Many Marlins fans are not too optimistic about the upcoming 2017 season, and that is understandable. The team hasn’t been to the playoffs since they won the World Series back in 2003. The team is without a true number one starter, as they haven’t filled the void left by José Fernàndez. But there is always a reason to be optimistic, and there are quite a few reasons why the Marlins can still succeed this year. Below are five reasons to be optimistic about the upcoming 2017 season.
1. The outfield
This has been the Marlins strong suit for the last couple of years now, and the outfield will continue to be vital for Miami this season. Miami has a blossoming star in Christian Yelich, a proven slugger in Giancarlo Stanton, and a 2016 All-Star in Marcell Ozuna.
Yelich had a career year last season, as he continues to add more power to his swing. Yelich hit .298 with 21 homers and 98 RBI’s last season. Yelich is a consistent hitter who can always drive in a runner. If he continues to hit with more power, then he will have a very well-balanced swing. Yelich is probably the most important part of this outfield, because he’s such a consistent hitter, and he’s a phenomenal fielder as well.
Ozuna was exceptional during the first half of the season, but his production slipped in the second half. He was batting .307 before the All-Star break, but after they returned from the break, he batted just .209. However, Ozuna had to deal with injuries to his wrist during the time he started to slump. He might be inconsistent, but he could be a major threat if he performs like he did in the first half of last season.
When healthy, Giancarlo Stanton can easily hit the most home runs in the Major Leagues. The problem is that Stanton has not been able to stay healthy recently. If Stanton can stay off the disabled list, then the Marlins should be able to remain in the playoff hunt.
2. Don Mattingly
Over the last five or six years, the Marlins struggled to find a capable manager to lead the team. Finally, the team found a successful manager in Don Mattingly. Mattingly made several trips to the playoffs when he was the manager for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Even if Miami didn’t make the playoffs last season, Mattingly kept the team afloat when they dealt with a plethora of injuries. He led the Marlins to an eight-win improvement from 2015 to 2016. Miami was in playoff contention until the final week of the season, and they were in control of the second NL wild card in July. Unlike Ozzie Guillen or Dan Jennings, Mattingly has the Marlins on the verge of the playoffs, and its clear that the team is in good hands with him in charge.
3. Dee Gordon
It is clear that the second baseman had his worst season since 2012, but his worst days are behind him. Gordon was suspended for most of the 2016 season because of PED use, but we are forgetting that Gordon is two years removed from having a career year. In 2015, Gordon batted .333 and he stole 58 bases. If Gordon can put up those numbers this year, then that will help push the Marlins towards a spot in the playoffs. Barring an injury, Gordon should be able to play for most of the season, and he’s capable of putting up All-Star numbers when he plays a full season. He might not perform like he did in 2015, but he will put up solid numbers at least. If Gordon doesn’t perform like he can, there’s other infielders in the fold that can easily pick up the slack.
4. J.T. Realmuto and Martin Prado
Both of these players were consistent for a team that was derailed by injuries and inconsistent play last season. Realmuto is a young catcher that is on the rise. He batted .303 last season, and he played in 137 games, which proves that he has remarkable durability. Along with being the everyday catcher, Realmuto is probably going to get some time at first base. Miami will count on Realmuto’s consistency throughout the season.
The Marlins will also count on Martin Prado, their veteran third baseman. Prado compiled a batting average of .305 with 75 RBI. Prado was one of the few Marlins that managed to stay healthy, as he played in 153 games last year. While both of these players don’t have eye-popping stats, they are the glue that keeps this team together.
The Marlins did a phenomenal job of building one of the best bullpens in the NL. The bullpen is anchored by closer A.J. Ramos, who is returning after having an All-Star season last year. Ramos saved 40 games for the Marlins last season, and he’ll need to do the same thing for Miami in 2017. Other pitchers that return for the Marlins are David Phelps and Kyle Barraclough. Phelps compiled 114 strikeouts last year, while Barraclough had an ERA of 2.85 and a WHIP of 1.22, putting up one of the more interesting dominant relief efforts in MLB history. The Marlins added two set-up pitchers in Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa. Both pitchers should be a nice complement to what was already on hand. Add in Dustin McGowan and Nick Wittgren, and the Marlins might have the deepest bullpen in the NL.