Previewing the 2011 MLB season, we’ve already named the Phillies, Yankees, and Red Sox the top World Series favorites. We’ve already looked at the NL Central, and this week we’re looking at the NL East. We’ve already covered the Phillies and the Braves, and today we’ll look at the Florida Marlins; Wednesday: New York Mets.
Off-Season Moves: Florida traded away center fielder Cameron Maybin to the Padres for a couple of right-handed relievers in Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica. They acquired utility man Omar Infante from the Braves in exchange for Dan Uggla. Through free agency, the Marlins picked up righty Javier Vazquez, catcher John Buck, and third baseman Greg Dobbs. Possibly their biggest off-season move was extending Ricky Nolasco through 2013.
Strengths: The 2011 Marlins’ biggest strength coming into this season is the stability of the starting rotation which is headlined by Josh Johnson (11-6, 2.30, pictured above), followed by Nolasco (14-9, 4.51) and then Vazquez (10-10, 5.32) or vice versa. The fourth and fifth spots should be occupied by righties Anibal Sanchez (13-12, 3.55) and Chris Volstad (12-9, 4.58) respectively. The only issue here is there isn’t a lefty in the bunch.
Weaknesses: Defense could be a huge issue for this team. The Marlins finished last season tied for last in the majors with a .979 team fielding percentage. The Infante for Uggla trade is basically a wash defensively, though 2009 Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan does represent a slight upgrade over Maybin in center. Outfield defense could be an issue in general given the youth of the three positions. Left fielder Logan Morrison, a rookie, is far more familiar with first base, Coghlan is also a converted infielder who played in left last season and right fielder Mike Stanton is entering just his second major league season and is currently nursing a leg injury.
Offensively, the 2010 Marlins were either average or below average in basically every category. Losing Uggla’s team-leading 33 home runs doesn’t help, but at least it seems likely that shortstop Hanley Ramirez (pictured above) will improve upon last season’s career-low 21 home runs.
Summary: This year’s Marlins are difficult to predict. If Stanton can avoid a down sophomore year and if Ramirez can bounce back power-wise the team could be formidable offensively. If Johnson and Nolasco can stay healthy, this could be the second-best rotation in the division. That’s a lot of “ifs” though. I’m actually predicting a slight step back, with 75 wins — six less than last year — and a fourth place finish in the division.Google+