Pitchers and catchers have reported to spring and baseball is just around the corner. For the Miami Marlins, few know what to expect in 2013, but for the most part, it isn’t much. After signing big names such as Jose Reyes, Heath Bell and Mark Buehrle prior to the beginning of the 2012 season, Miami finished last in the National League East at just 69-93. All three of those guys are now gone along with other 2012 opening day starters such as Hanley Ramirez, Gaby Sanchez, Emilio Bonifacio and John Buck.
The Miami Marlins’ roster look more like the Florida Marlins than a team that recently spent big money with hopes of being a contender. But despite losing a number of big names, Miami may not be all that bad offensively. Pitching however, will be the demise of the Fish in 2013.
The offense may be alright. Right fielder Giancarlo Stanton is coming off a monster year that earned him his first All-Star selection. Outfielder Justin Ruggiano hit .313 while finally becoming an everyday player. Rookie catcher Rob Brantly was far more productive offensively than John Buck and infielder Donovan Solano proved that he could handle the bat. Miami still has Carlos Lee and is hopeful that Logan Morrison can finally live up to his potential or that Chris Coghlan can return to the form that won him Rookie of the Year just a few short years ago. The Marlins, who struggled mightily with situational hitting a season ago, also added contact guys in Placido Polanco and Juan Pierre, who helped the Marlins win the World Series in 2003.
As far as pitching goes, few know what to expect. Ricky Nolasco will likely be the ace of the pitching staff since Nolasco is the only veteran. Nolasco is Miami’s all-time strikeouts leader, but is coming off a 12-13 season with an ERA of 4.48. Nolasco also had his lowest strikeout total in 2012 since his injury plagued 2007 season while posting his highest career walk total. Only once in his seven-year career has Nolasco posted an ERA under four and only twice has Nolasco pitched 200 innings or more in a season, not things one would expect from a team’s ace.
Nate Eovaldi joined the Marlins last season in the deal that sent Hanley Ramirez to Los Angeles. Eovaldi had his moments, but posted a 4.43 ERA and a 3-7 record with the club. Regarded as a power pitcher, Eovaldi averaged just 6.29 strikeouts per 9 innings and at times, struggled with his command.
Behind Nolasco and Eovaldi is Brad Hand, Alex Sanabia and Jacob Turner. The three are just a combined 67 years old and between them, have even fewer starts. All three seem to possess the tools to become solid big league pitchers, but have just a combined 40 career starts. Including Eovaldi, the Marlins could have four starters under the age of 25.
If the Marlins are looking for a more veteran rotation, Wade LeBlanc and John Maine could be options. LeBlanc finished 2012 with a 3.67 ERA, but was far more effective out of the bullpen than as a starter. Maine, an offseason acquisition, has not pitched in the majors since throwing 39.2 innings in 2010.
The bullpen will also be a mystery. Steve Cishek will likely be the team’s closer. Cishek finished with 15 saves and a 2.69 ERA a season ago, but was far from a sure thing toward the end of the season. Lefty Mike Dunn and right-hander Ryan Webb will likely be Miami’s key set-up guys, but both struggled a season ago. Webb and Dunn each had an ERA over four in 2012 with Dunn’s being nearly five. Webb has nasty stuff and Dunn is a rare hard-throwing left-hander, but since joining the Marlins, neither have put it all together. Behind them, guys such as Jose Ceda, Chris Hatcher and Dan Jennings have great potential, but very little experience.
As was 2012, 2013 looks to be a very tough year for the Miami Marlins. Fortunately for Miami, it does not appear that runs may be that hard to come by, but unfortunately for the Marlins, it looks like outs will. For a number of players, 2013 will be a growing experience and help shape what could be a bright future for the Fish. But with an ace having a career ERA of 4.49, potentially four starting pitchers under the age of 25 and an almost exclusively unproven bullpen, a pennant chase doesn’t appear in the works in 2013. That however, doesn’t mean one can’t be in 2015 or ’16.
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