Predicting the Miami Marlins Starting Lineup in 2015
Now, we're going to take it a step further and predict what the Marlins starting lineup might be in 2015.
The same rules still apply. The Marlins chosen to start in 2015 must be under team control in some shape or form. This means guys such as Greg Dobbs, who signed a $1.7 million extension for next season months ago but it only became official last month, according to MLB.com, were not selected because it would be unfathomable to think what would then be a 36-year-old career pinch-hitter would start for any organization. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria might have the ability to negotiate Dobbs extension without his top baseball officials' knowledge, which is what a source told the Sun-Sentinel, but we're pretty sure Loria can't write Dobbs name in the lineup card.
This also means free agents such as Clayton Kershaw, Billy Butler, Asdrubal Cabrera and Pablo Sandoval probably won't be coming to South Beach anytime soon.
The names on this list are probably familiar to you, but remember these players are predicted to grab the starting nod either through outstanding production or by default. Of course, with nearly 18 months before the 2015 Opening Day, a lot can change.
Without further ado, let's present the starting nine for the 2015 Miami Marlins in lineup card fashion.
LF Christian Yelich
Christian Yelich's bat is so advanced, he never batted below the No. 3 spot in the batting order.
For this exercise, given who else is in the lineup after Yelich, the left-handed hitter with the sweet swing will lead off for the Marlins.
Yelich was promoted in late July and proceeded to produce a slash line of .288/.370/.396 with four home runs and 16 RBI in 240 at-bats. Yelich also stole 10 bases without getting caught.
Yelich started his major league career hitting in the No. 2 hole for the first seven games, then he moved up to the leadoff spot for 27 of the next 31 games before sliding down to the No. 3 slot, right in front of slugger Giancarlo Stanton, for 23 of the final 24 games of the season.
The leadoff role, though, might be Yelich's worst spot. In 110 at-bats at leadoff his OPS was .747, but it gradually went up as he dropped lower in the order. As the No. 2 hitter, Yelich had a .770 OPS in 41 at-bats while he had a .784 OPS in 89 at-bats as the No. 3 hitter. Granted, these are small sample sizes.
The bigger issue with Yelich will be his ability to handle left-handed pitching. Against right-handers, Yelich was .362/.444/.497 in 149 at-bats. However, against southpaws, Yelich had a .165/.245/.231 slash line in 91 at-bats.
Nonetheless, MLB.com's Joe Frisaro believes Yelich has solidified left field and there is no reason to believe he won't be a regular for the foreseeable future.
CF Jake Marisnick
As far as first impressions go, Jake Marisnick did as poorly as a highly regarded prospect could have done.
Promoted the same day as Yelich, Marisnick struggled to the tune of a .183/.231/.248 slash line with one home run and five runs batted in. Not only was Marisnick ineffective, but a knee injury slowed Marisnick to the point where he didn't accrue enough at-bats to qualify for the National League Rookie of the Year award.
After the season ended, according to MLB.com, Marisnick underwent a scope on his left knee to repair a torn meniscus that had hindered him for several weeks. The procedure included cleaning out some loose tissue in the knee, and Marisnick will need four-to-six weeks of recovery before he begins rehabilitation.
Despite his struggles, ESPN.com's Tim Kurkjian told the Miami Herald he believes all indications show Marisnick is going to be a good player. Keep in mind Marisnick's WAR (wins above replacement) was 0.1, and all of it was because of his defense as he had a defensive WAR of 0.7. That said, Marisnick showed he can handle the bat in the minors as he had a .294/.358/.502 slash line with 12 home runs and 46 RBI with Double-AA Jacksonville before his promotion.
Assuming Giancarlo Stanton isn't traded, Marisnick will compete for the starting center field spot along with Marcell Ozuna, who missed the final few months due to surgery to his left thumb, in Spring Training.
3B Colin Moran
When the Marlins used the No. 6 overall pick of the 2013 MLB Draft to draft Colin Moran, they envisioned Moran as the third baseman of the future.
In fact, they believed in him so much that they signed him to a $3.52 million contract, according to the Miami Herald.
“We haven’t had a long-term third baseman since Mike Lowell left us [following the 2005 season], and we’ve been searching for that person,” then Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said at Moran’s introductory news conference. “Hopefully, it ends right here with you, Colin."
According to MLB.com, Moran is a big, strong left-handed hitting third baseman. He's an advanced hitter who should hit for average and shouldn't take too much time for his bat to be big-league ready. How much power he grows into remains to be seen, but he's been a solid run producer throughout his college career. The ETA on his big league arrival is 2016, but it's possible he could be in the lineup at some point by 2015.
Currently, he's in the Arizona Fall League, and MLB.com projects Moran to probably open 2014 at Advanced Single-A Jupiter with a chance to advance to Double-A by the end of the season. The most realistic target date for his arrival to the big leagues is 2015, if not as a September call-up.
The only kink to this plan is if the Marlins sign Cuban native Jose Abreu. MLB.com thinks if Abreu signs with the Marlins, he could be a candidate to play third if the club retains Logan Morrison. If Abreu can hit the way some believe he will, he could play a defensive third base similar to what Miguel Cabrera is doing in Detroit.
RF Marcell Ozuna
When Giancarlo Stanton strained his right hamstring in April, many expected Marcell Ozuna to fill in for Stanton until the slugger heals, then head back to Double-A Jacksonville to get more seasoning.
Instead, Ozuna had other plans.
In his first week in his new job, Ozuna had a hit in each of his first six games as he batted .478 (11-for-23) with one home run and four RBI. Ozuna's first career home run helped rookie phenom Jose Fernandez earn his first major league victory. In his first 36 games, Ozuna was blistering hot as his slash line was .331/.371/.472 with one home run and 17 RBI.
Then, Ozuna cooled down considerably as his slash line was .195/.230/.301 with two home runs and 15 RBI in the next 34 games before he was done for the season because of left thumb surgery, according to the Associated Press.
Now, Ozuna's slide could be attributed to one of two factors: Either because he was moved to center field after Stanton returned from the disabled list or because he dropped down to No. 5 in the batting order when Logan Morrison returned from the disabled list due to last September's knee surgery. The two transactions occurred a day apart.
Nonetheless, Ozuna proved he belonged. Because of the thumb injury and Stanton's presence, which some predict Stanton will still be with the Marlins in 2014 without signing a long-term deal, Ozuna will battle Marisnick to be the team's everyday center fielder.
But in 2015, with Stanton's salary rising due to his second year of arbitration, it's probably even money Stanton will be dealt, thus allowing Ozuna to return to right field.
One cause for concern is Ozuna's lack of power at the major league level as the cleanup hitter. But in the minors, Ozuna smashed 20 or more home runs from 2010-12.
1B Logan Morrison
Logan Morrison is the first player who is penciled into the starting lineup in this exercise who seriously might not be here in 2015.
Morrison will still be under team control in 2015, but in his second year of arbitration, which means he could price himself out of the Marlins range with a big 2014. The problem is, Morrison has yet to deliver.
Morrison joined the team in June, after recovering from right knee surgery. He remained healthy through the end, which is encouraging, considering he's missed 108 games in 2011 and 2012. However, Morrison faded to a slash line of .242/.333/.375 with six home runs and 36 RBI in 85 games.
As stated earlier, the Marlins are also interested in Cuban native Jose Abreu, whose natural position is first base.
But as MLB.com predicts, the team will most likely stay the course with the left-handed hitting Morrison since the organization hasn't seen what Morrison is capable of, when healthy, over a full season.
SS Adeiny Hechavarria
Adeiny Hechavarria is one of the better young defensive shortstops in the game and is considered to be a fixture with the Marlins for the foreseeable future, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
In fact, Hechavarria made two leaping grabs in the final two weeks of the year that are Web Gem worthy. The video above helped preserve Henderson Alvarez's no-hitter in the season finale while this video helped the Marlins to a 4-3, 10-inning win against the Philadelphia Phillies.
"The one in Philadelphia was hit harder, so I was able to jump higher," Hechavarria told MLB.com. "I had to jump from the spot to get to it. This one, it wasn't hit as hard, and I was able to take one or two steps back to be in position to jump and make that play."
Offensively, though, Hechavarria is a mess. He finished 2013 with a slash line of .227/.267/.298 with three home runs and 42 RBI. The only reason he's batting sixth in this lineup is because, if you haven't notice already, the alternation of left-handed hitters followed by right-handed hitters and the two guys who follow Hechavarria in this lineup.
Nonetheless, MLB.com said the club is relying heavily on pitching and since they play in a pitcher-friendly park, sacrificing some offense at shortstop for what Hechavarria does with the glove is a trade-off the team gladly accepts. That said, Hechavarria may be primed to make a Gold Glove run in 2014.
2B Derek Dietrich
For a team starved of power, Derek Dietrich would be a welcome addition.
Last we saw Dietrich, he struggled to the tune of .214/.275/.405 with nine home runs and 23 RBI. Then, he was sent to the minors, but a few days later, Dietrich helped stir up some controversy with his claims against former Marlins hitting coach Tino Martinez.
The Sun-Sentinel reported Dietrich was at a loss about how to deal with what Martinez did, which Dietrich alleges Martinez grabbed him by the neck, and chose to keep quiet and somehow produced despite unimaginable duress. The Miami Herald reported the incident happened on Dietrich's fifth day in the majors.
In this exercise, it's 2015 now. And if you haven't noticed, Giancarlo Stanton is nowhere to be found. So the sight of Dietrich in the lineup should be met with open arms considering his nine home runs was third on the team, behind Stanton and Justin Ruggiano, in a mere 57 games.
Dietrich offers upside and power from the left-side, and even though we predicted Donovan Solano to be the starter in 2014, Solano's status isn't set in stone as he profiles better in a utility role. The Marlins finished last in homers last season as they were the only team to hit less than 100 with 95.
The only person who might oppose Dietrich in the lineup is Loria. According to sources, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal said Loria also opposed a September call-up for Dietrich. But Dietrich suffered a back injury, removing him from consideration and ending the potential conflict.
C Jeff Mathis
The reality of this position is it could belong to anybody.
Jeff Mathis currently has a $1.5 million team option for 2015, and while it is unknown if the Marlins would exercise the option, Mathis could be brought back if money isn't a factor. After all, Mathis was a guy whom the Marlins trusted with young pitchers such as Jose Fernandez, Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez, according to MLB.com.
The Marlins were 35-35 when Mathis started despite Mathis producing a .181/.251/.284 slash line. Keep in mind the Marlins were 27-65 when Mathis doesn't start.
By 2015, the position could belong to Rob Brantly. Granted, this is the same guy who was demoted in August because of his issues behind the plate. Marlins manager Mike Redmond told the Miami Herald Brantly’s throwing skill and blocking ability had improved, but added Brantley still needed work in other areas such as day-to-day preparation, calling pitches, working with pitchers and carrying out a game plan.
It also didn't help that Brantly's slash line was .211/.263/.265 with one home run and 18 RBI, a season after he impressed with a .290/.372/.460 slash line with three home runs and eight runs batted in in 100 at-bats.
If it isn't Mathis or Brantly behind the plate, it could be prospect J.T. Realmuto. According to MLB.com, Realmuto was a high school shortstop the Marlins moved behind the plate. He's developed into a solid catching prospect as he's come a long way defensively, with an above-average arm and good agility while showing solid leadership skills. Realmuto has the ability to make consistent hard contact to all fields and runs better than most catchers. The more time he gets behind the plate, the better he looks, with all signs pointing to a gig as an everyday backstop in the future. The problem is his offensive production has fallen as he's climbed the organizational ladder.
In 2011, Realmuto's slash line in Single-A Greensboro was .287/.347/.454 with 12 home runs and 49 RBI. In 2012, his slash line with Advanced Single-A Jupiter dropped to .256/.319/.345 with eight home runs and 46 RBI. This season, his slash line is .239/.310/.353 with five home runs and 39 RBI.
Between these three, the money is on the Marlins to keep Mathis for one more season in hopes of Brantly and/or Realmuto being ready for the show.
P Jose Fernandez
At this point, the question isn't whether Jose Fernandez is the ace of the Marlins pitching staff, it's when will the Marlins lock him up to a long-term deal.
Having never pitched above Single-A, Fernandez had a season to remember as he posted a 12-6 record with a 2.19 ERA while striking out a franchise rookie record 187 batters in 172 2/3 innings. Fernandez's ERA was second in the majors, his 0.98 WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched) was fourth and his 6.3 WAR (wins above replacement) was tied sixth with the Detroit Tigers' Anibal Sanchez.
Believe it or not, Fernandez might have failed to reach his goals. According to ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick, Fernandez revealed he aspired to 15 wins and a 2.50 ERA when he began the season with the big club. Can you imagine that?
And everywhere you look, the 2013 All-Star is projected to win the National League Rookie of the Year award.
A SportsNation poll in an article written by ESPN.com's David Schoenfield said 59 percent chose Fernandez as the NL's best rookie. Fernandez was selected ahead of Yasiel Puig, Julio Teheran, Shelby Miller and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Fernandez's ROY candidacy also has the support of Sports Illustrated's Michael Beller, ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick and Keith Law, CBS Sports' Dayn Perry and MLB.com's Joe Frisaro.
Fernandez is special, and by 2015, he could be adding more hardware to his collection.