Understanding and analyzing what the competition is up to is often just as important to knowing what the Nationals are up to. With Opening Day upon us, it’s time we start taking a look at the rosters heading into the season for each of Washington’s division rivals. Once we run through each of the four divisional opponents, we’ll sum everything up and make some predictions.
Our Season Preview series led off with an examination of the New York Mets. We followed with a look at the Miami Marlins’ pitching staff and then Philadelphia’s. Philadelphia’s position players came next and then we moved on to Atlanta’s. We’ll finish up the position player side of things with a look at Miami’s.
Shortstop is one of those positions where there only ever seems to be a handful of superior options available across the league, before there’s a fairly sharp drop off to that next tier of players. While the members of that top group may fluctuate some and certainly open a great amount of discussion, there’s always one player who seems to teeter right on the cusp of being in or out of the group. Hanley Ramirez never seemed like he was that player. But yet, with the Miami Marlins determined to spend it suddenly seemed as though Ramirez was expendable.
The Marlins made it clear early on in the offseason that they wanted to make a big splash that started with adding Jose Reyes from the division rival Mets. He had just won his first batting title, proved he was healthy again, and was a force at the plate and in the field. The Mets, in a cash-strapped situation that most Marlins fans are used to, made a minimal effort to re-sign the shortstop because they knew that they were going to be outbid. Reyes signed with Miami in early December, a six year, $106 Million deal.
Reyes adds an electric talent at the top of the order and shores up the team’s infield defense. His arrival also pushes Ramirez over to third. It was a move the long time Marlin was first hesitant to make, at least as far as what was reported through the media, and it led to speculation that he could be traded. Ramirez will be in the lineup tonight for the Marlins, at third base, and could be poised for a big season if he can remain healthy.
Rounding out Miami’s infield is the rest of their 2011 starting group. Omar Infante returned to hold down second base for two more years. Gaby Sanchez is another year older and has shown great promise at the plate which could only further develop with the added experience.
In the outfield, the team will return their same starters from last year. Logan Morrison will patrol left field, with a new uniform number and quieter demeanor (he’s still on Twitter, just a little toned down). Emilio Bonifacio will start in center field. His value has always been tied into his speed and defensive versatility, but I’ve really viewed him as the best everyday option in center field. Chris Coghlan could make his way into the center field mix if he can bounce back after a disappointing 2011 season.
The player in right field should look familiar, even if the name on the outfield scoreboard isn’t. Marlins fans got to know Mike Stanton as a budding superstar. But Giancarlo Stanton will be penciled into the starting lineup as the season starts, as he’s chosen to use his given first name going forward. Stanton is one player who’s going to be fun to watch in the years to come and he could be capable of hitting 40+ home runs with 100+ RBI.
Former National Austin Kearns seems to have won the last spot on the bench, serving as an extra outfielder along with Coghlan. He was once a fairly highly touted prospect but he’s never been able to develop into the star some thought he would. Veteran Greg Dobbs will be the team’s primary pinch hitter in all likelihood, a role that’s kept him in baseball for the past few years. Donnie Murphy will also provide some depth in the infield. Behind the plate John Buck will get most of the at bats while Brett Hayes will back him up.