Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 3/1/12

The Marlins were 72-90 last year and finished 30 games out of first place. Their premiere player, Hanley Ramirez, appeared disinterested and their ace pitcher, Josh Johnson, was once again lost to injury. With a new ballpark on the horizon, the Marlins needed to shake things up this off-season.

Hanley Ramirez

So they executed an extreme makeover. For starters they are no longer the Florida Marlins, but are now the Miami Marlins. They went out and grabbed baseball’s most unusual yet one of its most successful managers in Ozzie Guillen. They will open their new ballpark and excitement surrounding this team is at an all-time high.

Owner Jeffrey Loria went all in with his checkbook and the Marlins made a big splash in free agency. They signed one of baseball’s best and most electrifying players in shortstop Jose Reyes. They snagged one of Guillen’s favorite White Sox and a steady pitcher who owns 2 no-hitters, one of which was a perfect game, in Mark Buerhle. They also acquired one of the game’s best closers in Heath Bell and took a flyer on the enigmatic Carlos Zambrano.

[2012 MLB Preview Central]

Adding all that to a team that already includes slugger extraordinaire Mike call me Giancarlo, Stanton, Hanley Ramirez, Gaby Sanchez, and an outstanding nucleus of young pitching means this team is suddenly a serious contender for the 2012 playoffs. Guillen is a skilled manager and he has the deepest, most talented roster he’s ever had the luxury of working with.

3 Up

Best case scenario for 2012: If things go as planned in Miami, Ozzie Guillen will get Hanley Ramirez to realize his full potential and be the player we all know he can be. Josh Johnson will stay healthy and win the NL Cy Young award. The Marlins will challenge Philadelphia for the AL East crown and earn a spot in the playoffs.

Most important Marlins: Josh Johnson is a Cy Young caliber pitcher and capable of posting ridiculous numbers. The only problem is he has seldom enjoyed a healthy season. If he can somehow stay off the disabled list this year it will give Miami the NL’s equivalent of Justin Verlander. Hanley Ramirez is making the move to third base to accommodate the arrival of Jose Reyes. If he returns to All Star form it will give the Marlins an absolutely devastating line up for opposing pitchers to navigate through. Ramirez is a career .306 hitter who slumped to a .243 last year while battling shoulder problems. He is capable of swatting 25 homers, driving in 100 runs and swiping 25 bases.

Potential breakout players in 2012: Gaby Sanchez is the best first baseman that nobody knows about. He’s posted back-to-back seasons of 19 homers and at least 78 RBI. He is a career .269 hitter and batting in the middle of this line up has the potential to boost his average into the .280 range and drive in over 100 runs. Sanchez is a no-nonsense guy who will thrive under the guidance of Guillen and in the middle of the Marlins batting order. It’s hard to imagine that a guy who hit 34 dingers and drove in 87 runs last year could be a breakout candidate. However, Stanton falls into that category. He could become a household name this year with 40+ taters and well over 100 RBI. Don’t worry he said you could still call him Mike, even though he does prefer his given name of Giancarlo.

3 Down

Worst case scenario for 2012: If Josh Johnson suffers yet another season ending injury it will leave a canyon-sized hole in the Marlins pitching staff. They need him on the bump every 5th game if they are to contend in the NL East – which is a loaded division. If Guillen’s style causes friction with the players it could result in some prolonged growing pains, but I don’t think that is going to happen.

Areas of concern: The biggest concern for Miami is injuries. Last year Josh Johnson and Hanley Ramirez were stalled by medical problems. They’ve also added an explosive personality in Carlos Zambrano. If things go south for the big hurler the team will be on high alert to ensure he doesn’t have a meltdown. I do think Ozzie Guillen is the perfect manager for Big Z and if he can’t tame the big fella, nobody can. “People have a pool in Venezuela to see when we are going to fight.” – Guillen joked.

Who needs to bounce back from a down 2011: Hanley Ramirez was pedestrian in 2011 and that is a crying shame when you consider the abundance of talent he possesses. For a player of his caliber to hit a paltry .243 with just 10 homers and 45 RBI is a debacle. With the addition of Jose Reyes in the line up, HanRam will have RBI opportunities galore and he must cash them in with a 100+ RBI season.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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