Over the last week and a half, we have gone over the Miami Marlins' position players in an attempt to figure out just how much production the team can expect from them in the 2014 season. Miami is desperate for production after posting one of the worst offensive seasons in league history, but their work in the offseason did very little to allay concerns about poor play. When the team decided to sign stopgap veterans coming off of questionable injuries (Rafael Furcal) or seasons away from the Major Leagues (Casey McGehee), Miami essentially replaced their young, futile talent with older versions.
Still, it was inevitable that the team would improve offensively from regression and the addition of at least one talented player full-time. Overall, how much better are the Marlins expected to be this season?
Here are the projections that we posted here at Fish Stripes over the past week for each of the eight expected starters and various bench players.
Rafael Furcal (preview): 0.9 WAR
Casey McGehee (preview): 1.6 WAR
The eight position players expected to log the most playing time for the Marlins are expected to combine for 12.7 Wins Above Replacement according to the average projections. Thanks to the additions of league average players like Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Christian Yelich, Miami has added a few wins to its resume. Combine that with eliminating the massive number of net negatives the team had last season at its disposal and this should be a huge boon to the team's win total.
That does not even count the playing time logged by the various bench presences. However, given how difficult it is to actually guess which bench players will be contributors and which will fall below replacement level, it is safe to say that Miami's remaining bench players will put up about 1.5 wins in 1400-plus plate appearanes. Only three Marlins off the bench are expected to produce legitimately positive win totals, while the other players are the types that are barely above or below replacement level over the course of a full season. Thanks to injuries, Donovan Solano, Brian Bogusevic, and Jake Marisnick figure to see a decent amount of playing time and could end up being the players who provide the majority of those 1.5 wins. Other bench players, from Jeff Mathis to free agent acquisition Jeff Baker, may end up negating each other at around replacement level, which is as expected for a team lacking significant position player depth.
Where does that leave Miami's win total for their position players in 2014? The projection has them at about 14 WAR. Keep in mind that last year, Miami posted a replacement-level performance at the plate, bereft of any value. This was thanks to monumentally poor performances from players like Hechavarria and Dobbs. Now, those players are expected to just be bad, rather than terrible, and that alone helps push Miami to a situation 14 wins better than they were last season, according to these projections.
But keep in mind that, despite the massive improvement, 14 wins still is not much. Only seven teams last season, including the Marlins, posted fewer than 14 wins from their position players, and only one of those teams (the New York ankees), posted a win total above 10. The Marlins are still associated with the dregs of position players in baseball, and only the fact that they have a star talent and a few average players on their team should save them from another disaster like last year.
What kind of teams were around this range last season? According to FanGraphs, the Toronto Blue Jays (IRONY ALERT!) and the Chicago Cubs appeared to be the two teams with the closest totals at around 17 wins. The Yankees were the closest team behind Miami with 10 wins. One has to believe that, if the Fish could pull out 14 wins from their position players, they would almost be a lock for improvement over last year and have a chance at 70 wins. If the replacement level stands at 42 to 48 wins, Miami would already be at 56 to 62 wins without considering their pitching. The Fish figure to get more than positive contributions from their primary team strength in the rotation, and the pen should be expected to hold up well. Even at 56 wins, the Marlins would have a definite shot at 70 wins when you consider the pitchers.
The Marlins made a number of puzzling moves, but the franchise will end up better than last year in part because of the few shrewd moves they did make. The team will only go as far as Stanton takes them, but in 2014, at least the club will not be running a full skeleton crew around the diamond.