Tuesday, March 13, 2012

30 Teams in 30 Days: Miami Marlins

2011 Record: 72 - 90

Key Additions: Jose Reyes (SS), Mark Buehrle (P), Heath Bell (P), Carlos Zambrano (P), Wade LeBlanc (P) Aaron Rowand (OF), Greg Dobbs (3B)

Subtractions: Chris Volstad (P), John Baker (C), Mike Cameron (OF), Burke Badenhop (P)

2012 Outlook
No, the Yankees were not the most active free agent spenders. Neither were the Red Sox. That distinction goes to the Miami Marlins. Although the Angels may have spent more, Miami brought in three impact players the Halo’s two. Yes, it’s a good time to be a Marlin’s fan. New stadium, new look, new players, new approach. After years of watching their players leave via free agency, the Marlins took their revenge, bringing in Jose Reyes, Mark Buehle, and Heath Bell (a combined investment of over 191 million dollars). This, plus the addition of Carlos Zambrano via trade, and the return of ace Josh Johnson could take the Marlins from last to the playoffs.

Reyes, Miami’s biggest acquisition, will lead the NL East’s most exciting lineup. Reyes is a speed demon who can hit for average and power. His addition gives the Marlins two out of the past three batting champs. The other? Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez is looking to bounce back after one of the worst seasons of his career, one that saw his average drop almost 100 points below his league leading mark of .342 in 2009. Driving these two in will be the dynamic young outfielder, Mike Stanton. Stanton is one of baseball’s best young power hitters. He and Logan Morrison combined for 38 percent of Miami’s HRs last year, and they should have no problem repeating this kind of production. Fielding guru Omar Infante will be another reliable starter, but the Marlin’s offence is not without its problems. Gaby Sanchez (only six home runs after the All-Star break) and John Buck (14th in OBP for catchers) both had down years, and will need to rebound for the Marlins to be a top notch threat. And of course there’s that whole “Hanley doesn’t want to play third” issue lurking.

Last season’s biggest problem for the Marlins was pitching. This year, it looks as if things will be very different. Josh Johnson’s return means that Miami has a legitimate ace again. Buehrle will provide solid innings (11 straight years with 200+), as should Nolasco (244 IP in 2011) and Sanchez (Over 195 IP for the past two seasons). The wildcard and key to this group is Zambrano. If he can return to All-Star form, the Marlin’s rotation will be scary good.

The addition of one of baseball’s most deadly closers will surely help Miami’s bullpen. Heath Bell is the only pitcher to have at least 40 saves over the past three seasons, and he and Juan Oviedo (formerly known as Leo Nunez) will be an excellent closer-setup duo. The rest of the Marlin’s bullpen should be steady, but not spectacular.

The Final Count: 88-74 T-Second NL East
The Marlins did a great job of improving their team this offseason, leading me to believe that they will snag one of the two wildcards. The only concern might be the explosive personalities in their clubhouse. Zabrano and manager Ozzie Guillen are famous for their antics, and things could really get intense, especially if Hanley gets fussy about playing third. However, if everyone behaves and stays healthy, this could be a marvelous year for Miami.

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