The Miami Marlins have plenty of team strengths that serve to elevate the roster and potentially put them near competition with the rest of the National League. But like most teams, they also boast a set of weaknesses that perhaps need to be addressed for the 2015 season.
For most fans, the weaknesses seem obvious. First base was an empty hole with Garrett Jones there, and the Marlins did not get much production from second base either. A certain subset of fans are somehow happy with Adeiny Hechavarria, but the majority of fans believe he is an inept hitter and only an average fielder at his position. Another subset of fans was very disappointed with the first year of Jarrod Saltalamacchia's tenure at catcher after coming on in a three-year, $21 million contract. Still other fans are wary of signing back on for another season of Casey McGehee at third base after the second half he showed.
The description above makes one thing glaringly obvious: the Marlins have a major problem in the infield.
The Infield, but First Base First
The most glaring problem to the Marlins was the terrible play at first base this season. Garrett Jones was given enough slack to hang himself against lefties early last year, and it is not as though Jeff Baker made himself look good picking up the slack against southpaws in his place. Neither player turned out to be all that good, and Justin Bour is a short time was not spectacular either. As a group, Jones, Baker, and Bour were worth essentially replacement level, or zero Wins Above Replacement, over the entire season. The Fish likely could have just promoted Bour or Mark Canha and gotten the same production.
The Fish wanted to get power out of Jones, but what he delivered was a career-worst strikeout rate and terrible defensive play. Baker hit lefties well, but did nothing else well. Bour had a lot of part-time work but was not impressive overall. And Jones and Baker are signed through 2015, as Miami combined to give the two nearly $10 million as a group. Miami has quickly learned the error of its ways and is now considering alternatives at the position, even as Jones and Baker sit on their roster as dead money. First base is the first major weakness on the roster.
But Seriously, the Infield
But as bad as the first base situation currently is, the rest of the infield is still in turmoil. Miami is boasting a cadre of mediocre second base options. Headlining that group is Derek Dietrich, who hit a respectable .222/.326/.386 (.322 wOBA) but got on base primarily by being hit by pitches (10 hit-by-pitches versus 13 walks) and struggled mightily on defense. He should get the opportunity to play over the other options (neither Donovan Solano nor Jordany Valdespin are real Major League starters), but it is possible that he too is not a starting-caliber player.
The ongoing controversy between the value of Adeiny Hechavarria's defense is too great to unwrap here again, but even with above-average play, he is likely closer to a one-win player for a full season. It is reasonable to consider upgrading at that position.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia's defensive struggles, particularly in framing pitches, may have been real. His offensive game suffered in the first year at Marlins Park, and while the season was not as bad as his batting average suggests, there is definitely risk for offensive decline.
Even McGehee is not free of criticism. His first half was entirely built on a fluky BABIP, and his second half did not return any power output and came back with a quick regression in BABIP. If he has a year like the second half he put up, it would be an ugly offensive affair for a guy who is not exactly an above-average defender either.
In short, Miami has a potential hole at each position in the infield, and the team is lacking in options in the minors as well. There are no improvement options upcoming, as the team's infield prospects are a barren group. The club will have to find answers via trade or free agency if they want to change their fortunes for 2015.