Marlins Looking For Another Playoff Run….

There are a lot of things you can buy for $32MM. You can buy this Miami Penthouse for $22MM and have $10MM left over for furniture, you can buy Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano and Carlos Marmol for 1 year or if you are a really big racing fan you can buy Jeff Gordon.  But for the Florida Marlins $32MM might buy them a division title in 2009.

$32MM is the projected 2009 payroll for the Marlins in 2009, by far the lowest in baseball. However, despite the lack of payroll the Marlins may be competing for the NL East division title with the Mets, Phillies and Braves. The Marlins are looking to build off of their solid 84-77 record in 2008 but like every team in baseball, the Marlins have their strengths and weaknesses. Let’s look at the 2009 Marlins

Strengths

Power – In 2008 the Marlins ranked 2nd in the NL in hr’s (208), tied for 3rd in slugging % (.433) and 5th in runs (770). Despite the loss of Mike Jacobs and his 32 hr, the Marlins should have no problem hitting the long ball in 2009. The 2009 version of the Marlins lineup could feature 6 guys who could hit 20+ hr’s. Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla, Cody Ross, Jorge Cantu, Jeremy Hermida and Dallas McPherson all could pop 20+ hr’s this year

Starting Pitching – The next wave of young flame throwers developed by the Marlins is upon us.  Led by Ricky Nolasco the Marlins rotation this year goes 5 deep and all their pitchers have tremendous potential.

Ricky Nolasco – The staff ace, Nolasco enjoyed a breakout year last year going 15-8 with a 3.52 era in 212.1 innings

Josh Johnson – Power throwing righty returned from injuries in 2008 and went 7-1 with a 3.61 era

Chris Volstad – The 16th pick of the 2005 draft, Volstadwent 6-4 in his rookie year in 2008 with a 2.88 era in 14 starts for the Marlins

Anibal Sanchez – Career 14-9 record with a 3.86 era. Threw a no-hitter against the Diamondbacks in 2006

Andrew Miller – The key pitcher in the Miguel Cabrera trade, the former 1st round pick may have more potential than anyone on the staff

Weaknesses

Defense – To say the Marlins are bad defensively would be an understatement. They ranked 2nd in the NL in errors with 117 andfinished tied for last in fielding % with a .980 mark. Things don’t expect to get better in 2009 with an infield of Cantu, Uggla, Ramirez and McPherson all below average defenders.

Contact – No team in the NL struck out more than the Marlins did in 2008. The Marlins failed to make contact with 2 strikes, 1,370 times. By far and away the most in the NL. Teams that have trouble advancing runners, working pitchers and getting runners home from 3rd with less than 2 outs because of strike outs, usually have a tough time winning baseball games

X-Factors 

Cameron Maybin – If Andrew Miller was the key pitcher in the Miguel Cabrera trade, then Cameron Maybin WAS the key. The 21 year old former Futures Game Selection will be given every chance to be the Marlins starting CF in 2009. In a brief cup-of-coffee with the Marlins in 2008, Maybin hit .500 in 32  along with 4 stolen bases. Bill James projects Maybin a .276/16/58 hitter with 32 stolen bases and 86 runs scored. If the Marlins get this from Maybin in 2009, watch out

Matt Lindstrom – Lindstrom takes over the Marlins closing role after last year’s closer, Kevin Gregg was shipped to the Cubs. After Gregg melted down in August (0-4, 10.13 era), Lindstrom was made the closer in September and responded. Lindstrom in a small sample size in September went 5-5 in save opportunities with a 1.74 era. If Lindstrom can have continued success in the closers role, it will stabilize the rest of the pen

Outlook

The Marlins are built more like a beer league softball team with bombers and poor defense rather than a division winner. The difference however is the Marlin’s pitching staff won’t be serving up softballs in 2009. The 2009 Marlins will only go as far as their starting pitching and defense will take them.

Look for the Marlins to battle with the Phillies for the NL East title.

Not bad for $32MM.

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