This Marlins season promises to be the strangest in franchise history. It could end in World Series glory, utter embarrassment or anywhere in between. With a 60-game schedule, the entire playoff structure still in flux and COVID-19 threatening every corner of the United States, Major League Baseball is adjusting on the fly.
Taking these factors into consideration as best we can, Fish Stripes staffers preview the third year of the Miami rebuild.
1. What is the greatest strength of the 2020 Marlins? And their greatest weakness?
Ely Sussman: They have established a strong culture in a very short amount of time. The way their veterans genuinely help and encourage prospects who play the same position, the even-keel temperament of Don Mattingly...those yield real benefits. To me, the bullpen is still their weakness (at least it will be early in the season).
David Phillips: The team is much, MUCH improved all around, but I think the greatest strength is the rotation. Unfortunately, the bullpen is the greatest weakness yet could nevertheless surprise.
Ethan Budowsky: The Marlins have nothing to lose this season. They have 60 games to find a way to get hot and go for it. They can use their youth if they like to energize the team and bring life to the organization. The Marlins are going to try and win games this year—they won’t just write off the season because of the circumstances. They can catch some teams by surprise by fighting hard and every night and playing like they have nothing to lose. I’m not predicting anything spectacular, but the Marlins are going to play hard and try and win every night. They can make some noise if they get hot enough.
Ernesto Herrero: I don’t think there is much debate on the Marlins’ greatest strength this season. If the team is successful this season, expect the rotation to be a big part of that success. Their greatest weakness? Inexperience.
Alex Krutchik: Their rotation will be deeper than people realize. There are 2 or 3 bullpen pieces who could’ve been deserving No. 5 spot in camp. Their weakness, much like last year, will be power. They certainly addressed that issue with the Jesús Aguilar signing, but they still have a long way to go if they want to be in the top half of the league in home runs.
Red Garcia: Depth at multiple positions. Greatest weakness is experience.
Brandon Liguori: Entering the 2020 60-game shortened season, the Marlins present depth at the pitching position. Don Mattingly’s group will rely heavily on pitching to keep the team in close ballgames. The team’s greatest weakness, and this has been an extreme weakness since Mattingly became manager besides the 2016 campaign, is experience.
Hector Rodriguez: I think the Marlins will be one of MLB’s top defensive teams. As for weakness, power at the plate might be an issue even though they went out and signed some hitters with pop.
Tyler Wilson: Competitiveness. I will not claim the team has an elite offense or an excellent pitching staff. It’s competitive.
2. Rank the other NL East teams (Braves, Mets, Nationals & Phillies)
Ely Sussman: Braves, then Phillies, then Nationals, then Mets. Wouldn’t be surprised if any of them win the division, though.
David Phillips: Nats, Braves, Phils, Mets. I predict the Marlins finish fourth.
Ethan Budowsky: The NL East is maybe the best division in the league along with the NL Central. I would say the Braves, the Nats (they are the Champs), Phillies, Mets. Any team can win the division and make a run in the NL. The Mets are sneaky good and have the best pitcher in the league. The strength of this division could easily make it a very long year in Miami.
Ernesto Herrero: 1. Braves 2. Mets 3. Nationals 4. Phillies
Alex Krutchik: 1. Nationals 2. Braves 3. Phillies 4. Mets. The Nationals may have lost Anthony Rendon, but their rotation remains the deepest in the division. In such a short season, starting pitching will be even more important than usual.
Red Garcia: 1) Braves 2) Nationals 3) Mets 4) Phillies
Brandon Liguori: 1. Atlanta Braves 2. Washington Nationals 3. Philadelphia Phillies 4. New York Mets
Hector Rodriguez: 1. Braves 2. Nationals 3. Mets 4. Phillies
Tyler Wilson: Regular season—Braves, Nationals, Phillies, Mets. Postseason—Nationals, Phillies, Braves, Mets.
3. Which Marlins rookie will have the biggest impact?
Ely Sussman: My original 2020 preseason pick (when the world was normal) was Nick Neidert and I’ll stick with that. He will get to pitch substantial innings. Excellent command can take you to great heights over a limited sample size.
David Phillips: I would have gone with Isan, but he exhausted rookie eligibility last season. Therefore, Monte Harrison has the biggest chance and should have the most time to do something with it. Just because he left off the initial roster doesn’t mean he can’t be up in a week or so when the team gains an extra year of control.
Ethan Budowsky: Monte Harrison or Lewin Díaz. Monte will be in the lineup shortly after Opening Day. The Marlins are obsessed with Lewin. Take your pick.
Brad Boxberger, 2019: 1 HR allowed to all left-handed batters faced— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) July 7, 2020
Brad Boxberger, 2020: 1 HR allowed to Lewin Díaz pic.twitter.com/y8uC9ixtoR
Ernesto Herrero: Isan Díaz.
Alex Krutchik: I know Monte was sent down prior to Opening Day, but it’s very likely he’ll be back up at some point during the season. When he does get the call-up, I think he’ll be productive almost immediately.
Red Garcia: Monte Harrison.
Brandon Liguori: Although he was a late call-up in 2019, Isan Diaz.
Hector Rodriguez: Monte Harrison.
Tyler Wilson: Sterling Sharp—importance in the bullpen is underrated. Monte Harrison is most likely to contribute the most.
4. Who will be the most improved Marlins player from 2019 to 2020 (among their returning major leaguers)?
Ely Sussman: Easy: Pablo López.
David Phillips: Isan Díaz set such a low bar last season as well as had bad luck. I still believe in the talent and in the new organizational offensive philosophy.
Ethan Budowsky: Sandy Alcantara. If he uses his sinker more and as effectively as he did in the second half last year, he will have a really nice year.
Ernesto Herrero: Breakout year incoming for Pablo Lopez.
Alex Krutchik: With the way Mel Stottlemyre Jr. and Don Mattingly spoke of Pablo López’s summer, it’s hard to ignore their excitement for him. He also added a cutter and improved on his sinker.
Red Garcia: A healthy Cooper.
Brandon Liguori: A healthy, consistent Pablo López.
Hector Rodriguez: Isan Díaz.
Tyler Wilson: José Ureña. I think his adjustments will fix his problems. He will still give out HBP, but you can’t have everything.
5. Predict what the Marlins’ record will be this season
Ely Sussman: For much of Summer Camp, I had them pegged for 23-37. But now I’m ready to give them a slight bump up to 25-35. Highest winning percentage of the Jeter era! That’s a step forward for this rebuild.
David Phillips: 27-33. It’s gonna be a crazy season, and it really could be a matter of a couple ground balls getting through the infield or the like to achieve this mark.
Ethan Budowsky: 25 wins is a successful year for the Marlins. They play 40 games against one of the toughest divisions in the league then 9 against the Yankees and Rays. It’s a brutal schedule. Playoff hopes are fun and they can do it if they get hot, but let’s be realistic. I said they’d win 70 games this year in a 162-game season and the equivalent of that in this season is about 26 games, so that’s the number I’ll put out there even though I usually hate record predictions.
Ernesto Herrero: I will be optimistic in this one. With a good rotation, the addition of two 3+ WAR players in Dickerson and Villar, and a crazy season ahead of them, the Marlins will finish the year 27-33.
Alex Krutchik: The Marlins have one of the toughest schedules in the league. It won’t be easy, but they’ve also reached the point in the rebuild where wins and losses start to matter just a little bit. I wanted to see them win 70-75 games this year, which equates to about 26 wins.
Red Garcia: 28-32.
Brandon Liguori: The Marlins have 60 games to prove themselves. That is tough to do, especially for a young squad. 10 games apiece against the Braves and Nationals will bite the Marlins, too. The Marlins will finish 25-35 (.420), failing to clinch a postseason spot.
Hector Rodriguez: 27-33.
Tyler Wilson: 24-36.
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