Whether you believe it or not, the Miami Marlins are ready to compete.
No, not for last place, for a playoff spot. Seriously.
With an incredible off-season, the “Fish” added quite a bit of talent to their roster. They locked up Giancarlo Stanton with a record-breaking 13 year, $325 million contract. Christian Yelich signed a big 7 year, $50 million deal. They added Michael Morse, the power hitting first baseman/outfielder, and traded for pitchers Dan Haren and Mat Latos, giving a much-needed boost to the Marlins rotation. Martin Prado, acquired from the Yankees in exchange for Nathan Eovaldi, is expected to play a big role in this year’s squad. Future Hall-of-Famer Ichiro Suzuki was added as a great veteran presence both inside the clubhouse and on the field. There is no doubt this Marlins team has more talent than any other team Miami has fielded in the past decade.
The time for the Marlins is now. They might be regarded as the best team in South Florida right now, despite the NHL’s Panthers pushing for a playoff spot, and the NFL’s Dolphins recently landing Ndamukong Suh. (The Heat probably won’t make the NBA Playoffs, so I’m not considering them here.) The Marlins have the chance to run the city of Miami. They can succeed. By playing well,they can bring in new fans, and get more people to come to their 4 year old stadium.
Will Mike Redmond, who was given a 3-year extension as manager by Marlins’ ownership this off-season, be able to get the most out of his players day-in and day-out? I believe he can. He has shown great qualities as a manager over the past 2 years in Miami. He fights for his players, which is something that players love. If the chemistry between the players and coaches in the locker room is right, the Marlins could very well lock up a playoff spot.
The key to a playoff berth for Miami will be the success of starting pitcher Jose Fernandez. Fernandez, who is coming off Tommy John surgery, needs to be the anchor of the Marlins rotation when he comes back. Fernandez is projected to return mid-June, which should give him enough time to get accustomed in time for the final stretch to make the Playoffs. If Fernandez can come back and pitch as well as he did before his surgery (he was 16-8 and averaged 10 K’s per 9 innings pitched) then the Marlins should do just fine during the final half of the year and be able to make the Playoffs.
There’s even a chance that Miami can finish above the Washington Nationals and take the NL East crown. If the Marlins win 70% of their games against the not-so-good Mets, Braves, and Phillies, that will give them 40 wins. If they can win 10 out of the 19 games against the Nationals (which won’t be easy), that will give them 50 wins overall just against their division, which would put them in a great position to make a run for the NL East title. A lot of fans probably wouldn’t believe this, but it’s certainly possible.
The most likely outcome is that the Marlins take one of the two National League Wild Card spots, putting them in the Playoffs for the first time in years. While an NL East title may seem a little far-fetched, remember that crazier things have happened. One thing is for sure, though: the Miami Marlins will be playing in October this season.