2017 MLB Preview: NL East- Miami Marlins
2016 Record: 79-82 (3rd Place)
Manager- Don Mattingly
The Marlins had somewhat of a quiet offseason, as they will enter 2017 with a roster nearly identical to that of last season’s.
Their lineup will remain centered around Giancarlo Stanton, who remained healthy for the most part in 2016 but still failed to reach 30 HR as his dip in batting average continued, finishing the year with .240 average. Dee Gordon was not nearly as productive last season after returning from his 80-game suspension, although he will always be a candidate to bat over .300 and swipe 60 bags with a full season under his belt leadoff spot. Adeiny Hechavarria also took a step back last season, with his batting average falling all the way to .236 after hitting .281 the season before. Even if he doesn’t bring up his numbers, the Marlins can still count on the 27-year-old to give them above-average play at shortstop.
Marcell Ozuna was the biggest bright-spot in their lineup, tying his career high in home runs with 23 bombs in what was a resurgence in power from the previous season. Set to hit free agency after the 2017 season, Ozuna will likely see himself involved in trade conversations if the Marlins find themselves out of contention this summer. Silver Slugger winner Christian Yelich gives Miami another bright spot in their lineup, who’s power started to blossom in 2016 while he continued to maintain an average close to .300. He could shift over to center field, especially if Ozuna is moved by the trade deadline. Catcher J.T. Realmuto also came into his own in 2016, raising his average to .303 while hitting 11 HR, an upward trend that should continue as he enters his age-26 season.
The Marlins decided not to find a platoon partner for the left-handed hitting Justin Bour, who’s playing time in 2016 came almost exclusively against right-handed pitching. It’s possible that Realmuto could see some time at first against lefties, but the power-hitting Bour will remain their primary first baseman for now. 33-year-old Martin Prado has continued to produce the high average seasons he has throughout his career, but could feel heat from the Marlin’s top hitting prospect Brian Anderson if his age starts to show.
The most significant roster additions the Marlins made were to their bullpen, signing Junichi Tazawa and Brad Ziegler in a pair of two-year deals. A.J. Ramos will remain the closer coming off the best season of his career, recording 40 saves in 43 opportunities in 2016.
Miami also made two additions to their rotation, signing Edison Volquez to a two-year deal and acquiring the left-handed Dan Straily from the Reds. Volquez is coming off a down year in Kansas City, finishing 2016 with a 10-11 record and a 5.67 ERA, the first time he had finished a season with an ERA higher than 3.55 since 2013. The Marlins lineup won’t offer a ton of run support, however the pitcher-friendly Marlins ballpark could help Volquez bounce back. The left-handed Straily will compete with youngsters Jose Urena and Justin Nicolino for the fifth spot in the rotation, but should have a pretty good shot at the gig after finishing last season with a 3.76 ERA over 191.1 innings pitched.
With the tragic loss of their young ace Jose Fernandez, the team will look for the young left-hander Adam Conely to establish himself as a top of the rotation starter, as the former second-round pick enters his third season in the majors. Wei-Yen Chen will also need to return to his former-self, as the 31-year-old struggled in the first year of a 5-year deal he signed with the club last season. Tom Koehler has been a bit of a disappointment since his promising 2014 campaign, but should continue to give the Marlins over 170 innings while keeping his ERA close to 4.00, exactly what you would expect from a number four starter.*
Bottom Line: The Marlins head into 2017 with a very similar roster that had them finishing just below .500 last season, which makes it hard to make a case for them to do any better in 2017. Their lineup needs its core players to bounce back, and while their rotation might have all of the depth you want in a major league rotation, they still lack the ace-caliber starter they lost with Jose Fernandez.
*Stats and Info from Baseball Reference
-Featured Image from the Miami Herald