2010 Florida Marlins Preview

Rotation
Josh Johnson, RHP
Ricky Nolasco, RHP
Chris Volstad, RHP
Anibal Sanchez, RHP
Sean West, LHP

Closers and Setup
Leo Nunez, RHP
Dan Meyer, RHP

Starting Lineup
Chris Coghlan, LF
Hanley Ramirez, SS
Dan Uggla, 2B
Jorge Cantu, 3B
Cody Ross, RF
John Baker, C
Gaby Sanchez, 1B
Cameron Maybin, CF
Pitcher

Player in Decline
Dan Uggla. Don’t expect him to fall off the map entirely, but we are talking about a less-than-athletic player who has a good chunk of his value tied with whether or not he can stay at second base.

Player on the Rise
Ricky Nolasco is just too easy of a choice to pass up because of his shiny peripherals. Cameron Maybin is chock full o’ tools, but will need to be more aggressive on the base paths then he was last year to have a lot of fantasy value.

Top 5 Fantasy Players
Hanley Ramirez: Elite
Josh Johnson: Elite
Ricky Nolasco: Average
Chris Coghlan: Average
Dan Uggla: Average

Top 10 Prospects
1. Michael Stanton, OF
2. Logan Morrison, 1B
3. Matt Dominguez, 3B
4. Gaby Sanchez, 1B
5. Chad James, LHP
6. Ryan Tucker, RHP
7. Bryan Petersen, OF
8. Scott Cousins, OF
9. Brad Hand, LHP
10. Isaac Galloway, OF

Overall Team Outlook: Say what you will about Jeffrey Loria’s slumlord ways, few teams can match The Fish in production per dollars spent. Perhaps that’s easy to do when you’re flipping stars with escalating contracts for top prospects, but maybe, just maybe, some low-budget teams could learn a thing or two about knowing when to deal from the Marlins’ pattern. In order to continue the success, the club will rely upon its young core of star players while hoping that other youngsters like Cameron Maybin find their stride.

Starting Rotation: Josh Johnson ascended into the rarefied air of “Ace” this past year, putting together a spectacular 5.5 WAR season. Johnson was the subject of many a trade rumor this past hot stove season, but after the MLBPA publicly shamed the Marlins organization for pocketing its revenue sharing money, the club gave Johnson a nifty four-year, $39 million extension. If there is any concern, ’09 was the first time Johnson ever approached the magical 200-inning threshold, so it will be interesting to see how he holds up next season. Behind Johnson is the enigmatic Ricky Nolasco, owner of the Jekyll-and-Hyde-iest FIP-ERA differential of 2009, and his performance re-opened a whole can of worms in the debate on the merits of using FIP when calculating a pitcher’s WAR. He posted golden strikeout and walk numbers, 9.49 K/9, 2.14 BB/9, but he finished the season with an ugly ERA of 5.06 despite a sterling 3.35 FIP. Will the real Ricky Nolasco please stand up?

After Johnson-Nolasco, the rotation picture gets clouded. The stinker, er, I mean sinker-balling Chris Volstad was third on the team in innings pitched with 159, and pitched at replacement level last year. Anibal Sánchez, Rick VandenHurk, Sean West, and Andrew Miller will fight for the remaining three spots. All four pitchers have promise, but for one reason or another they have been unable to live up to their billings. Sánchez made headlines when he threw a no-hitter back in 2006. He was the first rookie to do so since Bud Smith threw one in 2001. Sánchez’s pitching career unfortunately is going down the path of Smith’s, as he has not been able to stay on the field due to injuries.

Bullpen: I’m fishing for positives here and coming up empty (pun intended). Right now, the closer is Leo Nunez, a proud owner of a career 4.72 xFIP. Nunez was the worst closer in all of baseball in terms of WAR last season at -0.8 WAR, yet he managed to rack up 26 saves, which goes to show you how worthless of a stat saves really is. Behind him is a mixed bag of middling middle relievers that includes Dan Meyer, Burke Badenhop, Reynel Pinto, Brian Sanches, Jose Veras, and Cristhian Martinez. To make things interesting, the Marlins invited Derrick Turnbow to spring training.

Starting Lineup: The offense starts and ends with Hanley Ramirez, the one Marlin even casual baseball fans know about. After “The Manley” there is Dan Uggla. This is one player the Marlins probably have waited a bit too long to trade, but most projections have him continuing his Three True Outcome ways in South Florida. Chris Coghlan wasn’t the sabermetric-group-think NL ROY of choice, but he was the BBWAA’s, and that’s all that matters, so suck it up! But I digress. A second baseman by trade, he’s in the outfield for now until/if/when Uggla gets traded.

To Coghlan’s credit, a .372 wOBA is nothing to sneeze at coming from a rookie, even if it was aided by a .366 BABIP. Expect some regression to the mean, but Coghlan will be a valuable cog in the lineup for years to come. Cody Ross is approaching the overrated zone after posting a 24-homer, 90-RBI season last year, but is a solid-average player, good for a .340-.350 wOBA with average-ish defense.

Jorge Cantu is in a similar class as Ross, sans the defense. He is an average player with gaudy RBI totals that make him overrated. At any rate, his defense is average at first, but if all goes well, he’ll be playing at third with Gaby Sánchez at first base. Sánchez bombed in his last spring training, and it led to manager Fredi Gonzalez losing his mind and giving Emilio Bonifacio more than 500 plate appearances before the organization traded for Nick Johnson.

Sánchez is somewhat of a poor man’s Nick Johnson, although that comparison might be a bit of a stretch; he doesn’t hit for power, but he has good plate discipline and draws a fair share of walks. He posted a .378 wOBA in the graveyard that is Zephyr Park in Triple-A New Orleans while Bonifacio hogged up all his playing time while playing at replacement level. Did you know that John Baker and Ronny Paulino teamed up to form a 4 WAR platoon at the catcher position for Florida last season?

Finally, the wild card is Cameron Maybin. The graceful and athletic Maybin, not Coghlan, was predicted to run away with the NL ROY. He ended up stumbling out of the gate and getting sent to Triple-A, where he reclaimed his uber-prospect status. His projections diverge greatly, but all he has to do is be league average as a hitter to offer value to Florida, thanks to his solid defense.

Bench: Brett Carroll might be the new Gabe Gross, in that he’s a minus with the bat, but is so freakishly good at defense that he merits his fair share of playing time. I’ve already touched on Paulino and Bonifacio. Jai Miller is a strikeout machine but has decent power and can play solid outfield defense. Wes Helms, Brian Barden, and Danny Richar will battle for who is the less fungible infielder in spring training.

I’m thankful for Michael Jong of MarlinManiac. com, whose suggestions were invaluable in penning this preview.




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Erik Manning is the founder of Future Redbirds and covers the Cardinals for Heater Magazine. You can get more of his analysis and rantings in bite-sized bits by following him on twitter.

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