Despite falling short of the postseason, the Miami Marlins (79-82) made substantial gains in the 2016 season. First year manager Don Mattingly referred to the season as a “stepping stone,” with several of its core players taking significant steps forward, including position players – Christian Yelich, J.T. Realmuto, Marcell Ozuna as well as pitchers Adam Conley and Kyle Barraclough, which should give Marlins fans a reason to be hopeful for the foreseeable future.
Miami Marlins 2016 Season Recap
The death of the Marlins 24-year-old ace Jose Fernandez, who died in a boating accident on Sept. 25, changes everything, however. Not only was it a baseball tragedy, but a personal tragedy for the father-to-be’s family.
The Marlins front office must now put aside their own personal grief and deal with the ramifications of not only losing their best pitcher, but one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball. The loss of Fernandez not only leaves a big hole in the heart of the organization, but it also puts into question the Marlins ability to genuinely compete for their division, as well as a Wild Card spot.
That will be the biggest obstacle facing the Marlins front office over the next few months. Acquiring pitchers who are on the same level as Fernandez was, will be highly unlikely, and the Marlins have neither the farm system nor the money needed in order to acquire another ace. The market for starting pitching is quite limited, with pitchers like Rich Hill and Jeremy Hellickson available in free-agency.
When the Marlins showed up to Spring Training in 2016, everyone knew they were going to need a few breaks to go there way if they intended on making the postseason, including Mattingly. But the Marlins would not get those breaks that they needed. After a strong showing in the first half of the season, the Marlins began the second half of the season just as strong. As of July 21, Miami was nine games over .500 – at 52-43 and fighting for a Wild Card spot as late as Aug. 15.
Unfortunately for the Marlins, injuries began to take their toll, and their lack of depth began to show. They lost their first baseman Justin Bour in the beginning of July for next two months, as well as left-handed pitcher Wei-Yin Chen for six weeks in the middle of July. Then in August, the Marlins lost their superstar, Giancarlo Stanton, for over three weeks with a strained groin, as well as another left-handed pitcher in Adam Conley for six weeks.
The beginning of September got even worse when outfielder Marcell Ozuna missed several days to start the month, leaving the Marlins lineup filled with backups. By the time the last few games of the season approached, the Marlins 2016 season seemed meaningless, especially following the loss of their beloved star Jose Fernandez.
Front Office and Bench
The Miami Marlins 2015 season will be remembered for the odd decision to make general manager Dan Jennings the teams manager. This season, however, saw former Los Angeles Dodgers manager and the well-respected baseball star, Don Mattingly, replace Jennings as the club’s new manager. Also, the president of baseball operations, Michael Hill, took over the as general manager. The change resulted in no stories about discontent in the clubhouse or owner Jeffrey Loria interfering with baseball decisions. The Marlins organization appears to be in solid shape for years to come.
The Marlins 24-year-old outfielder Christian Yelich, who displayed his potential in Spring Training, carried it into the 2016 season. He finished the season with a .298 batting average with a .376 on-base percentage and a .483 slugging percentage. Yelich also belted 21 home runs, while driving in 98 runs. Yelich even moved into the cleanup spot when Stanton went down with a strained groin, and hit for more power. When Ozuna missed several games in late August and early September, Miami moved Yelich to center and were impressed enough with his performance in center field that when Ozuna returned to the lineup, they kept Yelich in center. There was little doubt that Yelich was the Marlins MVP for the 2016 season, and with the potential his displayed during this past season, that could be the case for years to come.
The Miami Marlins lineup isn’t the only part of the roster that shows a lot of promise and potential. The bullpen for the 2017 season is shaping up to be young and inexpensive. Closer A.J. Ramos (40 saves) and utility pitcher David Phelps (2.28 ERA) each of whom have two more years of arbitration before they hit free-agency, and Kyle Barraclough (2.85 ERA, 14 strikeouts per nine) and Nick Wittgren (3.14 ERA, 1.16 WHIP) had very productive rookie seasons. When you add in youngster Brian Ellington, who was extremely effective in his several stints with the big league club, along with a pair of other rookies, Austin Brice and Hunter Cervenka, next year’s bullpen is already crowded.
Marlins shortstop, Adeiny Hechavarria, had one of the worst offensive seasons ever for a Marlins shortstop. They’re are some teams who are willing to sacrifice a spot in the lineup for great defensive player, which Hechavarria is, but it’s not yet clear whether Miami – who scored 4.1 runs per game, fourth worst in MLB – wants to continue to be one of those teams. If the Marlins do decide to upgrade at the position, it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Second Baseman Dee Gordon
Marlins second baseman, Dee Gordon, missed half the season due to a performance-enhancing-drug suspension, and only showed flashes of the offensive prowess that led Miami to acquire him. Gordon finished the 2016 season with a .268/.305/.335 slash line while stealing 30 bases. The 2016 season was essentially a lost year for both Gordon and the Marlins, making the 2017 season an important one for both parties.
Starting Pitcher Wei-Yin Chen
Chen signed a five-year, $80 million deal with the Marlins last offseason to be the club’s No. 2 pitcher behind ace Jose Fernandez. That did not happen. Chen finished with a 4.96 ERA and 1.28 WHIP while giving up hits, as well as home runs at a far greater rate than he ever had. Chen also missed two months with a strained elbow. It’s hard to judge a players performance after just one season, but it’s not looking good thus far.
Ichiro Suzuki has a $2 million option for the 2017 season, which the Marlins are surely going to pick up. He’s proven to be productive in the field and extremely well liked in the clubhouse, not to mention the vast opportunities he represents to the marketing department. Ichiro hit .291/.354/.376 in 2016 – which is about league average – while making numerous starts in all three outfield positions. Not only is Ichiro a living legend to the younger players, but an inspiration as well. Ichiro collected his 3,000th major league hit on Aug.7 against the Colorado Rockies in Denver.