The Miami Marlins have been perhaps the most disappointing team in baseball so far this season. Expectations were high during the spring, and for good reason. The Marlins front office worked very hard during the offseason, adding several free agents that filled the team’s needs from a season ago but not before making the most important move of all by signing slugger Giancarlo Stanton to a lucrative long-term contract extension.
Most of the moves that were made, such as the acquisitions of Dee Gordon, Dan Haren, Martin Prado and David Phelps, have been beneficial to the team. The signing of Michael Morse hasn’t materialized into what the Marlins had hoped, but the emergence of Justin Bour as the everyday first baseman has been a pleasant surprise.
The main issue that has contributed to Miami’s lack of winning has been inconsistency with the pitching staff. Early in the season it was the starting rotation that struggled, then the bullpen began to falter and now it’s a combination of bullpen issues and an injury-decimated rotation.
The pitching staff isn’t completely to blame though, as position players have had their issues as well. Sure, Stanton is putting up big homerun and RBI numbers but it’s difficult to have consistent success when your three-hitter is batting below .230. Christian Yelich is finally starting to look like the player he was last season but that’s just been over the past couple of weeks, and we’re now in the month of June.
There is however a silver lining to all these problems. Indeed, it’s the beginning of June and Miami is twelve games under .500, but there is a lot of baseball left to be played and the Marlins have more going for them than most teams in their position. Here are the top reasons not to give up on the Marlins just yet.
Jose Fernandez Coming Back
Few pitchers in the entire league have been as good as Jose Fernandez has been for the Marlins over the past couple years. When healthy, Fernandez has been nearly untouchable and he has the numbers to back that up. After undergoing Tommy John surgery last June, Fernandez has been traveling on the long road to recovery but he’s getting closer and closer to returning to the Marlins lineup.
His rehab assignments have been going very well and his latest session, a simulated minor-league game in which he threw three no-hit innings while striking out seven, went well enough that he’s been cleared to pitch in real minor-league games. His velocity is there and his breaking pitches have the same bite. Indeed, Fernandez should be back in a Marlins uniform sometime this month.
Justin Bour Breaking Out
When the season began, Morse was the undisputed Marlins first baseman and Bour was playing in triple-A New Orleans. Injuries led to Bour’s call-up and he quickly showed that he was a much better hitter than a season ago. As Morse continued to struggle, Bour was given more and more opportunities to shine, and he did just that.
When Morse went on the disabled list, Bour was given the job as Miami’s starting first baseman. As of Tuesday afternoon, Bour is hitting .353 with 5 homeruns and 10 RBIs in 73 plate appearances. Granted, the sample size is small but the difference in his swing and approach at the plate leads many to believe that his success will continue at the major league level. The Marlins may have finally found the first baseman they’ve been looking for, and he was right under their nose the whole time.
Henderson Alvarez/Jarred Cosart/Mat Latos All Close To Returning
As previously mentioned, the Marlins starting rotation from Opening Day has been absolutely demolished by injuries. Miami has played 52 games but these three pitchers have combined to only start 20 of them, with a collective record of 2-11. Neither of the three have pitched particularly well, though you could argue that Cosart has had the best outings of the group.
The time away from the team will likely be beneficial to them, as they have admittedly underachieved and are focused on getting back on the mound and pitching the way that they know they are capable. Alvarez said on Monday that he’ll begin playing catch next week and both Latos and Cosart are set to begin minor-league rehab assignments in the next few days.
Dee Gordon Having An MVP Season
When the Marlins traded for Gordon during the winter they knew they were getting a good, ascending player but they couldn’t have expected for him to be this good, this fast. Gordon has been leading the majors in hitting since the season began, currently batting .370 in 211 at bats. He also leads the league in hits with 78 and is second in the league with 20 stolen bases, just one behind the Reds’ Billy Hamilton.
We’re almost one-third into the season and Gordon is showing no signs of slowing down, both literally and figuratively. Gordon has reached base safely in 10 of his last 11 games but the real improvement he’s shown has been in his base stealing. He was caught six times during his first 14 attempts but since then he’s only been caught stealing one time in 13 tries. If Gordon continues to perform at this level he should absolutely be considered an MVP candidate.
Best Defense In MLB
One area that the Marlins have improved on mightily from last season has been in their defense. Like Gordon’s hitting, Miami has been leading the league in team defense the entire season. Their current fielding percentage is an eye-popping .990, having committed just 20 errors in 52 games.
The additions of Gordon and Prado to the Marlins infield has paid huge dividends. Gordon is 6th among all second baseman with a .993 fielding percentage, Prado is 10th in the league at .973 and Adeiny Hechavarria is 4th among all shortstops at .986.
Miami’s outfield is pretty solid as well, led by Yelich who won the Gold Glove in left field last season. Yelich hasn’t been back from injury long enough to register but he’ll surely be among the league leaders once he does. Stanton has struggled at times but still holds a .973 fielding percentage, which ranks him 19th but Miami’s center fielder, Marcell Ozuna, is at the top of the chart with a perfect 1.000 percentage.
Christian Yelich Returning To Form
Yelich got off to a slow start this season and it had many people scratching their heads, but when he went on the disabled list with a lower back strain it seemed to make sense that he had been playing in pain. Once he returned to the Marlins lineup it took him a little while to get going but he seems to have finally regained the form that saw him have a very successful 2014 both at the plate and in the field.
He’s currently riding a 9-game hitting streak in which he’s batting .333 with a homerun and 5 RBIs during that span. One way that you can tell he’s getting locked back in at the plate is in his strike zone recognition, as well as the way he’s spraying the ball all over the field. Yelich plays an integral part in the Marlins success so having him back to normal will go a long way for the team as the season progresses.
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