The 2016 season was a turbulent one for the Marlins, to say the least. From another injury to Giancarlo Stanton to the tragic loss of Jose Fernandez, the team faced much adversity in the wake of spring expectations to reach the playoffs.
While the offseason has produced many questions about the direction of the franchise and the rotation, the fans will at least be excited to see consistent play from the returning core lineup. Marquee names such as Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna roam the outfield, joining the young and talented infield of Justin Bour, Adeiny Hechavarria, JT Realmuto, and Dee Gordon. Savvy veteran and fan favorite Martin Prado returns as the third baseman in 2017. Let’s get to the lineup projection, shall we?
1. Dee Gordon, 2B – Though he owns one of the more memorable moments in baseball history after homering to honor his fallen teammate Jose Fernandez and the circling the bases with tears in his eyes, Dee had a very up and down 2016. After serving an 80 game suspension for PED use, Gordon will be looking to rebound to his All-Star form of 2015, where he won the batting title after coming over from Los Angeles in the Andrew Heaney trade. Gordon’s OPS fell from 776 to 641 last season, and his career OPS is 689. Marlins fans should expect more of the range in between, and if Dee can stay on the field the whole year he could wind up batting 270-280 and capturing the stolen base crown.
2. Martin Prado, 3B – Smiling star, savvy veteran. What’s not to like about Martin Prado? A proven model of consistency and team leader, he will be counted on more than ever to lead the young guys and bring them together after the tragedy of last season. A high contact hitter who doesn’t strike out much, he is perfect for the two hole because of his ability to keep the lineup flowing by drawing a walk, getting a base hit, or moving the runners with a well timed ground ball or sac fly. He does the little things right, and you can’t say enough about that in today’s game.
3. Christian Yelich, CF – Yelich finally started to break out with more power in 2016, with his totals of 21 homers and 98 RBIs’ far surpassing his previous highs of 9 homers and 54 batted in. He is also a very high contact hitter with a keen eye for the strike zone, as shown by his 72 walks to 138 strikeouts. With his plate production trending upwards at this rate and his gold glove in Center field, Marlins fans should look for Yelich to be a key contributor for years to come.[Kenny2]
4. Giancarlo Stanton, RF – After another injury riddled 2016, the best power hitter in baseball needs to finally stay on the field and produce for the Marlins in 2017. If healthy, Stanton is capable of a 40 homer, 100 RBI season and an MVP chase while playing solid defense in right. This is the year to prove the Marlins signed a man they can count on to the largest extension in North American history.
5. Justin Bour, 1B – The other power hitter to miss significant time last year, Bour will man first base and try to show the flashes of production from 2016 were no fluke. In just 90 games, Bour hit 264 with 15 homers and 51 batted in. If he can stay healthy for a full year, look for a 25 homer, 80 RBI breakout from the former Rule 5 draft pick.
6.Marcell Ozuna, LF – Set to play left field this year is 2016 All-Star Marcell Ozuna. He made his first Midsummer Classic after a bounce back year in which he hit 266 with 23 homers and 76 RBIs, and although he can be a bit streaky, adds even more punch to one of the best 4-5-6 attacks in the National League. Compile that with his cannon arm and solid defense, and you can bet he’ll be a return selection to Marlins park in 2017.
7. JT Realmuto, C – The former catcher of the future has turned into one the better young catchers in the game. Realmuto flashed above average power and speed while hitting for a high average of .303, all while improving his defense behind the plate and handling a Marlins pitching rotation with an almost veteran presence. Look for Realmuto to break out in 2017.
8. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS – While known for more of his glove than bat, “Hech”, as he is affectionately called by the Miami faithful can still do the little things with the bat. He’s not going to hit 300 with 20 homers, but he’ll still give you a solid average with occasional pop while being able to bunt runners over and steal a few bases. He’s that solid glove piece every good lineup needs, and a big reason the Marlins had one of the best overall defenses of 2016.
There’s no doubt that with these players in the lineup, the Fish can swim into Opening Day with hope to overcome the last few months of grieving and fight harder than ever as a unit in 2017.