What a difference a year makes. At this point last season the Marlins were just the Marlins. Fresh off an offseason where they dealt a fan favorite in Dan Uggla and were going in with lame duck manager Edwin Rodriguez, they weren't expected to contend.
A year later, the Marlins have lived up to the definition of a rags to rich story, or at least the beginnings of one. They were a small-market team basically in fire-sale or thrift store mode every four or five years because they didn't have a stadium deal.
And after winning the "lottery" with the deal a few years ago, they have done what any new millionaire would do. Spend! Spend! Spend!
In human terms, the Marlins went to court to file the paperwork for a name change, done. They went to plastic surgeon and got a face-lift of epic proportions; new logo, uniforms, and a tie-dye Billy the Marlin, check. And after going under the knife, of course you have to go shopping. In comes Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell, among others, while just missing out on Albert Pujols, C.J. Wilson, and Yoenis Cespedes at the local silent auction.
While this may end up a bumpy ride, it promises to be an entertaining one filled with drama, but one we could only hope results in wins.
Reyes promises to being back the Marlins 2003 formula of having a true leadoff hitter with speed and tendency to wreak havoc on basepaths.
CL - Heath Bell (R) (3 yrs, $27 million)
SP - Mark Buehrle (L) (4 yrs, $58 million)
SS - Jose Reyes (S) (6 yrs, $106 million)
SP - Carlos Zambrano (R) (acquired in Chris Volstad deal)
SP/RP - Wade LeBlanc (L) (acquired in John Baker deal)
RP - Burke Badenhop (Traded to the Tampa Bay Rays for salary relief/lack of roster space)
C - John Baker (C) (Traded for LeBlanc to San Diego Padres)
SP - Chris Volstad (R) (Traded for Zambrano to Chicago Cubs)
SP - Javier Vazquez (R) (Has not officially retired but has told management he doesn't want to return to baseball for time being)
A healthy Josh Johnson gets the Marlins in contention, having missed big chunks of last two seasons, team has not be in contention.
SP Josh Johnson
16-6, 2.95 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 205 K (205 innings; 31 starts)
SP Mark Buehrle
15-10, 3.21 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 119 K (218 innings; 33 starts)
SP Ricky Nolasco
12-11, 3.78 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 162 K (194 innings, 32 starts)
SP Anibal Sanchez
12-9, 3.62 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 195 K (201 innings, 30 starts)
SP Carlos Zambrano
15-8, 3.46 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 172 K (197 innings, 31 starts)
Assessment: I'm giving a healthy outlook for the rotation, hoping Josh Johnson can keep it together which is key. Without a healthy Johnson, the Marlins will have trouble keeping up the pace in a tough NL East which features four teams, including the Marlins, with a legitimate chance at the division crown.
I'm a firm believer in Mark Buehrle and believe he will have a wonderful season based solely on the fact he dominates against the NL (24-6, 3.32 ERA, 1.19 WHIP in 39 starts).
As for a former Chicago ace, I think Zambrano will flourish well in a new environment and I don't think there will be much turmoil with Ozzie in the house.
I can't say for sure if Ricky Nolasco left behind his alter-ego "Bad Ricky" at Sun Life but that's what the expectation is. Both he and Anibal Sanchez are pitching for their Marlins lives beyond 2012. Sanchez is due to be a free agent after 2012 and Nolasco has been the subject of trade rumors the past year.
I'm basing most of these numbers on the idea of Marlins Park being a pitchers park, let's see if that holds up.
1. SS - Jose Reyes
.307, 10 HR, 58 RBIs, 51 stolen bases, 14 triples
2. CF - Emilio Bonifacio
.276, 3 HR, 45 RBIs, 53 stolen bases, 9 triples
3. 3B - Hanley Ramirez
.314, 26 HR, 102 RBIs, 38 stolen bases
4. RF - Giancarlo Stanton
.282, 45 HR, 123 RBIs, 10 stolen bases
5. LF - Logan Morrison
.289, 28 HR, 93 RBIs, 5 stolen bases
6. 1B - Gaby Sanchez
.271, 21 HR, 79 RBIs, 3 stolen bases
7. C - John Buck
.244, 18 HR, 60 RBIs, 1 stolen base
8. 2B - Omar Infante
.279, 6 HR, 41 RBIs, 8 stolen bases
Assessment: Marlins will have perhaps the best lineup since 2007 when Miguel Cabrera was still here and as was Dan Uggla and fan favorite Cody Ross.
Enter Jose Reyes, who will be the table-setter for the Marlins as the explosive leadoff hitter. What will be interesting is the dynamic between Reyes and Bonifacio at the top of the order.
The Marlins 1-2 combo of Pierre and Castillo helped win them the title in 2003 and they are following that blueprint again in 2012.
Big things are expected from the middle of the order, starting with Hanley Ramirez who has a disastrous 2011 campaign riddled with injuries. If Ramirez returns to 2009 form, then the lineup should be able to click beautifully, especially with Giancarlo Stanton hitting behind him.
Now, those are some big numbers I projected but Stanton's power can handle any park and that's a fact. Perhaps changing his name from Mike to his birth name Giancarlo can yield majestic results, like passing Gary Sheffield's season mark of 42 homers in 1996.
Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez both got off to hot starts last season but cooled off. It will be interesting to see how they can improve and mature in 2012. As for John Buck and Omar Infante, the newcomers last season, they might be surprise candidates just like Emilio Bonifacio was last season when he had break through season.
Closer - Heath Bell (R)
Setup - Edward Mujica (R), Mike Dunn (L), and Juan Carlos Oviedo (R) (a.k.a Leo Nunez)*
Middle Relief - Steve Cishek (R), Ryan Webb (R)
Specialist - Randy Choate (L)
Long Relief - Wade LeBlanc (L)
* If visa issues work themselves out soon, Oviedo will be with the team.
OF - Bryan Petersen (L)
OF - Aaron Rowand (R)
C - Brett Hayes (R)
3B/1B - Greg Dobbs (L)
SS - Donnie Murphy (R)
OF - Chris Coghlan (L), .230, 5 HR, 22 RBI, 7 SB in 2011
OF - Scott Cousins (L), .135, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 SB in 2011
3B - Matt Dominguez (R), .244 BA, 0 HR, 2 RBI in 2011
SP - Brad Hand (L), 1-8, 4.20 ERA, 38 K in 2011
SP - Alex Sanabia (R), 0-0, 3.27 ERA, 8 K in 2011 (in relief)
SP - Sean West (L), DNP in majors in 2011
RP - Jose Ceda (R), 0-1 4.43 ERA, 21 K in 2011
RP - Chris Hatcher (R), 0-0, 6.97 ERA, 8 K in 2011
RP - Dan Jennings (L), DNP in majors in 2011
RP - Chad Gaudin (R), 1-1, 6.48 ERA, 10 K in 2011 (with Nationals)
Games NOT televised by Fox Sports Florida and Sun Sports
Wed, April 4 vs. St. Louis Cardinals (ESPN Opening Night)
Fri, April 13 vs. Houston Astros
Sat, May 12 vs. New York (FOX Saturday Baseball at noon)
Wed, May 23 vs Colorado Rockies
Sat, June 9 vs Tampa Bay Rays (FOX Primetime at 7)
Sat, June 16 at Tampa Bay Rays (FOX Primetime at 7)
Sun, July 1 vs Philadelphia Phillies
Fri, September 14 vs. Cincinnati Reds
To see broadcast schedule for Marlins on Fox Sports Florida/Sun Sports click here.
Marlins don't get loads of love from the national networks (ESPN and TBS) early on, however, they have only released their schedules for the first half of the MLB slate.
The only games which can viably be televised by a national network are the Wednesday game versus the Rockies on May 23rd as part of ESPN Wednesday Night Baseball and the Sunday night game versus the Philadelphia Phillies on July 1st as part of ESPN Sunday Night Baseball (the game would have to be moved to a night game as it is currently scheduled to be a day game) or by TBS in which case it would not have to be moved.
TBS has released its schedule through April and May and ESPN has released its schedule through April and May with two games in July but still have open slots for the months of June, August, and September.
That said, fans will have to flock to Marlins Park in games against the Houston Astros and Cincinnati Reds in mid-April and mid-September, but with a retractable roof and newly instituted "Friday Night Live" (Super Saturday is no more) there should be plenty a reason to go.
But don't fret, the Marlins will be on cable TV (Showtime network) as part of The Franchise, the "Hard Knocks" version of MLB. Episodes are scheduled to premiere the Wednesday after the All-Star game in July.
Sunday and Monday, April 1-2 exhibitions vs. Yankees: 2012 magnetic schedules
Wednesday, April 4 vs. Cardinals: Commemorative Opening Night lanyard
Sunday, April 15 vs. Astros: Commemorative Opening Night poster
Wednesday, April 18 vs. Cubs: Miami Marlins 2012 calendar
Wednesday, May 30 vs. Nationals: Ozzie Guillen bobblehead
Wednesday, June 27 vs. Cardinals: Josh Johnson bobblehead
Wednesday, Aug. 29 vs. Nationals: Jose Reyes bobblehead
Wednesday, September 19 vs. Braves: Giancarlo Stanton bobblehead
The Marlins have a Bobblehead Museum at the new ballpark and thus it's only fitting to include when you can get yours to add to your collection of the Miami Marlins.
You can view the rest of the promotions here.
Projected Record: 90-72
Projected Finish: 2nd in NL East
The Marlins have arguably the superior lineup in the National East when its said and done. For years, the Phillies had that title but with the injury to Ryan Howard their pitching will have to keep the ship afloat and it will, as I project they will finish in first place.
The key to the Marlins taking the NL East from the Phillies and Braves will be health. If they don't have a healthy Johnson, Reyes, Ramirez, Stanton, etc, they won't make it far. But they will have a chance to make a statement. Usually, the Marlins get off to fast starts (began 11-1 in 2009, 30-20 in 2011), but tend to fall off afterwards. Any team who gets into the postseason has to have a strong September, and to do so you have to have a healthy core.
Another key will be chemistry, while you have the pieces for success, you also have the pieces for a nightmare. The Marlins could easily have Guillen ranting with reporters, an injury here and there, and it will all spin out of control. But after a whirlwind 2011 season, I expect this won't happen.
With the Marlins having taken advantage of the Wild Card in 1997 and 2003, I can expect they take advantage of the second wild card, which was instituted by MLB beginning this season. So I wouldn't be surprised if they did because the pieces just end up falling in their favor when its their time to win. I believe this will be a great year for the Miami Marlins.