I tried this Marlins bold predictions exercise in 2018. It went so catastrophically bad that I won’t even provide the link to it.
Taking another swing at it entering the 2019 season, but this time, I’m using fellow writers and readers as a deodorant. Let’s share in the glory when somebody nails a big surprise months in advance.
The predictions have been divided into three sections, beginning with my own, then the Fish Stripes staff, and then our Twitter followers.
Marlins sweep a series in March/April
One of the underrated “accomplishments” from last year’s tanked campaign was completing 50-plus separate series without a single sweep. Some of those series were only two games long! Half the schedule was played at home! And yet, the Marlins never had anything resembling a hot streak.
On paper, the opening month of 2019 looks treacherous. Every Marlins opponent through the end of April is seriously attempting to contend. The team endures 30 games in 34 days, a relatively heavy workload out of the starting gate compared to typical years.
That being said, the most important ingredient in stringing together wins is a quality rotation. The Marlins have way more MLB-ready depth in that department thanks to the maturation of 2018’s top pitching prospects. They lack the offensive firepower to cruise by comfortable margins, but assuming the front office signs at least one veteran reliever in free agency, there’s enough talent on the mound to pull off an upset.
JT Riddle leads team in home runs
I still think JT Riddle has a Didi Gregorius-like ceiling.
There is, however, legitimate concern that he won’t ever be durable enough to reach it. Major and minor leagues combined, Riddle appeared in 127 professional games last season, homering 12 times. Both of those totals represented career highs for him.
Now at age 27, Riddle will have the opportunity to earn a huge role on the Marlins. The NL East is stacked with elite pitching, but the vast majority of it throws right-handed. Health permitting, he is their primary shortstop with Miguel Rojas serving in a utility role.
I’m projecting 22-26 homers at approximately a 100 wRC+ in Riddle’s breakout year.
Largest year-to-year attendance increase in MLB
Nowhere to go but up! Under their revised counting method, the Marlins reported only 811,104 paid tickets to home games in 2018, barely half as many as the next-worst franchise. They suffered from the perfect storm of low expectations, boring individual players and an undesirable fan experience.
Ballpark enhancements will make a significant impact. A night out in Little Havana is now cheaper for working-class families and more genuinely Miami-flavored for tourists. There’s also an opportunity to draw large numbers of South Florida transplants in a competitive environment where every division rival wants to win now. Don’t forget about Víctor Víctor Mesa; even assuming that the home team sucks, this toolsy Cuban outfielder is a marketable attraction for the second half of the season.
With a few lucky breaks, the Marlins should be able to draw an extra half-million spectators.
Michael Hill gets fired
It was mildly surprising when Hill made the transition from the Loria to Jeter administrations. Virtually everybody else around him in the front office has been purged. My educated guess is that he gets let go next fall with one year remaining on his contract.
The Harvard grad and longtime Marlins employee has a very disappointing track record when trading with any team besides the Mariners. Hill’s aggressiveness at the 2016 deadline was unwarranted, and his deliberate approach to 2018, infuriating.
Quite simply, his job status hinges on the Sandy Alcántaras, Lewis Brinsons and Monte Harrisons of the organization taking a leap forward this season. Otherwise, the public pressure for change will be overwhelming.
Fish Stripes staff predictions
Alex Carver: Monte Harrison starts the year in RF, Brian Anderson goes back to 3B, Martín Prado becomes player/coach.
Ian Smith: Brinson has a 20/20 year, Riddle has 20 homers, Adam Conley is an All-Star.
Colby Olson: Peter O’Brien—25 home runs.
Alex Contreras: Caleb Smith stats—12-5, 3.24 ERA, 187 K, 62 BB.
Rey Llerena: Peter O’Brien will have 30 home runs this year, José Ureña will pitch 200 innings.
JTR starts the season as a Fish. Has to play as a Marlin— Brianstahl (@bravesdude1976) January 1, 2019
81-81— Dustin Lindbom (@DustinLindbom) January 1, 2019
Less than 50 wins. But 2020 over .500— Miami Marlins UK (@MiamiMarlins_UK) January 1, 2019
Alcantara will win ROY and Cy Young— Ed Sanabria (@Jolligator) January 1, 2019
Brinson will enter the 30/30 club.— Marcos Morales (@MarcosJ007) January 1, 2019
Trevor Richards will be 12-5 with a 2.98 Era and lead the marlins rotation— Shaun Lawrence (@ShaunLa11606182) January 1, 2019
Many more predictions can be seen in the replies to the original tweet