Hey, It’s Opening Day. By now you might have already heard that from someone in passing, but if not, that’s why we’re here at Marlin Maniac. To give you the breaking scoop and keep you in the know.
The Miami Marlins and Atlanta Braves are just about set to kick off their respective 2015 seasons today at Marlins Park. For the past five-plus months, since the San Francisco Giants clinched their third World Series crown in five years, the baseball world has set its sights on the ’15 season. Predictions, analysis and projections engulfed the baseball blogosphere during the winter — every winter — all leading up to today’s official ribbon-cutting of the new season.
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The Marlins had an intriguing offseason, and for the first time in years fans have good reason to think this could be their year. Or, at least, their return to the postseason for the first time in 12 years.
Last year, as Opening Day loomed, Marlin Maniac Senior Editor Ehsan Kassim offered his bold predictions for the 2014 season. He swung and missed on most of them; maybe that’s because they were, indeed, bold predictions. But I still love him, and so should you.
Today, as you trek to find your new seat at Marlins Park, or enjoy the final minutes of the Marlins preview show on Fox Sports Florida, or piddle around at your office cubicle in advance of first pitch, it’s time for Marlin Maniac’s bold predictions, 2015 edition. Kassim and myself serve up our boldest of forecasts for what should be an exciting Marlins 2015 season:
Ehsan Kassim, Senior Editor
1. Jarrod Saltalamacchia bounces back
Salalamacchia had a rough 2014 season for the Marlins, posting a .220/.320/.362 slash line with just 11 home runs and 20 doubles. I see Salty hitting 16 home runs and banging out 30 doubles this upcoming season. He’ll keep his walk rate in double figures like he did last season and hopefully, with a full season of work with the pitching staff under his belt, be a better player behind the plate.
Salty is a better player than he showed in his first season in Miami. He’ll return to the glory that helped the Red Sox win the 2012 World Series and hopefully help get the Marlins to the same plateau.
The talk is that Tom Koehler could be the odd man out of the Marlins rotation when Jose Fernandez returns, but what if it’s not?
Jarred Cosart had a great first month with the Marlins, posting a 1.64 ERA and a 2.74 FIP in 33 innings of work after they acquired him from the Astros. He struck out 13.2% of the hitters he faced but also walked a low 5.4%. It seemed like the Marlins had solved his issues and turned his career around.
However, in September and October, Cosart returned to his old ways of walking 11.5% of the hitters he faced. While he did up his strikeout rate, it was not enough to offset the high walk rate. His ERA and FIP in those months rose to 3.19 and 3.94. The Marlins of course misread the statistics and valued Cosart over Nathan Eovaldi for some odd reason.
If Cosart has similar issues with his control in the early months of the season, he could certainly pitch his way out of the rotation. Koehler and Dan Haren, while not completely superior options, have bigger track records of major league success and a fast start for either could propel them ahead of Cosart in the pecking order.
3. The Marlins will make a big move at the trade deadline
While the Marlins system is lowly ranked, they still do have some tradeable assets in prospects like Justin Nicolino, J.T. Realmuto, Jose Urena, and the highly projectable Tyler Kolek. When the team realizes they likely don’t have enough infield help, they could package some of those prospects and try to improve the club to try and stay in contention.
Chase Utley could be a fun fit in Miami, though that’s unlikely to happen for more than one reason.
GM Michael Hill has said in the past that owner Jeffrey Loria is willing to open his pocket to help the team win this season if they need any help. I am banking (really I am) on this happening.
Travis Honeycutt, Editor
1. The Marlins will have four players hit 25 home runs
Since 2011, the Marlins have really only had one prominent home run threat. That player is, of course, one Giancarlo Stanton. But hear me out.
The Marlins signed Michael Morse to a two-year deal this winter. He is slotted in the cleanup spot on Opening Day and is expected to man that spot, “protecting” Stanton this season and next. He hit just 16 longballs last year with the Giants, but many people forget that Morse once had a 31-homer season with the Washington Nationals, in 2011.
Marcell Ozuna regained the power stroke for which he was lauded while coming up in the minors. In his first full big league season Ozuna mashed 23 home runs. He also missed the final week-and-change of the 2014 season. I don;t think 25 homers is out of the question, and if Ozuna continues developing at the plate — he’s only 24-years-old — then, why not?
The fourth player is Christian Yelich. He only hit nine last year in 660 plate appearances, and has just 13 big league home runs to date. But in 2011 at Class-A Greensboro he did hit 15. I could easily see the Marlins having three players reach the 25 plateau, but this is a “bold prediction” piece, so I’m giving the nod, however minimal the odds are, to Miami’s star left fielder.
2. Dan Haren will be an All-Star
The 34-year-old Haren is just four years removed from a season in which he pitched to a 3.17 ERA in 34 starts and 238.1 innings with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. No, he isn’t the pitcher he once was. That tends to happen with age — not always, but more often than not.
Yes, this is the same Dan Haren who gave up three runs in two innings to a Double-A team this weekend. But that was Spring Training, as you may have noticed.
The fact is that Haren makes a lot of starts every year. He is the only pitcher to start 30 or more games each of the last 10 seasons. He owned a 4.02 ERA and 4.09 FIP last year, which was actually an improvement over his lone year with the Nationals in 2013 (4.67 ERA, 4.09 FIP).
In what will likely be his only season with the Marlins, I see Haren flying out of the gate and really helping this team while they wait patiently for Jose Fernandez to rejoin the rotation. The Marlins should have multiple All-Stars once again this year, and I think Haren can use the dimensions of Marlins Park to his advantage and keep his ERA in the low 3’s to clinch a reserve role on the NL All-Star team.
3. Jose Fernandez will throw a no-hitter
This would not have been considered a bold prediction before this year, but with Fernandez out until sometime this summer I think it qualifies.
There is no guarantee Fernandez will be the same pitcher when he returns to the mound. Plenty of star hurlers in the past have underwent Tommy John surgery and reemerged as shells of their former selves. That’s just the nature of the game, and of the surgery. Though with advances in technology and TJ becoming, unfortunately, more and more common, pitchers are returning more quickly and with fewer side effects, many coming back and never missing a beat.
I see Fernandez perhaps scuffling in his first two or three starts, just to get his form back and get back in the swing of things. And when he finally does, watch out. Fernandez will flirt with at least one no-hitter this year, and I’m calling it now: he will toss his first career no-no by season’s end.
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