The Miami Marlins probably envisioned fighting for a playoff spot when players and managers arrived to Spring Training.
Nobody in the newly revamped franchise that now calls Miami home could have anticipated an ending to their first season at the brand-new Marlins Park quite like this. The team that was built to win-now seemingly waved the white flag at the trade deadline and traded off key pieces in hopes to rebuild for the future.
This Marlins season will go down as a disaster and will most likely land them in last place in the NL East for the second consecutive year. However, there are a few factors that could very well make them a great spoiler candidate.
Even with only three current players on the Miami offense that started opening day (Giancarlo Stanton, John Buck and Jose Reyes), they still have plethora of talent. Their rotation still features three very solid starters in Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and Ricky Nolasco with talented young prospects fighting for a job next season in Wade LeBlanc, Nate Eovaldi and Jacob Turner.
The Marlins bullpen had a very rocky start to the season with the majority of the blame going to their highly paid free-agent closer Heath Bell. Ozzie Guillen has since gone to more of a closer by committee rotation that has worked for the most part. With the help of Mike Dunn, Steve Cishek and now Carlos Zambrano, the Marlins have been able to limit the amount of blown saves that cost the team earlier on.
Don't expect the Marlins to throw in the towel in the final month of the season. The NL East features two playoff teams in the Washington Nationals and Atlanta Braves. The team will have a chance to face the Nationals in a three game series as well as facing the Atlanta Braves in two different three game sets.
Unlike most teams that are currently in last place, the Marlins have a lineup that still can wreak havoc to opposing pitchers.
Giancarlo Stanton just completed an incredible month of August that included a .313 AVG, 10 HR and 22 RBI all the while earning NL Player of Week during that campaign. He is still in the running to lead the NL in HR as he just hit his 30th of the season against the Brewers. If Stanton can continue to do damage, he will be very dangerous for opposing pitchers as the season concludes.
You also can't discredit Jose Reyes and Carlos Lee who have both had below career average years but can still provide spark in the lineup.
If the team can pull together a hot streak and end the season on a strong note, they might be able to crawl their way out of the bottom of the standings and give their fans hope going into next season.