This is the third installment of our NL East preview series. You can read about the Mets here and the Phillies here.
The Miami Marlins are coming off a disappointing year, losing 93 games in what was supposed to be their breakout year. Their rotation was one of the best last seasons, ranking eighth in ERA. Everything else was rough, with the bullpen’s ERA ranking 22nd and the offense being 28th in runs.
The Marlins swung a flurry of trades to address the bullpen, acquiring A.J. Puk, JT Chargois, and Matt Barnes.
Left-hander Puk is a former top-100 prospect who has battled injuries ever since he was drafted but has had strong strikeout numbers in his 91 career innings. Last season in 66.1 innings, he had a 10.31 K/9 and a 3.12 ERA.
Chargois has bounced around the league some, but over the last two seasons, he has thrown 76 innings with a 2.49 ERA. He will not close out games, but Chargois is a solid reliever who provides depth to a bullpen that needs it.
Barnes was the closer for the Red Sox heading into the season this time last year, but injury, a dip in strikeout rate, and an uptick in walk rate made Boston trade him in hopes of getting any return. The Marlins hope he can recapture his 2021 form where he was an All-Star.
Miami’s bullpen will go from being one of the worst in the league to merely average, which is a monumental step forward if this team truly has October aspirations.
The biggest part of the Marlins’ disappointment was almost every one of their position player acquisitions last offseason backfired. Jorge Soler, Avisaíl García, and Jacob Stallings combined for a -0.7 fWAR last season. Of the three, only Soler has a slugging percentage above .320. Thankfully, Soler and García underperformed their batted ball statistics according to Statcast’s xwOBA (expected weighted on-base average).
Even with these moves not working out last year, the Marlins continued to add to the lineup this offseason. They signed Jean Segura in free agency and traded for Luis Arraez from the Minnesota Twins in exchange for starting pitcher Pablo López. Both are strong bat-to-ball hitters, and assuming Soler and García bounce back, the Marlins have created a dynamic top-of-the-order.
The major question mark for this team is Jazz Chisholm Jr. Last season, he hit .254/.325/.535 with 12 stolen bases, albeit in the small sample size of 60 games. In addition to trying to repeat last season, Chisholm has to move from second base to center field. He will be an integral part of that lineup if he can remain healthy.
An additional player to watch is outfielder Bryan De La Cruz. Although his numbers last season resemble that more of an average hitter, his batted ball data suggest he could be much better than that. Part of that is his astronomical second health, where he hit an astronomical .310/.342/.535. Now, this is just 153 plate appearances, and De La Cruz lacks prospect pedigree, so it is tough to know which player he truly is. I guess he is somewhere between his .610 OPS first half and his second.
This all goes without mentioning their rotation once. As previously mentioned, they lost López but added veteran Johnny Cueto to fill his place. If any of their rotation happens to go down with an injury, top-15 prospect Eury Pérez is waiting in the wings.
The rotation is headlined by reigning Cy Young winners Sandy Alcantara and Edward Cabrera. They are followed by lefties Trevor Rogers and Jesús Luzardo. This rotation was top 10 last season, but I’d bet it will be even better this year.
The Marlins continue its hunt back into the postseason, but with the Braves, Mets, and Phillies, all ahead of them, it is hard to see how the team makes it there. Regardless, the team will try its best to make it there.