While the season is over and the off-season has begun, it is still fun to look forward to next season. In all likelihood, next years team will be similar with some added free agents. We as fan’s hope our added players will be top rated ball players that can help turn around this franchise. Of course the team will rely on the superstars, but what about some of the guys going unnoticed throughout this off-season? Today we will take a look at 3 wildcard’s who will play a huge role for the fish next year.
Emilio Bonifacio– Known as Boni, the super utility player went from an up and down career to finally becoming consistent last season. Capable of playing 7 different positions, Bonifacio brings a rare talent that is hard to find in today’s game. Emilio last year: lead off, played every OF position, played every IF position (minus 1B), pinch ran in key situations, lead the team in BA hitting .296, and stole 40 bases. Certainly he played a key role for the fish and this needs to remain the same going into the 2012 season. While free-agency COULD take his starting role, Boni will still be an important key to the Miami Marlins success. Minus the pitcher and catcher, Emilio will always be available to aid a tired or struggling Marlin. Imagine if Bonifacio could play this role while hitting .290 and stealing bases! This may seem like I am biased, but Boni has the potential to be a top 5 bench player in Major League Baseball. Capable of laying down a perfect bunt, beating out a routine ground ball, smacking a line drive in the gap, or stealing a clutch base, Emilio is the type of player every team needs. The Marlins are lucky to have a player with his skills and need to take advantage of this in order to be successful 2011 season.
Steve Cishek– If I asked a group of Marlin fans, I am confident not too many would be able to tell me who Steve Cishek is. The 25 year old reliever spent the majority of the season in the majors and made a great first impression. Similar to most rookie relievers, Cishek began pitching in games with little significance but made his way up the chart. Thanks to injuries and pitching trouble, Steve found himself pitching in some pretty key situations. Featuring a live fastball that tops out at 94mph and a raw slider, Cishek has the tools to be a solid reliever. Even without experience, Cishek responded on call with a great rookie year pitching 54.2 innings with a 2.63 ERA. It was very important that Steve had a great rookie year. His confidence will improve and he now has the feel for the game that is important in any young player. The organization is now starting to take notice of this kid’s talent, and there are some who believe he can grow into a good closer. In the meantime, it is very important that Cishek matures and continues to grow into a productive pitcher. With an already solid bullpen, Steve needs to stay on track and keep a winning mindset in-order to last a full big league season. If done, and I expect him to keep it up, Cishek could turn into a “go-to” guy out of the pen.
Omar Infante– Acquired in the Dan Uggla trade, many fish fans were very upset with the way the trade played out in the first couple months. While Uggla struggled with a horid average, Infante had his share of woes. Infante started out cold, slow, and looked flat terrible at some points in the season. Thankfully he gradually improved throughout the season, and eventually got on the track the organization expected him to be on. Offensively, we all know that Infante is capable of hitting for average. In 2010, Omar hit .321 and actually was selected in the All Star Game. While 2010’s numbers did not necessarily carry over to Miami, Infante was responsible for getting used to a new environment while adapting to starting everyday. Once the mental aspect was out of the way he started to play ball as we expected him too. He caught fire towards the end of the year and was ironically a big reason the Cardinals won the World Series. Down 1 to the Braves with 2 outs in the 9th inning, Infante hit a walk-off homerun to help the Cardinals jump a game on the Braves. Infante possesses a short but sweet swing with a great defensive glove. With a new contract in hand, Omar can now settle in and play the baseball he is capable of. If he starts the way he finished, Infante will be a HUGE player for the fish this coming season. Provided he can provide an offensive spark similar to the second half last season, this Marlins will be in good shape.
All 25 players on the active roster play a big role in contributing to the team. Everyone has a role they play in order to establish a winning franchise. These 3 players are wildcard’s, and with their extra help, the Miami Marlins have growing potential. (Again, as a new writer on MarlinManiac, I encourage everyone to follow me on twitter. “@WillStanifer” I love to talk baseball 24/7 and will always be open to questions/comments.