Miami is confident it can compete in 2015, and has made several offseason moves, punctuated by signing Giancarlo Stanton to a long term extension, in order to achieve that goal. With 2015 just underway, here are five bold predictions for the Marlins this season.
5. Dee Gordon will help the Marlins become one of baseball's best teams on the basepaths
The Marlins weren't seeking a second baseman this offseason, but rightfully did not pass on the opportunity to add one of the fastest players in all of baseball. Gordon stole 64 bases last season, which is good for more than the Marlins stole collectively in 2014. Getting runners on base in front of Stanton should be the ultimate goal, and Gordon should help the club do that.
Beyond Gordon, the Marlins do not have a notable basestealing threat. But that is where Gordon can become that much more effective. Christian Yelich was solid in the leadoff spot last season, and could become a threat in certain situations. Marcell Ozuna has some speed, and Stanton and Michael Morse should be able to capitalize on pitchers with long deliveries. Ultimately, the Marlins do not have a ton of speed on their roster. But under the direction of Perry Hill and with Gordon at the top of the order, the club should see a significant increase in the number of bases it takes in 2015.
4. Mat Latos will prove to be healthy, posting an ERA and FIP below three
If he indeed is healthy, it would not take much improvement, considering Latos posted a 3.25 ERA and 3.65 FIP in 102.1 innings pitched last season. He battled injuries in 2014, but the Marlins appear confident that he is healthy.
Miami needs a front of the rotation arm until Jose Fernandez returns during the summer, and Latos should prove to be just that. He will be a free agent after the season, and as a result will seek consistency with the hopes of signing an extensive contract next offseason. Latos has the ability to become one of the best pitchers in the National League, and should thrive at Marlins Park.
3. Steve Cishek will save 55 games
In his time with the Marlins, Cishek has been a versatile bullpen option. Early in his career, he had difficulty throwing his slider for a strike, but is it that same pitch that enabled him to post a 3.17 ERA and 2.17 FIP in 65.1 innings pitched last season. He saved 39 games for Miami in 2014, and might have saved even more if the offense was able to rally late.
Several teams have asked the Marlins if they would consider trading Cishek both last July and this offseason, but the Marlins rightfully want him closing games moving forward. The Marlins improved their offense by adding Michael Morse, Gordon, and Martin Prado, and as a result, Cishek should receive more save opportunities. 55 saves may not be likely, but if the Marlins play well and hold onto leads, it could become realistic.
2. Giancarlo Stanton will hit 45 home runs and have 130+ RBIs
Before his season came to an end last September, Stanton was arguably the favorite to win the National League MVP award. He anchored the Marlins' offense and posted 37 home runs and 105 RBIs while serving as a member of one of baseball's best outfields in 2014. Miami took a risk signing him to a long-term deal because he has yet to play in a major league game since going down, but Stanton should be healthy in 2015.
A healthy Stanton has proven to be dangerous, and he once again should help the Marlins' offense improve. Playing at Marlins Park might make it a challenge, but 45 home runs should not be out of question for one of baseball's best young power hitters.
1. The Miami Marlins will be one of the National League's Wild Card teams
At this point, some might argue that is not bold enough, that the Braves and Phillies are rebuilding, leaving the Mets and Nationals as the only threats. The Marlins improved by 15 wins in 2014, and should get better moving forward. A healthy Fernandez will significantly improve an already solid pitching staff, and the offense should be consistent as the season progresses.
A lot has to go right for the Marlins to make the playoffs in 2015. But on paper, it should be considerably realistic.