The Miami Marlins have been revamped for the opening of the new stadium in 2012, and that is especially the case for fantasy baseball this upcoming season. As a fantasy baseball writer myself, I know I am excited for what lies in store for the Miami Marlins in fantasy baseball in 2012, and today, I'll preview a few names to watch for this season as you enjoy your Fish on the field AND on your fantasy teams.
Obviously, the big name of the offseason for the Fish was Reyes, who signed a six-year contract with the team to take over at shortstop. But will Reyes change much from last year to this year now that he is a Marlin rather than a Met? Well, to expect the superstar from 2011 would be a mistake, but it does not mean that Reyes will not be productive yet again. That .337 batting average is a very obvious mirage, as he will not repeat his .353 BABIP (career .314 BABIP) from last season. Nevertheless, a .300 batting average is not out of reach given his ability to avoid strikeouts (career 10.5 percent strikeout rate); putting the ball in play goes a long way to maintaining a solid batting average.
The best part about Reyes is that you can expect the same sort of production from every other traditional 5x5 league stat. Reyes's power has diminished since his injured days, and with the Marlins' park as large if not bigger than Citi Field, it is unlikely you will see more than 10 homers from Reyes in 2012. But in terms of steals, there is no doubt he will swipe another 30-plus bags this season, especially with the always aggressive Ozzie Guillen at the helm. And in terms of counting stats, there is great news: Reyes has maintained solid counting stats even when he has played poorly.
In his worst career season, he contributed 83 runs scored. In his best career year, he was plated 101 times around a very similar offense. While that difference is significant fantasy-wise, it is fairly obvious that the true Reyes is neither the 2011 nor the 2010 version, so expecting 90 or so runs scored is not a far-fetched idea. The RBI numbers from the leadoff spot should remain the same. Add the fact that Reyes is moving to a better offensive team in the Marlins from the Mets and you can suspect good offensive numbers once again from a player who should be the second shortstop drafted in mixed leagues this season.
The fallout of the Reyes signing is that Ramirez has been moved to third base. In the real world, this is a step down for former All-Star shortstop, as his value decreases as he moves down the defensive gradient. However, in fantasy baseball, your position is heavily dependent on last year's play, and Ramirez will be shortstop-eligible in all leagues this coming season even if he never plays a game at the position again. This means that, 20 games into the season, he should be dual-eligible and add some flexibility to your roster creation.
Of course, none of that will matter of Ramirez can no longer hit, but is that true? Take a look at these comparisons from this piece I wrote shortly after Ramirez injured his shoulder last season:
June 21 - Current
The fact that Ramirez has so closely matched his projection is only further supported by the similarity of his peripheral numbers.
XB / H
June 21 - Current
Essentially, Ramirez's last few weeks before the injury were eerily similar to his career marks. While his career marks are themselves nothing like the MVP peak he had from 2007 to 2009, they are still highly valuable, especially from a shortstop. He is only one season removed from a year not unlike his career numbers as well. That means that owners only need to expect some decent regression from Ramirez's two month slump in order to see good results in 2012, and that should happen provided Ramirez is healthy. With his non-power peripherals all in line with his career marks, a bounce-back in BABIP is all that is needed to return Ramirez to being one of the elite shortstops in fantasy baseball, even if he is not likely to return to being first-round status in 2012.
Stanton enjoyed a prime sophomore year, belting 34 home runs in just 600 PA while maintaining an acceptable .262 batting average. At just 22 years of age, fantasy owners are expecting a lot of upside remaining, especially in the power department. One figures that Stanton and his true-80 power can ramp up his home run total to closer to 40 in 2012, but it is worth asking whether he can really get any more powerful than he already is. For his career, he has hit home runs in 24 percent of his fly balls. Since 2009, only one player with over 1000 PA has hit more homers per fly ball than Stanton, and that's future Hall of Famer Jim Thome. The next closest competitors are sluggers Mark Reynolds and Ryan Howard, who hit 22.9 percent of their fly balls out of the park. Can we actually expect Stanton to improve on that category when he already is the best at it?
Maybe he cannot improve on hitting more fly balls out of the park, but maybe he can get better by just hitting more fly balls. For his career, Stanton has hit fly balls in 39 percent of his balls in play, which is a low mark compared to other sluggers. Since 2009, Howard and Prince Fielder have managed similar marks, but Reynolds has hit 49 percent of his balls in play in the air, and among the top 10 hitters in HR/FB since 2009, only two (Thome and Joey Votto) have hit fewer fly balls than Stanton. If he can lift a few more balls in the air this year, 40 dingers is quite likely.
Player on the Rise: Logan Morrison
The Logan Morrison you saw in 2011 was not the real Morrison. But the Morrison you saw last season was also a very intriguing prospect. One of the biggest question marks going into 2011 was whether Morrison could muster some power for the middle of the order, and he did just that by hitting 23 home runs despite missing about a month's worth of playing time between a foot injury and a disciplinary demotion. He also hit .247 due to a .265 BABIP, both of which are unlikely to occur a second time. Take a middle ground between his 2010 and 2011 batting averages and stick 20 home runs on his line and you have yourself a decent fantasy commodity. His OBP should improve immensely as a result, and the runs that he piled up in 2010 should come back to a degree in 2012.
Player on the Fall: Emilio Bonifacio
A significant part of the readership here at Fish Stripes are fans of Emilio Bonifacio, but I am a well-known detractor of Boni's. Having said that, I will admit that he had a strong 2011 season, but there are more than a few holes in his game that may leave him disappointing owners. Last season, he hit .372 on balls in play, and such a BABIP is completely unsustainable. A career .339 BABIP has led to a career .269 batting average, and a number a bit higher than that seems closer to the truth than his figures from last season. Despite significant improvement on his plate discipline in terms of walks, he still has the same contact issues (career 20.1 percent strikeout rate) that should deflate his batting average.
More importantly, the Marlins still have some questions about whether he will even man the center field position for long. The team is pursuing free agent Yoennis Cespedes, and if they acquire him, he will almost certainly take over for Bonifacio before season's end. Without him, Bonifacio can serve your fantasy team as a Juan Pierre-type of player who specializes in steals and does not kill you in other categories. Without playing time, Bonifacio is a short-term option for category help and not much more than that.