Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Team Postmortem: Miami Marlins

Record: 62-100, -133 Run Differential

Summary: Oh boy. This team. It will come as no surprise that Miami was horrible again after unloading half their team to the Toronto Blue Jays, who were in Go For It Now mode (more on that when we get to them). Miami lost 100 games, after all. Miami certainly has more potential on the field than the Astros, but as we'll get to, there is far less reason for long term hope in the Marlins' case. First, let's look at the team on the field.

We'll start with the offense. This gets pretty ugly, folks. The Marlins posted the worst offensive numbers in baseball. Their conventional triple slash line as a team was .280/.293/.335, ranking dead last in each category in the majors. Their ISO of .104, wRC+ of 72, .279 wOBA, 95 home runs and 513 runs also all are dead last. Cumulatively, you are looking at a -.07 fWAR as a team. Holy shit. Let's look at the good: #2 prospect, outfielder Christian Yelich made his professional debut late in the season, getting into 62 games, and he acquitted himself well. He showed excellent on-base skills for a 21-year-old rookie who started the year in AA, posting an 11.4% walk rate and solid contact skills leading to a 288 BAA and 370 OBP. Unfortunately, he also struck out too often at 24.2% and showed absolutely no power with a mere .108 ISO. Still it was enough to net him a 116 wRC+. This is actually fine if you consider his true position as centerfield--he played centerfield in the minors, but he has been playing left in the majors--and take into account his youth.  Then there is, of course, Giancarlo Stanton. Stanton is still the best position player in Miami and one of the best young players in baseball.  Stanton, unfortunately, spent much of the year battling injuries that limited him to only 116 games and sapped much of his power dropping him to a 'mere' .231 ISO compared to his incredible .318 last season (if you perfer SLG it's .480 as opposed to 608).  He did make up for it a bit by walking more often at 14.7% of PAs. Overall, he still hit for a wRC+ of 135, which  may be a disappointment for his lofty standards (156 last season), but is still excellent. Odds are, when he's at full health next season, he'll return to being the monster he truly is.

That's pretty much it for the good news. The rest of it is too many ABs given to the likes of Juan Pierre (ha ha ha ha), Greg Dobbs (he's still in baseball?), and Placido Polanco (old man joke). But the worst? Young 'rookie' Adeiny Hechavarria. The shortstop has a strong defensive reputation, but, my oh my, that bat and, more specifically, that plate discipline. Adeiny got into 148 games for the Marlins despite "hitting" 227/267/298. (Those are not typos. I double checked.) His BB% was a horrifying 5.2% to go along with a 16.6% K rate. (This is worse than the Worst Case Scenario for Jose Iglesias.) Adeiny's -1.9 fWAR sits dead last among all position players in baseball. Yuck.

Now to the pitching. Here we have at least something truly positive to talk about. The 2013 Miami Marlins actually had a pretty good pitching staff. As a unit they produced a 7.26 K/9 (24th in MLB), 3.24 BB/9 (7th), 45.3% GB% (10th), 3.69 FIP (7th), 3.96 xFIP (20th), and 14.1 fWAR (17th). All in all, not bad. A lot of that is due, of course, to the pure awesome that is Jose Fernandez. The story of Jose Fernandez is probably known to most of you, but I'll summarize quickly. In 2012, he spent the season in the minors splitting time between A and A+ ball. Then, due to some late 2013 Spring Training injuries, the Marlins announced that he would open the season in the starting rotation. Of the Major League team. Skipping  AA and AAA entirely. People generally assumed that that was insane. Turned out, the only thing insane was how well Fernandez performed. He started 27 games for Miami, posting a 9.75 K/9 along with a 3.02 BB/9. On top of that he had a 45.1% GB%, a HR/9 of 0.52 and a FIP of 2.73 (xFIP 3.08), culminating in 4.2 fWAR. Look at those numbers. Realize that he is 21 years old and skipped two levels. Be amazed. Again, he is only 21 years old, a rookie who skipped two levels, and was one of the 20 or so best starting pitchers in baseball in 2013. The rest of the staff included decent performances by Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez, as well as a career year for Ricky Nolasco (7.21 K/9 2.00 BB/9 3.59 FIP) before he was traded.

Overall, if you just looked at the team on the field and the prospects in the minors, you could argue that the Marlins are in a better position to build towards contention than the Houston Astros. Unfortunately, the Marlins have Jeff Loria as an owner. Loria is, without a doubt, the worst owner in Major League Baseball. He is the man who destroyed baseball in Montreal. He has a long and storied history in Miami of blowing up successful teams and sending the Marlins right back to the cellar. There's no need to recap the criminal nature of the previous off-season Fire Sale Trade to the Blue Jays, right after building an expensive, publically funded stadium. The saddest part of it? It actually makes baseball sense to have made that trade. If it was another owner, who had earned benefit of the doubt, that trade could be looked at in much the same way as the universally lauded Punto Trade pulled off by the Red Sox.

Unfortunately, Loria has long since burned through any and all good will and benefit of the doubt. One could think that he was doing what the Astros were doing, building a young core and THEN planning to spend money on surrounding that core with quality talent. But Loria has never spent money on the team--except briefly in order to show that he was serious in order to get the stadium funded, but then he traded all those players away. To make matters worse, Loria continued to embarrass the organization as the team spiraled to 100 losses, including getting into fights with season ticket holders after he moved signage in the park so it blocked their view of groundballs and vetoing the promotion of Chris Valaika after the prospect's assault accusation against hitting coach, Tino Martinez (a friend of Loria) forced the him to resign. I could go on and on about how bad Loria is as an owner, how meddlesome he is, and how many coaches and managers have butted heads with him. But I won't. The point is, the Marlins will never see sustained success as long as Jeffery Loria is allowed to own the team.

Team MVP:  Jose Fernandez, 4.2 fWAR.

Team LVP:  Adeiny Hechevarria, -1.9 fWAR (but really it's Loria)

Down on the Farm: Well, the graduations of top prospects Jose Fernandez and Christian Yelich have thinned the depth a little bit, but there's still a number of solid prospects here--and likely to be more, as the Marlins can look forward to some high draft picks in their future. I'll take a look at a few of them.

Andrew Heany is a 22-year-old hard-throwing lefty. His fastball sits at 91-94, but can touch up to 96-97, with a solid slider and a changeup that projects to be above-average. His most promising skill is his excellent control, which is paired with solid strikeout and groundball potential. After starting the year on the DL with a lat strain, he began his season in A+, utterly dominating the level with a 9.63 K/9 and a BB/9 of 2.48 and a 0.88 ERA in 12 starts. He received a much deserved promotion to AA, where in 6 starts he did see his K numbers dip a bit, down to 6.15 K/9.  However, he continued to show excellent control, keeping his BB/9 to 2.41 despite the more advanced opposition. The Marlins are likely to give him a long look during Spring Training; I suspect that he'll start the season in AA/AAA, but he should see the Majors before long.

Acquired from the Blue Jays as part of the Mega Trade, Jake Marisnick is a 22-year-old centerfielder. He projects as an above-average defender with a strong arm, and plus speed. After struggling in his first go against advanced pitching in AA in 2012 to the tune of a 79 wRC+, he went off in 2013. In 67 games with the Marlins AA club, he hit 294/358/504 with a wRC+ of 150. It's worth noting that the Blue Jays had tinkered with his swing mechanics, and some of his 2012 struggles may have been adjusting to the new swing. He still swings and misses too often (22.8% K-rate in AA in 2013), which will be something to work on. In keeping with the Marlins new "AAA? Whats that?" policy, he earned himself a promotion to the Majors and struggled in 40 games, posting a wRC+ of 29 in limited action. He still has some developing to do, but will likely do that developing in the Majors in 2014.

If APOD was GM: I'd quit.

What? I can't pull that card so early in the series? Well, screw you. Fine.

Well, I guess I'd shop Giancarlo Stanton. There's certainly no hurry to do so and his injuries this season may hurt his value a tiny bit (although most GMs won't be affected by it), but the sooner you pull the trigger the more years of cheap control he has and thus the more teams will move to get him. I definitely wouldn't move the face of the franchise for anything less than a king's ransom, however. Unfortunately, what I'd prefer to do is to try to lock him up to a long term Evan-Longoria-style deal (but more expensive, obviously), but neither Loria (because he's Loria) nor Stanton (he made his opinion of the Marlins clear after the Fire Sale) would allow such a contract.

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