After a beating at the hands of the Braves, the Nationals will welcome a trip to Miami. The hapless Marlins have scored twelve fewer runs than any other team in baseball, and when they played the Nats in their season-opening series, scored one total run in three games. After allowing 18 runs to Atlanta in three games, Miami will be a well-needed break from facing incredible offensive prowess. The Nationals only scored 11 runs against Miami in the season-opening series, but will be looking for even more to recoup for scoring only five runs against Atlanta.
To preview the series, I exchanged a few questions with Ehsan Kassim, editor over at Fansided’s Marlin Maniac. For Nats fans wanting to learn what it’s like in Miami, these answers should be invaluable. I also answered a few of Ehsan’s questions over on Marlin Maniac, so be sure to check those out as well.
AF: Jose Fernandez has been a revelation, jumping from High A to the MLB. What has been the key to his success, and do you think he can maintain it against such great opposition?
EK: The key to Jose Fernandez’s success has no doubt been his unflappable demeanor. While he is just a 20-year old making his first starts in the big leagues, he looks like a seasoned veteran on the mound. Being through what he has been through has been a key part in making him the pitcher he is today. Being jailed, shot at, and finally escaping Cuba at the age of 14 gives him a lot more life experience. All those things make him fearless when he takes the mound. Of course, none of that would matter, if Jose did not have a great arsenal of pitches. His fastball has blown major league hitters away, hitting 96-97 at times. His curveball (nicknamed the defector) has thrown hitters off in fastball counts, and he has a work in progress changeup that has actually been successful against lefties. I believe he can maintain this sort of success as he faces better competition, but there will sure be games that he labors through. My bold prediction before the season was he would win Rookie of the Year, I am looking smart early on.
AF: Rumors have flown about Giancarlo Stanton and a potential trade to the Texas Rangers. What are the odds of a Stanton trade happening anytime this season, and is Texas the frontrunner?
EK: There are not much to these rumors, as the team currently has no interest in trading Stanton. And they have no reason to. Stanton is still making the league minimum in 2013 and won’t be arbitration eligible until this offseason. I really want to say that the Marlins will find a way to sign Stanton longterm, but there is a lot of work left to be done for that to happen. If and when the Marlins do decide to trade Stanton, I expect the Rangers to be heavily involved. A package from the Rangers would have to start with top overall prospect, Jurickson Profar.
AF: Speaking of Stanton, what is his health situation? He has a left shoulder contusion and isn’t on the DL, which makes it sound fairly minor. When will he be back in action?
EK: Stanton sustained his shoulder contusion diving for a ball in New York. After experiencing some discomfort in batting practice Friday, the Marlins scratched Stanton from the lineup and he had an MRI done on his shoulder on Saturday. The good news for the Marlins, those results came back negative. He missed all three games of the series against the Mets and Marlins beat writer Juan Rodrigueznoted Stanton could be out for the Nats series as well. At this point, I think the Marlins should just let Stanton have a stint on the DL and heal up 100% before getting him back on the field.
AF: As evidenced by the protesters removed from Marlins Park for decrying owner Jeffrey Loria, Marlins fans are upset with the ownership. What exactly is the mood among fans? Are they happy with the prospects they received in the trade from Toronto?
EK: Marlins fans are fed up with owner Jeffery Loria. As Miami mayor Carlos Gimenez pointed out on yesterday’s Outside the Lines, Loria is slightly ahead of Fidel Castro in popularity. After one offseason of heavy spending, Loria went back on his word and is going to make a profit off the Marlins without even fielding a competitive team. As for the prospects the Marlins got from the Jays, the fans felt the team could have gotten a bigger haul in return for what they traded. I for one am excited about the prospects the Marlins got back.
AF: To say the Marlins’ offense is struggling would be an understatement. They have scored 20 runs through 12 games, less than two thirds of the total of the 29th place team, Tampa Bay. Is the issue just a lack of talent, are players not performing to their ability, or is it something else altogether?
EK: It’s a combination of both. Placido Polanco is the only Marlin hitting over .300 currently. The rest of the Marlins lineup is hitting well under .250. Is this trend going to continue all season? No. Juan Pierre, Giancarlo Stanton, and Justin Ruggiano should hit for better average and Rugg and Stanton should find their power soon enough. Logan Morrison will return at the end of May for the Marlins. With that said, Solano, Dobbs, and Kearns should not be seeing as many at bats as they are. They are at best bench players that have been thrown into the Marlins starting lineup at times.
No doubt in my mind that the Marlins lineup will improve, but I doubt they will ever be better than a bottom 5 offense in 2013.
AF: The pitching staff has been a pleasant surprise, with four of your five starters with ERAs under 3.30. Can they sustain this success?
EK: Honestly, no. On the surface the teams current 2.87 ERA is quite impressive for the starters. However, if you start digging deeper into the numbers, the Marlins FIP sits at a pedestrian 4.19. This is a result of the team allowing way too many base runners. Because none of the pitchers outside of Fernandez are overpowering, it often leads them to be hit around. For example, the Kevin Slowey allowed 10 base runners in his 5.1 innings of work, but he only allowed one run. A baffling line, but the truth is if he had a little different luck, the opponent could have easily hung a crooked number on him.