2010 Outlook: The Marlins – Fear The Fish

I fear the Fish . As currently constituted the the Marlins are a very good ball club.  They finished 87-75 in 2009 and have the potential to do better in 2010.  This is quite a feat considering they have the lowest payroll team in all of baseball.  Last year they started the season at $36M.  They have a great lineup with solid top of the rotation starting pitching.  Their main weakness is relief pitching.

Starting Pitching: The rotation starts with Josh Johnson, one of the best pitchers in the National League.  He is on the cusp of being a true ace.  He was 15-5 with a 3.23 ERA, a WHIP of 1.16 and 8.2 Ks per 9 innings.  Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez are next in the pitching order.  Nolasco had an  ERA of over 5 but is a strikeout pitcher with 9.5 per 9 innings of work.  At only 27 years old, he has the potential to be a solid #2 starter.  Sanchez, only 25 years old, was great as rookie in 2006, even throwing a no hitter.  Since then he’s spent time in the minors and the DL.  He finally came back in the second half of last year and pitched well.  At the back end of the rotation, expectations are high for 6’8″ southpaw Sean West and Chris Volstad.  Both are only 23 years old.  It is anticipated that they will improve on last year’s rookie seasons.

Relief Pitching: The Marlins definitely need bullpen help.  Closer, Leo Nunez was mediocre, blowing 7 of 33 save opportunities.  Set up man, Dan Meyer was impressive, giving up only 47 hits and striking out 56 batters in 58 innings.  If the Marlins could trade Dan Uggla for, or sign a couple of solid relief pitchers, it would go a long way toward improving their roster.   And they do have replacement alternatives for Uggla.

Offense: If Dan Uggla is traded they could move Emilio Bonafacio from 3rd to 2nd base, and Jorge Cantu from 1st base to 3rd base.  Rookie Gaby Sanchez is slated to be their new first baseman.  He’s had two big minor league seasons in a row; 2008 at AA and  2009 at AAA.  The Marlins always seem to have young studs coming up which is why they can trade their higher paid stars to continually restock their farm system.  And don’t forget shortstop Hanley Ramirez.  He is arguably the second best player in the NL and keeps getting better.

Even at catcher, John Baker quietly had a nice season, batting .271 with 9 HR and 50 RBI in 112 games.  He also threw out 27% of base stealers.

In the outfield, 23 year old Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan is the left fielder.  With a full season under his belt, he could be ready to be a star.  Last year he hit .321 with a .390 OBP.  Center fielder Cameron Maybin, only 22 years old had a great year in AAA ball in 2009 before his call up.  He should improve.  Right fielder Cody Ross plays solid defense and hits for power.

Opinion: The Marlins could contend for the division next year.  In any event they will be a tough foe for the Mets to overtake.