It's a brand new year for the Miami Marlins, with their odds of competition greatly increased with a series of Major League moves aimed at taking advantage of a weakened division. The Fish are going into the 2015 year with more excitement than has been present since before the 2012 campaign. With that excitement comes hopes and expectations, and what better time to consider those hopes than as the new year is fresh? Since it is January 1, let's discuss what my New Year's resolutions are when it comes to the Marlins. I will share a few Marlins-related personal thoughts and some team goals that I hope will happen.
1. Write more about the Marlins
My residency job began in June of last year, and since that time, it has been difficult to keep up with both my day job and my hobby of writing about the Marlins. Clearly both are important to me, but it has become a challenge, especially during these dog days of the offseason, when the flurry of moves is almost at an end. When my schedule gets busy, it gets hard to put in my full effort into writing.
I hope that is not the case in 2015. I am looking forward to investing as much time as a I can to write about the Marlins as they embark on another exciting season. Chronicling this latest most intriguing chapter of the world of the Marlins is going to be a fun time, and it should be a challenge to document the ups and downs of this year. I am ready for that challenge.
2. Grow Fish Stripes
The Fish Stripes community is a tightly-knit group of core readers and numerous other folks who are interested in our site and check in here and there or through our Facebook page. Others like our articles and tweet at us through our Twitter account. Still, there is always room for improvement and adding more readers to our little community. We are always on the lookout for more writers and more readers, and I am hoping that the 2015 season brings even more interest in the Fish and in the Fish Stripes community.
As the regular readers of our site know, Fish Stripes is a place for intelligent discussion about the Marlins. We are stat-leaning, but open to all avenues of discussion. But if you want to bring points up, you better be ready to back up your words with evidence! If you do, we'd love to have you on the site to talk Marlins as much as you'd like!
Along those lines, you may have noticed that we have lost a few writers over the last year for a variety of reasons. Scott and I remain committed to providing you the best content possible, but we are looking for new writers to contribute to the site. If you or anyone you know is interesting in writing about your favorite team, the Miami Marlins, let us know and shoot us an email!
3. The Marlins contending for the Wild Card
I believe the Washington Nationals are a better team than the Fish and will be ahead of them in the division, but I think the Marlins have made enough moves to be now competitive for the Wild Card this upcoming season. The Fish have a chance now with a weakened division to at least contend for a better spot. A few things probably have to bounce their way in order to make them contenders, including some better-than-expected play from the guys they acquired this offseason and during last year. The newest Marlins are the ones who have the most question marks around them at this point.
However, if those things bounce the right way, the Marlins should be right in the thick of things by the end of this year. After a surprising 2014 season, Fish fans have to be happy the franchise wanted to improve the big-league product. The work of this offseason should bear some fruit this year.
4. Adeiny Hechavarria really develops a Gold Glove
Look, I'm a known Hechavarria detractor. His bat is terrible, there can be no denying this. The only saving grace for Hechavarria is his glove. There are certainly question marks about how good it is, but the Marlins don't see those question marks. Given the questions, there is at least some consideration that he may be closer to league average than elite, but he needs to be closer to elite to be as valued a Major Leaguer as the Fish seem to see him.
So if the Marlins are not going to recognize any flaw in his game (and he's being considered an extension candidate), we Hechavarria skeptics might as well hope for the best. Hechavarria clearly has the skills to be a Gold Glove-caliber defender, but it is too difficult to tell if he is reaching that point or not. There were some positives last season; the non-zone-based FRAA from Baseball Prospectus rated him as a +8-run defender last year, which is the first sign of an advanced statistic propping his case. If he can post a season that has the numbers and the eyes on his side, it would go a tremendously long way towards bridging that cognitive divide and making sure that Hechavarria is providing some value despite his terrible bat.
5. Justin Nicolino finds his strikeouts
The Marlins traded a vast majority of their starting pitching depth, including top pitching prospect Andrew Heaney, in order to improve at the big league level. They did so in part because they felt Nicolino could handle the load as their top pitching prospect of the future. But prior to last season, Nicolino was projected as a similar prospect as Heaney, but a less certain one. Nicolino's strong Double-A season was convincing for Miami but notable for a concerning lack of strikeouts.
Miami is pinning a lot of hopes on Nicolino being the next cog in the rotation wheel, a cog which may be required as early as next season. If he is to pitch in the bigs, however, he needs to have a better strikeout rate in Triple-A New Orleans than he posted in Double-A last season. Guys with strikeout rates that low traditionally do not fare well in the big leagues, and the Marlins do not have as many names to fall back on as they did just three months ago.
6. Continued development for Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna
The future of this organization is going to ultimately lie with the team's talented outfield. Giancarlo Stanton is just 25 years old next season, and he may get better yet. But the youngsters Yelich and Ozuna may be even more critical. Both took big steps last season to develop into Major Leaguers, but Miami needs one to be a future four-win All-Star on the regular. This season is going to be an important second step for both guys.
For Ozuna, he needs to develop either a little more contact or a little more patience to go along with his decent power. His glove is already fairly well-developed at center field, as he has established himself as being able to handle the position. For Yelich, more contact and a little more bulking up would be ideal. His defense is also firmly developed now that he has a Gold Glove in hand and the questions about moving him to first base are gone.
7. A healthy Jose Fernandez
Please come back Jose, nice and healthy. You may be one of the most important parts of this upcoming year, but even beyond that, all of us fans want a happy, healthy Fernandez back enjoying the game he loves.
What are your hopes and resolutions for the Fish this year? Let us know!