4) MIAMI MARLINS
No team comes into 2017 with a deeper emotional hole than the Miami Marlins.
Jose Fernandez was not just the staff ace, but the emotional leader of the club. For a team trying to contend for a wild card spot, how they handle his passing over the course of a season, along with the potential sale of the club, tells this team’s story.
On the field, Edinson Volquez and Dan Straily join the starting rotation. Volquez arrives from the Kansas City Royals with the know how to win a championship and 12 years experience. The downside is he led the American League last year allowing 113 earned runs.
Straily arrives in Miami after a successful year with the Cincinnati Reds. A 14-game winner with a 1.186 WHIP, he pitches deep into games without allowing too many hits. When he is hit, the ball flies. His 31 homers topped the NL last year.
They join the new staff ace Wei-Yin Chen, fellow lefty Adam Conley and Tom Koehler in the rotation. Chen and Conley failed to throw 150 innings each while Koehler averaged under six innings a start. Conley’s ERA+ of 102 tops the returning Marlins starters as they all give up the long ball too often.
The bullpen is the strength of the entire staff. If the Marlins are to contend, they need the starters to pitch deeper and settle down. Volquez must lead the way by getting his ERA back into the mid-3’s and shoot for 200 innings.