Fish Stripes Inbox: Marisnick, 2014 expectations, Cishek's future

Marc Serota

The latest inbox article from MLB.com's Joe Frisaro includes questions on Jake Marisnick's present, the Marlins' immediate future, and Steve Cishek's distant future with the team.

The latest inbox article from MLB.com's Joe Frisaro involved questions about the immediate and distant future for the team. Miami's prospects and new additions are featured, but some players with long-term implications are also mentioned. How well will those players perform this year, and is there a future for them on this team? Let's delve right in.

Do you think Jake Marisnick has a shot at winning an outfield job?
-- Jose C., Wilmington, Del.

The Marlins have two worthy prospects to the title of center field. On the one hand is the more highly-touted Jake Marisnick. On the opposite side is the more proven Marcell Ozuna. Ozuna has the edge at the moment because of experience, as he spent almost 300 plate appearances and played just well enough on defense and at the plate to warrant being the "incumbent" in the race. It did not help that Marisnick was awful in just over 100 plate appearances in his shot in the big leagues.

Previously, it was thought that Marisnick had the defensive edge, but Ozuna's strong work in that department last year has closed the gap a little. Essentially, the difference between the two is Marisnick's strong work in Double-A last season (.292/.358/.502, .395 wOBA) versus Ozuna holding his own in the majors. Right now, the edge is with Ozuna,, but the Marlins are likely to have a short leash on him, particularly if Marisnick plays well at Triple-A, where he will likely start the 2014 season if he does not win the job.

What are your expectations for the Marlins this year? Do you think they will finish with another 100-loss season, or do you think the pitching will keep them in it? Do they have a chance to have a .500 season and become a surprise team?
-- Justin S., Millersburg, Pa.

It is questionable that the Marlins could become a .500 team this season. A lot would have to go right for Miami to reach those levels given that much of the same core that lost 100 games last year is returning. Aside from a return to form by Giancarlo Stanton and more of the same from Jose Fernandez (neither of which is guaranteed), Miami would have to get solid average performances from most of its contributors and perhaps even a repeat successful campaign from Jarrod Saltalamacchia. One of their prospects in the outfield and one of their starting pitchers may have to turn the corner into a three-win player as well.

Essentially, to get to .500, Miami would have to get one-win improvements from five different players, get a real bounce-back season from Stanton, and get no regression in the bad direction. Counting on all of that seems unlikely. Right now, my calculations have Miami tentatively reaching around 73 wins. That is not bad, but it has a long way to go.

Is Casey McGehee as good on defense as Adeiny Hechavarria and Rafael Furcal? I think defense is very important with our great young pitchers. Good defense will make those great pitching prospects a lot better. I also have the same question for Garrett Jones at first base. Thank you.
-- Jerry K., Plantation, Fla.

Obviously Casey McGehee is not a good defender at third base; there was a reason why he was moved to first base in parts of seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates. The same goes for Garrett Jones, although Jones also split time in the outfield in addition to his work at first base for the Pirates. All of this says that the Marlins have themselves two players who could be liabilities at their positions by season's end. And don't discount Rafael Furcal, who is coming off of Tommy John surgery and moving to the keystone after years of shortstop play, from struggling to his new role.

But if you are a Marlins fan, you are probably quite used to this by now. The Fish often talk a big game about implementing defense, and they have one of the best coaches in the game in that department in Perry Hill, but they constantly seem to sacrifice defense for offense when the chips are on the table.

Is signing closer Steve Cishek to an extension something the Marlins would prioritize?
-- Taylor L., Bradenton, Fla.

If it is, it shouldn't be. As we have discussed before here on this site, closer-capable relievers are a dime a dozen in this league, and Miami already picked up another one in Carter Capps. Extending Cishek to the type of deal he would require would be chasing saves instead of investing wisely on the team. Right now, the Fish are bad enough that they do not need a top-flight closer, making Cishek a luxury. Paying him, say, $31 million over the next five seasons like an extension would likely cost would waste the early years on bad teams and begin the closer overpay process once Miami became competitive. By that time, the Marlins may have their next closer in Capps or Nick Wittgren or Colby Suggs ready to do the same job on the cheap. In addition, that kind of investment may take away from money better allocated to position players or pitchers who play more regularly.

There is a lot of talk about how good the Marlins' pitching is. Going into Spring Training, who do you think is a sleeper candidate to make the team?
-- Kris M., Coral Gables, Fla.

Arquimedes Caminero and Steven Ames are probably competing for spots at the bottom of the bullpen right now. Both come with questionable pedigrees, both are older for rookies or prospects, but Caminero at least has some overwhelming stuff on occasion. Kevin Slowey and Tom Koehler are looking to regain pitching spots on the rotation and have a chance to unseat the erratic Jaacob Turner if he suffers another bad Spring Training like last time. Brad Hand is a candidate for that as well. Other than those names, I do not see anyone on the pitching staff who was not expected to be there.

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