Dating back to their days as the Florida Marlins, the Marlins’ organization has always been a young team with their star young players often peaking with a bigger market club. But with the addition of some key free agents and the brand new top-of-the-line ballpark, the days of the small market Marlins appear over.
Over the past five years, the face of the Marlins’ franchise has been shortstop and now, third baseman Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez was the National League Rookie of the Year in 2006, an All-Star in three straight seasons from 2008-10 and the winner of two Silver Slugger Awards and a batting title during that stretch. But after the worst season of his six-year career in 2011, Ramirez has still yet to return to form. His season thus far, has been far better than last season especially in the power department considering he already has more home runs and almost the same number of RBIs as he did all of last season. But by his career standards, Ramirez’s numbers are still sub-par. He is hitting just .256 compared to his .302 career average while striking out nearly twice as often as he walks. When the Marlins locked Ramirez up long-term, it seemed as though he would be the face of the organization for years to come, but now, it is not a given that will be the case. As of now however, the perception is that the Marlins are still Hanley’s team.
Starting pitcher and ace of the staff Josh Johnson, seemed like a guy who could be the face of the Marlins’ franchise for years to come, but not playing everyday makes that even more difficult. Johnson was an All-Star in 2009 and in 2010 when he led the National League in earned run average. Johnson was well on his way to a third straight All-Star appearance in 2011, but a shoulder injury in mid-May ended his season. Johnson got off to a slow start this year, but had been pitching well prior to the 2nd inning of Wednesday’s 7-6 win over Milwaukee. Johnson has pitched more than 200 innings just once in his career and his durability is a real issue for Miami going forward.
Offseason acquisition Jose Reyes is a perennial All-Star and is coming off a season in which he hit a career-best .337 and won the National League batting title. Reyes has not had a miserable first season in Miami after nine years and four All-Star appearances with the Mets. But when it comes to batting average, stolen bases and on-base percentage, his numbers are significantly down from last season and with the exception of on-base percentage, they’re down from his career averages as well.
Enter Giancarlo Stanton, who very well may be on the verge of becoming the face of the franchise. Stanton is not only fun to watch with his mammoth power to all fields and his rocket for a right arm, but he is developing into a five-tool player.
Like Gaby Sanchez last season, Stanton is Miami’s lone All-Star. Sanchez was recently shipped to Triple-A and if Sanchez never made another All-Star Game, it would not come as shocking to anyone. Not that Sanchez can’t put together a solid professional career, but as far as Stanton is concerned, this likely will be his first of many All-Star appearances.
Stanton is third in the National League with 19 home runs despite playing at cavernous Marlins Park. He also leads the Fish with 50 RBIs and his .283 batting average is second on the team among players with 200 at-bats with the club. Stanton’s average has climbed more than 20 points from where he finished last year while his on-base percentage and slugging percentage have risen as well. Stanton is also striking out less often and has already equalled his career-high with five steals. Stanton is athletic enough to one day swipe 20 bases in a given season and has the potential to be a first ballot Hall of Famer. What’s even scarier is than the Miami right fielder is only 22 years old.
To further illustrate his importance to the Marlins, just look at his numbers. As Stanton has gone this season, largely so have the Marlins. When Stanton has two or more hits in a game this year, Miami is 12-6. When Stanton homers, the Marlins are 13-6. And when Stanton drives in a run, Miami is 20-10. Half of the Marlins’ 40 wins have come when Stanton delivers a RBI. In games he played and did not drive in a run, the Marlins are just 18-32. It is worth noting that Stanton has missed his last two games with a knee injury and any long period without him could kill Miami’s playoff hopes.
While the Marlins unlike many other years, have a lineup with more than just one big name, it is unclear who’s team they are. As was said earlier, the perception is that the Marlins are still Hanley Ramirez’s team, but the 22-year-old right fielder with tremendous upside could make a very strong push in the near future. Only time will tell, but if the competition to be the face of the franchise is fierce, that can only mean good things for the Marlins.
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