The Florida Marlins have become the Miami Marlins and appear to have the franchise moving in a new direction. The Marlins have not only undergone name changes, stadium changes and uniform changes, the Miami Marlins do not appear to be afraid to spend money to draw in the big name free agents. The Marlins after a terrific start to 2011, teetered off with horrendous months of June and August. The Marlins finished just 72-90 a season ago and in last place in the National League East. But with the acquisitions of key free agents and the hopeful maturation of many of the club’s young players, 2012 looks to be a year with a ton of promise for the Miami Marlins.
The biggest buzz around the Marlins’ infield has surrounded the shortstop position. This offseason, Miami acquired long time New York Met, Jose Reyes to man the position of shortstop. Reyes was the batting champion in the National League last season hitting .337. Reyes also stole 39 bases and will likely be in the leadoff spot for the Fish.
Last year’s shortstop Hanley Ramirez, will move from shortstop to third base. Ramirez, a three-time All-Star, is coming off of the worst year of his career in which he hit .243 with 10 homers and 45 RBI’s, all career-lows. Ramirez only played in 92 games a season ago and staying healthy will be important if the Marlins are to make a run at postseason.
Omar Infante will be the team’s second baseman; after a slow start in 2011, Infante finished with a .276 batting average and is a sure-handed as they come at second base.
The Marlins’ lone All-Star from a year ago, Gaby Sanchez will once again be the first baseman for the Fish. Sanchez was dependable playing in 159 games for the Marlins in 2011 while hitting .266 with 19 home runs and 78 RBI’s. A Miami native, Sanchez should greatly be helped by the acquisition of Reyes as the team’s table setter.
The Miami outfield is very young, but at the same time, very good. Logan Morrison will be in left for the Marlins. Morrison will be in just his second full season in the majors, but had a productive power year for the Fish a year ago. Morrison hit 23 long-balls to go with 72 RBI’s, but his .247 average was lower than most would have liked. Morrison is more than capable of hitting near .300 and is expected to improve this season.
The 2009 National League Rookie of the Year, Chris Coghlan is expected to return from an injury riddled 2011 season and man center field for the Marlins. Coghlan played in just 65 games in 2011 hitting just .230 with career-lows in RBI’s, stolen bases and on-base percentage. A full recovery would greatly benefit the team in 2012.
In right field will be Giancarlo Stanton; Stanton, formerly known as Mike, can hit the ball out of any park including Yellowstone and Yosemite. Stanton has the potential to be a five-tool player with his power and strong throwing arm. Stanton led the Florida Marlins a year ago with 34 home runs and 87 RBI’s while hitting a career-best .262. With no teal tower in left this year, few would be surprised if Stanton shattered Gary Sheffield’s 16-year-old club record of 42 long-balls.
John Buck will behind the plate for a second straight year for the Marlins. Buck, who was an All-Star with Toronto in 2010, played in 140 games for the Marlins a year ago. Buck saw a dip in his batting average hitting just .224, but gave the club solid power numbers with 16 home runs and 57 RBI’s from his catcher position. Buck will be calling games for what looks to be a much improved pitching staff.
If Josh Johnson can stay healthy, he should be the ace of the staff. Johnson only made 9 starts for the Marlins a year ago, but posted a 1.64 ERA and a 3-1 record. Johnson was an All-Star in 2009 and 2010 and features a live fastball complemented by a wicked slider.
Behind Johnson, will be newly acquired Mark Buehrle. Buehrle was acquired from the Chicago White Sox via free agency. Unlike Johnson, health has never been an issue for Buehrle. The lefty has pitched more than 200 innings in 11 straight years and has a losing record just once in his career. Buehrle was a key piece to the 2005 Chicago White Sox team that won the World Series. He’s coming off a year in which he posted a 13-9 record with a 3.59 ERA.
Anibal Sanchez and Ricky Nolasco will be the third and fourth starters for the Marlins, but not necessarily in that order. Sanchez is coming off a year in which he pitched a career-high 196.1 innings with a very respectable 3.67 ERA. The record for Sanchez was just 8-9, but that was largely due to a lack of run support and poor effort from the Marlin bullpen. Nolasco is coming off an inconsistent 2011 campaign; Nolasco pitched 206 innings, but his 4.67 ERA was too high for the club’s liking. Nolasco has struggled over the past three seasons after a career-year in 2008. Nolasco also ran into too many short starts a year ago, so consistency will be his biggest issue.
Carlos Zambrano will likely begin the year as the team’s fifth starter, but Brad Hand, Wade LeBlanc and Alex Sanabia will all be waiting in the wings if Zambrano struggles. Zambrano was acquired from the Chicago Cubs in a trade for Chris Volstad. Zambrano has been an All-Star pitcher for much of his career, but his attitude turned teammates off in Chicago. Zambrano was 9-7 a season ago, but finished with a career-worst 4.82 ERA. If Zambrano struggles early on, his days in the rotation may be numbered.
The Marlins made an effort to beef up the bullpen over the last two years and this offseason, they brought in Heath Bell to be the team’s closer. Bell, at age 34, has been an All-Star in each of the last three seasons with the San Diego Padres. Over each of the past three years, Bell has posted an ERA under three while recording more than 40 saves. Bell features a nasty changeup and is a huge upgrade at closer.
Setting up Bell with be right handers, Steve Cishek, Ryan Webb and last year’s closer Juan Oviedo. Oviedo has been known by the name Leo Nunez, but after being cited for playing under an alias, Oviedo went back to his native Dominican Republic and has apparently resolved those issues. Webb had trouble staying healthy for the Fish in 2011, but could really help bolster what appears to be a strong Miami bullpen. Cishek began 2011 in the minors, but found favor with then manager Jack McKeon and posted a solid 2.63 ERA in 2011.
Lefties, Mike Dunn and Randy Choate will also be key components to the Miami bullpen. Dunn features a live fastball and is capable of giving the Marlins a few innings at a time. Dunn went 5-6 with a 3.43 ERA in 2011. Choate is a lefty specialist; Choate finished 2011 with an outstanding 1.82 ERA with left handed batters hitting just .145 against him.
The Miami Marlins will enter 2012 with one of the better benches in all of baseball. Donnie Murphy, who came up clutch for the Marlins in 2010, will be returning from injury and bringing versatility to the Marlins’ infield. Emilio Bonafacio, can play everywhere, and will likely assume a starting role if any of the other starters are forced to miss significant time due to injury. Bonafacio hit in 26 straight games last season and possesses blazing speed and a strong throwing arm. Bonafacio played in 150 games for the Marlins a year ago and led the team hitting .296 with 40 stolen bases. Don’t expect many days off for the 26-year-old speedster.
Greg Dobbs was the team’s starting third baseman for much of last year, but this year, will return to the role in which he has thrived over his career, pinch-hitter. Dobbs in a left handed bat that can play either of the corner infield positions. Last season, Dobbs batted .275 in 134 games. Bryan Petersen and Scott Cousins are versatile outfielders who each possess above average speed and can play any of the three outfield spots.
Ozzie Guillen will be in his first season as the manager of the Marlins. Guillen is a no nonsense manager that should mesh well with the Latin community in Miami. Guillen spent the previous eight seasons as the manager of the Chicago White Sox leading the South-siders to winning seasons in five of his eight years at the helm. In 2005, Guillen was named American League Manager of the year and led the White Sox to a world championship beating the Houston Astros in four games during the 2005 World Series. Prior to becoming manager in Chicago, Guillen was the third base coach of the Florida Marlins and received a ring for his duties during Florida’s run to the 2003 World Series.
1) Jose Reyes, SS
2) Chris Coghlan ,CF
3) Hanley Ramirez, 3B
4) Giancarlo Stanton, RF
5) Logan Morrison, LF
6) Gaby Sanchez, 1B
7) John Buck, C
8 ) Omar Infante, 2B
9) Starting Pitcher
The sky is the limit for the Miami Marlins in 2012. After finishing 2011 with a 72-90 record, the Marlins added speed to the lineup while bolstering the starting rotation and bullpen. The Marlins will return a number of players who battled through injury in 2011 and if those guys can return to form, it should be a very good year for the Marlins. The Marlins open the season and their new ballpark on April 4th against the defending world champion St. Louis Cardinals.