – a huge number for a team that lost 100 games last year.
For the Marlins to approach the .500 mark they simply have to produce more runs. They only managed 513, far and away the worst in the majors. Aging veteran Rafael Furcal is slated to start at second base and if his bat is on, should be able to trigger some offense. Young shortstop Adeiny Hechevarria led the team with 123 hits a year ago.
The schedule is kind to Miami at the start – six straight home games including three apiece against Colorado and San Diego. Neither finished above .500 last season.
The Marlins ended last season with a four-game winning streak. They lead the Grapefruit League with a 9-4 preseason record. A good start would be huge for a young team with lots of upside and looking for a reason to believe.
Bottom line: If Stanton and Fernandez light up South Beach the question again becomes how long they will be wearing a Marlins uniform. Bettors would best focus on this year, taking OVER 69.5 wins and let the future play itself out.
On deck: Milwaukee Brewers
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].