In a key supporting role is third baseman Jorge Cantu. He can also jump across the diamond and play first, and he handles both positions equally well. His bat is consistent, if unspectacular, and like the two stars, he has both pop and consistency in getting on base. In addition to Cantu, left fielder Chris Coghlan made a big splash on the scene last year with a .390 OPB and .460 slugging percentage in his first season as a starter. The Marlins get additional contributions from rightfielder Cody Ross, who has some nice pop in his bat. This lineup is capable of scoring runs, particularly against the often less-than-fearsome attacks we see in the National League.
One reason the Marlins have a tendency to outperform expectations and their payroll is that they have a very deep middle relief and setup corps, something that’s usually overlooked in preseason evaluations and can be acquired cheaply. But Florida has no fewer than five competent middle man, and four of them (Dan Meyer, Reynel Pinto, Mike MacDougal and Brian Sanchez) would be capable of being All-Stars if MLB ever decided to honor this now vitally important role on a team. The closer’s spot is held by Leo Nunez and is a little shakier, but a pen this deep should see someone step up who is capable of finishing games.
With a pretty good offense and an excellent bullpen, the Marlins will be one of baseball’s best teams on the days Josh Johnson (15-5, 209 IP, 3.23 ERA) takes the mound. It’s what happens the other four days that will determine the course of the season. Anibal Sanchez pitched well in limited opportunities last year. Sanchez was acquired along with Ramirez in a deal that sent Josh Beckett to Boston a few years ago, a classic trade that helped both teams. The emergence of Sanchez would tip the balance of that trade in Florida’s favor. The Marlins have another former prize prospect of another team in Andrew Miller, who came over from Detroit when Dontrelle Willis was shipped out. Miller’s been a disappointment in the bigs and that needs to change if his team is going to win.
Up Next: Seattle Mariners tomorrow
Final NL East PIcks & Preview: March 29