Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Marlins Preview with FishStripes

We wrap up our NL East preview with an excellent chat with Craig from FishStripes. Craig is to Miami baseball as Dana Milbank is to obnoxiousness and snark, and he really took the time to give us some great thoughts here. Enjoy.

The Marlins will be better than expected if...
Three to five in the starting rotation have decent years. Last season, that part of the rotation ended up start after start requiring the bullpen to save them. It was rare if they went 5 IP, and their friends in the pen would inherit the job of keeping the game close in order for the hitters to try and catch up to eliminate the damage the starters caused at the beginning of the game. Luckily the bullpen did a decent job at it last year. Also, the Marlins will have a new first baseman this season, and Cantu will play at third, not his best defensive spot on the field. Gaby Sanchez will be the first baseman, and he is good on defense, but he is going to need to produce with the bat. It is time to find out what he can do in the majors. If he lives up to expectations, then no problem. Also Maybin needs to show he has finally come into his own. Not to mention what is true for every club, key injuries must be at a minimum.

The Marlins will be worse than expected if...
The 3-5 starters can't get it together and the bullpen can't preform the magic they did last season. Since one never knows what the bullpen will do from year-to-year, this is a concern. With Leo Nunez as the closer, if he stinks, and he could, the Marlins will be scrambling for someone else to close. Probably Dan Meyer will get the first shot at the spot. If Nunez can't close out the games, the Marlins will be in trouble early on. The Marlins have a history of sticking with the same closer long after they have proven they can't get anybody out. Also, if Gaby and Maybin start showing they are really AAAA players, then the team has a problem since Maybin is slated to be second in the order. Also, along this line, if Chris Coghlan joins in with a sophomore slump, then the team will have four hitters in the lineup who can't hit.

Every year the Marlins are at the bottom of the league in payroll, and every year they seem to field a competitive team. What's the secret?
The strength of the Marlins organization is its ability to recognize young talent and develop it. The Marlins scouts know everyone else's minor league talent probably better than the other teams know their own. When the Marlins trade an arbitration eligible player, they normally, not always, but normally get talented prospects in return and then do a good job of getting them ready for the majors. The weird thing about this is the Marlins are kind of iffy when it comes to the draft. But I don't think that is because they have trouble recognizing who the most talented players are, I think they know, it is just trying to find the best player in the Marlins price range, which as everyone knows, isn't too high.

Who will and who should play first base? Logan Morrison? Gaby Sanchez? Jorge Cantu? Dan Uggla? Someone else?
Gaby Sanchez will play first to start the season and should. Logan Morrison maybe the first baseman of the future but he isn't quite ready yet. If Sanchez has a good season look for Morrison to get more time in the outfield in the Minors. Gaby is the better defensive first baseman. If this happens, the Marlins will move Morrison to left when they eventually move Coghlan to second.

How much longer will Dan Uggla be the Marlins' second baseman (thinking about either a team or position change)?
Dan Uggla will be the second baseman for the Marlins as long as he stays with the organization, which I don't think will be very long. If the Marlins fall out contention for the playoffs before or at the trading deadline, look for the Marlins to begin shopping him to contending teams for prospects. Uggla is getting real expensive by Marlins standards and he has recently turned 30. Therefore the Marlins probably won't be willing to pay for his decline, not that it is going to happen in the next couple of years, but it will happen eventually.

How excited are you about a future outfield with Cameron Maybin and Mike Stanton?
I tend to be an "excited when I see it happen" kind of guy. Until then, I don't get excited about top prospects that are unproven. Been disappointed way too many times. That said, Maybin has what it takes but he needs to show it consistently at the Major League level, something he hasn't done. But Maybin is only 23 and should start coming into his own. Injuries have been a bit of a bother but his body is still maturing. Mike Stanton on the other hand needs to learn some plate discipline--he strikeouts 33% of the time and doesn't take walks. His power is undeniable but if he doesn't learn to improve his contact rate and draw some walks he will end up a low OBP, home run hitter and not much more. Stanton is only 20 so there is plenty of time to teach plate discipline.

Is Joe Girardi to blame for all the injuries suffered by Scott Olsen, Josh Johnson, and Anibal Sanchez?
Girardi is not solely to blame but he had a large part in the injuries to the young players. Pitching Coach Rick Kranitz should also share in the blame for the injuries. Scott Olsen in 2006 had an increase in IP of 87, combining major league with minor league stats, for a total of 187 innings pitched. Josh Johnson was brought back into pitch after a one hour and 22 minute rain delay and that pretty much ended his season that year and the next when he was reassigned to Dr. Andrews' team for Tommy John surgery. Anibal Sanchez increased his number of innings pitched by 64 innings in 2006 finishing with a total of 200 IP. When dealing with young arms over taxing them tends to lead to injuries and all three were extended beyond the acceptable norms. Of course, Girardi and Kranitz weren't around for the next season, leaving Fredi Gonzalez to deal with the mess.

Will Anibal Sanchez be anything like the guy we remember before the torn labrum? In general, how do you see the Marlins' starting pitching stacking up this year? Things seem to have been pretty rough this spring.
I don't know. I hope Anibal regains his form of old. However, shoulder surgeries are so tough to recover from. Some pitchers do, but most don't return to being the pitchers they once were. If Anibal can, that will be great news for the Marlins, 'cause that boy can pitch. He has the mental game, it just remains to be seen if the body is willing. The rotation is set to start the season, it goes like this: Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, Chris Volstad and Nate Robertson.

Johnson and Nolasco will be their usually dominating selves. After that, it is a crap shoot bringing more questions than answers. Can Anibal regain his form? Can Chris Volstad get his sinker to work and actually keep the ball in the park? Is Nate Robertson healthy and can he put together a decent year? The spring, overall, hasn't been kind to Sanchez and Volstad, but nothing is won in the spring. What matters, of course, is the regular season. Hopefully they were working some problems and will be good to go when the regular season starts. But given their recent track record, I won't hold my breath.

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