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Marlins 2011 Season Preview: The New Wave
Posted By Brendan Tobin On Mar 30 2011 @ 4:32 pm In Florida Marlins | 1 Comment
Marlins fans are used to hearing it. It’s a young team with a ton of talent that still needs to develop. However this year feels different. The fear of losing the game’s future stars doesn’t seem like a certainty anymore with a new stadium just a year away. Fans have more reason to believe that Mike Stanton will be hitting homeruns for their team for the next 15 years. Maybe Hanley Ramirez can become the first Marlins Hall of Famer. Stability comes with a new playground. This year’s team may not have what it takes to win it all, but they certainly have the chance to energize and excite a fan base before leaving Joe Robbie Stadium for good.
Let’s take a look at what the Marlins have to offer for 2011.
If things go Right: This lineup has the potential to be the best in the division. It’s hard to imagine that when you trade the franchise’s all time home run leader, but this year’s lineup looks more complete than 2010. The Marlins lacked a true catalyst last season with Emilio Bonifacio and Cameron Maybin atop the order. Add to that, Chris Coghlan struggled the first two months of the season. The Marlins couldn’t put anyone on base for their run producers. Now with Coghlan healthy and an All Star in Omar Infante in your top two spots, the Fish hope they’ll have more RBI opportunities for the big boppers. They don’t come much bigger than Mike Stanton. The 21 year old outfielder had more homeruns last season in 100 games than any of his current teammates. Many are touting Stanton as the next great slugger in baseball. The biggest key to this season lies with Hanley Ramirez. He drove in just 76 runs last year which you could blame on the lack of baserunners in front of him partially because no one was getting on, but his power numbers were down in general. Ramirez’s slugging percentage was the lowest of his career. The torn ligament in his left shoulder that caused him to cut his season short is now fixed. He also arrived in Jupiter lighter than his last two seasons, saying he hopes to use his speed more this season.
How it can go wrong: The Marlins young lineup struggles with consistency. They can’t afford another swoon from Chris Coghlan. That would shake up things up too much. A slump from your centerfielder would likely mean that Logan Morrison has to slide up to the number two slot completely killing the middle of your order. Scouts were impressed with Morrison’s on-base ability last season, but the front office sees as a run producer long term. The Fish also hope that John Buck can post up power numbers comparable to last year. Some think the Marlins bought high on the veteran’s career year. The Marlins look at his multi-year contract as part of the return on Dan Uggla. If Buck can’t produce people will continue to wonder if the Fish got anything of value in that deal.
Rotation If things go right: The starting pitchers can carry the Marlins to a playoff berth. It’s certainly not the Phillies ‘Four Aces’, but Florida’s starting staff is no picnic for hitters. Josh Johnson lead National League in ERA last year. The big right hander has established himself as one of the best arms in baseball, and health aside he’s the surest thing on this roster. Johnson is no longer the only arm in the rotation with security. Ricky Nolasco signed a 3-year $26.5M contract before in the offseason. Nolasco is a young version of his new teammate Javier Vazquez. He’s has always been able to strike a lot of people out, has outstanding control and is very durable. Similar to Coghlan, Nolasco needs to avoid a stretch of bad starts and justify the Marlins signing him long term. Anibal Sanchez was the biggest surprise for the Marlins last season. The right hander finally got into shape after being plagued by injuries since 2006. He was able to restore the organization’s faith in him, and with another year like 2010 he may be the next arm to get locked up. Javier Vazquez will provide a veteran presence the Marlins lacked last season. There are concerns about his velocity, but Vazquez has never been a guy who blows hitters away even though racks up a bunch of strikes outs. He relies heavily on his changeup to fool hitters. He’ll need to take a page out of Johan Santana and Pedro Martinez’s book of guys who managed to get hitters out even when their best velocity was gone.
How it can go wrong: The bottom third of the rotation runs into predictable issues. Chris Volstad is in a ‘make or break’ season. The former first round pick can produce some brilliant starts but has been inconsistent since his rookie year. Fans can be encouraged that he was (6-0) in his final 8 starts. But he continues to fall victim to the long ball, which is troubling for sinker ball pitcher. There aren’t reserves for the down on the farm. Chad James is still a full year away, Sean West needs a season to get back on track, and while Alex Sanabia shows promise, he needs to show that 2010 wasn’t a fluke.
Bullpen If things go right: This year’s bullpen can make fans forget about last year’s night mare. Start with addition by subtraction because there was some terrible arms in the ‘pen last year. The Marlins lead baseball in blown saves in ’10, which can be pointed to as the main reason they didn’t make the postseason. Owner Jeffery Loria made it a point to go out and fix the problem. They acquired Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica from the Padres. Both arms pitched the entire year with great success. Mike Dunn was picked up in the Uggla trade with Atlanta, he’s thought of having “closer stuff” but he needs to have cleaner innings, because he allows too many baserunners. Randy Choate was signed to make things hard on left handed hitters in the NL. The 35-year old southpaw held lefties to a .202 average last season. Leo Nuñez may have thought his days with the Fish were done, but the Marlins ponied up the money to bring him back for another year, which makes you believe they think he can handle the closer role.
How it can go wrong: It’s hard to predict bullpens from year to year. No team knows that better than the Marlins, you can look to the differences between ’09 and ’10. The talent appears better, this group isn’t a bunch of scrap heap players that they’ve used in the past. Health is the key here, because the arms in the minors still need work. Burke Badenhop will be in Triple-A but his best skill is mop up duty.
Bench If things go right: Wes Helms will bounce back and show that he’s not over the hill. Helms had a poor 2010, after being part of a great tandem with Ross Gload two years ago. He’ll now have a lefty counterpart in the dugout in Gregg Dobbs. Dobbs brings playoff experience but is also looking to rebound from a tough season. Scott Cousins and Brett Hayes are middle of the road prospects mostly here for their defense, and Emilio Bonifacio is in his best position where he can be utilized late as a pinch runner.
How it can go wrong: Edwin Rodriguez tries to utilize his bench guys too much in the starting lineup. He’s talked about the energy Bonifacio brings to a lineup, but his number suggest he’s best served in late inning situations on the basepaths. If Wes Helms gets off to a poor start, the Marlins may need to consider options for a late inning option from the right side.
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