As arguably the most anticipated opening night in Marlins history approaches with the official opening of Marlins Park tonight it is time to make some predictions.
When considering the new playoff format, the positive impacts of the new ballpark in addition to the overall improvements made within the National League I expect the Miami Marlins to win 88 games, finish second in the NL East and earn the second wild card berth.
While there is no disputing the talent on this team, it remains that several of the team’s key contributors including Jose Reyes and Josh Johnson are injury prone. This in combination with the inconsistencies expected from Ricky Nolasco and Carlos Zambrano not pitching to their talent level both have the ability to limit the teams win total. As good as both pitchers can be, their recent history does not suggest a complete body of work relative to the numbers they are capable of producing. While both hitters should develop tremendously, growing pains should be expected across the way from young and emerging stars Logan Morrison and Giancarlo Stanton. However, if the team produces to its potential and is relatively consistent there is no debating how dangerous it really is. As such, it seems Miami can match up with any opponent and if not limited by injuries or inconsistent play the Marlins are in position to make some noise come October.
X-Factor: Josh Johnson. He must remain healthy to anchor the staff and to rest the bullpen. Anytime he is on the mound, Miami has a tremendous opportunity to win a game. As such, he must remain healthy and effective to ensure overall team success.
Player to Watch: Giancarlo Stanton: Stanton if healthy is capable of hitting over forty home runs and winning the National League Most Valuable Player Award. With an honorable mention to Hanley Ramirez, both are essential in scoring Jose Reyes and Emilio Bonifacio. This is one of the main ingredients for the success of this Marlins team. Expect a relatively high win total if this formula works to perfection.
Must Step Up: Ricky Nolasco: In order to stabilize the starting rotation, Nolasco must perform consistently at the same level as he did in 2008 with an earned run average of 3.52, whip of 1.10 and 186 strikeouts. His skill-set implies that he can be a legitimate ace, but since 2008 he has not been able to return to form. An effective Nolasco transforms the rotation from good to excellent and if effective, Ricky is a major part of a run deep into the postseason.
Can Jose Reyes stay healthy for an entire season?
Throughout the past 3 years, Jose Reyes has averaged appearances in only 98 games per season. Prior to this he consistently played in over 150 games each year for the Mets. As the lead-off hitter he is expected to reach base so that Hanley Ramirez and Giancarlo Stanton can drive him in. He clearly is a key source of energy for this Marlin team. The new ballpark and its climate controlled conditions should be able to keep his legs fresh and injury free so he can run wild this year.