The first Grapefruit League game of the 2014 Spring Training season for the Marlins also signifies the start of one of the most futile, but beloved exercises of the baseball year…projections! Just this week, Fangraphs.com published their team WAR projections for 2014. They then compared these projections with the 2013 actual team WAR (wins above replacement) totals to see where to expect improvements or declines in win totals.
The good news is that the Miami Marlins were projected to be the fourth most improved team with +8 WAR versus 2013 totals. Unfortunately, an additional 8 wins would give the Fish just a 70 – 92 record for the 2014 season which is probably still last place in the Natoinal League East. I was hoping for something a little better than that for the Marlins this season, so let’s dig a little deeper to see if we can find a few more wins somehow.
Luckily, the folks at Fangraphs were nice enough to break down their WAR projections by position which I then compared to 2013 totals. Here are the hitters:
WAR By Position
The biggest improvement worth 3.6 WAR is expected at catcher where the Marlins replaced a black hole with the free agent signing of Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Salty had a career year with the Red Sox in 2013 that produced 3.6 WAR, so we can probably expect some regression this year. He averaged 1.8 WAR in the 2011 and 2012 seasons meaning this is likely a pretty safe projection. If he can keep any of the magic from last season it could be a nice boost. This only further highlights the importance of signing Salty this offseason.
The Marlins worst position in 2013 according to WAR, though, was shortstop where mostly Adeiny Hechavarria’s poor offense and defense produced an awful -2.6 WAR. The 2014 projection is calling for a 2.9 WAR improvement, the second largest on the team. I assume this will have to come from highly improved defense by Hechavarria because I just don’t see his bat contributing much again this season. The projection seems quite aggressive and feels like a long shot. Hech and infield coach Perry Hill will need to get their positioning straightened out to make it happen, but this looks like the major position of concern.
In leftfield, Christian Yelich contributed 1.4 WAR in 2013 in just 62 big league games. If he can replicate that pace for a full season in 2014 he will blow past the 1.8 projected figure. Yelich’s .288/.370/.396 slash line was not far off from his minor league numbers, so I don’t think it’s a stretch to think he can do it again. This is a position that could bring a couple of extra wins over the projection.
Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna combined in rightfield to produce the Marlins best WAR by position in 2013. Stanton worked through an injury plagued season to contribute 2.3 WAR in 2013 which was a steep drop from the 5.7 WAR he contributed in 2012. Let’s hope Stanton is able to stay healthy for the full season, in which case another 5+ WAR season is definitely attainable.
Moving over to the pitching now, which was by far the stronger side of the Marlins club in 2013, here are the WAR totals:
WAR By Pitchers
I’ll start with the bullpen which produced 4.8 WAR, good enough for 10th best in all of baseball in 2013. The top contributor was closer Steve Cishek who put up a 1.4 WAR season on his own in 2013. Though they lost a few members of the pen this offseason, the top 4 contributors are all still on the team. If Cishek can even come close to his total from last season, then the bullpen will exceed the projected total of 1.4 WAR and provide a win or two on its own.
The starters produced 9.3 WAR in 2013 led, of course, by Jose Fernandez who contributed 4.2 of the total . The second and third WAR contributors remaining on the staff are Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi who added 1.9 and 1.5 WAR, respectively. Both starters battled through injuries and consequently only made 17 and 18 starts on the season. If they can stay healthy, I would think one more win between the two is not too much to ask.
As I think the projections show, the Marlins have an opportunity to improve over last season and by more than just 8 wins in my opinion. I’ll give them 74-76 wins if they can stay mostly healthy, still not a contending team, but a much more competitive one than in 2013.
What do you think the Marlins win total will be in 2014? Can they win enough to move past the New York Mets into 4th place in the NL East?