From left: Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria, Loria's wife Julie, Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton and Marlins pitcher Ricky Nolasco attend a Miami Heat playoff game on May 28, 2012. This season, some Marlins will feel a different kind of heat.
In Miami, it's hot and sunny 12 months of the year.
Sometimes, the heat can be so unbearable that some Marlins might be cooked by the end of the season.
The 2013 campaign will be no different.
Currently, the forecast is gloomy at best, since some expect the Miami Marlins to finish last in the National League East for the third consecutive season. In fact, in an informal poll in this story, nearly half of the voters predict the Marlins will finish in the cellar.
From veterans looking to prove their worth to prospects who just wants a chance, here are eight Marlins, in descending order of importance, who are under fire in 2013.
Alfredo Silverio takes a swing during a recent Marlins spring training game.
One guy flashes plenty of promise with a fastball that has touched 100 mph. Another guy looks to regain the promise he once had before a car accident nearly wrecked his career.
Two months ago, the Marlins selected left-handed pitcher Braulio Lara off the Tampa Bay Rays' Triple-A roster and Alfredo SIlverio from the Los Angeles Dodgers' Triple-A roster for $50,000 each in the Rule 5 Draft.
According to this story, Rule 5 Draft players must stick for 90 days on the active roster once the season begins to remain with the organization. Miami can't option Lara or Silverio to the Minor Leagues for more seasoning.
Although both are talented, they each have flaws.
Silverio, 25, is considered a five-tool outfielder who missed all of 2012 thanks to temporary memory loss and Tommy John surgery to repair his right elbow after being involved in a one-car accident in the Dominican Republic.
Before the tragic event, Silverio had a breakout season in 2011, hitting .306 with 16 home runs and 85 RBI in 132 games at Double-A Chattanooga.
Although Silverio has participated in spring training—he's had three hits, including a home run, in nine at-bats—the outfielder is playing with restrictions. President of baseball operations Larry Beinfest told MLB.com Silverio can hit and run, but he can't throw yet.
Silverio is expected to begin the season on the disabled list. When Silverio is reinstated to the active roster, he must still stay 90 days to fulfill the requirements of being a Rule 5 Draft pick. Should the Marlins feel he is not a part of their plans, he would be placed on waivers. If Silverio clears waivers, he would then be offered back to the Dodgers for $25,000.
“I’m going to stay here,” Silverio said confidently to the Miami Herald. “...I think this is the best opportunity I’ve had in my career to reach my goals."
Lara has a three-pitch arsenal—changeup, curveball and a heater that had hit triple digits—but his biggest issue has been control.
After pitching solidly in his first three pro seasons (13-9 record, 3.07 ERA, 67 walks and 155 strikeouts in 155 one-third innings), Lara has taken a step back in each of the last two seasons (11-21, 5.31 ERA, 113 walks and 193 strikeouts in 232 one-third innings) even though he has never pitched above Single-A ball. At least Lara knows if he improves, he could stick with the big league club.
“They say I have a good chance to make the team,” Lara told the Miami Herald. “I just have to throw strikes, and I’ll have a chance.”
Steve Cishek, left, will have to prove he can be an effective full-time closer in 2013.
Don't let the boyish looks on his 6'6", 215-pound frame fool you.
Steve Cishek can pitch. More importantly, the side-arming right-hander can close games out, which is what the Marlins need, even if a closer for a team expected to lose more than 100 games is considered a luxury.
Rewind back to July 8, 2012. Former Marlins closer Heath Bell squandered a two-run lead in the ninth inning to blow what was then his major-league leading sixth save of the 2012 season, and the Marlins headed into the All-Star break in fourth place in the NL East at 41-44.
After the defeat, then-manager Ozzie Guillen said the following to the Sun-Sentinel:
"We lost because Heath Bell couldn't do the job," Guillen said. "... I tried to give this kid confidence, but you get to the point that we have to win some games. I have to make a decision. I have to find a solution. It will be drastic."
When the Marlins returned from the All-Star break, Guillen gave Cishek the first shot at stabilizing the bullpen. Cishek did more than keep the job. He stopped the bleeding.
Cishek converted 14 out of 15 save opportunities in the second half and as a result, Bell was dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks in a three-way trade during the offseason. Then, in January, Cishek was one of two Marlins chosen to represent the United States in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.
With Bell gone and the closer job his for the taking, Cishek must prove to the world he's no one-hit wonder.
Gorkys Hernandez, left, and Justin Ruggiano, are shown playing in the Marlins outfield last season. Hernandez or Ruggiano will have to emerge as the Marlins starting center fielder in 2013.
Justin Ruggiano and Gorkys Hernandez are out of options.
According to the Sun-Sentinel, Ruggiano and/or Hernandez would have to clear waivers before the Marlins could demote either to the minors.
But going back to the minors is probably the last thing on either player's mind.
Ruggiano is the front-runner to win the starting center field job, but he must prove last season was no fluke. After hitting .226 with six home runs and 23 RBI in 98 games over three major league seasons, Ruggiano had a career year in 2012 as he hit .313 with 13 home runs and 36 RBI after arriving in a trade from the Houston Astros.
In fact, Ruggiano was so good last season that Brad Pinkerton from sportingnews.com listed Ruggiano as one of 10 home run sleepers to target late in fantasy baseball drafts.
Of course, for Ruggiano to fulfill Pinkerton's claim, he would have to see the field. The problem is, Ruggiano has yet to play in spring training after straining his lower back last week. He is listed as day-to-day.
Enter Hernandez, who is trying to steal Ruggiano's job or make the Marlins as a fourth outfielder. In his first stint in the majors last year, Hernandez struggled as he batted .192 with three home runs and 13 RBI in 156 at-bats with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Marlins.
That might explain why when Guillen, who is a native Venezuelan just like Hernandez, told the Sun-Sentinel after the Marlins acquired Hernandez, "When you're Venezuelan and Ozzie Guillen, he don't know you, it's a problem."
Hernandez, though, played in the Venezuelan Winter League this past offseason. He won the league batting title with a .372 average, and he also led the league in runs (48), hits (84) and stolen bases (16). Hernandez hopes what he did in winter ball will have a carry-over effect.
"This is a big year for me," Hernandez told MLB.com. "I'm trying to help the team however I can."
Ricky Nolasco tosses the baseball in his new role as ace of the Marlins pitching staff.
Here's what we know of Ricky Nolasco heading into 2013:
- Ricky Nolasco is the ace of the Marlins' rotation, which features 21-year-old Jacob Turner, 22-year-old Henderson Alvarez and 23-year-old Nathan Eovaldi. Turner, Alvarez and Eovaldi are so young that they might get carded if they tried to buy alcohol.
- Ricky Nolasco has been very pedestrian since going 15-8 with a 3.52 ERA in 2008. In the last four seasons, he has compiled a 49-43 record with a 4.68 ERA. Those are not ace-like numbers. Those are more like No. 4 starter numbers.
- Ricky Nolasco is in the last year of his three-year, $26.5 million contract. Nolasco is scheduled to earn $11.5 million this season, which is $11.4 million more than many of us.
- Ricky Nolasco could fetch the Marlins a decent prospect or two if and when he is traded. The decent prospect or two are vital to the Marlins. After all, owner Jeffrey Loria said, in a full-page ad to all three major South Florida daily newspapers, he is thrilled the Marlins farm system has gone "from the 28th ranked Minor League system in baseball to the 5th best" in the last year.
Now do you understand why Ricky Nolasco is under plenty of heat not only for himself, but for the Marlins as well, in 2013?
Chris Coghlan, left, and Logan Morrison, right, celebrate last season in a game against the San Francisco Giants. The pair will have to prove they can stay healthy and be productive in 2013.
Unlike Ruggiano and Hernandez, or even Lara and Silverio, Logan Morrison and Chris Coghlan are an established pair of players.
But because of injuries, they haven't been themselves for a couple of years. And with the talent on the cupboard somewhat bare, the Marlins need Morrison and Coghlan to fulfill their potential.
According to MLB.com, Morrison entered the majors with one of the best eyes in the organization, a great swing and bat control, should hit for average as well as power with the potential to be a No. 3 hitter. Morrison flashed some of that potential in his rookie year when he hit .283 while getting on base at a .390 clip.
Unfortunately, Morrison played hurt in 2011 and his numbers dropped to a .247 batting average, but he belted 23 home runs and accumulated 72 RBI. Then, on Dec. 5, 2011, Morrison had surgery to repair his right knee.
In this story, Morrison admitted he rushed back from his first operation and struggled last season. Morrison hit .230 with 11 home runs and 36 RBI before shutting it down in late July. Then, in September, Morrison had a more invasive surgery on the same knee to repair the torn patella tendon.
Last week, Morrison tweeted his excitement about being cleared to run on a treadmill. Assuming there are no setbacks, Morrison's agent, Fred Wray said his client could be playing first base by April 15.
"The way he's progressing, at the rate he's progressing, that looks like it's going to be the target date," Wray told the Miami Herald.
While Morrison has a long road back, Coghlan's trek has been longer.
Coghlan was called up to the big leagues May 8, 2009, and he went on to win the National League Rookie of the Year award after he hit .321 with nine home runs and 47 RBI.
The following season, Coghlan suffered a freak injury when he hurt his knee giving Wes Helms a shaving cream pie in the face after a game-winning hit. At the time of the injury, Coghlan was hitting .268 with five home runs and 28 RBI in 91 games.
The injury required surgery, and like Morrison, Coghlan returned too soon. Coghlan ended his season in mid-June 2011 and had a second surgery.
Last season, Coghlan started 4-of-34, was sent to Triple-A New Orleans, returned to the big league club and then was demoted in June and never returned. Since his injury, Coghlan has hit .207 with six home runs and 32 RBI in 362 at-bats.
This past offseason, Coghlan played winter ball, worked on his swing and played some second base as well as the outfield. Coghlan told the Miami Herald he also studied video and noticed some bad habits he said he corrected. Now, he hopes to prove the adjustments will make him more productive.
“I’m excited this year to turn a lot of heads," Coghlan said. "I’m confident that I will this year, and then people will write my redemption story.”