Originally posted on isportsweb.com  |  Last updated 2/20/13
What a difference a year makes. At this time last year the Miami Marlins were the darlings of spring training. They made a bunch of high profile moves to inject some excitement into the franchise as they opened their new stadium. Fast forward to today and Miami is coming off a 93 loss season and they have jettisoned almost all of their impact players. As of now, Miami is still home to the most promising young slugger in baseball, Giancarlo Stanton. However, Stanton will be eligible for arbitration in 2014 and free agency after the 2016 season. How long he remains a Marlin in anybody’s guess, but there are no shortage of teams that would be willing to unload their top prospects in order to obtain the best young power hitter in the game. Other than Stanton, this team significantly lacks not just star power, but proven commodities. The pitching staff is one of the most inexperienced in all of baseball. The line up is littered with young, inexperienced players and guys that are way past their prime. No matter how you break it down, it’s going to be a long summer in South Beach. The Marlins do have some good young prospects, but their top two, RHP Jose Fernandez and OF Christian Yelich, are still two years away from the major leagues. 3 Up Best case scenario: The best case scenario for the Marlins is that they are able to stay out of the cellar in a loaded NL East. Maybe they can nudge past the Mets and finish in 4th place, that would at least be progress. It’s unrealistic to expect anything more from this thinned out squad. Giancarlo Stanton Most important Marlins: Obviously Giancarlo Stanton is the most important player on this team. His 37 homers were the second most in the NL and he led the majors with a robust .608 slugging percentage. ”He’s a monster,” said first year manager Mike Redmond. “And he’s a monster in that lineup. It’s going to be a tremendous opportunity for one of these guys to hit behind him and have a chance to drive in a lot of runs.” Placido Polanco will likely bat in front of Stanton in the Marlins line up which means he should see a lot of pitches to hit. Polanco also provides a veteran presence to a very young team and should be a stabilizing force for Miami at third base. Potential breakout players: Catcher Rob Brantly came over from the Tigers in the Anibal Sanchez/Omar Infante deal. A lefty, Brantly posted a .290 batting average with 3 homers and 8 RBI in 100 at-bats for the Marlins last year. He has the potential to be a future all-star and could be one of Miami’s better hitters this season. How’s this for impressive, in the minor leagues, Brantly struck out just 129 times in 1,077 plate appearances. Jacob Turner was also acquired from the Tigers, in the same trade as Brantly. He was just 1-4 in 7 starts for Miami after the trade. However, he did post a 3.38 ERA, 0.98 WHIP. He’s a talented youngster who might be better served pitching in the NL than the AL. 3 Down Worst case scenario: This roster is littered with players like Polanco, Juan Pierre, Chone Figgins, and Casey Kotchman. It’s not that they are bad players, but they can’t serve as the core group of a winning team in 2013. They will also be counting on a lot of unproven youngsters which isn’t a good formula for success. Owner Jeffrey Loria has already alienated the fan base and a 100 loss season seems inevitable. Worse case, Miami could set a new MLB record for futility. Areas of concern: The projected starting 5 for Miami’s pitching staff features exactly zero players who finished 2012 with a winning record. It also features 4 guys who are completely unproven; Jacob Turner, Henderson Alavrez, Wade LeBlanc and Nathan Eovaldi. Their best pitcher, Ricky Nolasco is not an ace and will likely be traded away if he has any semblance of a good season. Another major area of concern is that Miami has no depth. If any of their key players suffer injuries it will result in this team further resembling a AAA squad and serving as a punching bag for the rest of the National League. Who needs to bounce back from a down 2012: Logan Morrison played in just 90 games last season and ended up having knee surgery in September. If this team is going to stave off 100 losses, they need Morrison in the line up. The bad news is that Morrison is not yet running at full strength and may not be ready to roll in April. The 25 year old belted 23 homers in 2011 and could provide some, albeit very minor, protection for Stanton. Jeffrey Loria needs to bounce back from his awful 2012. He spent years lamenting that this team couldn’t compete without a new stadium. He then finagles a new stadium, largely at taxpayers expense, and goes on a spending spree last off season. The product on the field was a complete debacle and Loria responded with yet another fire sale that has gutted the Marlins franchise yet again. Short of selling the team, I’m not sure what he can do to bounce back. When he inevitably ships off Stanton to save himself more money, that will probably be the last straw for the few remaining die hard fans of the Marlins.

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

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