The Marlins are doing what they can. Armed with one of the shallowest farm systems in baseball and still reeling from the loss of Jose Fernandez, they faced a fork in the road this offseason; continue to compete or start selling off pieces yet again.
They opted for the former, but didn’t have many opportunities to improve the everyday squad. There is no glaring hole in the everyday lineup, and the starting pitching field in free agency did little to inspire confidence, leaving them with no choice but to make changes on the margins, for the most part. That’s what they did, adding Edinson Volquez and a host of arms to what should be a very good bullpen, the Marlins are hoping to follow the Royals’ path to glory.
It probably won’t work, but with a position core that ranks among the best in baseball in their collective primes, they might not have had another option. The Marlins have hung around the fringes of the playoff race for the past few years, and always seem to be one or two breaks away from making a real run. Heading into 2017, they look to be in largely the same place as always.
Oh well. At least they have the All-Star game to look forward to.
Can Stanton just stay healthy?
When healthy, there aren’t many players who can match Stanton. In 2014, he was a real MVP candidate before suffering a season-ending injury, and was on pace for a 50-homer, 130-RBI season in 2015 before yet another season-ending injury. Stanton actually made it to the end of the 2016 campaign, but he took a bumpy ride to the end, missing 43 more games and struggling through by far the worst season of his career.
It’s no surprise that Stanton’s Fantasy value has taken a major hit coming into the season. He still has that first-round upside, but you’ll probably be able to snag him three rounds later than that because nobody wants to be stuck with an albatross from their first-rounder. If Stanton can manage to play 150 games, he has to be the odds-on favorite to lead the league in homers, and should produce healthy run and RBI totals to go along with it. There’s a ton of risk that goes into drafting Stanton, even in the third or fourth round, but the potential reward makes him hard to pass up.
Is there any upside in the rotation?
Average may be a lofty goal for this group of pitchers, which was led in 2016 by newcomer Dan Straily’s 3.76 ERA. Straily has two solid seasons under his belt, but also had a 6.42 ERA in 68 2/3 innings of work between them in 2014 and 2015. If that’s the best this rotation can muster, another .500 season might be too optimistic a projection.
However, though none of the pitchers here are likely to be worth drafting in most mixed leagues — only one Marlins starting pitcher even makes it into Scott White, Heath Cummings, or my top-300 rankings — there is at least one pitcher worth keeping an eye on here. While Edinson Volquez and Wei-Yin Chen have been useful options in the past, Adam Conley really is the only name to know here for Miami.
Conley’s overall numbers from his rookie campaign don’t inspire much confidence, but he did have a 3.38 ERA in his first 21 starts, with a 1.303 WHIP and nearly a strikeout per inning. He faded in August, but if Conley can work on his conditioning after his first full season in the majors, he has a chance to be mixed-league relevant. Even that shouldn’t send you rushing to grab him on Draft Day, but as a late-round flier, you could do worse.
How secure is A.J.Ramos’ job?
Just going by the end of season numbers, Ramos has been remarkably consistent, sporting an ERA between 2.11 and 3.15 in each of his four seasons in the majors. There is some variation there, but he has yet to put together an out-and-out bad season, and has been useful as a Fantasy closer since getting the job in 2015.
However, he is a great example of why just looking at season-long numbers doesn’t tell the story. Ramos can be lights out, but more often than not, he’s just getting the job done. He allows more baserunners than you want from an elite closer thanks to some really iffy control — at least 4.8 BB/9 in three of his four seasons. He tends to erase a lot of baserunners with strikeouts, but watching Ramos try to get the job done is a lot more unsettling than the shiny ERA might make you think.
That he has mostly avoided losing his job is a testament to his ability to wriggle out of jams, but Ramos has the profile of a closer with a tenuous grasp on his job. The Marlins beefed up their bullpen, adding Brad Ziegler and Junichi Tazawa to an already strong group that includes holdovers David Phelps and Kyle Barraclough. Any of that group could conceivably close if Ramos falters, but Barraclough would likely be first in line for any opportunities that may arise. Keep him in the back of your mind as we move forward.