Oh boy I get to write about Derek Jeter’s team. Here we go.
As long as Miguel Rojas isn’t as inept defensively as Derek Jeter at shortstop, which he can’t be, this season isn’t going to be a complete disaster for the Marlins.
Yes, Miguel Rojas is the starting shortstop for the Miami Marlins. Ideal? No. Manageable? Possibly. This Marlins team isn’t one that should be expected to win 80 games, despite what Harold Reynolds may have to say. This isn’t that kind of team. In the middle of a rebuild, Miami is hoping to not be the laughingstock of the National League for the third consecutive year.
Luckily for Jeets and his men, the National League also includes the Pittsburgh Pirates. So that won’t be that difficult. Even luckier, Jeter and the front office decided to finally add major league talent for the first time this offseason, which generally correlates well to winning games.
While he wasn’t good last year, Jesus Aguilar is only one year removed from being an all-star caliber first baseman. Aguilar was a three fWAR first baseman in 2017 without much of a glove, which goes to show how good his bat actually was. If he is even able to come close to replicating that performance, he is going to be Miami’s best hitter.
Jonathan Villar is slated to be Don Mattingly’s everyday center fielder, which is certainly a bold strategy. Acquired from Baltimore, Villar was very good last season, albeit in the middle infield. Villar hasn’t played an inning of CF since 2017, so his defense is going to be suspect at best. For a player whose bat tool is average and relies a lot on defense to be valuable, Jeter is banking a lot on Villar making a quick and productive adjustment to a new position. Funny how that works.
Brian Anderson has put together two consecutive seasons of really good production, despite missing part of 2019 due to injury. Now that he has actual Major League hitters on either side of him in the lineup, expect his production to see another slight rise in 2020. The same can be said of Corey Dickerson, who was forced to spend part of last season in Pittsburgh, playing really well.
In theory, a top four of Villar, Anderson, Aguilar, and Dickerson can be very good. It isn’t Murderers Row by any stretch of the imagination, but it is respectable. The Marlins also have some decent young bats, with Jorge Alfaro and Isan Diaz anchoring the bottom half of the lineup.
Alfaro, the prime piece of the J.T. Realmuto trade, struggled more than most expected in his first year in teal. Despite that, he was still a barely below average hitter. With some adjustments, specifically walking more and striking out less, he is going to have a very good year. Diaz, who was acquired in the (low key kind of good, might I add) Christian Yelich trade, was awful in the Major Leagues last year. There’s no other way to spin it. However, throughout the line, he has struggled to start at every level before adjusting. He’s not going to be Keston Hiura, who the Marlins should have insisted on for Yelich, but he’s going to have a solid 2020.
To round out this lineup, Miguel Rojas and Garrett Cooper are nothing spectacular. Francisco Cervelli on the bench is nice depth, but he is unfortunately one ball off the mask from his catching days being over. Magneuris Sierra is also pretty solid, though as a specialty player at best. It is worth noting that the Marlins do have Jazz Chisholm, a highly touted SS prospect, on their 40-man roster, though it’s expected he starts in AAA.
When it comes to pitching, there’s a lot of potential. Caleb Smith isn’t fantastic, and certainly shouldn’t be a #1, but he’s the consistent stalwart in a rotation surrounded by question marks. Both Sandy Alcantara (bona fide star) and Jordan Yamamoto, acquired in the Marcell Ozuna and Yelich trades, respectively, have very high ceilings.
Alcantara seized the opportunity last season, pitching to a 3.88 ERA and flashing four possible plus pitches. However, he undeniably got lucky in the process. Don’t expect the production to increase from Alcantara, but as long as his stuff doesn’t take a step back, that’s not the end of the world. If he walks a ton of people or suddenly doesn’t have a curveball, that might be.
Yamamoto was also solid in the big leagues last season, but on a much easier to replicate level. Yamamoto, unlike Alcantara, doesn’t have the elite fastball, so he must rely on his offspeed stuff to beat batters. In a bat-heavy National League East, this could be a recipe for disaster if Yamamoto can’t adjust to the rest of the league. Again, not an ace, but a very good potential starting pitcher here.
It’s also very possible that Sixto Sanchez, the best player the Marlins received as part of their massive fire sale, finishes the year in the majors. He is your future ace if he hits his potential. However, don’t expect the Marlins to rush him up in a season likely devoid of meaning in the wins department.
Their bullpen isn’t anything to write home about, but again, not horrible. Brandon Kintzler recovered from his horrendous 2018 campaign to become a very solid reliever for the Cubs last year. Ryne Stanek adjusted really well to Kevin Cash pitching him all over the place, though he has a more defined role from Don Mattingly. Yimi Garcia isn’t special, but he’s solid. Depth here is scarce to non-existent, however.
All in all, the Marlins are actually looking up. No longer do they have a roster that’s downright painful to watch. It’s going to struggle, but there is a lot of potential here. For 2020, you aren’t looking at a team even close to Wild Card contention. Should things break right in 2021, though? Possibly.
Unfortunately, their owner isn’t very good at that though.
Record Projection: 71-91
Divisional Positioning: 5th
Projected Lineup/Rotation and WAR projection (per ZiPS)
CF Jonathan Villar (2.4)
3B Brian Anderson (2.3)
1B Jesus Aguilar (0.7)
LF Corey Dickerson (1.1)
C Jorge Alfaro (0.6)
2B Isan Diaz (1.0)
SS Miguel Rojas (1.6)
RF Garrett Cooper (0.3)
SP Caleb Smith (2.2)
SP Pablo Lopez (1.9)
SP Sandy Alcantara (1.9)
SP Jordan Yamamoto (1.1)
SP Jose Urena (0.2)