2008 MLB Preview: Florida Marlins

JJ SSenior Writer IFebruary 16, 2008

Manager: Fredi Gonzalez
Arrivals: IF/OF Jorge Cantu, 3B Jose Castillo, RP Tim Corcoran, OF Luis Gonzalez, SP Mark Hendrickson, OF Cameron Maybin, SP Andrew Miller, C Mike Rabelo, and a new ballpark
Departures: RP Armando Benitez*, 3B Aaron Boone, 3B Miguel Cabrera, SP Byung Hyun Kim, OF Todd Linden, C Miguel Olivo, SP Dontrelle Willis

Offseason grade: C+

Starting rotation: There could be a massive free-for-all in Spring Training for the right to pitch in Florida's starting rotation. The best bets to pitch in the rotation would be Andrew Miller, Sergio Mitre, and Scott Olsen, but Rick VandenHurk Mark Hendrickson, Anibal Sanchez, Ricky Nolasco, and Jesus Delgado all could crack the rotation with good showings this March. 

Whew. That's a long list. Of them, Miller is the only one who I see as having a chance for success in 2008.

Despite throwing a no-hitter in 2006, Sanchez was actually sent down to AAA in May and has not pitched in the majors since. The same goes for Nolasco, who was sent down May 17. 

Olsen, Mitre, VandenHurk, and Hendrickson were both unimpressive last year and may end up filling out the back of Florida's rotation if the younger Marlins have poor springs. Overall, Florida's rotation is wholly unimpressive and will get beat up by the powerful lineups of the Mets, Phillies, and Braves.

Starting rotation grade: D-

Bullpen: Believe it or not, the Marlins actually don't appear to have that bad of a bullpen. Kevin Gregg saved 32 games in 36 opportunities, giving Fredi Gonzalez a consistent closer.

From the left side, both Taylor Tankersley and Reynel Pinto were decent in 2007, sporting ERAs of 3.99 and 3.68, respectively.

Righties Lee Gardner, Justin Miller, and Matt Lindstrom turned in very good seasons, posting ERAs of 1.94, 3.65, and 3.09.

If the success these pitchers had in 2007 carries over to 2008, the Marlins will have a very competitive bullpen. However, the weakness of the starting rotation could easily force Gonzalez to overwork his bullpen, leading to performances that may not be indicative of the skill of Florida's relievers. 

Bullpen grade: B

Lineup: Florida's lineup has a few bright spots in Hanley Ramirez, Jeremy Hermida, and Josh Willingham, but after that, it has a lot of question marks after trading away one of the best young hitters in the game in Miguel Cabrera.

Dan Uggla turned in a relatively disappointing 2007, hitting just .245. Uggla still managed to knock out 31 home runs to give Florida a good power threat in their lineup, but he'll have to raise his batting average to help make up for the loss of Cabrera.

If Mike Jacobs plays a full season at first base, he easily could muster 30 home runs, but his .317 on-base percentage in 2007 is a major cause for concern.  

A couple of interesting players to watch in Florida's lineup are Cameron Maybin and Dallas McPherson. Maybin, along with Miller, was a centerpiece of the Cabrera/Willis trade with the Detroit Tigers and will have every opportunity to succeed in 2008.

McPherson, once a highly-touted power-hitting prospect with the Angels, looks for a fresh start with Florida. However, McPherson may be another Mike Jacobs clone in that he has a lot of power but is more proficient at striking out than getting on base. Jose Castillo is the other option at third base for the Marlins, but he isn't a very good hitter, either.

Lineup grade: C

Bench: Luis Gonzalez will provide some much-needed veteran leadership on the very young Marlins squad, and should be a good spot starter/pinch-hitter. Fredi Gonzalez would have to be mad to start him over Willingham or Hermida, as the Marlins aren't going anywhere in 2008 and should focus on developing talent.

Cody Ross is another able hitter and spot starter, but, like Gonzalez, he plays outfield. Alfredo Amezaga can play a myriad of positions and will give the Marlins some versatility, but by no means is he an everyday player who could ably fill in for an injured player.

Bench grade: C+

This is a very young Marlins team that is beginning to put the pieces together for success in a few years. However, they're going to take their lumps in 2008 with such a weak starting rotation. 2011 is a good year for the Marlins to shoot for in terms of success, as that's when their new ballpark opens. By then, a lot of these young players will have matured and could be poised for a playoff push.

But that's a long, long way in the future, so expect to see the Marlins in the basement of the NL East this year.