The 2020 MLB season is certainly going to be completely different from any other is the league’s history. However, the Miami Marlins are on the same path as they were when 162 games were scheduled for 2020. The new campaign is going to be another season that will continue their rebuild and set up another offseason of hard work.
The Marlins already had one of the nastiest (and most underrated) starting rotations in the National League. They added a top closer in Brandon Kintzler and a couple of very important bats to that core. Namely, Jonathan Villar, Corey Dickerson, and Jesus Aguilar. Now, the vibe around the club is as positive as it’s been since stars such as Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton departed.
The direction is the same, but the goals are changing. On the one hand, that’s due to the developing rebuild and the improving roster. On the other hand, a 60-game campaign offers an opportunity to become the surprising contender in the stacked NL East.
Are the Marlins ready for that? Will the offseason signings prove as fruitful as they seemed in January? Most importantly, where does Miami stand in the hierarchy of Major League Baseball? Find that and more out in the following season preview for the 2020 Miami Marlins.
The Marlins’ front office brought imminent improvement to last year’s 57-105 squad by addressing all areas of need. Miami started the offseason on a high note, trading for Orioles infielder Jonathan Villar. The former Brewer was waived in December and he only cost the Marlins a minor league pitcher (Easton Lucas). Miami followed that up by signing other high-profile names like Corey Dickerson and Jesus Aguilar.
None of those three names have been even close to perfect at the plate in recent memory. Villar rebounded from two abysmal seasons in 2020, but he’s still subpar reaching base and hitting for power. Dickerson is an over-.300 hitter since 2018 but only played 78 games last season. Aguilar, meanwhile, has had a less-than-spectacular career except for a fascinating 2018 campaign that saw him hit 35 homeruns. They aren’t immune to failing to live up to the expectations. However, each one can be an impactful batter that adds much to a shallow lineup.
But the work of the Marlins’ front office wasn’t finished yet. The team hit a homerun when it was able to sign former Cubs reliever Brandon Kintzler to a one-year, $3.25-million deal. A bullpen that still has more questions than answers found a perfect closer that could be a centerpiece if he re-signs after 2020.
Fellow Overtime Heroics writer, Ken Allison, knows Kintzler’s agent. The two spoke about Kintzler’s departure from the Cubs, and it all boiled down to money.
Cubs’ owner Tom Ricketts slammed his checkbook shut this winter, only offering the Cubs’ 2019 bullpen star an even million for one-year. Negotiations were civil, but as Theo Epstein relayed, Ricketts wouldn’t give him anymore to spend on Kintzler, who’d posted a 2.68 ERA in 62 appearances for Chicago in 2018. The ante went to $1.5M, and just about the time Kintzler thought about accepting, Miami came in with an offer better than double the amount.
Overall, the offseason was beyond tremendous for the Marlins. It probably won’t help them compete in 2020, even during a shortened campaign. Nevertheless, it speaks volumes about how the rebuild seems to be working.
Villar, Dickerson, and Aguilar join Miguel Rojas and Brian Anderson as the threats in the current Marlins’ lineup. The first thing that jumps to mind is the lack of power – 146 homers were dead last in MLB. Dickerson and Villar don’t have that much upside in that department. Miguel Rojas had a nice breakout year as a contact-first hitter, batting .284. That puts consistency as the strength of Miami’s lineup, with Dickerson also batting over .300 in the last two years.
In order to add power and consistently drive runners in, the team should rely on Brian Anderson to improve again. The 27-year-old third baseman recorded his first twenty-homer campaign in 2019, accompanied by a career-high OPS, and shows no signs of slowing down. Furthermore, Jesus Aguilar could also be due to hit his prime and post another great season like he did in 2018.
The starting rotation is coming off a great year, during which it posted a 4.59 ERA, including the seventh-best 3.92 ERA before the All-Star break. The top of that group remains the same, and as dominant as always. Sandy Alcantara, recently named Opening Day starter, was the best the team had to offer on the mound, boasting a 3.88 ERA and 3.7 walks per nine innings. Smith is bound for a breakout season, while Lopez could also be a pleasant surprise.
With Jordan Yamamoto sent to an alternate camp, Hernandez and Urena have grabbed the last two spots. Both provide a solid bottom part that could contribute well. In short, last year’s good could be even better in 2020.
Apart from a star-studded closer job, the bullpen isn’t nearly on the same level as the starting rotation. Ryne Stanek and Yimi Garcia are both projected by RotoChamp to have a nice season. Drew Steckenrider will be looking to improve upon a weak 2019 after a great first two years in MLB. Other names like Brad Boxberger, Robbert Dugger, and Adam Conley, will make the rest of the group a liability.
The Marlins could often be confident in Kintzler and two or three other names. However, it’s certainly a good thing that the starters pitch a lot of innings and it doesn’t always come down to the bullpen blowing games. Miami’s rotation pitched the eighth-most innings (888.0) and that trend better carry onto 2020.
After the MLB reworked schedules, the Marlins were left with by far the toughest slate in the league. The team will face opponents with a losing record in just eight of sixty games in 2020. That means four games each against the Orioles and the Blue Jays.
The rest includes forty games against NL East rivals – a division, where all four opponents could be postseason contenders in 2020. Interleague puts two more playoff teams on Miami’s path with the Yankees and Rays, alongside a rebuilding Red Sox team.
The Marlins could prove to be tricky opposition for NL East and AL East alike. But the expectations surely now consist of performance review for the team’s anticipated performers rather than on a targeted number of wins.
Similarly, the Marlins will be lucky not to suffer an embarrassing record in 2020. Form, especially bad form, is very crucial and defying in a sixty-game campaign. Not only that, but the competition for the division crown could make the stakes higher for NL East rivals. Therefore, it will be tougher for the Marlins with the current roster as the season progresses. Right now, last place in NL East looks reserved for them.
Prediction – 20-40
As already noted, this season’s targets include getting a satisfying turnout by the rotation and the lineup’s stars and setting up another offseason of upgrades in 2021. Fortunately, the strength of schedule is a bigger factor for that than any on-field issue, pointing out that the rebuild is indeed working.
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