Read the methodology behind the ratings here. Remember that the grading scale is 20-80, with 50 representing league average.
2012 Organizational Rankings
#30 – Baltimore
#29 – Houston
#28 – Oakland
#27 – Pittsburgh
#26 – San Diego
#25 – Minnesota
#24 – Chicago AL
#23 – Seattle
#22 – Kansas City
#21 – Cleveland
#20 – New York Mets
#19 – Los Angeles Dodgers
#18 – Colorado
Miami’s 2011 Ranking: 17th
2012 Outlook: 53 (14th)
The biggest strength for the Marlins this year will likely be their lineup. While the team finished slightly behind the middle of the pack in wOBA at .311 (9th in the NL) last year, the progressions of Logan Morrison and Giancarlo Stanton, along with the expected bounce back from Hanley Ramirez and the acquisition of Jose Reyes should make this one of the better lineups in the league.
One of the most active teams this winter, the newly named Miami Marlins bolstered their lineup, defense, starting pitching, and bullpen in free agency by signing Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell. While free agency is certainly not the most efficient way to build a ball club, the contracts for these players possess much more long term risk rather than short term risk. They should make them a better club this year, even if they do end up hurting them in the future.
The staff is filled with many high potential arms, the most notable being Josh Johnson. Everyone wants to see Johnson healthy, but that has consistently been an issue for him throughout his career. Anibal Sanchez is one of the more underrated starters in the league and we are still waiting for Ricky Nolasco to receive the type of results his peripherals suggest. Buehrle and sporadic Carlos Zambrano will round out the rotation. There are obviously many questions round Zambrano, but he Marlins do not have too much invested into him and that makes him a pretty solid fifth starter compared to the norm.
With a strong bullpen featuring Bell and left-hander Mike Dunn among others, the Marlins have a pretty solid all-around team. They are in an extremely tough and competitive division though, which could end up being decided by who remains the healthiest throughout the year.
2013+ Outlook: 45 (22nd)
With just one prospect ranked in Marc Hulet’s top 100, the Marlins farm system is more or less in shambles. Christian Yelich is the team’s top prospect, and was ranked the 48th best prospect in the game by Marc. They do have decent pitching depth in the minors, but Marc ranked the system just 26th, lowest among N.L. East teams.
Thankfully for the Marlins, much of their talent is young and signed to multi-year contracts. Giancarlo Stanton, Logan Morrison, and Reyes will be Marlins through 2016 unless they are moved, with Gaby Sanchez under control through 2015. The only impending free agents after this season are Zambrano, Anibal Sanchez, Juan Carlos Oviedo, and Randy Choate, which means the Marlins should look pretty similar in 2013.
While Reyes will likely be in a decline phase over the course of his Marlin tenure, Stanton and Morrison will just be entering their peaks in the coming years. Two young bats of this stature will help solidify their offense for seasons to come, which is certainly helpful considering the franchise’s lack of prospects, specifically in terms of position players.
Their rotation will look quite different in a few years, as the only pitcher under control for more than two seasons is Buehrle. While the team does have some pitching depth, they will likely use their newly found funds to scour the free agent market as they did this past season. As mentioned previously, that will likely help them in the short term, but could cause issues in the long term. The outlook is far from rosy for the Marlins going forward, but they do have some solid pieces under control for many years and could build around them with sound decisions from their front office.
Financial Resources: 50 (15th)
This was one of the more difficult rankings we encountered. The Marlins have certainly spent like a bigger market team this year, but prior to this season have always acted as the one of the smallest of small market teams in terms of free agency and long term deals. The creation of their new stadium and revamping of their brand name in an effort to gain more fans in Miami is expected to increase revenues and the team’s operating income.
With how active the Marlins were in free agency, and the fact that they were still bidding on Pujols and Fielder even after signing multiple free agents to lucrative deals, shows that they do seem committed to putting money into their team.
The Marlins’ TV deal does not expire until 2020, which hurts their overall outlook financially. The new means of creating revenue in baseball is through big money TV deals, and the Marlins will be unable to capitalize on this market for the foreseeable future. This could cause them to eventually regret their somewhat reckless spending from this offseason.
We erred on the side of caution and ranked the Marlins 15th in team finances, as they have the potential to become a semi-big market franchise but could also find themselves strapped for cash if they prove to be overexposed. The Marlins payroll will be around $95m, which places them close to the middle in that regard as well. Currently, the 15 ranking seems accurate, but following the information that comes out about their financials over the next number of months will certainly be interesting. The team is under investigation by the SEC in regards to their new stadium. If financial information was misrepresented during the bond issuance or at any part of the stadium’s financing process, the team’s financials could take a serious hit.
Baseball Operations: 41 (26th)
Larry Beinfest, President of Baseball Operations, and Michael Hill, General Manager, have certainly been in the center of a complete change in organizational philosophy over the past six months. As a team that consistently relied upon building through their farm system to compete, the Marlins front office – though it has changed since their World Series titles — did a rather impressive job for a number of seasons considering their payroll situations.
With the farm system looking as barren as it ever has, the infusion of money into the team could not have come at a better time. While the front office is certainly far from a top notch group, their poor drafts and lack of significant international signings over the past few seasons may be masked for the time being.
That will not be the case forever though, and if the Marlins want to compete with the rest of the teams in the NL East in the future – both the Nationals and Braves are set up quite well for the next bunch of years and the Phillies will likely stay competitive with a high payroll – they will need the front office to make sound decisions in regards to trading for prospects, drafting top end talent, and signing high ceiling international players.
Overall: 49 (17th)
Right now the Marlins’ organization is about a league average franchise. With the type of top end talent they have under control for a number of years, they can become a solid team for many years if their monetary situation does not revert back to what was once the norm and if their front office makes sound decisions.
Both of those are relatively big “ifs” though. This current front office has not been in this type of money situation before and the potential for sanctions from the SEC is still a risk that needs to be accounted for.
This team is currently a contender. With a few breaks here or there, they could certainly pull off a miracle season, as the franchise has done twice in the past, and end up being World Series champions. Injuries and erratic behavior from a mix of personalities in their clubhouse could drastically hurt the team’s chances this season. They look like a potentially volatile team, which makes it reasonable to expect anywhere from a first to fourth place finish this season. They are potentially the most talented team in the division, and this is a very talented overall division, but being able to stay on the field and have individuals perform up to expectations will be the biggest keys to their performance over the next few seasons.