11 Miami Marlins Who Are on Track for a Bigger Role in 2013
Actor Ryan Gosling became world-renowned for his starring role as Noah Calhoun in the 2004 movie, The Notebook, which took eight awards at the 2005 Teen Choice Awards. But before Gosling rose to fame, some sports aficionados might remember Gosling in the supporting role as Alan Bosley in Remember the Titans four years earlier.
Like Gosling, some Miami Marlins could become household names this year after playing a bit role during the 2012 season. For a player to qualify, he must not have had enough plate appearances (3.1 plate appearances for every game his team has played, which equals to 502 plate appearances) or innings pitched (a player must average at least one inning pitched for every game his team has played, which equals 162 innings) in 2012. Those players also should not have an established major league track record prior to the 2012 season.
Speaking of Remember the Titans, that film starred Denzel Washington as coach Herman Boone. By that time, Washington was a Hollywood staple for about two decades. But over the years, he went from winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor (1989, Glory) to winning an Academy Award for Best Actor (2001, Training Day).
In other words, Washington's stature grew as the years went on.
For a couple of established Marlins, they went from being one of the guys, as Washington once was, to a starring role in 2013—some by choice, others by necessity.
Without further ado, here are 11 Miami Marlins, from the least prominent to the most prominent members of the team, who are on track for a bigger role in 2013.
From Start to Finish
In many ways, these seven Marlins are trying to go from Ryan Gosling in Remember the Titans to Ryan Gosling in The Notebook.
While all seven saw time in the majors in 2012, it was the first time they held a starting job (or a prominent role) for an extended amount of time in the big leagues. Now, they will be asked to maintain the same role for 162 games.
In alphabetical order, the seven Marlins who are expected to do more in 2013 are:
- Rob Brantly: Since arriving in a July 2012 trade with Jacob Turner from Detroit, Brantly has not stopped hitting. He batted .365 with two home runs and 11 RBI in 52 at-bats in Triple-A New Orleans before being promoted to the big leagues in mid-August.
With the Marlins, Brantly shared the job with former All-Star catcher John Buck, hitting .290 while starting 28 of the team's final 46 games. Now that Buck has been jettisoned to the New York Mets, via the Toronto Blue Jays in the 12-player fire sale, it's Brantly's job to do more in 2013.
- Steve Cishek: He was former manager Ozzie Guillen's first choice to replace Heath Bell as the team's closer last year, and he did a wonderful job as he went 1-1 with a 3.42 ERA while converting 14 out of 15 save opportunities. Bell was shipped off to Arizona last October, so Cishek has to prove he can slam the door on the opposition for a full season.
- Nathan Eovaldi: After tasting the majors with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2011 (34 2/3 innings pitched), he was called up in late May last season to take the place of the injured Ted Lilly. Then, he was traded to the Marlins two months later in the Hanley Ramirez deal.
Eovaldi threw 119 1/3 innings last year, 63 for the Marlins. Now, Eovaldi is expected to start and finish the season with the big league club for the first time in his career as the Marlins' No. 4 starter.
The Cuban defector stayed with the Blue Jays for the rest of the 2012 season, batting .254 with two home runs and 15 RBI in 126 at-bats. In the offseason, he arrived from Toronto in the 12-player fire sale.
- Justin Ruggiano: The good news is Ruggiano was considered the front-runner to be the Marlins starting center fielder after hitting a career-best .313 with 13 home runs and 36 RBI in 288 at-bats last season.
The bad news is Ruggiano has missed all of spring training after straining his lower back a few weeks ago. According to the Palm Beach Post last Friday, manager Mike Redmond said he is hopeful Ruggiano can make his spring debut in 10 days. Ruggiano's main competition for the vacant job is Gorkys Hernandez, who is 1-for-13 this spring.
- Donovan Solano: After being one of the last players cut in spring training last year, Solano found himself back with the Marlins in mid-May after Emilio Bonifacio went on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left thumb.
After the Marlins traded Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez in the deal that landed Brantly and Turner from Detroit, Solano became an everyday player. He started 61 of the Marlins' final 67 games, primarily playing second base, and finished the season hitting .295 in 285 at-bats.
- Jacob Turner: Possibly the most gifted of the Marlins' three young pitchers in the starting rotation (Henderson Alvarez being the third hurler), Turner struggled in his two stints with the Detroit Tigers in 2011 and 2012.
Then, he was traded to the Marlins and the light switch turned on. Turner went 1-4 in his seven starts, but had a 3.38 ERA. Turner is expected to be the team's No. 2 starter, behind ace Ricky Nolasco, once the season starts.
Welcome to Acehood
Ricky Nolasco never asked for it.
But after trading Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle to Toronto in one fell swoop, Nolasco inherited the job as ace of the Miami Marlins—assuming he's still with the club after Matt Sosnick, Nolasco's agent, told ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick his client wanted to be traded three months ago and after Nolasco told the Miami Herald's Barry Jackson he'll be traded before the season ends:
“I feel pretty sure I’ll be traded sometime before the (July 31 trade) deadline. It all depends on how I pitch,”
As ace of the staff, Nolasco is expected to at least be an innings eater and, if possible, stop any Marlins four-game losing streaks that come his way. He'll be paid a tidy $11.5 million to handle these responsibilities, which is the last year of a three-year, $26.5 million deal.
Although Nolasco hasn't earned his role as staff ace—he's 49-43 with a 4.68 ERA the last four years—at least he can show Turner, Alvarez and Eovaldi how to be a major league pitcher. After all, Nolasco holds the franchise record in wins (76), strikeouts (911), innings pitched (1,113 1/3) and games started (179).
"To have a guy who obviously has been in the big leagues is big," Redmond said. "We're young, and he's young, too. He's not that old. But anybody who has taken the ball in the big leagues and has gone through a Major League season is going to be huge."
But oh wait, Nolasco told the Associated Press, via the Boston Herald, he's not keen on being a mentor:
"Nah. I'm going to be the same. I'm a quiet guy by nature. I'm not going to change that. I'm going to keep going about my business and do what I have to do to prepare myself."
Something's gotta give...
Sole Source of Power
As we speak Giancarlo Stanton is in Arizona playing baseball with Ryan Braun, Adam Jones, Joe Mauer, Brandon Phillips, Jimmy Rollins, David Wright and Ben Zobrist.
Of course, that's with Team USA at the World Baseball Classic.
When Stanton returns to the Marlins as early as next week, he'll be playing alongside the likes of Juan Pierre, Ruggiano, Brantly, Solano, Hechavarria, Placido Polanco and Logan Morrison.
Not exactly Murderer's Row.
But after gutting the team, which means playing without the likes of Gaby Sanchez, Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes, Stanton will have to produce at the same rate, if not better, without much, if any, protection.
According to the Sun-Sentinel's Juan Rodriguez, here are some projected totals Stanton is expected to produce this season as a Marlin:
— The Bill James Handbook: .284 batting average, .365 on-base percentage, .605 slugging percentage with 43 home runs and 103 RBI in 151 games.
— Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections: .286 batting average, .367 on-base percentage, .606 slugging percentage with 41 home runs and 98 RBI in 569 plate appearances.
In order for Stanton to even post such ridiculous numbers with the type of supporting cast surround him, he knows he's going to have to be a more disciplined hitter.
“It’ll be good for me, actually, for down the road,” Stanton told the New York Times. “If I can handle this at this age, that’ll just bring me to the next step as a hitter.”
Come to think of it, Stanton is already putting on a show for his WBC teammates.
On the first day of WBC workouts Monday, New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira told cbssports.com that he's "never seen anything like it" as Stanton launched home runs into the parking lot behind the back fields at Salt River Fields. At least one of the home runs threatened some cars parked far behind the fence.
The following day, MLB.com's Peter Gammons tweeted Rollins' message to Stanton: "You cannot be real. You cannot be human."
So who knows? Perhaps Stanton's legend will grow.
Oh, and did we mention he could be carrying the Marlins on his back while earning just $537,000 this year?
First-Time MLB Coaches
Between them, Mike Redmond and Tino Martinez have won five World Series titles during their playing days.
But as coaches, Redmond and Martinez have yet to coach a game in the major leagues.
Redmond spent the past two years managing a pair of minor league clubs in the Toronto Blue Jays organization before making the huge leap up to the big leagues when the Marlins hired him with a three-year contract last November.
He compiled a 155-115 record (.574) in two seasons as a minor league manager and was the Midwest League Manager of the Year in 2011.
Redmond played 13 years in the majors, including seven with the Marlins. He was a part of the 2003 Marlins team that beat the New York Yankees in six games en route to the franchise's second World Series championship.
At his introductory press conference, Redmond told the media what he will be about in his new gig.
"It's about winning. It's about competing. It's about showing up every single day. That's what I'm about."
Redmond also knows that being a manager also means protecting his players, especially with how young this Marlins team will be. Redmond told the Pioneer Press that's what he learned most in his second stop, playing backup to Joe Mauer for Ron Gardenhire's Minnesota Twins.
"He's loyal to his guys. He backed his players up. He got thrown out of a lot of games to back his players up. Players always knew when they were out there competing and grinding, he had their backs. I think that's huge in this game. That's one of the biggest things I learned from him."
What helps is last year, two managers were hired without previous managerial or coaching experience at any level. The St. Louis Cardinals hired Mike Matheny, whose club lost to the San Francisco Giants in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series, while the Chicago White Sox hired Robin Ventura, whose club overachieved with a 85-77 record.
Redmond, though, will be hard-pressed to match what Matheny and Ventura accomplished given the team he's been given.
However, whatever Redmond achieves in his first season as a major league manager, he'll be sharing it with another first-time coach, Tino Martinez.
Martinez was hired a week after Redmond's hiring. In his 16-year career, Martinez won four World Series titles with the Yankees.
Martinez retired after the 2005 season and for the last couple of years, he has been a New York Yankees special assistant and worked an analyst for the YES Network, according to sportsillustrated.com.
While Martinez enjoyed many successes as a player, he told MLB.com he knew what he was getting into when he left the cozy confines of retirement and into a major league dugout.
"I like the opportunity that I'm in. When Jeffrey Loria called me up and told me that he was going to clean house and go with a whole young team, would I want to help him out and be the hitting coach and go that route?
"I thought it was a great opportunity to come in and work with a bunch of young hitters. It is a chance to come in and teach them how to play the game the right way on a daily basis—to work hard and just teach them how to become good professionals. I just thought it was a great opportunity, overall, to help rebuild this organization."