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2010 Florida Marlins: They Are Who You Think They Are 2010 Spring Preview
by Asher B. Chancey,
April 5, 2010

Quick, what was the Florida Marlins record in 2009? I’ll bet you didn’t know that the Marlins went 87-75 last season while finishing second in the NL East. Shocking, right? The Marlins are the Invisible Man of Major League Baseball. Once a decade, the Marlins will win a World Series, and then three or four times a decade, the Marlins will complete a blockbuster trade in which they send away the stars of today in return for the stars of tomorrow.

The Marlins' success in the coming decade depends upon whether the team can create a paradigm shift of sorts. Baseball in Miami will not succeed long-term unless the Marlins can find a way to captivate the Miami-area sports fans in a more permanent way, and baseball in Miami will not succeed long-term in Dolphin/Joe Robbie/Pro Player/Landshark Stadium. If the team can get those two issues ironed out – which may be like saying the team needs to make the earth spin in the opposite direction – then it may be able to retain more of its stars during the primes of their careers and have more consistent success. At the same time, this may be a chicken-or-the-egg situation.

2009 Standings - NL East
East W L PCT GB Home Road RS RA Exp W% RHP LHP
Philadelphia Phillies 93 69 .574 0 45-36 48-33 820 709 .566 64-53 29-16
Florida Marlins 87 75 .537 6 43-38 44-37 772 766 .504 58-53 29-22
Atlanta Braves 86 76 .531 7 40-41 46-35 735 641 .562 55-54 31-22
New York Mets 70 92 .432 23 41-40 29-52 671 757 .445 54-65 16-27
Washington Nationals 59 103 .364 34 33-48 26-55 710 874 .406 49-80 10-23

Will the Marlins’ Formula for Success in 2009 Bring Them Success in 2010?

1. The Fallout from the Miguel Cabrera Trade

One of the secrets to the Marlins' success has been their knack for trading stars of today for stars of tomorrow. This is the team, after all, that bilked the Cubs out of a young Dontrelle Willis, got Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez in return for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell, and got Ricky Nolasco and two others out of the Cubs for Juan Pierre. Their luck, however, seems to have begun to run thin. In return for Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera, the Marlins acquired two purported superstars of the future, Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin. Each of these players has been around long enough to be considered a bust if he doesn’t break out in 2010.

Key Transactions
Acquired Pos.
Mike Lamb 1B
Nate Robertson SP
Departed Pos.
Matt Lindstrom RP
Kiko Calero RP
Brendan Donnelly OF
Hayden Penn RP
Ross Gload 1B
Nick Johnson 1B
Jeremy Hermida OF
Miller is another one of these guys that was completely mishandled after being drafted. He was the sixth pick in the 2006 draft, pitched five innings at A+ ball, and then improbably ended up on the major league roster that summer with the Tigers. The results? Miller threw 10.1 innings, walked 10 and struck out six, and allowed seven earned runs. In 2007, he pitched 78 innings at three levels before again ending up in the majors. It was the same story in 2008 and 2009, with similarly bad results. In the end, you only need to see one stat to know the Tigers and Marlins have mishandled this guy: Andrew Miller’s career Triple-A ERA: 8.15. Why have these teams brought this guy to the majors before making sure he could get Triple-A hitters out?

Cameron Maybin is a very similar story. This is a guy who got drafted, out of high school, with the 10th overall pick in the 2005 draft. He was very good – but also had weaknesses – at Single-A in 2006, then had an excellent season at A+ ball in 2007. In 2008, he regressed a bit at Double-A, but that didn’t keep the Marlins from naming him their starting centerfielder on opening day in 2009. And he kind of sucked in 2009. Now, in 2010, at the age of 23, he is once again the starting centerfielder on opening day.

We’ll see where this goes, but the secret to the Marlins success – consistently getting new superstars in return for their old ones – may not continue to work if they don’t take the time to develop these guys.

2. At the Other End of the Spectrum: Chris Coghlan

Chris Coghlan
Coghlan was the 36th overall pick in the 2006 draft, and didn’t sniff the major leagues until 2009. He progressed steadily through the minor leagues, always putting up good-not-great numbers, but getting on base a lot. Finally, in his fourth minor league season, when he started lighting up the Pacific Coast League in New Orleans, the Marlins called him up and he went out and won the Rookie of the Year Award.

Think of it like this: Coghlan probably doesn’t have half the talent of Cameron Maybin, but he was brought along steadily through the minors after three years of college ball. In other words, Coghlan won the Rookie of the Year for the Marlins in his sixth year out of high school, while Cameron Maybin was supposed to be the franchise’s starting centerfielder just three years out of high school.

Get that through your head: the less talented player won the Rookie of the Year, and the more talented player is wandering through the desert.

3. Okay, fine, let’s do another one.

Jeremy Hermida was the 11th pick in the 2002 draft. In 51 minor league games that year, he was terrible (.249/.340/.343). In 2003, he looked much better, but still managed only a .775 OPS while striking out 100 times and hitting only six homeruns in 134 games. In 2004, at A+ ball, he brought his OPS up to .818, and in 2005 he went up to .975 while walking more than he struck out in 118 games at Double-A. Before the 2006 season, Baseball America rated him the fourth overall major league prospect, and at 22 years old, the Marlins made him their starting right-fielder at a point where Hermida had played one game above the Double-A level. And he has struggled ever since.

4. All of this having been said, should the Marlins be excited about Gaby Sanchez?

Well, I wouldn’t expect him to win the Rookie of the Year Award in the National League (ironically, I think a guy who has had no minor league seasoning whatsoever, Jason Heyward, will win that), but Sanchez should be a very good player for the Marlins in 2010. He has five seasons of minor league ball under his belt, he has succeeded at every level, and he looks like a consistent, mature hitter. I guess I would have liked him to finish the 2009 season at Triple-A, but his numbers in 85 games were sublime. I think the Marlins have a very good player at first base in 2010.

5. And Chris Volstad?

I don’t see anything to like about Volstad. He was pretty good – with issues – at Double-A Carolina in 2008 before overachieving in 84.1 innings with the Marlins. His major league numbers were not good in 2009, and his one Triple-A outing (the only one of his career) was also quite poor. Volstad is a six-foot-eight-inch righthander, and could be a dominant major league pitcher, but his numbers to this point reflect a guy who has not learned how to pitch yet.

Marlins Team Capsule

06/03/09: Hayden, We Have a Problem - For most of this season, has maintained a “Hayden Penn Watch,” tracking his innings pitched, hits, and earned runs. What he did tonight won’t be adequately reflected by the Hayden Penn Watch, but it was still fantastic. And by that we mean, of course, fantastically bad. In the fifth, Marlins starter Sean West retired the first batter before Ryan Braun reached on an error and Prince Fielder singled. Already down 3-1, the Marlins brought in Hayden Penn to spell West. Penn promptly walked the bases loaded, induced a fielder's choice, walked in a run, and walked the pitcher to bring another run before being replaced three pitches into the following at-bat. Brian Sanches induced a ground ball which nevertheless turned into an error, gave up a double, and then struck out Braun to end the inning.

Penn’s line for the game:– 0.1 IP, 0 H, 4 BB, 5 R, 2 ER, 0 K.
Penn’s career line: 80.0 IP, 114 H, 54 BB, 53 K, 91 R, 80 ER.

This means that as of June 3, 2009, Hayden Penn now has exactly as many earned runs allowed as innings pitched and more walks than strikeouts. It will likely remain that way for a while, as Penn was finally designated for assignment the following day. --ABC

6. Well, do the Marlins have any good players?

Actually, they have several.

Hanley Ramirez (ironically a guy I never would have made a major leaguer so young; his last full season of minor league ball was at Double-A, at the age of 21, when he went .271/.335/.385 in 122 games; by my logic, this guy should be terrible) is one of the greatest players in the game.

Josh Johnson (who has never thrown a pitch in Triple-A and had a WHIP of 1.353 as a 21-year old in Double-A in 2005, and who should therefore suck according to my logic) amazed everyone last season as he finally worked his way back from two miserable injury-filled seasons to throw 209 innings and strike out 191 batters; Johnson may be a Cy Young contender in 2010.

Dan Uggla, who is overrated by his fans and underrated by his detractors, is quietly a very valuable commodity at second base when his defense isn’t killing his pitching staff.

One of the most interesting players in baseball over the last two years has to beJorge Cantu. In 2008, Cantu has a classic one dimensional slugger season – 29 homeruns, 41 doubles, 92 runs, and 95 RBI, with an RSL of .277/.327/.481/.808, while striking out 111 times to go with only 40 walks. Then, in 2009, he turned into Bobby Abreu, hitting fewer homeruns (16) while driving in more runs (100) with a far more interesting RSL of .289/.345/.443/.788. So which Jorge Cantu will we see in 2010? Whichever Jorge shows up, it is difficult to ignore the fact that this player, who looked like a one-hit wonder in 2005-2006, is looking like a very solid infielder entering his prime.

7. Anyone else?

Ricky Nolasco
We may soon be in need of a Dave Bush Award, given to the player whose peripheral stats most convince Asher that he is going to be awesome very soon. In 2009, that award would go to Ricky Nolasco. All Nolasco did in 2009 was go 13-9 (forget peripheral stats – those are actual stats) with a dynamite 4.43 K/BB (for the second year in a row, mind you) and 9.5 K/9IP. Unfortunately, Nolasco also had a 5.06 ERA and allowed over a hit per inning, to say nothing of the 23 homeruns he gave up pitching in one of the biggest parks in baseball.

But check this out: from June 1st to the end of the season, Nolasco went 11-4 with a 3.82 ERA and a 158/31 K/BB ratio in 141.1 innings pitched. Nolasco could have a huge year in 2010.

Someone hand him the Bush Award.

8. What About the Closer Position?

So glad you asked. For the second time in three years, the Marlins team leader in saves was a player I hadn’t heard of after the fact. Leo Nunez took over the closer role in Miami after Matt Lindstrom was injured and ineffective in the role in the early months of 2009. Nunez looked pretty mediocre on his way to 26 saves with a 4.06 ERA and 13 homeruns allowed. He'll get the job again in 2010, and looks to improve upon his first season ever as a closer.

Outlook for the Season

The Marlins are where they always are – a talented team with a handful of players who could break out, and the potential to make a run for the wild card. In 2010, the NL East has two of the best teams in the National League in the Phillies and Braves, and that will be too much to overcome.

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