The Miami Marlins: State Of The Union for 2013 Part 1: The Hitters
Thursday, December.6, 2012
Nicholas Rossoletti (Guest Baseball Writer and Marlins Correspondent): Follow @NRoss56
Coming into the 2012 season, the Miami Marlins were entering a new stage in their franchise history. The City of Miami had graciously (and according to some residents, foolishly) provided the organization with a new 600 million dollar home in the New Marlins Ball Park. The franchise changed its name to Miami instead of Florida, its colors and albeit briefly, its spending habits in the free agent market. The Marlins decided to build on the foundation of Hanley Ramirez, Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco, Omar Infante, Gaby Sanchez and Giancarlo Stanton. As most know, when building a championship contender it is of crucial importance that the foundation is solid. This foundation was anything but. Despite the numerous question marks surrounding a Marlins team that won 72 games in 2011, the Marlins went out and spent money in the Free Agent market in a way that had not been seen in South Florida since 1997.
The organization placed expensive brick after expensive brick on top of this foundation refusing to see the glaring cracks developing across the surface. The ace, Josh Johnson, was coming off a shoulder injury that cost him all but 60 innings in 2011. The star offensive player, Ramirez, had not produced at “star” level in two seasons. Ramirez had produced back to back seasons of adding 7 wins to the team in 2008 and 2009. In 2010, Ramirez posted a WAR of 4.6 and in 2011 a WAR of 1.3. At best, Hanley was a player with huge question marks. Needless to say, it was a strange decision to spend money to add to this group instead of questioning whether this group should be sold off for spare parts and the foundation re-poured. We all know how this ended. In another excruciating fire sale by the franchise who knows little else. And now we are left, the residents of South Florida with a monstrous stadium, an eyesore of a statute in Centerfield and little hope for the future…. or are we?
When the now famous Toronto/Miami trade occurred, anyone who cares about baseball in South Florida felt instant outrage and almost hopeless resignation. They did it again. Those #%%#$%s did it again. A 600 million dollar stadium and THEY DID IT AGAIN. It was impossible not to feel anger and loathing towards this ownership group that had just suckered everyone in again. Everyone was so busy feeling that we haven’t really stopped to think. Think about what the Marlins gave up. Think about what they got. Think about where the franchise was and where it was going with the pieces it had. Rational thought has gone to the wayside in favor of mob like mentality. The pitchforks need to be put away, and fans in South Florida need to stop and think about their team. If you haven’t stopped and thought about it yet, let me tell you this: Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle weren’t leading this team to a world championship. Not with the other pieces on the team and not before they would all cost far more than would be acceptable for a team whose maximum payroll should be about $100 million dollars.
So the question is, now that we have had the opportunity to calm down and contemplate the new look Miami Marlins, how does the franchise resurrect itself from the ashes of this trade and regain competitive status as a player in the National League? I don’t think it’s as hard as some of you might believe, but it will take patience.
Marlins fans must have faith in the youth the Marlins have acquired, already had in their system and hope that some of the current Marlins can carry this team back to relevance. Remember that once upon a time, the 2003 Marlins turned youth and smart trades into a world champion. While the more recent incarnations of the team have been burdened by failed trades (specifically the Miguel Cabrera trade), it is not impossible or improbable for the current version of the Marlins to replicate the success found in 2003. There are several players that will help determine the Marlins ability to succeed. This first piece will touch on three hitters, whose development in the organization, will determine the Marlins success moving forward and the franchises ability to put this firesale behind them. In a future piece, I will touch on three pitchers upon whose arms the Marlins hope to build a contender. Without further adieu, the new foundation of the Miami Marlins.
Giancarlo Stanton- The first and most necessary step in re-building both trust in the franchise and a bridge towards future success is for the organization to make peace with its young right fielder. Stanton was a 5.8 WAR player in 2012 according to www.fangraphs.com. He hit 37 home runs with a .969 OPS in 123 games. Imagine if he could limit his DL stints to once in the season. Stanton is a once in a generation type power hitter when healthy. He electrifies the crowd and can sell tickets almost single-handedly if he is healthy. (I was at the game where Stanton broke the left field score board with a grand slam early in 2012. It was like a scene out of the Natural. You can’t find guys like this.) How do the Marlins make peace with Stanton after he has publicly made everyone aware of his displeasure with the Marlins and their roster management decisions? You pay the man his money, that’s how. All those millions the Marlins saved on Reyes, Buehrle, Johnson, Ramierez, etc. need to be spent somewhere. What better place than Stanton?
The right fielder is arbitration eligible after 2013. Instead of undergoing an emotional and unnecessary process, the Marlins should look to lock Stanton up. Would Stanton turn down a 6 yr/$60 million contract and risk arbitration when he has already had knee troubles? The Marlins could backload the deal, as is their specialty, and even keep payroll down in the immediate future while still creating a positive atmosphere with their best player. Rumors have swirled about the Marlins potentially trading Stanton and our own site has produced opinion pieces on it. The Marlins are rumored to be seeking a minimum three top prospects on top of two other players in any potential deal for Stanton. The biggest key to the future of this franchise is not selling Stanton, but building an offense around this 23-year-old wonder-kid.
b) Christian Yelich- A name Marlins fans will need to know. Yelich, who turns 21 this week, is one of two high upside prospects currently in the Marlins system. After being ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the Marlins farm system by Baseball America coming into 2012, Yelich hit .330 in High-A with a .922 OPS. Most scouting reports have him again as either the No. 1 or No. 2 prospect in the Marlins system. Yelich cracked both Baseball America and Keith Law’s top 50 prospects coming into 2012 and by mid-season Yelich had jumped into Law’s top 15 prospects (No.12). If Yelich can stick in centerfield, he could be a huge asset for the Marlins as they build a foundation around an outfield of Stanton, Yelich and Jake Marisnick, who was acquired in the Reyes deal. Yelich could offer a very steady compliment to Stanton as early as 2013 depending on his performance at Double-A . He is not a power hitter as of yet, but his body projects as one that can fill out over time and gain strength (he currently weighs in at 189 lbs. on a 6’4 frame). He shows encouraging discipline over the strike zone as he continually posts OBP averages at or above .375. and should be able to steal around 20 bases if given the opportunity to run. I have repeatedly heard people opine that the Marlins “need” a Centerfielder for 2013. I would say that they won’t need one for long.
c) Logan Morrison- Morrison is as frustrating a player to pull for as any in baseball. During his stay in the Marlins farm system, Morrison posted encouraging stat lines showing a strong comprehension of the strike zone and power that many expected to grow as he aged (posting above .800 OPS from ages 19-22 in the minors). During his debut season in 2010, it seemed like all the promise would translate into a useful asset for the Marlins as Morrison posted an .837 OPS in 287 plate appearances. LoMo posted a spectacular 14.3% walk rate in his first season and has seen that percentage decrease over the last two years. The positive news for the Marlins is that Morrison is still showing above average patience at the plate, but injuries have limited his plate appearances.
He has shown regression over the last two seasons from an above average regular to a replacement level player posting a .2 WAR last season. Sadly, this is not the first tale that the Marlins’ have had regarding promising power hitters who never reach their potential in Miami (see: Sanchez, Gaby). A large part of the Marlins rebounding from this latest fire sale will be tied to Morrison’s ability to rebound and become a well above replacement level asset. It is important for LoMo to stay healthy and begin to amass big league plate appearances in order to judge if his best skill (his plate patience) will translate into success at a high level. Allowing Morrison to play everyday at first base will also decrease any negative aspect his defense would have on the Marlins’ outfield and allow Miami to test other deserving candidates in center and left while the Marlins’ fan base prays that Morrison is not another promising prospect whose best days were spent down on the farm.
In my mind, these are the three most important offensive pieces for the 2013 Marlins to help move this franchise forward from a public relations nightmare and another last place finish that was 2012. In a future piece, we will discuss the players on the bump that will help reinvigorate the Marlins organization and help the Fish rise back to the top of the National League East.
*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com ***
A big thank-you goes out to Nicholas Rossoletti for preparing today’s featured article. Nicholas is a young professional living in downtown Miami. He is a lifelong baseball fan and an avid Yankee supporter. Having grown up during the last two decades, he counts Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera as his favorite ball players of all time. He believes in sabermetrics and that new stats have already changed the way the baseball industry sees players. He was for Trout over Cabrera, he thinks RBIs tell you a lot more about a team than a player and that defense and pitching, ultimately, win championships. Rational thought and introspective analysis over the narrative is how we come to understand the game we love. The narrative is just a way to keep those who don’t really love the game watching. Feel free to follow Nicholas on twitter and talk the game of baseballFollow @NRoss56
“There are three things in my life which I really love: God, my family, and baseball. The only problem – once baseball season starts, I change the order around a bit.” ~Al Gallagher, 1971
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Posted on December 6, 2012, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged @nross56 twitter, anibal sanchez, baseball america, christian yelich, gaby sanchez, giancarlo stanton, hanley ramirez, jake marisnick, jose reyes, josh johnson, keith law's top 50 Prospects, logan morrison, Mark buerhle, miami, miami marlins, nicholas rossoletti, omar infante, ricky nolasco. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.