The Fish Stripes 2014 Marlins Season Preview is now complete after having reviewed every player on the 2014 roster. Since our initial review, a few particulars have changed, most notably the likely absence of both Jake Marisnick and Marcell Ozuna from the roster in favor of Reed Johnson and the recent demotion of utility infielder Donovan Solano in a surprising move today. The Fish are almost set with the majority of their important names, so now let us go back and review just how good the team is supposed to be.
Remember a few weeks ago, we already reviewed the likely position player situation.
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.
This is not a great situation. Miami's position players are ranked near the bottom of baseball in almost every category; according to FanGraphs' positional power rankings, the Fish ranked last or second-to-last in every infield position despite all of their signings this year. Combine that with decent years from the likes of Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton and you get exactly what the Fish are expecting to see: a terrible turnout for their position players, good for at best a bottom-10 performance.
We just finished reviewing all of the pitchers, so let's go to the tape and see what we came up with for ERAs and WAR.
Jose Fernandez (preview): 2.94 ERA, 4.3 WAR
Nathan Eovaldi (preview): 4.08 ERA, 1.5 WAR
Henderson Alvarez (preview): 3.96 ERA, 1.6 WAR
Jacob Turner (preview): 4.47 ERA, 0.4 WAR
Fifth starters and remaining starters: 0.0 WAR
Steve Cishek (preview): 3.12 ERA, 0.5 WAR
Mike Dunn (preview): 3.57 ERA, 0.4 WAR
Carlos Marmol (preview): 4.21 ERA, -0.1 WAR
A.J. Ramos (preview): 3.61 ERA, 0.2 WAR
Remainder of bullpen: -0.5 WAR
The presumption around the league is that the Marlins have some promising young pitchers who could shake some things up in 2014. The expected reality, however, is that outside of Fernandez, Miami's starters are still raw. Eovaldi has yet to figure out how to strike out hitters. Alvarez does not have the stuff to do that. Jacob Turner looked about as broken as a pitcher could be in the second half last season. And outside of Andrew Heaney, none of the Marlins' pitching prospects have upper-rotation ceilings, though they could all turn into mid-rotation starters.
The bullpen was a relative strength last year, but it seems difficult to expect a second straight year of great performance. Even if you bump up Cishek to one win (according to FanGraphs, he only has one one-win or more season under his wings), the whole crew is probably worth just about one win as a unit.
Overall, if you are generous about Cishek's impact as a closer, the whole pitching staff may be worth 8.8 WAR, just under nine wins. As a comparison, only five teams in baseball last year had less than ten WAR according to FanGraphs on the pitching side, and that did not include the Marlins, who put up 14 wins last season on the pitching side. Part of the loss will come from regression on the part of Eovaldi, Alvarez, Fernandez, and Cishek, with no accompanying step up for the other pitchers. The rest of the bullpen will also take a hit, to the tune of about three wins.
How good would the Fish be in 2014 based on these projections? Consider that the total is close to 23 Wins Above Replacement and you can get an idea of how good a team like that is. According to a replacement level of 42 to 48 wins, the Marlins would be expected to be a 65- to 71-win team.
What kind of teams were around this level in 2013? According to FanGraphs, the Seattle Mariners (71 wins), San Diego Padres (76 wins), and Milwaukee Brewers (74 wins) were all fairly close to that total. Only six teams, including the Marlins in 2013, had fewer WAR than the 23-WAR Padres, and only two of those teams (Mariners, Philadelphia Phillies) won more than 70 games.
The Marlins' goal in 2014 should be to hit the 70-win mark. If the Fish can pull that off, they will at least be advancing in their maturation towards an eventual contender status down the road. But the roster the team built barely upgraded itself over last year's version, with only the catcher position figuring to be a whole lot better in 2014. If the pitchers do not take a leap and the team simply treads water with veterans, how much better can we expect them to be this season?