Team Reviews: Miami Marlins

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The Derek Jeter era of the Miami Marlins is finally beginning to kick into gear. The club should begin to show some signs of competence. They have a stolid rotation, deepening bullpen, and a collection of passable hitters. A 70-win season is plausible even in a tough division. And while 70 wins doesn't feel like an inspirational performance, it's a massive improvement over recent outcomes.

Lacking notable MLB-ready prospects (Isan Diaz the lone possible exception), the Marlins clearly saw no harm in scraping the bargain bin for Jesus Aguilar, Corey Dickerson, Francisco Cervelli, and Jonathan Villar. It's a shame these additions may cut into the playing time of Jon Berti and Harold Ramirez, both of whom are interesting in a completely unimportant kind of way. Berti is a useful fantasy Swiss Army knife when he's playing regularly.

New dimensions at Marlins Stadium should help hitters of all shapes and sizes.

Notable Infielders

Jonathan Villar

Brian Anderson

Jesus Aguilar

Garrett Cooper

Jon Berti

Isan Diaz

With apologies to starting shortstop Miguel Rojas, I've tried to find uses for him in 20-team dynasty over recent seasons and still only manage to use him for two or three weeks per year. Absent a surprising age 31 campaign, he's just a guy who plays regularly and can plug a gaping wound in your roster.

Villar is the cream of the crop here with his weird power/speed dynamic. It plays WAY down in reality which is probably why the Orioles up and cut him. He's pretty consistently performed the opposite of draft day expectations (a purely happenstance observation I might add). Since he's touted this year, I fully expect a disasterpiece. Villar is nominally the starting third baseman, but he could also find himself at second base, shortstop, or outfield.

For fantasy purposes, Anderson is probably best used as a solid but unspectacular third baseman. He'll hit in the heart of the lineup. As I hoped, he improved his batted ball profile in 2019. Further improvements can help him exceed the 20 home run threshold again.

Aguilar appears to be a lefty masher at this late-stage of his career. Of their signings, this is the one I'm most keen to criticize. Cooper is a better version of the same profile, albeit he's oft-injured and not quite as powerful. I would have preferred the club to pencil in Anderson, Harold Ramirez, Cervelli, or Dickerson as the backup first baseman to Cooper.

Berti is one of the best true utility guys in the league - which is just a backhanded way of saying he's not a starter. Entering his age 30 season, he can supply rates of 15 home runs and 35 stolen bases per 650 plate appearances. Alas, he'll need to play a different position practically every day if he's to be a regular feature of the lineup. He's probably their best leadoff hitter.

Diaz is a talented prospect who thrived in Triple-A and flopped in the Majors. I expect him to improve to somewhere in the 0.0 to 2.0 WAR range this year (-1.2 WAR last season). As a rebuilding club, he's certain to play every day. It's possible he'll start in Triple-A with Berti or Villar snagging second base reps.

Notable Outfielders

Corey Dickerson

Harold Ramirez

Magneuris Sierra

Anderson and Villar are also in the outfielder mix as is Lewis Brinson. The latter may indeed retain his grip upon the center field job, but I have to assume he's entering his final chance with the Marlins. Brinson hasn't just been bad, he's been one of the worst players ever. He's compiled -2.9 WAR over 709 plate appearances. Since 2000, only 14 hitters have been worse - nearly all of them were no-offense, no-defense catchers.

Dickerson has exceeded 600 plate appearances just one time in his major league career so it's safe to assume guys like Berti and Ramirez will be sharing some of that left field role. Anderson should be assumed to be the starting right fielder unless Diaz doesn't make the Opening Day roster. 

As best as I can tell, Sierra is out of options. He has tantalizing athleticism but lacks for actualized talent. He posted a meager 67 wRC+ at Triple-A last season. On the plus side, there's serious speed in his profile. If he works his way into regular action, he could post something like Mallex Smith numbers for a tiny fraction of the cost (and it's not as if Smith is expensive). 

Ramirez is pretty ho-hum, but there's a pretty clear path to league average production with a mid-lineup role - especially if Brinson is discarded from center field. Ramirez's output plays down in fantasy.

Prospects Victor Victor Mesa, JJ Bleday, and Jesus Sanchez are potential mid-season call ups. Matt Kemp is on a rebound tour. Victor Victor has made a noticeable mechanical change to simplify his swing.

Notable Starters

Sandy Alcantara

Caleb Smith

Pablo Lopez

Elieser Hernandez

Jordan Yamamoto

Sixto Sanchez

In addition to the above, Robert Duggar and Nick Neidert are on the 40-man roster and could be called upon in a pinch. I haven't seen anything from either pitcher to suggest they're a fantasy factor, but the Marlins have pulled quite a few rabbits out of their bullpen lately (see all of the above less Sixto plus Gallen). Edward Cabrera had a seriously impressive breakout in 2019 and could secretly be their best near-majors pitching prospect.

Of course, Sanchez is the guy known as their best young arm. He's an undersized fireballer with above average command and feel for a three weapon repertoire. There's ace ceiling if he stays healthy. As the 2020 Marlins aren't playing for anything, I don't expect much more than a mid-season cup of tea for Sanchez. Ditto Cabrera. It makes sense to get both prospects feet wet without over-taxing their arms. If one of them were to carve out a larger chunk of time, it's probably Sanchez. 

If you dodged his early-season work, Alcantara was a usable pitcher in 12-team mixed and deeper last season. He trimmed his previously abominable walk rate without giving up worse outcomes - always an encouraging sign. Although trending in the right direction, I'm not especially sanguine about anything more than palatable volume. 

The same can be said about the rest of the rotation. Smith had moments of brilliance. Unlike Alcantara he also strikes out more than a batter per inning. However, he's also a fly ball pitcher with a bad case of homeritis. The new outfield dimensions won't help. Lopez was pitching above his ceiling early in the season then came back and appeared to pitch hurt. It's easy to dismiss the most recent outcomes and assume he'll be fine again in 2020. However, when pitchers pitch hurt, it can be a sign of a permanent loss of talent. Lopez never had a surplus.

Hernandez and Yamamoto are pitchability guys who could have their uses as streamers. Yamamoto throws a kitchen sink while Hernandez has a more traditional repertoire matched with apparent home run issues (interestingly, he allowed zero home runs in 48 Triple-A innings). 

Notable Relievers

Ryne Stanek

Adam Conley

Jose Urena

Drew Steckenrider

And a bunch of other guys I'd rather ignore. Somebody is (probably) going to emerge from the fracas as a plausible closer. Rule 5 pick Sterling Sharp featured a gopher crushing ground ball rate in the minors to go with a high swinging strike rate. The stuff could play up with a move to the bullpen. 

Stanek seems to be the odds-on favorite to open the season as the closer. He's... fine. Conley and Steckenrider have had their moments in the past. They've yet to really piece together an extended run as more than a middle reliever. Urena seems like the kind of pitcher who could play up in relief, but his brief 10 inning foray in 2019 was terrible (9.00 ERA). It was accompanied by a spike in strikeout rate and a one mph jump on the radar gun.

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