USA Today has the Marlins going 78-84, a seven game improvement over the 71-91 2015 squad, and a record that would find Miami in third place in the NL East behind the 87-75 Mets and their projected division winner, the 89-73 Washington Nationals.
Here's what USA Today's Gabe Lacques had to say about the Marlins:
Meanwhile, in no-man’s land, the Marlins (78) stare up at two juggernauts and down at two teams retrenching in a hurry, while Jose Fernandez racks up a fourth year of service time with a horrid farm system backing him.
USA Today was more bullish on the Marlins at the beginning of last season, particularly Bob Nightengale who predicted a Mariners/Marlins World Series, which had it come to fruition would've given me a seizure.
Alright, so that's USA Today's prediction, who by their own admission were only "semi-scientific" regarding their process. How about the senior statesmen of advanced projection systems, Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA?
PECOTA pegs the Marlins at 76-86 for 2016, two games worse than USA Today's prediction and five games better than last year's record. They, too, have the Marlins finishing in third place behind the Nationals (85-75) and Mets (90-72), respectively.
Furthermore, the projection calls for a final tally of 643 run scored and 685 runs allowed, a net negative - 42 run differential. The Marlins finished up last season with 613 runs scored and 678 runs allowed. PECOTA also anticipates a .253/.306/.386 team triple slash line, slightly less favorable then last year's season ending line of .260/.310/.384. Basically, PECOTA thinks the Marlins will be middle of the pack in runs allowed and a bottom five team in runs scored. They also look unfavorably on the Marlins defense which I will conveniently ignore because it doesn't support my argument that Miami will have a potentially great defense this season, but taken altogether, one can see why they come up with a ten games below .500 record for the club.
Last year, PECOTA had the Marlins at 81-81, which may have actually occurred had the team not succumbed to a variety of injuries which forced a long term reliance on players better suited for part time roles. Not to mention the disruption of having your manager fired in mid-May, the GM stepping into the dugout, Jeff Baker being released for criticizing the team and the back and forth between Scott Boras and Michael Hill over Marcell Ozuna. We don't have a measuring stick to determine how these things affected the 2015 squad, whether it caused significant consternation or even minor annoyance amongst the players, but we do know that it is human nature to be affected by such things, so it wouldn't come as a surprise if that was indeed the case.
I don't feel that the projections are terribly off-base, but I also don't see how this team is worse than last year's team that PECOTA had projected to play .500 ball. It's essentially the same squad, substituting Justin Bour for Michael Morse in the starting lineup and Wei-Yin Chen and (hopefully) Adam Conley for Mat Latos/Dan Haren in the rotation. The bullpen and bench may not be improved but they are also not perceptibly worse. Don't be surprised if the Marlins beat the projections this season.