Around the same time last season, we here at Fish Stripes went over the the Miami Marlins' strengths and weaknesses and considered what the overall picture of the franchise's various positions were at the time. Before any moves were made, we went over Miami's positional strength report. Having gone over both the strengths and weaknesses yesterday and today, we can now take a broader and deeper look in an attempt to grade the various positions on the Marlins right now.
Let's use the same methodology we had last year.
The positional strength report will be written on a 1-10 scale, where one is the weakest position available (no short- or long-term options) and 10 is a position currently occupied or expected to be occupied by a long-term star. An average score is around five and is indicative of a position where there is perhaps a decent current option or one coming up the pipeline within the year. This is subjective, but meant to at least provide a scale for readers.
With that in mind, what can we see going into next season, with no moves made?
The Marlins shored up the catcher position in two different ways since we last discussed the spot. One was the acquisition of Jarrod Saltalamacchia in a three-year, $21 million contract. Saltalamacchia's first year with the Marlins was uneven and disappointing, but there is a fair chance for a bounce back and, even if nothing changes, the Marlins are barely paying any money for his services. Just as importantly, J.T. Realmuto re-established himself as a viable candidate for the future with a resurgent .299/.369/.461 (.374 wOBA) campaign in a repeat season in Double-A. There are no guarantees he can continue that sort of production, but the combination of the two leaves the Marlins' catching situation relatively stable. Don't forget fringe candidates like Austin Barnes and Chad Wallach as well.
First Base: 1
In stark contrast, the Marlins essentially have no good options at first base. They traded the limited upside of Logan Morrison for the known downside of Garrett Jones and felt the consequences. Jones is signed through next season but may very well be considered dead money. Jeff Baker is purely a platoon option. And while Justin Bour and Mark Canha had good years in Triple-A, neither are considered long-term options at first. There is a reason why Miami seems most desperate to acquire a first baseman.
Second Base: 3
Last year, the Marlins had the same personnel that they ended this year with, minus the entirely injured and very old Rafael Furcal. Somehow, the situation remains the same. Derek Dietrich was better at the plate but worse in the field, and now there are questions about his ability to handle the position. Donovan Solano was as mediocre as advertised. Somehow the Fish spent time playing Jordany Valdespin. Dietrich is the club's only hope, as Avery Romero is probably still two years away from contributing. Austin Barnes is a sleeper in the middle infield if he doesn't get pidgeonholed at catcher, and his strong year at the plate could mean an outside chance at the bigs at some point.
Third Base: 2
Casey McGehee will probably take the position again next year, but he is a one-year stopgap in his final arbitration campaign and not a long-term option, and he has question marks for 2015. The Marlins did have Colin Moran, but now they don't because he was traded in the Jarred Cosart deal. The versatility of guys like Barnes and Dietrich may have to be tested to keep this grade up.
Who knows how good Adeiny Hechavarria is defensively. He was better at the plate this season, which is cause for relief, but after the year he had in 2013, it would have been impossible not to improve. Can he maintain a BABIP over .300 or develop anything in the way of power or walks? The odds are long. Justin Bohn hit High-A Jupiter this season after dominating Low-A, but his future is still murky and far from the majors.
Left Field: 10
Christian Yelich has five more years of team control, just put up essentially a four-win season, hit .284/.362/.402 (.341 wOBA) in 660 plate appearances in the leadoff spot, and won his first Gold Glove in his first full season. I think the future in left field is bright, provided the team doesn't make the mistake of moving him to first base.
Center Field: 8
The Marlins traded Jake Marisnick, but only because they figured out that they did not need him. Marcell Ozuna owned the center field job this season, putting up a .269/.317/.455 (.338 wOBA) season complete with 23 home runs. He topped off his powerful bat with a cannon arm from center and strong range on his way to what should be a couple of Gold Glove chances in the future. If he fixes the strikeout problem, Miami has a chance at a solidly above-average player for the next five years under strict team control.
Right Field: 7
While Giancarlo Stanton remains on the team, this should be a 10. Stanton re-established himself as one of the best in the game with an MVP-level campaign in 2014, complete with 37 home runs and a monster .288/.395/.555 (.403 wOBA) line. But the problem is that Miami has no clue how much longer Stanton will be here. If the team signs him to a long-term deal, this shoots up considerably. But with no obvious outfielder future in the minors, we have to wait and see on Stanton's contract situation.
Starting Pitching: 9
The Marlins have almost too much starting pitching right now. Not only are they considering pursuing someone in free agency, but they would be hard-pressed to justify demoting one of their current starters to the bullpen. Jose Fernandez's injury was the only setback on this score, as we do not know what to expect from him after Tommy John surgery. But the Fish boast three league-average or better starters in Henderson Alvarez, Nathan Eovaldi, and Jarred Cosart, and Tom Koehler was better in 2014. Furthermore, Andrew Heaney is likely ready for the bigs for 2015, and the club has Jose Urena, Justin Nicolino, and others breathing down their necks.
The Marlins actually boast a good back of the pen in Steve Cishek, Mike Dunn, A.J. Ramos, and the returning Carter Capps. The minor league relievers were worse this year, so those prospects are not as clearly ready to contribute in 2015, but the Fish may not need the help provided they do not trade Cishek.