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Marlins 2021 PECOTA Projections: A Brief Reflection

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With the yearly PECOTA projections released as we near the commencement of spring training, here are some thoughts on Miami’s place in a crowded NL East.

Boston Red Sox v Miami Marlins Photo by Rob Foldy/Miami Marlins via Getty Images

Without question, baseball’s divisional supremacy lies on the east coast.

In the American League East, one can make a case for three teams—the New York Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, and Toronto Blue Jays—as legitimate shots to claim the division title come seasons end. The Boston Red Sox, while no one’s consensus pick to perform to the degree of prior-named three, could prove a pleasant surprise should their pitching staff rebound amidst a string of injuries that made their 2020 staff one to forget.

In the Senior Circuit’s Eastern division, there seems, to this point, two teams destined for October: Atlanta and New York (Mets). As for the Washington Nationals and the Philadelphia Phillies, two teams who’ve made a slew of intriguing moves this offseason, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to see these two vying for playoff spots until the very end.

And then there’s the Marlins.

Baseball Prospectus

Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections, released prior to the start of the regular season, have four of the five National League East teams finishing above .500, with the New York Mets going 96-66 to claim their first division title since 2015.

In fact, per the projections, every team except Miami in the East has an expected Win-Loss record above .500, which again, should come as no real surprise. PECOTA has the Marlins finishing with 68 wins as cellar dwellers in the NL East, a definite regression following the franchise’s first playoff appearance since 2003.

The fact that a fifth place finish shouldn’t come as a shock to Marlins’ fans shouldn’t deter one from following the team in 2021, however. Think of it more as hindsight into what the team is currently lacking at the major league level in comparison to their divisional peers.

The Mets are coming off their first offseason under new owner Steve Cohen, who made his presence felt with the additions of James McCann, Carlos Carrasco and star shortstop Francisco Lindor. The team also features the likes of two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob DeGrom, arguably the game’s best pitcher, at the head of their rotation, and their lineup is among the deepest in the National League.

The Nationals are less than two years removed from winning the World Series, and boast a starting rotation that features the three-headed monster of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, and Patrick Corbin. It’s also worth noting the team inked former World Series-hero Kyle Schwarber to play left field, along with trading for Josh Bell to be their primary first baseman. It also doesn’t hurt that Juan Soto is quickly emerging as the sport’s best young hitter.

Atlanta has the reigning MVP in Freddie Freeman, and re-signing former Marlin Marcell Ozuna will help lengthen that lineup, though it reads as a head-scratcher to project a mere 82-wins for a team with as good a young starting staff and is coming off three-consecutive division titles.

The Phillies still have Bryce Harper and will-so for the next 11 years, but for now, Harper has settled into being one of the sport’s best pure offensive players, hitting for power and drawing walks at an elite-rate, a player severely lacking on the Marlins roster. Him and newcomer Alec Bohm will form a formidable middle-of-the-order when factoring in Rhys Hoskins as well, but it’s their pitching, particularly the bullpen, that has many questioning their standing in the playoff race.

The highs of these teams seemingly far outweigh the positives featured on the Marlins roster heading into 2021.

Brian Anderson is one of the young and exciting faces of the franchise, but his upside isn’t that of Soto, Freeman, or Harper.

The projected front three of Sixto Sánchez, Sandy Alcantara, and Pablo López are promising to put it mildly, but they don’t, to this point, instill the same degree of fear as the Nationals’, Mets’, and Braves’ starting staffs do. It goes without saying though that they’re easily the most exciting aspect of this rebuild thus far.

Recent additions of Adam Duvall and Dylan Floro, both acquired shortly after PECOTA’s projections were released, make the team marginally better in the short-term, but even that remains to be seen.

Questions surrounding the outfield and who expects to command the remaining rotation spots still aimlessly loom in the minds of Marlins’ fans and front office officials.

If a silver lining can be drawn from a forecast that calls for another year of losing baseball in South Florida, it’s that 2021 should serve another year of growth and progression for the young players who could find themselves apart of the next core of winning baseball in Miami.