Miami Marlins: 3 Up and 3 Down

miami marlins

Jose Fernandez will look to build on a solid rookie campaign. (Paul Hadsall)

Dating back to their days as the Florida Marlins, the Miami Marlins have now finished in last place in the National League East in three straight seasons. The Marlins concluded the 2013 season with a sweep of the American League Central champion Detroit Tigers, but Miami still finished with a mark of 62-100. Though the Marlins’ young lineup showed promise throughout the course of the season, Miami still finished last in baseball in virtually every major offensive category.

While the Marlins are known for being a small market club, Miami was active this offseason bringing in veterans like Garrett Jones, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Carlos Marmol. In the process, the Marlins did part ways with underachieving first baseman Logan Morrison, former Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan, and veteran Justin Ruggiano, who finished second on the club with 18 home runs a season ago.

The Miami Marlins are still in the rebuilding stage, but to finish as something other than the worst team in baseball in 2013 was certainly something to build on. A number of young players saw the field last season and Miami is hopeful that will lead to more wins in 2014 and even bigger things in the years to come.

3 Up

Best case scenario

A pennant chase isn’t likely in the cards for the Miami Marlins in 2014, but there is reason to believe that the Fish will be better. After a 13-41 start to last season, Miami finished the final two-thirds of the season with a 49-59 record. If the Marlins can play at that clip for all of 2014, that would equate to about 74 wins which would have been good enough for a third place finish in the N.L. East a season ago.

Most important Marlins

Though he played in just 116 games in 2013, Giancarlo Stanton led Miami in virtually every offensive category. Stanton led Miami in home runs, RBIs, OPS and runs scored. The Marlins brought in some protection for Stanton in the lineup, but the bulk of the production will still likely rest on the bat of Stanton.

The 2013 National League Rookie of the Year, Jose Fernandez, looks to anchor the staff for a second straight season. Fernandez was limited to 172 innings in his first season in the big leagues, but finished with a team-high 12 wins, a 2.19 ERA and 187 strikeouts. Fernandez has emerged as one of the best young pitchers in baseball and will look to further establish his dominance in 2014.

While the Miami Marlins didn’t enjoy many late leads in 2013, closer Steve Cishek was lights out at the back of the bullpen. Cishek finished with a better than 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a solid 2.33 ERA. Cishek concluded the 2013 campaign by converting his final 29 save opportunities.

Potential breakout players

Christian Yelich played just 62 games with the big league club in 2013, but had the look of solid big league hitter. A left-handed bat, Yelich hit .288 in 2013 and showed great speed both on the base-paths and in the field. Yelich is a max effort player and shows great discipline at the plate for a guy that’s only 22 years old. Yelich is likely to hit near the top of the order and with a full season in the big leagues, the youngster is sure to make a bigger splash in 2014.

22-year-old starting pitcher Jacob Turner finished with just a 3-8 record in 2013, but with a solid ERA of 3.74. Though he’s thrown less than 200 innings in his career, Turner is a strike thrower and has always had a pretty solid WHIP. Playing 81 games at cavernous Marlins Park, throwing strikes will go a long way as Turner looks to have the talent to blossom into the second starter in the Miami rotation behind the All-Star Fernandez.

3 Down

Worst case scenario

While there are plenty of reasons to believe that 2014 will be a better season for the Miami Marlins, something other than a last place finish is far from a guarantee. With a young offense that finished last in every major category a season ago, runs could once again be hard to come by and whether any of the young arms behind Jose Fernandez blossom into solid starters also remains in question. Should many things go wrong, a second straight 100-loss season could be in the cards for the Fish.

Areas of concern

The areas of concern for Miami are many. Though the Marlins sought to upgrade their offense this offseason, Miami still has a number of young, unproven hitters around Stanton and newcomers Saltalamacchia and Garrett Jones.

It remains unknown as to whom will man the second and third base positions for the Marlins. Miami brought in veteran Casey McGehee to compete for the third base job, but McGehee hasn’t hit better than .230 since 2010. Donovan Solano should play one of the two positions, but it isn’t clear whether or not Derek Dietrich or Ed Lucas will be able to play everyday at the other.

For the pitching staff, consistency will be key. The Marlins have good young arms in the rotation and the bullpen, but putting together consecutive solid outings has been difficult at times. Turner, Nate Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez, who concluded the 2013 season with a no-hitter, have all shown flashes, but putting together two or three solid starts in a row has not been easy.

Who needs to bounce back from a down 2013

While the Marlins played a ton of young players in 2013, there was perhaps no bigger underachiever than catcher Rob Brantly. After hitting .290 with three homers in 31 games with the Marlins in 2012, Brantly hit just .211 with one home run in 2013. Brantly spent much of the season backing up Jeff Mathis and with the signing of Saltalamacchia, Brantly’s at-bats will once again be numbered.

Though the switch-hitting Saltalamacchia will almost surely assume the starting catcher role, the Fish do have big plans for the 24-year-old Brantly. With Mathis still on the roster, Brantly will need to perform in limited action just to stay in the big leagues and in Miami’s future plans.

Outfielder Jake Marisnick is one of Miami’s top prospects, but has hardly hit the ground running in 40 games at the Major League level. Marisnick hit just .183 a season ago and is expected to compete for a starting spot in the Miami outfield this season. With Stanton and Yelich sure to hold two of the three outfield positions, Marisnick will likely compete with Marcell Ozuna for the other spot.

Marisnick has more upside, but Ozuna has had a much better start to his big league career. If Marisnick once again struggles at the plate, he could spend the majority of the 2014 season in a reserve role or perhaps in the minors.

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