We’ve come to the end of our Marlin Maniac Preview series, and now it’s time for me to put down what I feel about this season’s team. How confident am I that we can win 87 games again this year? Where are the strengths and weaknesses? Who is in line to surprise us? Let’s make some bold(ish) predictions on which you may judge me harshly at the end of the year.
Record: 83-79, 3rd place
Is the team better than a true-talent 83-win ballclub? Maybe. Earlier on, using a conglomeration of many projections, I kept getting a value of 86 to 87 wins, something I just could not believe. I think the Marlins can be an 85-win team true-talent, but the way I developed that estimate is similar to this method done by Rally. As such, every team would be a little more optimistic, and we’d have to run through the schedules and find out how many games each team would win against each other to get a record. Instead of doing all that, I just went with 83 wins and bumped it down a notch.
Most projection systems have us around .500, leaning towards below that level. I don’t think we’re as bad as that, but it’s hard to argue with more rigorously designed systems than my guesswork. If there was any reason to feel good about this upcoming season’s record, it’s that the Marlins have done a decent job of jumping projections each of the last few seasons.
Best Performance: Hanley Ramirez
I won’t patronize you by describing how good Ramirez is…
But it is fun to talk about.
In the Crashburn Alley interview I did with Bill Baer (linked in today’s Fish Bites), I talked about what it would take for Hanley to overtake Albert Pujols and win an MVP award this season. I doubt it would happen, but it would certainly be amazing if it did. For it to happen though, I think it would take not only a sub-par offensive season for Pujols (meaning like a .417 wOBA, which is kind of scary for “sub-par”) and a great year at the plate and on the field for Hanley. Ramirez himself mentioned that if the team improves on defense, it can make big strides towards competing. It would all have to start with Hanley, who is oddly enough the best defender in the infield (he is the shortstop after all). He’s improved a lot, but getting another strong year in the field would solidify him as one of the top players in the game.
Worst Performance: Pick a starter 3-4-5
Right now, the back of the Marlins rotation is still in flux, even as the slots fill in. Chris Volstad and Anibal Sanchez remain mortal locks for rotation spots, and I have a strong feeling Rick VandenHurk has taken over the fifth spot, even after his shellacking yesterday against the Washington Nationals. However, none of these three can be truly counted on. If healthy, Sanchez may not be bad, but he’s just never healthy. If Volstad drops his walk rate, he should regress and be OK, but can that be done? VandenHurk has some nice strikeout stuff, but can he keep the ball in the park? These are all tough questions, and they’re all going to be relevant to the Marlins’ success. It doesn’t help that backing up these guys are Andrew Miller and Hayden Penn, names that don’t elicit confidence.
Biggest Surprise (Good): Cameron Maybin
If there’s one player who could break out in this 2010 campaign, it’s Maybin. His strikeouts are scary, and he may not yet know how to handle a breaking ball well. But for someone with still such a light frame, he sure has some pop. And with his speed, first-to-third on a Ramirez single is something we might see quite often this year, and this time it won’t be attached to a .300 OBP. If Maybin bats .270, he should be good enough for a .335-.340 OBP and a .420 SLG, and with his decent defense, a 2-3 WAR season isn’t out of reach and would be a big improvement over Jeremy Hermida.
Biggest Surprise (Bad): Jorge Cantu/Dan Uggla
OK, so I hedged my bets on this category. If you told me one player this year among the Marlins starters was bound to collapse in value, I would put my money on either Cantu or Uggla. Both players are around 29 or 30 years of age and already liabilities on defense. Cantu is a first baseman stuck playing third base, salvaging his poor defense by at least being a little above average at the plate. If his power returns to 2008 form, we have a league average player on our hands. If not, 1.6 WAR is the best you can expect, and 1 WAR is the worst.
The fear with Uggla is on defense. He has stubbornly refused to move off of second, and his defense at the position is below average at best, well below average projected, and atrocious at worst. If he posts another campaign like last year at second, his bat needs to go into overtime to add to his value. Luckily, he has a much better chance of that happening than Cantu, but you never know. I always hear that players with “old-player skills” like Uggla age a lot worse.