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2006 Team Preview: Florida Marlins
by Keith Glab
March 30, 2006
2005 Team Preview: San Francisco Giants

2005 Record: 83-79 (3rd Place Tie)

2005 Runs Scored: 717

2005 Runs Allowed: 732

Expected 2005 Record: 79-83


What the Florida Marlins team is: young, inexperienced, and lacking depth.What this Florida Marlins team isnít: anything like the 1998 Marlins club that lost 108 games.


Analysts everywhere saw the names of the players that Florida dropped this offseason, and just assumed that there was no way to replace that lost production.Sloppy analysis.When critiquing a trade, itís sometimes good to look at the players acquired in return, you know?Sometimes mediocre veterans can be blocking the path of young superstars, ya dig?If you think that these Marlins are losing 100 games this year, A) youíre wrong and B) read on.



2005 Starters: Paul LoDuca, Matt Treanor

Projected 2006 Starters: Miguel Olivo, Josh Willingham


In LoDuca, the Marlins allegedly lost their Soul, as he posted a catcherís ERA a full run lower than backup Matt Treanor did.However, they also lost the catcher who allowed the fourth most stolen bases in the game last season and slugged less than .380 during his Marlins tenure.


Runners attempt to steal on Olivoís arm less than half as often as they do Loducaís, and his cERA for Padres pitchers last year was even lower than LoDucaís was for the similarly-talented Marlins staff.Heís shown flashes of quality hitting, but also extended periods of sucking at the plate.Backup Josh Willingham is probably the most talented offensive catcher in the game today.More on him later.

For those who don't know what Jacobs looks like... 

First Base

2005 Starters: Carlos Delgado

Projected 2006 Starters: Mike Jacobs, Wes Helms


Quiz: Out of Mike Jacobs, Carlos Delgado, Albert Pujols, Derrek Lee, Andruw Jones, and Barry Bonds, who had the highest SLG in 2005?It was Mike Jacobs, with a .710 mark in 100 at bats.Now Iím not saying that Jacobs will pace the NL in slugging over a full season, or even that he will outperform Carlos Delgado this season (he ďonlyĒ slugged .589 in AA last year).However, Jacobs should be a 30+ HR threat for the next decade or so, and he represents a prime example of the excellent young players acquired by Florida this offseason and overlooked by analysts everywhere.†† ††


Second Base

2005 Starters: Luis Castillo, Damian Easley

Projected 2006 Starter: Dan Uggla


In December, Futurebacks.com rated Uggla the 16th best prospect in the stacked Diamondbacks organization before they lost him in the rule V draft.Uggla has slugged over .500 in two out of his last three minor league seasons.Iím not telling you to pick him up in your fantasy league, but just to bear in mind that most people are making fun of him because his name is Uggla, not because he canít play.


Third Base

2005 Starters: Mike Lowell

Projected 2006 Starters: Miguel Cabrera, Wes Helms

Our good friend The Fielding Bible shows that Miggy C allowed 11 more runs than the average left fielder did last year, but that he comported himself as a league-average third baseman during his 30 games played there.Solution: make Cabrera the starting third baseman.But even if he is forced to man the outfield due to the Marlinsí lack of depth there, Wes Helms will certainly give the Fish more offensively than Mike Lowell did last year.



2005 Starters: Alex Gonzalez

Projected 2006 Starter: Hanley Ramirez


Hanley was an uber-prospect for the Red Sox before slumping to a .385 SLG at AA last year.Heís just 22, and the fact that he was not able to succeed at AA should clue the Marlins in that heís not quite ready for the Majors.That being said, itís hard to imagine him providing significantly less offense than Alex Gonzalez, whose defense was only average over the past three years.Ramirez should at least prove an upgrade in that defensive aspect.†††



2005 Starters: Miguel Cabrera, Juan Pierre, Juan Encarnacion,

Projected 2006 Starters: Jeremy Hermidia, Chris Aguila, Josh Wilingham, Eric Reed, Cabrera


Oddly enough, the success of this outfield depends greatly on how well catcher Miguel Olivo can hit, and how well third basemen Wes Helms can field.If they can perform alright in part-time roles, it would allow either Miguel Cabrera or Josh Willingham to start in left field opposite the gameís best hitting prospect in Jeremy Hermedia.



A blurred future for Willingham?
We fell in love with Willingham during spring training last year, but I got to see more of him in AAA during the season, and he looked wonderful.Before getting hurt, he put together an 1.131 OPS through 66 games there.His OBP has not dipped below .420 at any minor league level since 2002. Hermediaís OBP was .457 in AA last year.He can also hit for power, and has stolen 63 bases in his last 70 attempts.


I cannot decide whether Chris Aguila is a quadruple-A player, or Jason Lane with more tools.Heís done very well in the minors, but turned 27 in February.



2005 Front Three Starters: Dontrelle Willis, Josh Beckett, AJ Burnett

Projected 2006 Front Three: Willis, Brian Moehler, Justin Vargas


Perhaps the most devastating losses suffered by Florida this offseason was that of their killer Bís.Willis now has an awful lot of pressure to perform well every time out, which could lead to mistakes.Incidentally, his success last year was mostly due to astoundingly mistake-free pitching (11 HRs in 236.1 IP).Thatís partially due to Dolphins Stadiumís dimensions: The Hardball Times 2006 Baseball Annual shows it to allow 17% fewer HR per Outfield Fly than the average park.


Brian Moehler is an underrated little control guy who can succeed in the right environment.Weíll have to see how well this young defense clicks in tracking down all of the balls that heís going allow into play.


After pitching just 19 innings above A-ball, Vargas understandably had some control issues in the majors last year (3.77 BB/9).Expect control numbers nearer to his 2.46 BB/9 in the minors, and nearly a strikeout per inning.


Other 2005 Starters: Brian Moehler, Justin Vargas, Al Leiter, Ismael Valdez

Other Possible 2006 Starters: Sergio Mitre, Scott Olsen, Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco

Simply not having Antique Al Leiter and Dodger Dog Valdez as rotation options makes the back of the rotation stronger than last year.The fact that they have at least five quality high-level prospects battling for two rotation spots also helps.In terms of quality options behind their #3 starter, this could be the deepest rotation in the NL East.


2005 Top Relievers: Todd Jones, Guillermo Mota, Jim Mecir, Nate Bump

Projected 2006 Top Relievers: Joe Borowski, Bump, Todd Wellemeyer, Reynel Pinto


The Marlins have no fewer than five ex-Cubs on their pitching staffÖmake of that what you will.Personally, I think that JoBo is finally ready to return to his 2002-2003 self.Heís finally healthy again, and showed flashes of brilliance on and off last season.Heíll have to do well, because thereís nothing behind him except a Bump, a Well, and whoever loses the battle for the back end of the rotation.


Final Word:


Speaking of the Cubs, letís think about the Marlins in terms of them.Their offenses should be similarÖthat is, if the Cubs clone Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez and put them at the outfield corners.Seriously, Cabrera, Jacobs, Willingham, and Hermedia donít need to have career years to be considered among the most dangerous murdererís rows in the NL.Their clout should compensate for some of the hit-or-miss question marks dotted across the rest of the lineup.


In terms of pitching, both teams have one reliable workhorse guy (Willis/Zambrano), one crafty veteran (Maddux/Moehler), and a bunch of what ifs.What if Prior and Wood come back strong for the Cubs?What if two of Floridaís youngsters approach their AA numbers this year?Iíd probably take the Cubs pitching right now, but not by much.


So the Marlins have much better offensive weapons, slightly worse pitching, plus probably a better defense by default.I realize that not many people are saying that the Cubs are playoff-bound, but I havenít seen even the most jaded Cubs fan (Asher?) pick the Cubs for triple-digit losses.The Marlins are almost universally picked for last place and less than 65 wins.


So, you heard it here first.The Marlins will not finish last in the NL East.They will not approach 100 losses.In fact, if their guys mature quickly enough, they could hit the .500-mark and third place.In other words, they could perform just as well as they did last year.

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