Team to Beat: 2011 Florida Marlins Preview

Opening Day is today, and the next couple of days, we’ll be previewing all five of the teams in the National League East. Right now, the Florida Marlins:

Manager: Edwin Rodriguez
General Manager: Michael Hill
Projected Finish: 81-81, fourth place

Lineup:
CF – Chris Coghlan
2B – Omar Infante
SS – Hanley Ramirez
RF – Mike Stanton
1B – Gaby Sanchez
LF – Logan Morrison
C – John Buck
3B – Donnie Murphy

The Marlins play the most aesthetically displeasing version of baseball ever seen. They are constantly discovering new and inventive ways to make errors. They strike out with a frequency that suggests they’re encouraged to do so. Their uniforms are an awful combination of teal and black, and their stadium is dark, misshapen, and has a rotating series of dumb names. I hate watching the Mets play on the road in Miami more than anywhere else.

Regardless of how pretty it is, the Marlins manage to win 80-85 games almost every season. They’re never good enough to win, but rarely bad enough to finish last. They’ll probably do as much again this season, but an unimpressive bench and poor depth keeps them from finishing any higher.

Chris Coghlan – Coghlan — who hurt himself in a shaving cream pieing gone wrong last year — was an infielder in the minors, doesn’t rate well as a left fielder and isn’t particularly fast, but is going to be the center fielder. I wonder if Marlins management ever sits around and wonders why their team is so bad defensively.

Omar Infante – I still laugh every time I see the “All-Star” banner on top of his Baseball-Reference page, and probably will forever.

Hanley Ramirez – It’s sort of disappointing that Ramirez’s career is taking place in relative obscurity down in Miami, because I think we’re all missing how much of a crazy soap opera it’s been. In just the last 18 months, Ramirez has established himself as one of the ten best players in baseball, been publicly accused by multiple teammates of not hustling, refused to apologize to his teammates for not hustling, gotten a manager fired, won a batting title, and received a giant diamond necklace celebrating said batting title from the team’s owner, who clearly favors Ramirez above anyone else in the organization. Now imagine if he was playing in New York or Boston and doing all that stuff. I don’t think we’re paying nearly enough attention to Ramirez, both in terms of how good he’s been and how many strange things have happened.

Mike Stanton – Stanton hit 43 home runs between the majors and minors last year, and will be just 21 this season. Eddie Mathews hit 47 home runs as a 21 year old, and Albert Pujols is second on that list with 37. I’ll pick Stanton to land somewhere between the two this year.

Gaby Sanchez – An older, righthanded Ike Davis without the glove or upside. So not really like Ike Davis at all, other than the playing first base bit.

Logan Morrison – Doesn’t have a ton of pop for left field, but makes up for it by being an on-base machine. More importantly, he may be the only genuinely funny baseball player on Twitter. Morrison recently posted selections from his apartment rental application, including this:

John Buck – Turned a career year into a three year, $18 million dollar deal with the Marlins this winter. Not a great defender and his .314 on-base percentage last season was a career high, but he’s good for 15 home runs and keeps himself on the field, having only made one trip to the DL in his seven year career. The Marlins don’t have depth at catcher, so that durability is going to be tested if they push the 30 year old over the 120 game mark for the first time in his career.

Donnie Murphy – The Marlins were messing around with the idea of letting 20 year old Matt Dominguez skip Triple-A and take over the hot corner, but instead elected to go with the journeyman Murphy. Murphy had an .854 OPS in the minors last season, but has struggled to hit in the majors, though he did play well in limited time with Florida last season. Just about everyone else on the Marlins plays third base (Coghlan, Dobbs, Helms, Bonifacio, Infante), so they have other options if Murphy struggles.

Rotation:
RHP – Josh Johnson
RHP – Ricky Nolasco
RHP – Javier Vazquez
RHP – Anibal Sanchez
RHP – Chris Volstad

All righthanded, most of them with bad facial hair.

Josh Johnson – Quietly led the National League in ERA last year, allowing just 7 home runs in 183.2 innings. He one of the best in the NL, so the only question — as with most pitchers — is health. Johnson has only topped 185 innings once, being shut down the end of last year with shoulder inflamation.

Ricky Nolasco – Nolasco is kind of a weird pitcher, in that his great strikeout and walk numbers suggest that his ERA should be better than his 4.45 career mark, but his blah ERA suggests that his decision record should be worse than the 54-39 it sits at now. His big problem is the gopher ball, so here’s a junk stat about that: Last season, the Marlins were 8-3 in games when Nolasco started and didn’t allow a home run, and 7-8 in games when he did.

Javier Vazquez – Vazquez was hitting 91 mph on the radar gun this spring, so his velocity may have returned after his Bronx misadventures last season. Like Nolasco, he has problems with home runs, but a move to spacious. . . wherever it is the Marlins play should help. Is it Sun Life Stadium again? Sun Life Stadium.

Anibal Sanchez – Johnson, Nolasco, Vazquez, and Sanchez are all capable of being very good pitchers – the Marlins’ biggest problem is depth. Johnson bounced off the 200 inning mark last year, Nolasco tore up his knee tying his shoe (really), we saw what can happen to Vazquez last year, and Sanchez has a history of shoulder problems. If and when any of them miss time, the potential fill-ins are lower-end prospects (Alex Sanabia, and a couple of older guys, Tom Koehler and Elih Villanueva, who haven’t seen Triple-A yet) or whatever waiver wire fodder is available. If everyone is healthy, they could have the best non-Phillies rotation the division, but when is everyone healthy?

Chris Volstad – Slightly lesser version of Mike Pelfrey. Or Mike Pelfrey is a slightly greater version of Volstad. I haven’t decided yet.

Bench:
C – Brett Hayes
IF – Wes Helms
IF – Emilio Bonifacio
IF – Greg Dobbs
OF – Scott Cousins

This bench is another good indicator for the amount of depth the Marlins have in their organization – not much. With Stanton, Morrison, and Sanchez all recently graduating from the minors, the top level of the farm is devoid of position players, meaning any injury could be potentially devastating. As for the guys they have cobbled together for a bench, Dobbs looked washed up in Philadelphia, Helms is a worse version of Dobbs, and Bonifacio’s only good work is his speed. Cousins might get a shot at center if Coghlan fails. Brett Hayes (.669 minor league OPS) is the backup catcher because John Baker is hurt, and also because the Marlins are cheap. Not an impressive group.

Bullpen:
RHP – Leo Nunez
RHP – Clay Hensley
LHP – Mike Dunn
LHP – Randy Choate
RHP – Ryan Webb
RHP – Edward Mujica
RHP – Brian Sanches

The bullpen is better – sort of like the Braves, everyone here is projected to be at least average or better, and they have relieving depth on the farm. Leo Nunez will continue to rack up saves so he can be flipped for something more valuable, while righties Clay Hensley and Brian Sanches are the other returnees, both of them coming off successful campaigns in 2010. Everyone else is a new face: Dunn came from Atlanta with Infante, and Choate was signed away from the Rays as the lefty specialist. Webb and Mujica (72 strikeouts and 6 walks last season) came over from San Diego’s good pen in the Cameron Maybin trade. This group could be the Marlins’ biggest strength.

Up next . . . the New York Mets

8 Comments

Filed under Columns, Words

8 responses to “Team to Beat: 2011 Florida Marlins Preview

  1. Charlie Manuel may have been the only person in the country last July to think Omar Infante deserved a spot on the All-Star Team, especially since he wasn’t going to be a team’s sole representative. However, by the end of the season Infante showed he was worthy by accumulating enough plate appearances to finish 3rd in the batting race.

  2. EFF the fish…Lets go Mets! I’m quite excited for opening day! and i just picked up some seats for the home opener. life is beautiful.

  3. picked up some tickets*…I did not pick up any seats. Although I’d love to have one of those old shea seats in my tv room.

  4. Goz

    Lets go Fish! Scored opening day tickets against the NY Mess. As a Yankee fan it is no longer fun to root against this sad team as they suck so bad. Management has run this team into the ground. Instead of investing in real talent they invested in Bernie Madoff. LOL! In any case I will root for my NL team to wipe the field with this sad case of mismanaged dog $hit.

  5. Why would the marlins want to wipe their field with dog$hit?

  6. I propose “Hanley Being Hanley” should be a new rule. I also suggest that you save yourself mental aggravation and simply keep calling it “Joe Robbie Stadium.”

    • Patrick Flood

      After watching this weekend, “Hanley being Hanley” apparently includes excessive crotch grabbing and adjusting.

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