Welcome back to the Fish Stripes Roundtable. Every few months, our site’s staff and valued contributors tackle five questions regarding the present and future of the Marlins. Readers are sure to find somebody in here who they agree with, and others who see the game from a very different perspective.
Coming off a fascinating Spring Training and on the brink of beginning the 2019 regular season, it’s time once again to discuss the state of the franchise.
The following responses have been lightly edited...
1. What did we learn about this Marlins team during Spring Training?
Ely Sussman: We learned that this will be a fun starting rotation. The Marlins cleared the runway for all their of second-year starters to take off. I doubt we’ll see consistency, and I worry that the bullpen is comparable—if not even worse—than last season’s. However, this ought to be a unique brand of non-competitive baseball that tempts us with the possibility of seeing a special pitching performance on any given night.
David Phillips: The rotation is deeper than most thought and will surprise this year.
Daniel Martinez: Pitching and culture. The Marlins pitching staff took the necessary step forward in terms of development and talent. As for the culture of the team, the resilience and ability to push forward—in what should be a tough season—is important, and they’ve shown thus far that they’re building the right competitive mentality.
Christian Cevallos: We learned that the Marlins have way more pitching depth than many fans realized. They have a plethora of players who can and will be ready to contribute if someone on the major league roster goes down with an injury. A lot of the young players have shown heart and a no-giving-up attitude which I think is an important thing to have for a rebuilding team.
Luis Davila: The team’s pitching depth seems legit and they’ll keep the offense in the game. The question is whether the young hitters can break out and support the pitching staff.
Mike Picardi: We learned that we have even more pitching depth than we thought going in. As much as one can in spring training, those guys showed that not only do they belong here, but they’re capable of dominating on any given day. The best part about that is, those guys aren’t even the “real” prospects. These were supposed to be the guys that bridged us to the pitching talent, and maybe if we’re lucky one of them sticks. That may not be the case anymore.
Mitch Custer: This organization is ready for out with the old, in with the new. A lot of young guys got a lot of playing time, and some even got the roster nod over older guys, despite money on the books.
Josean Santos: Fight. We learned that this team, despite the inexperience and youth on it, are hungry for bigger things. This goes well with the winning culture the Marlins are trying to build.
Jose Miranda: Definitely learned of the #BabyFaceAces,—rotation looks legit. A lot of fight in the 11-game win streak. And plenty of OF depth when you can send Dean and O’Brien down. Don’t forget Harrison and Mesa.
Marshall Thomas: I think what we learned the most about this spring training is that the Marlins rotation is very much improved, and a lot deeper than a lot of people anticipated.
Reinaldo Llerena: We learned that the Marlins pitching rotation is deep, and the organization looks more “hands-on” than in year’s past. In the spring, Marlins fans saw pitchers such as Caleb Smith and Pablo Lopez shine. Also, judging from the video from the end of the Marlins’ ping pong tournament, it seems that chemistry within the team is pretty strong, which—along with strong pitching—contributed to the 11-game win streak during the spring.
Brandon Liguori: Throughout Spring Training, the Marlins showed a lot of fight and emotion, racking up 11 consecutive victories at one point. Unfortunately, those victories do not count, but it was great to see.
James Hartman: The players have an upbeat mentality and are apparently unfazed by any negative noise. As they demonstrated during their 11-game winning streak, their starting rotation is definitely capable of surprising a lot of people and may very well keep them in a lot of games this season.
2. Which offseason acquisition will have the most major league impact for the Marlins in 2019?
Ely Sussman: Jorge Alfaro. He has a super long lease given the Marlins’ lack of depth at catcher. There will be frustrating slumps, but even more power binges that lift the offense up to respectability. Also, I’m very high on Harold Ramírez. Despite missing out on the Opening Day roster, expect a call-up shortly if he hits the way he’s capable of at Triple-A.
David Phillips: Sergio Romo. I think he’ll close most of the season, will be a good clubhouse presence and fan favorite, and then he’ll get traded for prospect(s!) in June or July.
Daniel Martinez: Curtis Granderson. On the field Curtis may provide value from a platoon position, but his impact will more greatly be felt in the development of the younger OFers on the team. Leadership matters in a baseball rebuild, and they got it right with Granderson.
Christian Cevallos: Neil Walker is someone who is overlooked a little compared to Curtis Granderson and Sergio Romo. He has shown with at least some preparation before the season that he can be a consistent hitter who has a pretty decent average and can hit more than 15 HRs. That is what the Marlins will need offensively. I do believe Sergio Romo could be a great closer this season, though, and should be given the chance to close games at least to start the season.
Luis Davila: Jorge Alfaro. Good kid and a leader. He’ll take over J.T. Realmuto’s spot at catcher and as time passes he will take the role he had in the clubhouse. On the field, he’ll be a great defender and offers plenty of offensive upside.
Mike Picardi: I think acquiring Sergio Romo was huge, for multiple reasons. He obviously still produces on the mound, but his biggest value outside of that is the stabilizing force he will be among all the young arms. First half of last year the ‘pen was lights out, but given too much load and responsibility they eventually broke down in a big way. There were veterans present last year (Ziegler and Tazawa), but they mostly struggled. I think having a guy who’s able to right the ship consistently will be huge for the rest of the guys to remain consistent.
Mitch Custer: Sergio Romo. If the Marlins have the lead in the sixth, Guerrero, Conley, Steckenrider, and Romo are going to be really hard to navigate.
Josean Santos: I believe Curtis Granderson is going to have the biggest impact on the team. Despite the above-replacement-level value he brings on the field, the veteran is also an excellent clubhouse presence.
Jose Miranda: Grandy/Walker will probably have the most mentoring impact for our young players. But I believe the most in game impact will come from Sergio Romo, I expect him to get most save opportunities and to still be effective enough to rack up saves.
Marshall Thomas: I think it’ll be either Curtis Granderson or Sergio Romo. Both guys bring winning attitudes and are veteran leaders in a younger clubhouse. Romo I believe will be Miami’s primary closer, and we all know that the Marlins bullpen was atrocious in 2018.
Reinaldo Llerena: Curtis Granderson and Neil Walker. Both will bring a veteran experience to a young team and will contribute above replacement-level for the Marlins. It’s what this franchise needs in this period of transition.
Brandon Liguori: Curtis Granderson and Jorge Alfaro. Granderson is a left-handed hitter who is still very capable of having a 20-25 HR season, and Alfaro, having played for the Philadelphia Phillies, should fit in well with the Marlins pitching staff. Keep in mind, Alfaro was involved in the J.T. Realmuto deal.
James Hartman: Sergio Romo. A reliable force in the clubhouse and on the mound. Maybe 30+ saves this season.
3. José Ureña enters the season as “ace” of the rotation. Who will be ace by the end of the season?
Ely Sussman: Health permitting, it’s Pablo López. That is a big assumption considering his past Tommy John surgery, followed by mild shoulder issues in 2018. The Marlins will monitor his innings carefully. But on a per-inning basis, he has the ideal combination of stuff, command and situational smarts.
David Phillips: Pablo López. A control artist coming through the system and now adds high-90s heat? Sounds like a true ace in the making to me.
Daniel Martinez: I believe the answer will eventually be Pablo López or Sandy Alcántara, but for this year I will go with the lefty, Caleb Smith. Smith’s profile plays well at the major league level, and I believe that when healthy can lead this Marlins staff.
Christian Cevallos: By the end of the season, I believe Pablo López could be the ace of the team considering all he has done and improved since last year. Do not sleep on Trevor Richards or even Caleb Smith. They have ace potential, in my opinion.
Luis Davila: #MyAce
Mike Picardi: For me, an ace is two things—the poise and consistency to dominate a major league lineup every fifth day, and the stuff to back it up. That makes this answer more difficult. The best stuff clearly belongs to Alcántara, but the consistency isn’t always there. But Pablo has shown incredible poise to go along with improvement of his physical tools, which would make him my choice for 2019 “ace,” with Sandy having the best chance going forward among the current group.
Mitch Custer: Sandy Alcántara. We saw glimpses of his potential last year; if he puts it together, he’s easily the best pitcher on the staff.
Josean Santos: Pablo López. Without a doubt. He has been lights out this spring, and I believe this is going to be his breakout season.
Jose Miranda: Considering this team, I’ll take the definition of ace to be that of the pitcher who you can always count on to stop a skid and get you a win. Pablo López may not have the nastiest stuff in the rotation, but his maturity and feel for pitching make him my ace of choice.
Marshall Thomas: Most people will say it’s Pablo López, and how could you disagree with that? His numbers throughout the spring were nothing short of dominating. I also think Caleb Smith could break out as well.
Reinaldo Llerena: I think Ureña will still remain the ace at the end of the season, but don’t count out Pablo López or Caleb Smith. Both had a great Spring Training and could challenge Ureña by season’s end. Although Sandy Alcántara’s fastball is still lightning-quick, it seems like he’s still struggling with some control issues. Should he work out his control issues, he could be the ace of the team.
Brandon Liguori: If José Ureña can pitch how he did in the month of September, Ureña should be able to keep his ace role.
James Hartman: José Ureña. He seems to exhibit a more locked-in and mature mindset and that comes from experience, understanding where and how he made his mistakes. The other pitchers are talented, but their inexperience could leave a lot of question marks.
4. Which 2019 Marlins games/call-ups/special occasions are you most excited for?
Ely Sussman: Later in the summer, outfield prospect Monte Harrison is due to arrive in the big leagues. He promises to deliver some electrifying highlights, regardless of the actual production.
David Phillips: Are you kidding? There’s only one answer! Fish Stripes Night!
Daniel Martinez: Fish Stripes Night! But you better believe I’ll be present for the first games of any of the following: Díaz, Harrison, Yamamoto, Neidert or a surprise Sixto call-up in September.
Christian Cevallos: Opening Day is always an exciting time to be at the ballpark and to see all the fans come out and represent. Fish Stripes Night is going to be an exciting game to be at as well.
Luis Davila: September call-ups. I think there will be a lot of young arms that will throw themselves into the rotation conversation in September. Guys like Nick Neidert, Zac Gallen, Jorge Guzman, and Jordan Yamamoto are close to making an impact.
Mike Picardi: Obviously Fish Stripes Night will be a great opportunity for a bunch of awesome Marlins fans to get together, but there’s something about Opening Day that’s just different. Outside of a playoff run, it’s always the day I look forward to most each year. As for player call-ups, I fully expect to see Isan Díaz up at some point this season, and am excited to see how he transitions.
Mitch Custer: The Isan Díaz call-up. The Marlins haven’t seen so much pop at the keystone since Dan Uggla.
Josean Santos: I am really excited for the eventual call-ups of Monte Harrison and Isan Díaz. I am also really looking forward to Fish Stripes Night!
Jose Miranda: Opening Day, no doubt. And the fact that Fish Stripes Night is also the return of J.T. and Bryce only makes it that much more exciting. If by some chance Sixto gets the call up to the majors, I’ll be there.
Marshall Thomas: If I was going to be in Florida at this time, it’d be Fish Stripes Night, but now I’ll say Opening Day. It’s such a special day that I’ve always enjoyed, and we’ll see how the Marlins do in that opening series in Colorado.
Reinaldo Llerena: Isan Díaz, Monte Harrison and Jordan Yamamoto. I wouldn’t be surprised if Víctor Víctor Mesa got a full season in the minors before being called up. If Harrison brings down his strikeout percentage, he should receive a quick call-up from the Marlins, who are lacking in power for their Opening Day roster.
Brandon Liguori: I am most looking forward to Fish Stripes Night! I am excited to meet some of the guys we have on staff, as well as being able to introduce myself to others. I hope for a Marlins series victory versus Philadelphia, too!
James Hartman: April 12. Fish Stripes Night + Realmuto’s return = a dramatic evening. Second place goes to what Sixto Sánchez could show in his first start.
5. Predict the Marlins’ win-loss record and the NL East division winner
Ely Sussman: I have the Marlins at 65-97. The 2018 Fish outperformed their run differential just to get to 63 wins. This club will be slightly improved talent-wise, but perhaps not as lucky, plus they’ll play nearly half the schedule against division rivals with postseason-or-bust mandates. The Nationals will finish first.
David Phillips: The Phillies win the East (and World Series). The Marlins show great improvement over last year, but go 74-88 as a result of being in the toughest division in baseball.
Daniel Martinez: The Nationals rotation and position depth finally takes a step forward, as Bryce watches from Philly. As for the Fish, I have them pegged at 71-91.
Christian Cevallos: This is a tough division with all four NL East rivals improving on something they needed this off-season. My heart says the Washington Nationals win the NL East, but the Braves and Phillies are going to make it a tough close call if the Nats end up on a longer losing streak at some point in the season. I expect the Marlins to do a little better than last year, but I am going to go bold and say 76-86.
Luis Davila: 65 wins, 97 losses. I love the pitching staff, but it’s a long season. The offense is suspect at this point and while the pitching staff will keep the team in games the offense doesn’t look solid enough to put up enough runs. The bullpen is really young as well and i can see a lot of games being lost late because of that. The NL East being so strong 1-4 doesn’t help at all. I have the Phillies taking the division. Their lineup is so deep with McCutchen, Harper, and Realmuto being added to it. Nola leading that staff will be the difference maker for them against the Braves and Mets and Nationals.
Mike Picardi: 66-96 for the Marlins this year. I’m looking for much more steady production from the starting staff, and much fewer blown saves from the bullpen. Conversely, the offense will likely be even worse than last year, so the end result will likely be around the same. As for the NL East, I have the Braves winning the division after an intense battle with the Phillies all season. Philly’s lineup should obviously be much more dynamic, but I have serious doubts about how their pitching (outside of NOLA) will hold up in a playoff run the entire season, when all 162 games matter. The Braves have a great mix of young, dynamic players, steadily productive veteran bats and a ton of pitching depth to carry them through a full season. The Phillies will jump out to an early division lead before they fall back to the pack, eventually to be overtaken by Atlanta.
Mitch Custer: Not a fan of picking winners and records; I’ll just say the NL East is going to be a meat grinder this year.
Josean Santos: The Phillies win the National League East, by very little margin. Despite the big improvements of the Marlins, being in a tough division leaves them with a 70-92 record at the end of the season.
Jose Miranda: Braves are still the NL East champs and they seem to be overlooked. Their organizational depth is the difference maker in my eyes and what ultimately gets them the NL east crown again. Marlins still end up in the cellar, but with the improvement of a 71-91 record.
Marshall Thomas: Even though the Phillies are coming in with Bryce Harper, I still say the Braves are going to win the division. I think the Marlins improve a little bit, but they’ll finish around the 70-92 area.
Reinaldo Llerena: I have the Marlins at 69-93. Although Spring Training has been great for the Fish, I think we’ll see the offense and pitching staff struggle towards the middle of the season. As for the division winner, I think the Phillies will squeeze past the Nationals thanks to the additions of J.T. Realmuto and Bryce Harper, but they will have some teething issues in the first month of the season.
Brandon Liguori: I have the Miami Marlins concluding the 2019 regular season at 71-91. Starting rotation does not concern me as much as the bullpen. Marlins do not have the elite, shutdown inning-type guys in relief, and that will bite the Marlins throughout the duration of the season. As for the NL East Divison winner, give me Philadelphia over Atlanta. The signing of Bryce Harper, Jean Segura and Andrew McCutchen will pave the way.
James Hartman: Marlins go 75-87. And the Phillies win the division, unfortunately.
Average predicted Marlins record: 70-92
Most likely NL East division champion: Phillies
You can follow Ely (@RealEly), David (@hitbypitchratio), Daniel (@all_right_Miami), Christian (@ChrisChin_MC), Luis (@luisrdavi), Mike (@mpicardi), Mitch (@mitch_cust12), Josean (@elitejosean), Jose (@YesWayJose23), Marshall (@hurricanesmarsh) and Brandon (@BrandonRLiguori) on Twitter.
Make sure to bookmark FishStripes.com for around-the-clock coverage of all aspects of the Marlins organization. For more insight into individual players, check out our just-about-done 2019 season preview series.