The Miami Marlins are looking to improve in the 2016 season and contend for the National League Wild Card and get a playoff spot. But a big number (range) stands in their way: three to six. That is about the difference between the Miami Marlins' projected win totals by sources like FanGraphs' Depth Charts (using an average of Steamer and ZiPS projection systems) and Baseball Prospectus (using their own PECOTA system) and the lowest projected expected contender, the St. Louis Cardinals. There is an expectation that the Cardinals, along with six other teams, represent the elite in the National League, and that the remaining clubs are either in full-on rebuild or are otherwise far out of the race.
The Marlins are one of two teams who are trying to challenge that paradigm. The other potential contender, the Arizona Diamondbacks, looked to punch through this ceiling by lavishly spending, both money in the case of Zack Greinke and prospects in the case of Shelby Miller. Miami went a conservative route, opting to spend $80 million on Wei-Yin Chen but otherwise betting that their core would be good enough.
Lots of numbers abound for the Fish heading into 2016, and as a numbers-oriented site, Fish Stripes is going to detail some important figures for the position players and pitchers of the 2016 season.
J.T. Realmuto: 2
This will be season two for J.T. Realmuto at the catcher position for the Marlins, and he has a lot of work to do at the "2" position on the field. The most glaring aspect of last season's work behind the plate appeared to be his framing ability; by some measures, Realmuto cost Miami almost 16 runs on defense in terms of catching strikes. The good news is that Realmuto was a plus with his arm and is an athletic former middle infielder, and his transition to catcher from the minors was always praised well. He just needs to adjust to the most teachable part of catching defense to improve his stock overall
Justin Bour: .260
That is Bour's wOBA against left-handed pitching in just 80 plate appearances. He posted large splits in the minors as well; in his strong 2014 season in Triple-A New Orleans, he hit ..322/.394/.522 against right-handed pitching versus just a .250/.300/.402 line against lefties. It seems highly unlikely that Bour will develop into someone who can hit well enough to be a first baseman versus left-handers, but the Marlins prepared by snagging him a platoon partner in Chris Johnson
Dee Gordon: .346
That is Gordon's career BABIP, and it also happens to be the 10th-highest BABIP since 2011 among players with at least 1000 plate appearances. Whether or not this is sustainable is a difficult question. On the one hand, his numbers have been this high or better in the two years since he became a good player in 2014 and 2015. On the other hand, most of Gordon's skill is dependent on speed, as he does not hit the ball hard enough to blast it past defenders on the ground often. The projection systems expect something close to his career marks, but that still will not force a repeat of his batting title year last season.
Martin Prado: 3
Prado did a strong job in his first season in Miami manning the hot corner. Despite his age and the move to the more difficult Marlins Park, Prado excelled by doing his usual thing. Like a metronome, he posted an above average defensive season and hit just well enough to be league average, with the drop in his line all associated with an expected drop in power. He posted a three-win season by most sources, and the Marlins will want something similar in production again ideally.
Adeiny Hechavarria: +10
The hope is that the Marlins finally found Hechavarria's defensive gold mine. Last year, his defense improved enough apparently to impress the statistical data that often pegged him for a surprisingly average player. His numbers finally caught up to his notable skills and the result was an above-average year overall. Hechavarria is an extremely limited player offensively and always will be, so his game is entirely dependent on Gold Glove defense. If he is a truly elite defensive shortstop again this season, he will have finally provided the value the Marlins believed in back in 2013 and 2014.
Christian Yelich: 61.9
This is Yelich's career ground ball rate, and it is astonishing. Since his debut in 2013, Yelich owns the highest ground ball rate among any player with at least 1000 plate appearances, and this is probably the most limiting problem in his player profile. If Yelich could utilize his picture-perfect swing to drive the ball in lines rather than pounding it on the ground, his reasonable strength might be able to develop into power. When Yelich does hit in the air, he can generate some strong lift and good velocity, but it just does not happen often enough yet. That would be the next step of his development.
Marcell Ozuna: 20
That is the level of home run-hitting power the Marlins want back from Ozuna. He hit 23 bombs in 2014 in what looked like a breakout year, but his game regressed last season amid controversy about his demotion to the minors. However, he came to camp in good shape and his batted ball velocity was still strong last year, so the odds are that he should be able to recover some of the power that made him so valuable two years ago.
Giancarlo Stanton: 512
This is the average number of plate appearances Stanton has put up since 2011, his first full season with the Marlins. In each of those years, he has spent at least some amount of time on the disabled list, and he is coming off of the longest stint on the shelf of any of them. Last year, he played in just 74 games in the first year of his huge 13-year contract. However, when he was playing, he was stellar, hitting 27 home runs and posting a four-win campaign before the end of the first half. When Stanton is healthy, he is an elite position player, so the question only remains how healthy he can be in any season.
Jeff Mathis (0): My understanding of how Mathis still has a big-league job after being the worst hitter in baseball this past decade.
Chris Johnson (.341): Johnson's career wOBA against left-handed pitching. The Marlins are hoping he can provide something akin to that to complement Justin Bour in an effective platoon.
Derek Dietrich (.324): Dietrichs career wOBA, which is halfway decent and seemingly improving after a strong 289-plate appearance extended trial last season. The question is whether his defense at any position can allow him to be a decent Major Leaguer.
Miguel Rojas (10.2): If Rojas can maintain a 10.2 percent strikeout rate like he did last year, he may actually hit just well enough to be a solid, versatile bench option with his good defense.
Ichiro Suzuki (3000): Obviously everything about Ichiro right now is about the 3000-hit mark. Thanks to having had to play way too much last year, he is now only 65 hits away from that mark. Marlins fans should be conflicted, because if Ichiro gets enough chances to get 65 hits, the team may have gone south in 2016, but celebrating this landmark achievement would be amazing.