Even the flounder will be keeping an eye on the Fish.
After a disappointing and grieving finish to 2016, the Miami Marlins spent the offseason as one of the more active teams in free agency. Despite having one of the more talented lineups in the National League, the rotation was in complete shambles after the loss of their ace and franchise face, Jose Fernandez.
Miami spent the offseason looking for players to help pick up that production(you can’t really replace a top three pitcher in the game, but you can only try to fill needs). Despite these additions, Miami still dives into Spring Training with more questions than answers.
Here are five storylines to watch over the course of the next month.
1 – What should we expect from the rotation?
by signing Edinson Volquez, Jeff Locke, and trading for Dan Straily, the Marlins built a lot of the one thing they didn’t have in 2016: depth. With seven players vying for 5 rotation spots, the competition should bring out the best in everyone in spring training. It will be interesting to see if Justin Nicolino develops further as well as Jose Urena. If they do, they could surprise as impact players on a wild card team.
2 – Will the “super bullpen” live up to its name?
The Marlins know that they don’t have the rotation of the Nationals, Cubs or Indians so they set out to form a so-called “super bullpen” with the additions of Junichi Tazawa and Brad Ziegler. Adding them to a bullpen featuring Kyle Barraclough, AJ Ramos, David Phelps and Brian Ellington could mean a nasty punch in the late innings in 2017, which would help the team achieve the goal of easing the load of the starting rotation. Look for young players like Nicolino, Urena, and top 30 prospect Nick Wittgren to compete for spots and pitch meaningful innings this year.
3 – Does Wei-Yei Chen bounce back?
After signing the largest contract ever handed to a free agent pitcher in Miami, Chen had a tumultuous first year for the Fish, to say the least. He dealt with arm troubles for the first time in his career and didn’t make an easy transition to the National League. While he won’t overpower batters, Chen is valuable because at his best he can eat innings and keep hitters off balance. Keep an eye on his control, command, and health this spring.
4 – Can the sluggers stay healthy?
Here we go. My rant of the day. Giancarlo Stanton and his 325 million dollar extension need to stay on the field and produce at the level everyone knows he can. That means keeping himself healthy, which he has been completely unable to do for most of his career. Justin Bour was on pace for 25-30 homers and 80 RBIs at first before going down with an injury in early June. The Marlins need their production in the lineup to be consistent for this team to take the next step, and should Stanton continue to regress in plate discipline and health, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear the Marlins are taking calls on him come July.
5 – Who is the real Dee Gordon?
Fun and caring teammate with tears in his eyes as a leadoff homer honors his fallen friend? Pies in the face and a batting title? Or maybe a liar, a cheater, a man who knew full well he had done wrong and was notified by the league he tested positive for PED’s before he signed his extension, yet never told the Marlins front office as he put pen to paper? 2017 is the year for Dee Gordon to prove he’s not a fluke, and that extension wasn’t a mistake. It’s his year to step up or look to ship out.[Kenny2]
Spring training holds hopes and fears of every team in their hearts. How they face them and grow as a unit can decide their season and the teams’ future. Despite a dark and nightmarish cloud fogging up their 2016, this spring could be their chance to build upon their performance and each other to ultimately let the sun shine much brighter upon them this year and the years to come.