This continues my 2010 MLB preview. I intend to touch every team in the major leagues in installments by division.
The lineups I provide will be what I predict to be the most productive for each team for the MAJORITY of the season (e.g., Jason Heyward will be listed as the Braves RF even though he may not begin the season as the starter).
I will also provide the stereotypical letter grade to each team's lineup, rotation, bullpen, and depth/bench. Though it is trite, I think all baseball fans can identify with the letter grade system.
Teams will be addressed respective to their predicted finish in their division.
LINEUP : B
John Baker/Ronny Paulino—C
OUTFIELD : The trio of Chris Coghlan, Cameron Maybin, and Cody Ross can really go get it defensively, which is good considering the spacious greenery of Landshark Stadium.
Maybin is penciled in as the No. 2 hitter by default; Ross may be the better option there. If Maybin doesn't hit second this year, he could hit eighth. He needs to grow this season or Jai Miller could start stealing ABs.
Coghlan is a nice hitter who could be a perennial .300 guy, but the Marlins need more of base-stealer in their leadoff spot.
INFIELD : Manager Fredi Gonzalez has made it clear that he doesn't care where Jorge Cantu plays defensively, as long as he is the clean-up hitter.
Gaby Sanchez may be ready to break out this year, much to the chagrin of do-it-all little man, Emilio Bonifacio. The Fish need Bonifacio's bat and legs offensively but, with Cantu, Sanchez, Dan Uggla, and Hanley Ramirez, his ABs are tough to find.
This infield could combine for as many as 100 homers if they all hit like they're capable and stay healthy.
CATCHING : John Baker and Ronny Paulino will be the catchers. Both are similar offensively and, if the pitchers don't prefer one over the other defensively, the best scenario for the Marlins is to let right hand-hitting Paulino play against lefty pitchers and left hand-hitting Baker play when the opposing pitcher is a righty.
ROTATION : B
The rotation wasn't quite as special as many thought it would be in 2009.
After Josh Johnson, things weren't very concrete.
Ricky Nolasco went 13-9, but had an ERA over 5.00.
Chris Volstad needs to bounce back.
I think a healthy Anibal Sanchez will help the rotation greatly. I believe he'll have a strong desire to stay healthy and produce wins for his club this year.
The fifth spot is up for grabs. A trio of suitors will battle for that spot in the spring, those being Rick VandenHurk, Sean West, and Andrew Miller.
Miller is an enticing option, because he would be the lone lefty in the rotation. Without him, the rotation is all right-handed like the Braves', which would put the Marlins at a disadvantage when they play a strong left-handed offensive club like the division rival Phillies.
Despite this, Sean West may have the inside track in management's eyes.
However, I think by the All-Star break, VandenHurk will take over the fifth spot in the rotation.
If the other four starters stay healthy, the Fish could have a very good rotation.
BULLPEN : B
It isn't full of All-Stars, but the Marlins' bullpen is quite solid.
Renyel Pinto and Dan Meyer are very good lefties, while Brian Sanchez and Burke Badenhop hold down the right side.
Keep an eye out for Taylor Tankersley's return after not playing last season.
Leo Nunez is an unheralded closer, but certainly got the job done last season. He appears fearless out there, which you like in a closer.
DEPTH/BENCH : C
In the outfield, Brett Carroll fills in adequately and is in the same mold as Ross and Coghlan in playing style—small guys who play hard. But he has to hit for a better average when he plays.
Jai Miller is young and promising, but is very green.
Emilion Bonifacio can play 3B, SS, and 2B in the infield and can play the outfield if it's absolutely necessary, so he should get some ABs.
Wes Helms is capable of filling the corner IF spots.
After that, there really isn't much help on the infield.
THOUGHTS : The Marlins are picked to finish fourth in the NL East here, but third place is no reach.
Then again, nobody does more with less than the Marlins, so don't be surprised if they are in the thick of the division race come September.
The Marlins should look at their health and the success of their pitching staff at midseason. If the assessment calls for it, they shouldn't hesitate to deal Uggla for either rotation help or infield depth. This would effectively place Bonifacio in the lineup everyday. Bonifacio and Coghlan at the top of the order make the Marlins offense better.
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