With the regular season a little over two weeks away, the Washington Nationals seem to be the prohibitive favorite in the National League East. This is a division that the Nats won by 17 games, the largest margin of any division winner in baseball. That being said, it is a new season and you know the old saying in baseball that was said when Spring Training rolls around, “Hope springs eternal.”
To start our look at the NL East, we begin with the Miami Marlins. Even with ace pitcher Jose Fernandez going down at the beginning of the season due to Tommy John surgery, Miami was still able to finish the season with a 77-85 record, a 15 win improvement from 2013. Mike Redmond, in just his second year as Marlins manager was able to keep the team in playoff contention into September for a Wild Card spot.
Of course, when you talk about Miami, you have to talk about star right fielder Giancarlo Stanton. Last season, Stanton had a MVP-type season, hitting .288 with 37 home runs and 105 RBI’s. Of course, Stanton’s season was cut short in September when he was hit in the face with a pitch in Milwaukee, causing fractures in his face.
More from Nationals News
- Latest DraftKings Sportsbook Promo Code in Maryland: Bet $5, Win $200 Guaranteed
- Nationals Claim Jeter Downs Off Waivers
- Washington Nationals Tuesday Q&A
- A Washington Nationals Christmas Wishlist
- Robots in Baseball? The Possibility of an Automated Ball/Strike System in the MLB
This offseason, Stanton signed a record 13-year, $325 million contract to stay with the Marlins for the foreseeable future. While Jeffrey Loria and Michael Hill could have stopped there, they also agreed on a seven-year, $49.5 million contract extension with left fielder Christian Yelich this past week.
The Marlins were also active in trades this winter as they acquired Dee Gordon and Martin Prado in separate deals to help their infield and traded for Mat Latos to boost a rotation that had the fourth highest ERA in terms of starters last year (4.04). In free agency, the team signed former National Michael Morse to play first base and protect Stanton. Plus, they made a move to help their bench with the signing of Ichiro Suzuki.
So, what does year three in the Mike Redmond era have in store for the Marlins? To find out, I talked with Ehsan Kassim, the co-editor over at Marlin Maniac to answer some of those questions and who have been some of the players that have stood out to him during spring training in Jupiter. Here is our Q+A:
Ricky: What were your initial thoughts when Giancarlo Stanton signed his 13-year, $325 million contract? All in all, do you trust Miami to keep their other internal free agents after giving out the contract?
Ehsan: I was thrilled about the Giancarlo Stanton extension beause I had honestly for a long time thought he was a goner. It was also hard to believe when details first came out, but the day Stanton officially signed had to be one of the better sports moments, right up there when LeBron picked the Heat to play for. As for signing others, they just locked up Christian Yelich, so that is a huge step forward in getting things done. Jose Fernandez and Marcell Ozuna are both repped by Scott Boras, so I don’t see them being extended before they hit free agency
R: Which offseason acquisition of Miami will have the most impact in 2015? Mat Latos or Dee Gordon?
E: Mat Latos. I don’t believe Dee Gordon is as good as the Marlins are advertising him to be. He’ll be a difference maker and an improvement over what the Marlins ran out at second last season, but he’s still likely a league average second baseman. If Latos can stay healthy, he’s a top of the rotation arm that slots behind Jose Fernandez and matched up well with about any team.
R: Who has stood out in Spring Training for the Marlins thus far?
E: Avery Romero, a second base prospect in the Marlins system. He’s always been high on my rankings of Marlins prospects, but getting to watch him play for the first time against some MLB pitching has been a joy. He has a serious bat and could make an impact on the big league roster in 2016.
E: The Marlins bullpen should be a strength in 2015, even if they walk some hitters, as their pure stuff is really good. But walking less people would be the ideal situation, especially for A.J. Ramos, as he has some filthy stuff and can be a dominating bullpen guy if he does cut down on the walks.
R: What did you think of Miami signing Michael Morse this offseason? Do you expect Mike Redmond to put him as the bridge behind Stanton?
E: Morse was a decent signing and an improvement over Garrett Jones from last season. I do anticipate him batting behind Stanton, but his key to the season will be to stay healthy and make sure his defense at first doesn’t eat away the production he gives at the plate. The Marlins probably could have done better at first, but they could have done worse as well.
R: When is Jose Fernandez expected to return to the rotation and what are the expectations for Fernandez this season?
E: Jose Fernandez is expected to return sometime between June and July, with after the All-Star break the most likely scenario. There is zero need to rush him for the Marlins, as you’ll see why in my next answer. I expect Jose to post an ERA in the 3’s and slowly work back to his old self. Expecting him to be the phenom he was before his injury is asking too much
R: Do the Miami Marlins make the playoffs in 2015? Why or why not? How far away is Miami from challenging the Nationals for the NL East?
E: If Jose Fernandez was healthy for a full-season, I’d say yes they will make the playoffs. But with him out, the Marlins are around a 83-85 win team, just short of what it should take to make the playoffs. The Marlins should be closer to a playoff team in 2016, but it would still be hard to catch the Nationals at that point, unless they made significant additions.