The Miami Marlins enter the 2017 season with a vastly different pitching staff than what we saw in 2016 and one of the youngest and most talented outfields in the big leagues. Competing in the National League East will be no easy task, but they have a diverse lineup that will look to improve on its 79-82 record last season.
Miami Marlins 2017 Season Preview
This team lacks an ace. Is Edinson Volquez going to ‘replace’ Jose Fernandez? Of course not, as he’s 10 years older and not nearly as talented. May Jose rest in peace and live on in the determination and spirit of his teammates. Volquez is a reliable pitcher who can give you innings. Last season he pitched 189.1 innings with the Kansas City Royals, but his career 4.44 ERA is far from what you’d want from your number one.
Another starter they’ve added is Dan Straily, who had a great 2016 with the Cincinnati Reds. He went 191.1 innings with 162 strikeouts while maintaining a more than respectable 3.76 ERA.
Jose Urena is having a great spring with 15 strikeouts over 14 innings, but his 6.13 ERA over 83.2 innings last season is cause for concern. Lefty Adam Conley pitched great last year at nearly a strikeout per inning pace (124 K/133.1 IP) with a 3.85 ERA. Lastly, another lefty, Justin Nicolino, struggled in 2016 with a 4.99 ERA over 79.1 innings and will likely start this season in the bullpen or Triple-A.
The trio of David Phelps, Kyle Barraclough, and closer A.J. Ramos is arguably one of the best in the National League. All maintained ERA’s below 3.00 last season and combined for 300 strikeouts over 223.1 innings. Ramos converted 40 of 43 save opportunities, and if the Marlins starters can get through the first six innings, these three are more than capable of shutting the door. Add in veteran Dustin McGowan and offseason acquisitions Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa, and the pen for the Marlins this year is solid.
Behind the plate Miami has J.T. Realmuto who was one of only two players on the team to bat over .300 last season. He also showed a little bit of pop with 11 home runs, while driving in 48.
Moving up the line to first base is Justin Bour who will look to have an injury free campaign. In 90 games last season he batted .264 with 15 long balls and 51 RBI.
Up the middle will be Dee Gordon at second base and Adeiny Hechavarria at shortstop. Gordon missed half of 2016 due to a suspension, but was still able to steal 30 bases in that time. Hech will never be known for his bat, but he managed to convert 72 double plays last year while committing 13 errors.
At third is veteran Martin Prado whose .305 average lead the team last year. He also managed to drive in 75 runs and his career .293 average would be welcomed on any big league club.
The two utility infielders Derek Dietrich and Miguel Rojas will also get playing time this season. Dietrich filled in nicely in Gordon’s absence batting .279 with seven home runs and 42 RBI. Rojas is having an off-the-charts spring, batting .424 with 10 RBI.
Starting in left field is the Marlins 2016 MVP, Christian Yelich. He is one of the league’s brightest young outfielders and will look to build on his .298/21 HR/98 RBI campaign from a year ago. He is certainly doing so this spring as he is batting .471 with two jacks and seven RBI.
Center fielder Marcell Ozuna is another rising star who will look to build on his 2016 success. His .266 average is certainly respectable and combined with 23 HR and 76 RBI, it makes him a great bat to plug in the middle of your lineup.
In right field will be Giancarlo Stanton whose 27 long balls lead the team in 2016. He will look to boost his .240 average though and be an even more imposing threat at the plate.
Lastly, the ageless wonder of baseball, Ichiro Suzuki. The 43-year-old is no longer an every day player, but shows no signs of slowing down, literally. He still stole 10 bases last season which had him surpass 500 on his career. He batted .291 when he did see the plate last year. Over his career he has a .313 average, 3030 hits, 356 doubles, 760 RBI, and a .993 fielding percentage, so the numbers speak for themselves.
Miami needs to take advantage of their home-friendly schedule in May, where 17 out of 28 games will be played at Marlins Park. They have a tough 10-game road stretch before the All Star break with meetings between the Milwaukee Brewers, St. Louis Cardinals, and San Francisco Giants. August 1 and on will be no easy task either. Forty-two of their final 57 games are against NL East opponents which will be a great indication on whether or not they can hang with the likes of the Washington Nationals and New York Mets.
Is this team better than their 79-82 record from a year ago suggests? Yes. Are they going to compete for the division title? No. Will they compete for Wild Card spot? Only time will tell.