Giancarlo Stanton is the future of the Miami Marlins. And after signing a 13-year, $325 million contract in November, he should be a Marlin for at least the next few seasons. While Stanton's opt out clause follows the sixth year, the Marlins' core beyond Stanton landed them 23rd overall on ESPN's most recent list of power rankings.
As a whole, the rankings are based on a handful of categories:
1. Majors: Quality of major league roster
2. Minors: Quality and quantity of prospects
3. Finance: How much is there to spend?
4. Management: Value of front office and coaching stability
5. Mobility: Are there young, cheap players, or veteran, immovable players?
The National League East as a whole looks like this, based on the rankings:
1. Washington Nationals (#4 overall)
2. New York Mets (#7 overall)
3. Atlanta Braves (#17 overall)
4. Miami Marlins (#23 overall)
5. Philadelphia Phillies (#30 overall)
Washington struggled to win consistently and built through the draft for several seasons, and as a result the organization has a stocked minor league system, major league talent on its roster, and financial flexibility. Even though the Nationals should be competitive in 2015 and beyond, their five year projection based on the past could prove to be accurate.
The Phillies are currently rebuilding, and that may be a lengthy process, considering they are expected to be last in baseball moving forward significantly. Atlanta is consistent with regard to its payroll and minor league system, with the Mets in a situation comparable to that of the Marlins and expected to win heading into this season.
Although there are few long-term investments, the Marlins have a notable amount of talent on their major league roster. Stanton is locked up, with Jose Fernandez expected to be healthy in July. The starting rotation is fairly young, with the bullpen and lineup featuring several veterans. The club dealt top pitching prospect Andrew Heaney and top third base prospect Colin Moran last season, and as a result does not have as much minor league depth. Miami's payroll has been consistent, and the team does not have a roster full of players with Stanton-like contracts.
The Marlins have one of the better outfields in baseball which features Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna. All three are young and entering their respective primes, and as a result should be productive in the near future.
Think about the ages of the players who form the core of this team: Giancarlo Stanton is 25,Marcell Ozuna 24, Christian Yelich 23, Jose Fernandez 22 and Jarred Cosart is 24. This might be just the beginning of something that lasts. -- Buster Olney
While the Marlins do have several young and controllable players, instability at the corner infield spots may be a challenge for the club, according to Jim Bowden.
The Marlins need to find long-term answers at both first and third base. Perhaps at least one of those players could be a left-handed power hitter to better balance out their lineup. -- Jim Bowden
Miami thought it had its future third baseman in Moran, but instead opted to upgrade the rotation and trade him to Houston in the Cosart deal. First base has been a challenge for the Marlins over the last few seasons, with both Gaby Sanchez and Logan Morrison having difficulty becoming consistent. Michael Morse was signed to a two-year deal, which means the Marlins may be seeking corner infield depth in the draft or through a trade over the next few seasons.
After trading Moran and Heaney, the Marlins still have a top arm in Justin Nicolino. Nicolino may need a bit more time to develop, but according to Keith Law could be a mid-season callup.
Lefty Justin Nicolino doesn't miss bats, but he's one of the most efficient pitchers in all of baseball, throwing strikes and generating ground balls. He'll probably be a midseason call-up when the Marlins need a starter. -- Keith Law
Ultimately, since the Marlins are expected to compete in 2015, the rankings are likely realistic. If the Marlins win a title over the next two or three seasons, they would likely be developing a new core by 2020.