Last week, we went over the Miami Marlins' rare strengths on the roster, including the presence of1. star players like Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Fernandez, and to a lesser degree the developing star of Christian Yelich. However, the presence of those three guys is not enough to overcome a slew of weaknesses the roster currently also has. Today, we are here to discuss those weaknesses as well.
1. Starting pitching
This is far and away the team's biggest weakness right now. The Marlins traded from their starting pitching depth last offseason to acquire Martin Prado, Mat Latos, and Dee Gordon. They got one-year stopgaps in return in Latos and Dan Haren, and those one-year stopgaps have now left the roster and moved on. What the team has now is a bevy of guys behind Fernandez who have struggled on the field and to stay healthy. Henderson Alvarez and Jarred Cosart are nominally your second and third starters as of now, and neither guy was able to do much in 2015. Tom Koehler is a back-rotation starter at best, and he showed that in 180-plus innings last year. The Marlins traded Anthony DeSclafani and Andrew Heaney and left themselves with pitching prospects Justin Nicolino and Jose Urena, none of whom performed well last season in the bigs.
The team does have at least a few intriguing names. Adam Conley pitched well down the stretch. Prospect Jarlin Garcia may get a look, but that should happen late in the year after a more informative Double-A campaign. Kendry Flores might see a shot if he continues to pitch well in Triple-A. But these guys are not future rotation anchors and were better served as depth when the team had more promising players around. One of them could develop into a second or third starter, but that seems very unlikely at this point. The Marlins' rotation woes are the team's top weakness heading into next season.
2. Middle relief
The Marlins' middle relief corps from last season is not the most impressive group behind the more reliable arms of A.J. Ramos and Carter Capps. While those two names are expected to play well in 2016, the rest of the bullpen has mixed expectations. The best of the remaining names is either Mike Dunn or Bryan Morris, depending on whom you ask, but neither guy is a fitting final member of the setup crew. Both have tools, but neither is reliable as of 2016.
The rest of the relief corps is filled with questionable names. Andre Rienzo, Kyle Barraclough, Brian Ellington, and Brad Hand are likely to receive some playing time. There are names in the minors who could work out, most prominently prospect Nick Wittgren, but the Marlins are going to have some questions in the back of that pen. Luckily, if you have to have a place with question marks, the seventh inning relief group is where that should be.
3. Up-the-middle offense
Dee Gordon had a fantastic year on offense last season, so it is a possibility he might repeat the 2015 campaign in which he led the National League in batting average. However, there is also a decent chance he regresses back down to more reasonable 2014 levels, in which case he might be closer to an average player rather than the All-Star he was last season.
The more concerning offensive parts up the middle lie with the rest of the team. J.T. Realmuto played decently in his first year, but his offensive game was more par for the course for a catcher. He was well below the league average and struggled with getting on base, posting just a ,290 OBP. Adeiny Hechavarria needed a second straight year of a BABIP of .325 or better to reach a .298 wOBA, but all of his weaknesses are still present. A dearth of walks and power make him a dangerous threat to collapse offensively at any point for the Fish.
The biggest problem last year was Marcell Ozuna, who may prove to be too erratic in terms of plate approach to become a good hitter. Last season, his power fell through the floor and so thus did the rest of his offensive game. If that continues, the Fish are going to be out a lot offensive firepower, and their defense may not be able to make up for it.
4. First base
The Marlins are committed to trying Justin Bour as their next first baseman. This is probably a smart idea given the dearth of talented first basemen available, but it does not make first base a strength by any means. The Fish saw last season that Bour has some semblance of power, as he mashed 23 home runs in limited playing time for the team. However, his overall season was not all that impressive, His offensive gains were marginalized in part by poor baserunning. His defensive performance left a lot to be desired, at least according to the advanced metrics. Overall, Bour posted a good batting line, but was worth less than a win over the course of his season, making for a below average player.
The comparison point of note that makes Bour concerning is former Marlins first baseman Mike Jacobs. Jacobs too could hit home runs; he hit a career-best 32 in 2008 for the Fish, He also walked in only 6.9 percent of appearances that year and posted an on-base percentage less than .300, and combined with poor defense and baserunning, he was somehow a sub-replacement level player. Bour is unlikely to get to that point if he too continues to hit large numbers of home runs, but that is no guarantee. Any collapse from this offensive level of performance, however, and Bour might prove to be a Quad-A player. His Steamer projection for next season fits that threat, as the system sees him hitting just 18 homers en route to a .256/.318/.424 batting line and a near-replacement level year.