The right fielder is a bonafide superstar, as he crushed 37 home runs last year, even though he missed the final 17 games of the season after taking a fastball to the face. If he had not missed those games, he may have ended up being the NL MVP. He’s in the argument of being the best player in baseball, and if he has another mammoth year, he could become the face of the sport. Not only is he great offensively, but he is also really good out in right field. In 2012, he was the Marlins' recipient of the Wilson Defensive Player of the Year Award. In 2013, the Fielding Bible ranked him third among right fielders in the majors. At 25 years old, he’s still a relatively young player who may not have hit his ceiling. If he gets better than what he’s already been, he's going to make this ball club a real contender.
Marlins may have the best outfield in baseball
Any outfield with Stanton in it is going to be highly ranked. Add Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich, and this could be the best outfield in baseball for years to come. Stanton is only 25 years old, Ozuna 24, and Yelich 23. Ozuna and Yelich both played their first full season in the majors this past year, and they were both impressive from the plate and in the field. Ozuna had a .269/.317/.455 slash line with 23 home runs and 85 RBI. Yelich had a .284/.362/402 slash line with 9 home runs and 54 RBI. He also added 21 stolen bases. In center field, Ozuna is one of the best in baseball at throwing out base runners, and Yelich has great range in left field due to his athletic abilities. Stanton, Ozuna, and Yelich fuel the Marlins’ improving offense, and they are saving runs on defense.
Steve MitchellSteve Mitchell
The Marlins had some issues with their infield last year, so they upgraded. Gold Glove finalist Adeiny Hechavarria returns at shortstop, and he will have a new double-play partner with All-Star Dee Gordon at second. That position was a huge problem last year, as several players unsuccessfully manned that spot. Gordon will make the team’s offense more explosive, as he led the majors with 64 stolen bases and 12 triples last year. First base was also an issue last year, as Garrett Jones did not deliver the power that they were looking for. So they signed Michael Morse, who brings World Series experience. There was more value in trading Casey McGehee, and they replaced him with Martin Prado, who will provide stability at third base while his numbers are not far off of McGehee’s.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY SportsSteve Mitchell
This is where the ‘ifs’ are. If the pitching staff can keep the team in contention at the midseason point, when ace pitcher Jose Fernandez returns from rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, and if he quickly returns to form, this team can make a run at the NL East title. In the starting rotation, Henderson Alvarez had a breakout season last year, as he had a 2.65 ERA, and he tied for first in the majors with three shutouts. Jarred Cosart had a 2.39 ERA over the final two months of the season. And they traded for power pitcher Mat Latos, who is entering his prime. The Marlins’ bullpen was sixth in the majors last year in terms of WAR, as closer Steve Cishek is one of the best in the game, while Bryan Morris and A.J. Ramos are good setup men.
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Management is finally committed to winning
The Marlins have been tight with money. Trading away home-grown talent Miguel Cabrera is a perfect example of that. This is an organization known for breaking up World Series teams, directly after winning the championship. But this time around it appears that they are making long-term plans. They could have traded away Giancarlo Stanton, but instead they signed him to a record $325 million contract. Jose Fernandez, Marcell Ozuna, and Christian Yelich are all home-grown products on the verge of stardom, and the Marlins are working to lock them all up long-term. Upper management also spent this past offseason added key players through free agency to support their talented core. This ball club is moving in the right direction, and they should reap the benefits of smart baseball moves as soon as this year.