Miami Marlins State Of The Union Part 1: The Hitters Preview In 2014
By Nicholas Rossoletti (Lead Baseball Columnist): Follow @nross56
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The 2012 baseball season was filled with skeptical optimism by baseball supporters in South Florida.
Along with the opening of the new stadium, the Marlins seemed committed to the idea of contention as they spent money with reckless abandon.
In 2013, Miami opened the season with as much negative public relations as possible as they quickly dumped all the excess salary they had acquired in 2012 on the open market.
Overall, the short term roller coaster left a bitter taste with many fans.
In 2014, despite some surprisingly positive developments (namely the emergence of Jose Fernandez as major league ready ace) from the previous season, it seems the attitude in the city is a general malaise towards the team.
This is a sad turn of events because the Marlins have actually behaved much more responsibly and worked to build the solid group without sacrificing their future in the off-season.
As we do our review of the team, we will focus first on the line-up and then on the rotation, where the Marlins will be desperate for someone to step up besides Fernandez.
The Marlins will need to rely on their two corner outfielders to produce the majority of their offense.
Stanton has a proven history of elite power production although a couple more red flags arose during the 2013 season.
First, Stanton, once again, missed time during the season due to leg injuries.This is an obvious issue for a team whose power production will be largely dependent on Stanton being on the field.
It will be incredibly difficult for the Marlins to consistently generate runs if their premiere bat is going miss a quarter of their games.
At age 24, Stanton is entering his power prime, but this health question may extend even beyond staying on the field.
When Stanton was on the field, we saw a dip in his power profile from previous years. In fact, his ISO was at its lowest level since his rookie campaign in 2010.
During the 2013 season, he hit 13 fewer home runs in 3 more plate appearances than in 2012.
It may seem like I’m being critical of a player with a .231 ISO, which is borderline insane, but it is worth noting that the ISO is a three year low.
Given Stanton’s age, it seems likely that his injuries sapped some of that spectacular power we are so used to seeing.
There is little doubt that when healthy Stanton is an elite power hitter in the game.
The Marlins need to take all precautions possible to keep their star as close to 100% as possible during the rigors of the six month season.
As important as Stanton’s health is to the organization, he cannot be the sole offensive star for the team to progress forward in 2014.
He needs help, and the most likely source of that assistance is 22 year old Left Fielder Christian Yelich. Yelich is a different style player from Stanton.
Where Stanton makes his living as an elite power presence, Yelich will tend to make his living by being on base for Stanton’s blasts.
Luckily enough for the Marlins, in every situation in which Yelich has been given advanced plate appearances, he has shown a true knack for grinding opposing pitching.
His .370 OBP from 2013 is supported by his progress through the minor leagues, and there is little reason to believe this suddenly patient hitter will change now.
Development of his power would add an additional wrinkle to this offense, but he hasn’t shown an elite power profile at any level.
If the team was to get 20 home runs out of Yelich, it would be a very strong performance. Generally,
I would believe that the Marlins see Yelich as the ideal two hitter while Stanton would be best suited for the four spot in the lineup although batting Stanton three is far from a terrible thing.
The question will be how the remainder of the line-up shakes out.
The Marlins will use a straight platoon at first base for the 2014 season. Garrett Jones will be the primary first baseman as he will be the dominant portion of the platoon against RHP.
Jones was a below replacement level asset in 2013, and the biggest problem the Marlins will face with his plate appearances, even against right handed pitching, is his inability to get on base consistently.
A .295 OBP is disturbingly low for a player who will be looked at as the primary option against that type of pitching. Jeff Baker will serve as the primary option against left handed pitching from first base.
Baker is a bit of a steadier option as far as consistent production against his assigned pitching type.
With a .407 OBP and a .660 slugging percentage, Baker will make for a fine platoon partner for Jones. Together, the pair should be able to account for 25-30 home runs from the first base position.
While these aren’t mind shattering numbers, it will allow the team to have a fairly useful middle of the lineup bat from first base.
On top of this, the Marlins added Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who should stabilize that catching position for the Marlins.
Catcher was a fair disaster for the Marlins in 2013 so Salty will add a nice presence, but there are red flags that he may not be the player he was last year with the Red Sox.
Saltalamacchia’s problem offensively is one that may be universal across the middle of the Marlins lineup. He strikes out at an advanced rate and has for his entire major league career.
Additionally, Saltalamacchia’s BABIP was the highest its been since 2008, which elevated his batting average to the highest point in his major league career. This presents a problem of sorts.
Yelich, Stanton, Baker, Jones and Saltalamacchia all strike out at an advanced rate.
This will almost assuredly be the 2 through 5 spots in the Marlins lineup, which is a bit disconcerting as all these strikeouts will make sustained offense a fairly large issue.
Both McGahee and Lucas are more efficient against left handed pitching as is Baker who may receive some playing time at the hot corner.
Generally, all three players are better served at this point as platoon partners with a strong counterpart for right handed pitching.
With none present, it seems the Marlins will roll the dice with one of the three against righties going into the season.
The team has tapped Rafael Furcal to start at second base. Furcal is in his age 36 season and hasn’t had a plate appearance since 2012. Furcal’s skill set in his prime was tied primarily to his legs.
With age and injury, his speed has disappeared. He still manages to strike out at a reasonably low rate, and he can provide an average bat if he can maintain his health, which is a huge if.
Furcal combined with Yelich and Marcell Ozuna will try to present the table seters for the Marlins’ lineup.
I could spend a lot of time on Ozuna, but suffice it to say that I’m unconvinced that he can duplicate his break-out May on a consistent basis.
His advanced stats paint the picture of a free swinging player whose batting average is probably subject to some regression.
The question surrounding Ozuna will be can and will his power appear at the major league level? His .124 ISO in the majors was almost .100 points off his best seasons in the minors, which were both at A and High-A ball. I
n either case, a successful campaign for Ozuna will probably be an up and down season generally as he continues to adjust to Major League pitching.
Overall, the Marlins offense has a lot of unanswered questions. The biggest question that needs to be answered is: can a team that strikes out so frequently across the board consistently succeed at scoring runs?
I have my difficulties seeing the Marlins as a truly threatening offense because those strike outs will tend to kill rallies and allow pitchers to get out of tough situations.
The development of Yelich and Ozuna could considerably change the team’s offensive fortunes, but right now, I see them as finishing in the lower half of the National League in runs scored.
We will be back next week with a preview of the Marlins pitching where the team will again be reliant on young players to be competitive in the upcoming season.
*** The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of mlbreports.com ***
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A big thank-you goes out to Our ‘Lead Baseball Columnist’ 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.
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.
Follow Nicholas on Twitter: Follow @NRoss56
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Posted on March 2, 2014, in MLB Teams State Of the Unions and tagged 2014 Miami Marlins, @nross56, @Nross56 on twitter, boston, boston red sox, casey mcgehee, christian yelich, Ed Lucas, garrett jones, giancarlo stanton, jarrod saltalamacchia, Jeff Baker, marcell ozuna, miami, miami marlins, nicholas rossoletti, rafael furcal, red sox. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.