After a busy offseason, there is excitement around this ball club for the first time in a few years. Here are five reasons why Marlins fans should be excited for 2015:
1. Giancarlo Stanton: Here to stay and going for MVP
Stanton is the number one reason fans should be excited for a couple of reasons. The first being that they don't have to worry about losing Giancarlo, for at least a few more seasons. Now that Stanton is locked up long-term, Marlins fans no longer have to count down his days as a Marlin or think of potential trade packages that Miami could receive for him. Instead they can just sit back and enjoy him crush home-runs and make diving plays in the outfield.
Mr. Stanton finished second in the NL MVP voting last season, despite missing the final few weeks of the season while recovering from facial fractures. In 145 games last season, Stanton posted a batting line of .288/.395/.555 to go along with 37 home-runs and 105 RBI's. Even if Stanton had not gotten hurt, Kershaw would have most likely still won MVP, but Giancarlo is coming back for another crack at it this season. With $325 million in his pocket and a new mask protecting his face, Stanton is likely going to push for a career high in home-runs and RBI's this season, putting him right near the top of the MVP race for the second season in a row.
2. The return of Jose Fernandez
Right next to Stanton, Jose Fernandez is the most exciting Marlin to watch. Every time he takes the mound at home, there is a buzz around the stadium due to more people in the stands that come out to watch him. After a sensational rookie season, Jose was beginning to establish himself as one of the top aces in the league. When he was shut down for Tommy John surgery last season, it was one of the more upsetting injuries because of how young Fernandez is and how much he loves to go out and pitch.
Fernandez is doing well in his rehab and is scheduled to return anywhere from mid-June to mid-July. It's been too long since baseball fans have seen Fernandez stifle hitters with his high-velocity fastball and 'Defector' curveball. Jose's return will be the best late season addition any team in baseball will make and, if the Marlins are still in striking distance of a playoff spot, he will be key in their push to the playoffs. Jose Fernandez's return is definitely on the minds of Marlins fans as we enter the 2015 season.
3. The growth of the young guys
One of the main reasons that last season was enjoyable to watch was the growth of the Marlins' young core players. Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Adeiny Hechavarria, and Henderson Alvarez all made strides in their second season with the Fish.
This season the hope is that those players continue to grow as they, along with Stanton and Jose, are integral pieces to the Marlins being able to build a lasting contender. Yelich and Ozuna are key pieces to arguably the best outfield in the majors and both still have potential room to keep growing. Henderson Alvarez will have to continue to play of the roll of fill-in ace as the Marlins await the return of Jose Fernandez. While Hech's strides may have been a bit overblown last season, he will look to continue to improve in the field and at the plate. It will definitely be fun to keep an eye on the young guys this season.
4. How the news guys will fit in and perform
The Marlins were busy this offseason and have brought in a lot of new faces once again, except this time around its established MLB faces. There were additions all around the team, with three new starting infielders in Dee Gordon, Martin Prado, and Michael Morse. The Marlins also added Matt Latos and Dan Haren to their pitching staff. Oh yeah, and Ichiro was brought in as the fourth outfielder.
The Marlins had holes to fill after last season and just about filled all of them in the offseason. Gordon, Prado, and Morse will provide speed, defense, and power respectively, as well as providing stability to the infield. Latos and Haren add depth to a pitching staff that has a chance to be very formidable upon the return of Jose Fernandez. Ichiro will probably not see a lot of time in the outfield, but will be valuable in the club house and as a super-sub off the bench. These additions to the young core that was already in place give the Marlins potential to make the next item on the list.
The final reason to be excited about the Marlins this season is the playoffs. It's been a long, frustrating 11-years since the Fish were able to crack the playoffs. Nothing is set in stone and they are projected to just miss the playoffs, but this team has a chance to do it. I've written it before and I'll say it again; the Marlins just need to put together the perfect season to end their postseason drought. The fact that the playoffs are a possibility is enough for justified excitement heading into next week.