Spring has sprung… or, at least, baseball’s back — and, as such, it’s time to get serious.
For months now, folks have been arguing about where the Phillies might stand in comparison to the rest of the National League East, so, I thought it might be fun to delve deep into the Phillies’ primary competitors to discover just that.
Today, we focus down those pesky Miami Marlins. Vamanos!
Key Pieces Added:
- OF Corey Dickerson
- OF Matt Joyce
- OF Matt Kemp
- INF Jonathan Villar
- 1B Jesus Aguilar
- RHP Brandon Kintzler
(and they might not be done adding…)
Key Pieces Lost:
- INF Starlin Castro
- 1B Martin Prado
- OF Curtis Granderson
First Impressions: I love it.
The Marlins did it. They actually did it. Their ownership ponied up, and decided that it was time to increase the payroll. They went out of their way and actually ADDED players to their Major League roster. THIS is how you *PROACTIVELY* tank, people.
In all seriousness, the Marlins made some legitimate moves here, and have actually managed to develop a somewhat productive lineup — though their rotation is still on the lacking side, but we’ll get to that.
Their only serious loss of the offseason was Starlin Castro, which is probably a good thing. Based on what I’ve seen around the league, Castro was not a fan of the losing culture that the Marlins were perpetuating, and wanted to catch the quickest flight out of Miami. He’s now taken his talents to the Washington Nationals, and thus, will face the Marlins 16 times this year.
(I also want to take this time to acknowledge the incredible Curtis Granderson and Martin Prado, both of whom retired from baseball, and will be missed.)
As far as Miami’s biggest upgrade, it’s got to be the two-year, $17.5 Million pact they reached with ex-Phillie, Corey Dickerson. While Dickerson has had his injury issues throughout the years, he carries a legitimate lefty bat with some serious slugging to it. He will surely serve as the Marlins’ everyday left fielder, and is going to be the cornerstone of this Miami offense over the next two years — as long as he can remain on the field.
Coming in at a close second, the Marlins managed to secure a trade for the nearly-released Jonathan Villar, who put up career numbers in 2019. Whether he’s due to slot in at second base, shortstop, third base, or centerfield, the switch-hitting Villar is sure to have an everyday role in 2020.
The Marlins also managed to add Matt Kemp and Matt Joyce on Minor League and low-guarantee pacts respectively. Kemp is coming off of a really disappointing 2019 after winning Comeback Player of the Year in 2018. Joyce, on the other hand, is fresh from a convincing year with the Atlanta Braves, and will surely platoon somewhere in the outfield throughout the duration of the season.
Rounding out Miami’s slew of acquisitions — the big-bodied slugger, Jesus Aguilar, who is one year removed from an All-Star campaign in which he slugged 35 big flies with an .890 OPS.
Put plainly, we all know that these guys aren’t going to be serious contenders, but they sure will be fun to watch — especially with the growing support of their Miami fanbase rallying behind them, the affordable ticket prices the team is offering, and so on.
CF, Jon Berti, 73 G, .273/.348/.406, 6 HR, .755 OPS, 102 OPS+ (17 SB)
3B, Jonathan Villar, 162 G, .274/.339/.453, 24 HR, .792 OPS, 109 OPS+ (40 SB)
LF, Corey Dickerson, 78 G, .304/.341/.565, 12 HR, .906 OPS, 131 OPS+
RF, Brian Anderson, 126 G, .261/.342/.468, 20 HR, .811 OPS, 114 OPS+
1B, Jesus Aguilar, 131 G, .236/.325/.389, 12 HR, .714 OPS, 87 OPS+
2B, Isan Diaz, 49 G, .173/.259/.307, 5 HR, .566 OPS, 51 OPS+
C, Jorge Alfaro, 130 G, .262/.312/.425, 18 HR, .736 OPS, 95 OPS+
SS, Miguel Rojas, 132 G, .284/.331/.379, 5 HR, .710 OPS, 90 OPS+
This lineup is… so weird. The Marlins have so many different ways to go with this thing, and I definitely don’t know the team as well as others — this was just the lineup that made the most sense (?) to me.
So, there’s obviously a lot of speed up top. Berti and Villar combined for a solid 57 stolen bases in 2019, and Berti played less than half of a season. I imagine their primary goal will be to small-ball guys home, which, in today’s day and age, isn’t such a bad idea.
The middle of this lineup is a whole bunch of question marks. Will Aguilar find his power stroke? Will Anderson continue to take steps forward? Is Diaz even worth a second look after his pitiful rookie campaign? All questions that will be answered as the regular season draws nearer.
Noteable guys that I had to exclude from this lineup iteration: Garrett Cooper, Lewis Brinson, Matt Joyce, Harold Ramirez, Francisco Cervelli.
RHP, Sandy Alcantara, 197.1 IP, 3.88 ERA, 4.55 FIP, 1.32 WHIP, 109 ERA+, 6.9 K/9, 3.7 BB/9
LHP, Caleb Smith, 153.1 IP, 4.52 ERA, 5.11 FIP, 1.23 WHIP, 94 ERA+, 9.9 K/9, 3.5 BB/9
RHP, Pablo Lopez, 111.1 IP, 5.09 ERA, 4.28 FIP, 1.24 WHIP, 83 ERA+, 7.7 K/9, 2.2 BB/9
RHP, Jordan Yamamoto, 78.2 IP, 4.46 ERA, 4.51 FIP, 1.14 WHIP, 95 ERA+, 9.4 K/9, 4.1 BB/9
RHP, Jose Urena, 84.2 IP, 5.21 ERA, 4.74 FIP, 1.48 WHIP, 81 ERA+, 6.6 K/9, 2.8 BB/9
This particular part of the Marlins’ gameplan looks… yikes.
Sandy Alcantara is the real deal, and the Marlins are looking to roll with him as their ace from here on out — but I’m not sure he’s anything more than a 2-3 on a competitive squad. Yes, the velocity and stuff ratings are solid, but he’s not missing enough bats, and that 4.55 FIP is worrisome.
After Alcantara, there’s no particular certainty here. Caleb Smith had a rocking first half of 2019, but fell apart later on down the line. Pablo Lopez seems to have some semblance of a ceiling, but is going to need a lot to go right in order to reach it. Jordan Yamamoto has some pressing control issues that he needs to figure out, and Jose Urena… who knows what that guy’ll get into this year.
The good news in all of this — they’ve got the cavalry coming through; Sixto Sanchez has been soaring through the Minor Leagues, and looks like he might even debut in 2020.
Sanchez was acquired in the JT Realmuto trade to Philadelphia, and is, by all accounts, looking to be a future ace. He has the velocity, surprisingly mature control, and some nasty secondaries to turn to in a pinch. He’s hoping to be this rotation’s eventual saving grace.
Looking at the Marlins’ 40-man roster, the only name that I could tell you is 100% making the bullpen this year would be Brandon Kintzler — so I’m going to go ahead and call this thing mediocre at best and move along.
Where do the Phillies stack up?
As I mentioned earlier, the Marlins aren’t exactly looking to compete this year, and thus, I will not be doing a side-by-side comparison, like I plan to do with the other teams of the NL East in this series.
That said, Phillie fans should NOT count the Marlins out. The 2019 Phillies dropped the season series to the Marlins, 7-9 — and this team has done nothing but upgrade. Philadelphia will need to be on their guard all year when the Fish come to town, especially since they open the season against them!
I for one can’t wait to root for the Marlins this year, especially when they’re playing the Mets, Nationals, or Braves. They’re going to be, at the very least, an exciting group to watch.