Miami Marlins

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Overview (Present Rank: 15th | Future Rank: 25th)

Marlins fans have suffered through losing season after losing season since the team finished 87-75 in 2009. The Florida Marlins did a good job of suppressing that matter by rebranding themselves as the Miami Marlins, pulling the trigger on high profile signings (Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell in 2011), and promoting their rising stars, Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez.

Miami might be home to the best pitcher-hitter combo in the Major Leagues, yet the duo has never experienced the excitement of October baseball. Despite the homegrown superstars, President of Baseball Operations Michael Hill has plenty of work to do if he wants Miami to regain their winning culture. He’s hoping new manager Don Mattingly can re-establish that winning atmosphere in South Beach. However, with a roster that has multiple lackluster starters, the team must have some tricks up their sleeves in order to be legitimate contender anytime soon.  

 


*Detailed analysis conducted April 4, 2016; rankings and charts updated throughout the season.   

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Catcher (Present Rank: 4th | Future Rank: 8th)

J.T. Realmuto didn’t do much to separate himself from the competition in his rookie season. He wasn’t an above-average hitter(.250-.260 Avg.), he didn’t get on base that much (sub .300), and he didn’t hit for much power (10-15 HR). This kind of offensive production is similar to what evaluators around the league expect from the former third round pick on an annual basis. What Realmuto can do is defend well, limit opposing baserunners, and sneak some stolen bases in himself. His eight stolen bases in 126 games led all major league catchers. He’s only 25 years old, so Marlins fans will be watching this quintessential catcher for a while as he’s under team control through 2020.

Tomas Telis proved his 2014 breakout season was no fluke by hitting .297/.336/.394 in 338 Triple-A at-bats in 2015. He should be ready to stay at the Major League level sometime in 2016. Despite possessing a strong arm and exemplary receiving skills, his lack of power and average hit tool will limit him to a backup role in the future. He could have a chance at knocking Realmuto off his starting role if he can get better at the plate.

While Telis might not be ready for a full-time gig as the backup, the Marlins brought back Jeff Mathis on a one-year deal to provide insurance until Telis arrives.

Future Outlook: Realmuto could be the real deal

With an average skill-set, Realmuto doesn’t do much to make himself stand out as a catcher in the league. As we’ve seen with the last seven World Series champions (with catchers such as Buster Posey, Salvador Perez, Yadier Molina, Jorge Posada, or a career year from Jarrod Saltalamacchia), average catching doesn’t win championships. The Marlins would be wise to start searching for their next catcher to take over when Realmuto is no longer under team control. They might be hesitant to take one in the first round again like they did in 2014. The 36th overall pick, Blake Anderson, has practically cemented himself as a bust just a year and half after being drafted. The Marlins could choose to take a college player or utilize their $3.57MM international bonus pool (seventh most in MLB) to find their catcher of the future.

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First Base (Present Rank: 20th | Future Rank: 22nd)

While Kris Bryant won the Rookie of the Year unanimously, Justin Bour received four votes amongst a loaded 2015 rookie class. Bour gave the Marlins some much-needed power, driving 23 balls over the fence. He did his damage almost exclusively against right-handed pitching. He didn’t notch a single homer against southpaws, and owned a paltry .221/.293/.279 batting line the 75 times he did face lefties. Bour’s rookie year was a good indication of what he will provide in the future: a solid, yet unspectacular offensive first baseman with an inability to defend at baseball’s least difficult position.

Miami’s No. 2 prospect Josh Naylor isn’t much of a fielder either, but he could develop into a better overall hitter than Bour. The 12th overall pick in 2015 out of Canada had a great start to his professional career. The 19 year-old put up a 327/.352/.418 batting line in 25 Rookie games. At 6’1, 225 lbs, he’s already filled out his frame attesting to his promising power. His swing plane hasn’t allowed him to fully utilize that raw power as he hits too many ground balls right now. As he develops through the minors, alters his swing path to hit more line drives/fly balls, and improves his plate discipline, Naylor could be a star at the Major League level.

(EDIT: Miami traded Josh Naylor to the San Diego Padres in a package for Andrew Cashner and Tayron Guerrero [7/29/16]).

Future Outlook: Bour might need a platoon partner before Naylor arrives

The Marlins found their first baseman of the future last June when they selected Josh Naylor with their first pick in the draft. If Naylor puts in the time to hone his craft, he could be something special alongside Stanton in the heart of that lineup throughout the early 2020’s. In present day, they have Justin Bour manning the position. While he gets the job done against righties, his struggles against lefties are well documented. Finding a Mark Reynolds type of player to platoon with Bour would work better than shifting Prado over and inserting Chris Johnson at the hot corner every time a southpaw takes the hill.

(EDIT: Trading Naylor away to San Diego will force the team to count on Justin Bour to be the main producer at first base for at least the next four years. However, Bour's ineptitude against left-handed pitching should still make a right-handed hitter with an ability to play first base a priority for President Michael Hill going forward. 

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Second Base (Present Rank: 26th | Future Rank: 14th)

Trading away top prospect Andrew Heaney among others for Dee Gordon didn’t seem to go well with fans at the time. After winning a batting title, leading the league in multiple categories including steals (58), and earning a 5yr/$50MM extension with the club, many fans are more than satisfied with the move now. Many pundits will point to Gordon’s high BABIP as a reason for his breakout in 2015. Gordon has always had the tools to succeed, and finally put it all together last season. He’ll be a mainstay at the top of Miami’s lineup for years. (EDIT: Dee Gordon will miss half of the 2016 season for a positive PED test significantly hurting his overall value going forward [4/29/16]).

Like Justin Bour, Derek Dietrich isn’t suited to hit lefties well. In a limited capacity, Dietrich broke out in 2015 as a utility man moving all around the diamond. With experience at first base, second base, third base, and the outfield, Dietrich’s versatility has been extremely valuable to Miami. While the infield is pretty much set in stone for 2016 with Bour, Gordon, Hechavarria, and Prado, if any of them goes down or fail to hit righties at a respectable rate, Dietrich could step in again and prove his use.

Future Outlook: Dee Gordon stealing the spotlight

With Dee Gordon under team control until 2022, the Marlins won’t be looking for someone else to take over at second base for a while. Derek Dietrich’s versatility makes him a quality utility man off the bench, but his ability to consistently hit righties could push a team to acquire him as their starter. With Dee Gordon coming off a career year that included winning the National League batting title and leading the majors in stolen bases, nobody else is going to threaten him for his starting role in Miami. If Dietrich can’t catch on at third base once Prado departs, he could be on his way out as Miami can’t pass up the opportunity to restock their farm system if a team is convinced Dietrich is worthy of a starting spot.

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Shortstop (Present Rank: 23rd | Future Rank: 29th)

Shortstop is a defensive premium position. That’s why President Michael Hill (like plenty of GM’s) thinks Adeiny Hechavarria is worthy of a starting role despite his lackluster career .260/.294/.343 batting line. Hechavarria’s value comes from his glove where he posted a spectacular 15.8 UZR last season. He’ll be restricted to batting last (in front of the pitcher of course), but producing nine Defensive Runs Saved evens things out.

Behind Hechavarria in Miami’s system is another defensive minded shortstop. Miguel Rojas has earned that classification in his short Major League career, especially after posting a 17.4 UZR/150 in his 523 innings at shortstop. Rojas has typically hit worse than a replacement player, but posted an acceptable .695 OPS last season. His offensive ineptitude combined with his ability to play multiple positions make it likely Rojas continues being nothing more than a bench utility player.

Future Outlook: Only need an upgrade if Hechavarria struggles

If a shortstop can field the way Hechavarria can, they should be in the lineup every game. The fact Hechavarria is also able to hit above the Mendoza line makes him a valuable player. Hechavarria’s stellar fielding abilities will outweigh any negatives he may cause at the plate. He’s been able to improve his batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage almost every season. Now that he's entering his prime at 27 years old, he could possibly become an average hitter as well.

If Hechavarria’s offense gets to the point where he’s liability, the Marlins might need to look into upgrading the position. The Marlins have nobody in the entire organization who can play better defense at shortstop than Hechavarria while producing as much as him at the plate over the next seven to nine years unless the team prioritizes a young shortstop in the draft or on the amateur free agent market. Until then, enjoy the plays he makes in the field, and see if he can get better at the plate. If an upgrade comes along without costing Miami an excessive amount of resources, they shouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger.

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Third Base (Present Rank: 13th | Future Rank: 26th)

From a long-term outlook, third base is where things start to look horrendous for Miami. The Marlins have absolutely no quality talent in their farm system at the position after trading away Colin Moran to Houston in 2014. At the Major League level, the outlook isn’t much better. Martin Prado has been a valuable player, but he’s now 32 years old and will test the free agent market at year’s end. Prado has played all over the infield and has even received positive ratings for his defense in left field as well. He’s a nice stop-gap solution for a team looking for one, but Miami has no internal replacements on the cusp of earning a starting role.

The team has Chris Johnson, but he hasn’t done much of anything since his flukey breakout season in 2013. He finished that year batting .321/.358/.457 for Atlanta in a season heavily inflated by an unrepeatable .394 BABIP. He’ll settle in as a backup for this Miami squad. He still holds value when facing lefties thanks to his sensational .326/.354/.391 batting line against them in 92 at-bats last year, which falls in line with his career success against southpaws.

Future Outlook: What player to choose with the No. 7 pick in the 2016 draft

With a lack of talent behind Prado and Johnson, the Marlins have no players under control with a legitimate chance of being an impact player in the Major Leagues. With that being said, the Marlins actually have two important decisions to make. Not only do they need a prized prospect in the farm system to take over the position in the future, but they need someone to play there in 2017 and beyond until that player is ready.

Justin Turner or Luis Valbuena would provide the team with three or four years of solid production until that No. 7 pick is ready for big league action. Both players will be eligible for free agency at the end of this season and Miami will surely target them early in the process if they are unable to bring Prado back. Worst comes to worst, they could peg Derek Dietrich as the team’s starter if he can prove his impressive 2015 campaign was no fluke. (EDIT: Miami selected LHP Braxton Garrett at No. 7 overall, and didn’t select a third baseman until the 38th round [6/9/16]).

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Outfield (Present Rank: 1st | Future Rank: 1st)

While third base is a weakness for this organization long-term, outfield is a legitimate strength. This outfield could potential become the best trifecta in the league. Led by none other than the 325 Million Dollar Man, Giancarlo Stanton’s incredibly raw power isn’t seen elsewhere in today’s post-steroid era. He was on pace for over 50 home runs last year before going down with a broken hamate bone. Now healthy, he will look to build on that while maintaining his career .270 batting average. He’s always been known for having a laser of an arm, but defensive metrics praised his range in right field last year for the first time in his career. Now a complete two-way player, it’s hard to find many overall players better than Giancarlo Stanton, and he’s only going to get better as he’s still just 26 years old. If he can ever get his batting average close to the .300 threshold he'd instantly become a MVP favorite and a top-5 player in the game.

Christian Yelich is doing his best to produce as much as Stanton from the other corner outfield spot. While he’ll never hit for power like Stanton, Yelich has the contact skills proven by his robust .300/.366/.416 batting line in 2015. His 20/20 potential is hidden in the fact he produces ground balls an overwhelming 62.5 percent of the time. If he can alter his swing path to hit more line drives and fly balls, Yelich would have it all. With hitting, speed, and terrific defense already a part of Yelich’s game, power would give him the final pillar of greatness. The Marlins brilliantly locked up their other cornerstone outfielder to a 7yr/$49.75MM extension before the 2015 season. After an excellent 2015 season and signs of more to come, Miami could have kept Yelich for a bargain.

In an outfield full of potential, Marcell Ozuna has still yet to reach his. He has the speed to cover enough ground in center field, even though it has yet to show up on the base paths (10 career stolen bases in three seasons). He has the ability to hit to all sides of the field with a nice, level swing, but has yet to post an average above .270. That number will only get better as he continues to develop his game. He has amazing raw power that translated into 23 home runs in 2014, but fell to only 10 last year. It’s likely he gets that number back in the 20’s sooner than later. Ozuna is a solid player as it stands right now, but he has the potential to be an elite center fielder. The Marlins should try to extend Ozuna as soon as they can like they were able to do with Yelich. If they wait too long, they could have to pay an astronomical price tag, like they were forced to do with Stanton.

The Marlins knew they weren’t getting the 2001-2010 Ichiro Suzuki when they extended him for one more year with a team option for 2017. In 2016, it’s all about Suzuki’s chase of 3000 career hits. Thanks to a late start (signed out of Japan at 27 years old), Suzuki’s 4,213 career hits don’t mean much since 1,278 of them came in Japan. Even at age-42, he’s still good enough to warrant regular at-bats here and there in hopes of surpassing the 3000 barrier while wearing a Marlins uniform. He’ll be starting the season with just 65 hits needed to cement himself in Hall of Fame immortality.  

The Marlins other bench outfielder finally produced in his first extended run at the Major League level. After years of crushing Triple-A pitching, Cole Gillespie has never been able to generate the same kind of production in the MLB. Now with a season of a .290/.333/.428 line under his belt, Gillespie has given the coaches confidence he can provide the results they need against Major League pitching.

Down in the farm resides a few promising outfielders, none ranked higher on Baseball America’s Top-10 list than left fielder Stone Garrett. Garrett’s athleticism put him on the map, but his power is what’s really elevating him on prospect rankings now. The 20 year-old slugger has room to add even more muscle to his 6’2”, 195 lb frame. As he gets more comfortable at the plate, especially with his upper-body, he will improve his contact issues that have been his major weakness. Garrett can cover a lot of ground in the outfield with his plus speed, but is relegated to left field thanks to a weak arm. With a lot of work to do at the plate, it’s likely 2019/2020 is a more realistic ETA for the 2014 eighth round pick.

If you’re a fan of Billy Hamilton, you’ll be a fan of Isaiah White once he makes his MLB debut. Like Hamilton, White flashes lightning fast speed with the ability to cover gap-to-gap in center field. His arm is on the weaker side of the spectrum and he possesses absolutely no power whatsoever, but he has shown an ability to put the bat on the ball and get on base with his legs. That could bring an immense about of value at the top of the lineup. White will need to recognize pitches better and improve his approach, but if he can put things together, he would bring a dynamic force to the top of Miami’s lineup.

Austin Dean is the other top outfield prospect in Miami’s organization. Dean doesn’t have the ceiling of Garrett or White, but he’s the likeliest of them all to reach the Majors. After two successful professional seasons including a solid run in the Arizona Fall League a few months ago, Dean is beginning to gain fans within the organization. None of his tools stand out, but if he keeps hitting the baseball well, he’ll emerge as a Major League outfielder at some point. Right now, he profiles best as a future fourth outfielder. Isael Soto and Jhonny Santos could join him on Miami’s future depth chart if they continue in their development and show improvements with their swing and/or plate discipline.

Future Outlook: The brightest of them all

Right now, it’s clear that the strength of this team right now and for the foreseeable future is in the outfield. Hiring the all-time Home Run leader Barry Bonds to be the team's new hitting coach will only help. His influence could help elevate Giancarlo Stanton into becoming a legitimate MVP candidate in right field. Stanton is under team control until at least 2021 when he can opt out of the seven years and $218MM remaining by then. Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna have both flashed superstar potential and are both under control until at least 2020. By then, at least one of Isaiah White, Stone Garrett, or Austin Dean will be ready for a starting role.

With that being said, the Marlins will have elite players at all three outfield positions for the next 5-10 years. With a surplus of young outfielders in their minor league system, President Michael Hill might want to trade a couple of them for other areas of need. If the White Sox would accept some combination of Austin Dean and Isael Soto for Todd Frazier with a good chance to extend him, the Marlins should take that deal.

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Left-Handed Starting Pitchers (Present Rank: 12th | Future Rank: 15th)

Unlike 2011 when the Marlins “won” the offseason by acquiring Jose Reyes, Mark Beuhrle, and Heath Bell, Miami’s biggest signing this winter was Wei-Yin Chen for 5yrs/$80MM. It’s essentially a 2yr/$20MM deal with three player options averaging out $20MM annually that he must decide on five days after the 2017 World Series that he’ll likely trigger unless he builds upon his career year in 2015. Chen’s inability to induce ground balls, but not give up a lot of homers bodes well for the Taiwanese superstar now that he has Yelich, Ozuna, and Stanton (all three are above-average fielders) in the outfield. Chen should be a reliable No. 3 pitcher in Miami’s rotation for the next five years.

While Chen isn’t a strikeout king by any means, Justin Nicolino makes him look the second coming of Randy Johnson. Nicolino’s 7.6 strikeout percentage was the lowest of all Major League pitchers with at least 20 innings. Velocity isn’t Nicolino’s game, but control, deception, and a balance of offspeed pitches are. Nicolino is still developing his curveball, but if he can get more movement on it while throwing it for strikes consistently, Nicolino could be a solid mid-rotation starter. As things stand right now, it’s hard to see Nicolino making an impact unless he seriously improves his secondary pitches, because his fastball won’t help him get anywhere.

Speaking of back-end rotation arms, Adam Conley made his Major League debut in 2015. Conley’s four pitch mix includes two kinds of fastballs, a slider, and a changeup. All are viewed as above-average offerings other than his changeup. Conley hasn’t been able to command his changeup like his other pitches which will seriously hinder his ability to consistently put righties away. With a lack of velocity on his fastball or movement on his slider, Conley is stuck in the back of the rotation for as long as he can’t control his changeup.

Taken in the second round of last year’s draft, the Marlins are hoping Brett Lilek will join the rotation some day. He had a great start to his professional career in 2015 showcased by his electric 11.1 SO/9 ratio. Lilek has an effortless delivery with decent command on his low 90’s fastball, slider, and changeup. There was a noticeable inconsistency in his stride direction that he’ll need to fix, but his mechanics will be cleaned up as he moves up the ladder. Lilek has a great chance of reaching his ceiling as a No. 4 starter. Jarlin Garcia could potentially be a No. 4 starter as well, but his high-effort delivery along with lackluster secondary pitches will likely push him to the bullpen.

Future Outlook: One lefty ace away from being a World Series contender

The Marlins are full of low-end lefties in their system. From Adam Conley and Justin Nicolino at the Major League level to Brett Lilek and Jarlin Garcia in the minors. The excess of low-end southpaws make it likelier Garcia ends up in the bullpen and the Marlins are without a frontline lefty atop their rotation.

While Wei-Yin Chen has been a reliable mid-rotation starter, the Marlins could really use a pitcher to pair with Jose Fernandez as dominant starters atop of the rotation. Those caliber of pitchers aren’t easy to find of course, so the Marlins have their work cut out for them in doing so. Bringing aboard a mid-rotation starter like Gio Gonzalez, Jaime Garcia, or Francisco Liriano in the next year or two could make the difference between a playoff berth or another top-10 pick in the draft.

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Right-Handed Starting Pitchers (Present Rank: 10th | Future Rank: 30th)

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Giancarlo Stanton is the best power hitter in the game. Likewise, Jose Fernandez is the best power pitcher in the game. Despite undergoing Tommy John surgery less than two years ago, Jose Fernandez made sure the world knew he’s still one of the game’s elite pitchers after going 6-1 with a 11.0K/9 to 1.9BB/9 ratio down the stretch. This Miami team hasn’t become accustomed to winning in recent years, but they feel they have a great chance at coming out victorious every time this ace takes the mound. He might be on an innings limit this year, but Fernandez is among the best pitchers in the league regardless of how many pitches he throws. The fact that he’s only 23 years old leaves reason to think he’s not even close to entering his prime. At this point, the question isn’t whether Jose Fernandez will ever win a Cy Young award, it’s when, and how many of them will be on his plaque in Cooperstown (if he can stay healthy of course). 

In the trade that saw them give away their third baseman of the future, Colin Moran, the Marlins acquired a package centered around Jarred Cosart from the Houston Astros. Cosart was brought in to aid Jose Fernandez atop of the rotation. However, thanks to low strikeout rates and high walk totals due to a lack of command, Cosart’s future will eventually reside in the bullpen. They’ll give him one more chance to figure things out in the rotation, but if he can’t show improved control of his offspeed pitches, a move to the bullpen is likely.

(EDIT: The Marlins shipped Jarred Cosart along with SU Carter Capps and 1B Josh Naylor to the San Diego Padres for RHP Andrew Cashner and MR Tayron Guerrero. Cashner represents a huge upgrade over the disappointing Cosart. Click here to see what to expect from Cashner going forward [7/29/16]).

Tom Koehler was the only Marlins starting pitcher to throw over 130 innings last year. He’s now pitched in over 185 frames in consecutive seasons with mixed results. He’s a much better pitcher at home than on the road, which is no surprise considering Marlins Park’s reputation as a pitcher-friendly stadium. Koehler’s under team control for three more seasons giving Miami a durable righty they can rely on until 2019.

In 2016, it's becoming as important as ever to have more than five starting pitchers read to contribute in important games as it's rare teams finish the season only using five different starting pitchers (or even less than seven). The Marlins have their go-to spot starter in David Phelps. While they know they have better pitches more qualified to start games, Phelps comes in handy when those pitchers inevitably deal with injuries. Phelps will be a relied upon again to be a valuable contributor in 2016..

Like Cosart, Jose Urena has a desire to start games. However, due to his lackluster secondary offerings, a move to the bullpen seems unavoidable in the near future. In the bullpen, his fastball will regularly hit 95 MPH and he can get away from his changeup that was all over the place in 2015. Without that changeup, he might struggle against left-handed hitters though, even in a limited role. Everything just stated about Urena applies to Ivan Pineyro as well except replace ‘changeup’ with ‘curveball.’

Kendry Flores also has weak secondary offerings, but his ability to harness his pitches with much more control makes it more likely he sticks in the rotation. The lack of overpowering stuff limit his ceiling to a back-end rotation type. The 24 year-old should catch on with the big league club this year once given an opportunity.

After flashing a 100+ MPH fastball in private workouts for scouts heading up to the draft, teams were salivating at a chance to select the 6’5” Texas high school hurler. After the Astros made the mistake of selecting Brady Aiken No. 1 overall (who didn’t sign, underwent Tommy John surgery, and then signed on with the Indians who drafted him 17th overall the year after), the Marlins got their guy in Tyler Kolek. Kolek still has a lot of work to do including commanding his fastball better, improving his curveball and changeup, as well as finding more consistency with his quick delivery. The tools are all there for Kolek to be a frontline starter, but he needs to make major improvements with consistency in his pitches and locating his secondary offerings. (EDIT: Kolek underwent Tommy John surgery April 6, 2016 further clouding his future outlook).

While many have their eyes on Kolek (since he was the No. 2 pick), they should devote their attention to Chris Paddack. Dropping to the eighth round mostly because of signability concerns, the Marlins ponied up for double the slot value to make sure Paddack didn’t go through with his commitment to pitch for Texas A&M. The 6’4, 20 year-old is already touching 94 MPH with his fastball with regularity and adds in a plus changeup with his newly developed slider. He clearly needs to improve the command of his newly created slider, but his fastball and changeup are already plus pitches. If he can develop that slider into a plus pitch as well, Paddack has frontline starting potential. (EDIT: Miami traded Chris Paddack to San Diego for the Padres closer, Fernando Rodney. Click here to read more about what Rodney will bring to Miami's bullpen [6/30/16]).

Future Outlook: Jose Fernandez must be extended

Jose Fernandez is eligible to hit free agency in three years when he’ll be just 26 years old. That gives him a remarkable amount of leverage at the negotiating table. As they experienced first-hand with Stanton, big-time players deserve big-time paychecks. Owner Jeffrey Loria has never been one to shell out loads of cash, but he’ll need to if he wants to keep the best pitcher in Marlins franchise history in town (sorry, not sorry Josh Beckett). If not, any setback in Tyler Kolek or Chris Paddack’s development means they’ll have to spend money to sign someone from free agency anyways. Or they could keep their mediocre rotation in an attempt to keep losing. Doesn’t sound like that tough of a decision.

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Bullpen (Present Rank: 16th | Future Rank: 16th)

A.J. Ramos was credited with his first save in his four-year career last season. He proceeded to notch 31 more of them as he established himself as former manager Dan Jennings’ go-to arm in the 9th inning with a lead that needed to be preserved. Pitching late in games was nothing new for the 29 year-old as he served two seasons being Steve Cishek’s set-up man. Ramos’ success in the new role made Marlins executives feel comfortable dealing Cishek away and relying on Ramos solely to close games out for Miami.

Still, Miami wasn’t going to pull the trigger on a Cishek trade unless it brought back equal value in return. The Marlins got that equal value in the form of Kyle Barraclough. Barraclough is much younger than Kishek (25), and might be better already. His fastball-slider combination keeps batters off balance. If his command improves, Barraclough could give Ramos a run for his money at the closer position.

Since coming over in the Dan Uggla trade from 2010, Mike Dunn has exceeded all expectations. Known as a raw lefty fireballer, Dunn has established himself as one of the better set-up men in the league. It was Dunn’s significant improvement with his command that led to his emergence. Unfortunately, that command almost disappeared completely in 2015. Entering a contract year, Dunn will have to show he got his control back if he wants to earn the big bucks on the free agent market. As the oldest reliever on the team, he’ll also have the responsibility of mentoring this youthful bullpen.

Every bullpen needs a ground ball specialist. That’s where Bryan Morris and his career 59.4% ground ball rate comes into play. With runners on-base, new Marlins manager Don Mattingly can call up Morris to try induce a double play and get out of the inning. His peripherals and standard stats have fluctuated in his short career, making it difficult to project how successful Morris will be over the next few years. With relief pitchers, always expect the unexpected.

The Marlins bullpen doesn’t feature a single player that averaged less than 92 MPH on their fastball. With Carter Capps suffering Tommy John surgery, Brian Ellington becomes the fastest pitcher on the team thanks to a 97 MPH heater. As a 25 year-old, 6’4” hurler with a high 90’s fastball and a solid curveball in his arsenal, Ellington has all the tools to be a successful reliever. His ceiling stands as one of the better closing pitchers in the game.

Capps will be forced to watch ellington’s high-heat from the bench as he’ll miss the entire 2016 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Capps’ unorthodox delivery aided him in racking up a league-leading 16.8 SO/9 in 2015. While his fastball “only” clocks in at 98 MPH on radar guns, it’s the fastest perceived pitch in baseball (faster than Aroldis Chapman’s 99.5 MPH) thanks to his hop-step delivery. The Marlins are losing one of the best setup men in the game, and they hope he fully recovers from the procedure.

(EDIT: Capps will not only pitch in Miami's bullpen this year, but he won't be a Marlins pitcher in the future either as the team traded him to the San Diego Padres in the package for RHP Andrew Cashner and MR Tayron Guerrero. Click here to see how Capps will fit in San Diego's bullpen [7/29/16]).

Another southpaw, Jarlin Garcia is currently a starter, but his delivery and command of his offspeed pitches make him a likely bullpen candidate in the future. Garcia’s heater can touch 94-95 MPH which he pairs with a nasty curveball and a deceptive changeup. Garcia could develop into a lefty specialist like Cody Ege is striving to do.

Justin Jacome, and Cody Poteet are two very similar pitchers in the Marlins' system. Both were drafted in 2015 (Poteet in Round 4, Jacome in Round 5) and had successful runs to start their professional careers as 21 year-olds in Low-A ball. Both came in as starting pitchers, but project to have a better career in the bullpen. Austin Brice also fits the mold of a young starter with a brighter future in the bullpen.  

The gem of the Marlins system is Nick Wittgren. Wittgren has dominated minor league hitters to a tune of a 2.30 ERA, 1.073 WHIP, and a 9.6 K/9 to a 1.5 BB/9 ratio. After throwing 62 successful innings in Triple-A last year, we can expect Wittgren to make his debut sometime early in 2016. If Wittgren keeps it up, he’ll be at the back of this Marlins bullpen before they know it.

Future Outlook: If Mike Dunn isn’t re-signed, a southpaw is needed

The Marlins have a number of quality relief options for the 2017 season, especially with Carter Capps coming back from Tommy John. With that being said, Cody Edge would stand as the best lefty in that bullpen unless Jarlin Garcia can make major strides by then. Either way, the Marlins need an established southpaw to anchor the back-end of that bullpen, and Mike Dunn has proven he can do that. If Dunn rediscovers his command this season, the Marlins should reward him with a nice extension.

KEY | C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | PIT | LHP | RHP | PEN | OVERALL

OVERALL OUTLOOK: Not too good, but not too bad

Much excitement surrounded the Marlins as they made the move to Miami in the beautiful Marlins Park. Despite the big-name offseason acquisitions, Miami has still failed to reach the playoffs each and every season since winning the World Series in 2003. With Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez leading the way, one might think that streak is bound to end soon, but when looking at the complimentary players surrounding them, they may think again. Typically, teams are either contenders now, or they’re effortlessly building their farm system in hopes of contending in the future. Miami doesn’t classify as either.

It would be hard pressed to imagine a situation where the Marlins surpass the Mets or Nationals this season (unless those teams get decimated by injuries) while their farm system is among the worst in the league. The team signed Stanton to the biggest contract in sports history ($325MM). Meanwhile, Jose Fernandez has yet to cross t’s or dot i’s on a contract extension of his own. The best baseball decision for the future of the Miami Marlins might be to trade them both, get a significant haul of talent in return, and hope to develop a contending team with valuable players all over the diamond. If the team makes the likely decision to keep their two superstars, it will take numerous expensive additions to make this team competitive again. Considering Jeffrey Loria has been unwilling to spend aggressively during his tenure as owner of the Miami Marlins, a future of mediocrity seems imminent.   

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