30-YOC’s Florida Marlins 2011 Baseball Season Preview
As we prepare for the start of the 2011 baseball season, I have a lot of open questions about how the Florida Marlins will do during the course of 162 games.
A very competitive team, regardless of their payroll, I am left wondering if one of the youngest teams in baseball can compete in a veteran-dominated division. And while I think that it is safe to say that the Philadelphia Phillies are heads-and-shoulders above the remainder of the teams in the NL East, the battle for 2nd place, and a possible Wild Card playoff spot remains a race to the end.
Can the Marlins compete in that race? Can they win it?
Well, they certainly did attack their weakest part during the offseason - their bullpen. Adding veteran help through trades and free agency, the team has a bullpen full of experienced players – now their roles just need to be established. Leo Nunez has been tabbed as the closer, but the team has more options this year than they did a year ago if he struggles. And with the additions of Randy Choate, Mike Dunn, and Ryan Webb, we finally have players that have proven to be valuable in late innings. Hopefully that translates to fewer late-inning losses – a true step in the right direction.
As for the starters, Josh Johnson leads the way as the team’s ace and I expect another solid season from him. If he can maintain his health throughout the year and get 32+ starts, I see a 16-18 game winning season, and another campaign as one of the best pitchers in the game from an ERA standpoint. Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez will fill 2 more spots, leaving a spot for newly-acquired Javier Vasquez who I am expecting big things from. If Vasquez can throw 180+ innings and compile 30+ starts, I think he can rack up a 14+ win season and solidify his spot in the rotation as the team’s veteran leader. That leaves the 5th spot - a very troublesome one for me… The spot will go to Chris Volstad, though he has hardly done anything to earn it. While physically imposing, his stuff is not. For a starting pitcher, he allows way too many base runners for my liking – his WHIP at 1.40 is just not exciting to look forward to. My preference would be to see Alex Sanabia or Sean West get a crack at making the rotation – from what I have seen prior, their upside potential is higher than that of Volstad’s.
Offensively the team is solid – young, but solid. Gone is Dan Uggla, but everyone feels that 21-year old slugger Mike Stanton can deliver 30/100 in his place. And with the young and hungry talent of Chris Coghlan, Gaby Sanchez, and Logan Morisson in the line-up, the Marlins have a lot of good contact hitters, each with a knack for hitting line-drives. While still not official, it does sound like Donnie Murphy won the starting third base job with Omar Infante at second. If that works out, anything we get from these two guys is icing on the cake as neither offers an offensive specialty. John Buck, an All-Star with the Blue Jays, will be the team’s primary catcher. And while I am eager to see how he works with the pitching staff, I am more excited to finally see the team have a catcher that is an offensive threat – it has been a long time since Pudge was here…
And then we have Hanley. Oh, Hanley. I love to watch you play – and when you want to play you are one of the best in the sport!! Your skills are the best on the team – and your desire to finally stand up and lead the team is an absolute step in the right direction. You can give us a .320/35/100 season – please do that. Lead by example, please. It all lies on your shoulders – your ability to ignite the team’s offense as the #3 hitter will be what makes or breaks this team and its chances of winning.
So, how will they do? Hmm….
I would love to say that I see a World Series title in the Florida Marlins’ future. I do actually, just not in 2011. The team is built for 2012-2013. But that doesn’t mean that they cannot win, and win more than lose.
So, here is my prediction:
The Florida Marlins will finish in 3rd place in the NL East, behind the Phillies and Braves. I am predicting 88-96 wins this season, and the race between 2nd and 3rd place will come down to the final weeks of the season. No team in the East will be able to match Philly and their immense pitching staff. And while I don’t think that the Braves are that much better than the Marlins, I do think that their older, more veteran line-up will squeeze out a few more wins.
There you have it.
I am so ready to see the action.