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2020 Marlins Season Preview


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The 2020 season will be different and unique to say it lightly. Every team will be dealing with new rules, new protocols and a sprint to the playoffs. While the Marlins are still considered a longshot for a playoff berth, the shortened season has ever so slightly increased their postseason chances.

Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda once said, "No matter how good you are, you're going to lose one-third of your games. No matter how bad you are you're going to win one-third of your games. It's the other third that makes the difference.” That quote describes the 2020 season to a tee.

Major League Baseball's Summer Camp was a expedited version of spring training. Teams trained in their home park and played only a few exhibition games at the end. Besides those late exhibitions, intrasquad scrimmages were the only means of game practice for clubs. There were some encouraging signs for Miami during Summer Camp, with Monte Harrison being one of the standout performers. Harrison did not crack Miami's 30-man Opening Day roster, despite his success during Summer Camp.

The schedule this year will feature games against division and regional interleague rivals only. There will not be a west coast trip for the Marlins this year, barring a potential playoff matchup. The lack of travel and an expanded initial roster could help keep players fresh for the duration of the shortened season. With less starts, there will be no concern of pitchers reaching an innings limit and it will be more difficult to tax a bullpen. Due to the lack of minor league baseball, some new faces could also be given a big league chance sooner than planned.

The starting rotation to begin the year will be Sandy Alcantara, Caleb Smith, Jose Urena, Pablo Lopez and Elieser Henandez. A slow start to the season could doom the team's playoff chances quickly, which means the Marlins will likely be quick to dig into their player pool if needed. Pitchers such as Jordan Yamamoto and Sixto Sanchez could be called upon early in the 60-game campaign. Yamamoto lost a battle with Hernandez for the fifth rotation slot during Summer Camp, while Sanchez is one of Miami's top prospects.

Alcantara is getting the ball on Opening Day and that was long expected by many. The right-hander had a solid 2019 season and was dominant at times. Alcantara can be inconsistent at times, but he can be an ace when he has everything working. The 24-year old was an All-Star a season ago and he will likely see more Midsummer Classics as his career continues. Alcantara's 6-14 record in 2019 looks abysmal at first glance, but he was pitching for a team that lost 105 games and provided little run support often. Alcantara's 3.83 E.R.A tells a better story of his individual success in 2019.

Smith is often referred to as "Kaleb" instead of Caleb and that is not due to typos. Smith is a strikeout machine when he is "on" his game and is another ace-caliber player. Smith compiled 168 strikeouts in 153.1 innings last season, though his first half was much more productive than the latter half. The lefty held a 3.50 E.R.A prior to the All-Star Game and a 5.42 E.R.A after it. If Miami is going to make a run at the playoffs, it is going to need the first half version of Smith.

Urena has been an Opening Day starter for the Marlins before, but he was not really under consideration this time around. 2019 was an ugly year for Urena, as he compiled a 5.21 E.R.A across 24 games. Urena only struck out 62 hitters in 84.2 innings and his WHIP was a career-worst 1.476. With the aforementioned pitching depth in the system, Urena is going to need to put together early success in 2020. If Urena struggles, he could find himself in the bullpen or even off the roster. This will be the 28-year old's sixth season with the Marlins and he has a career 4.57 E.R.A.

Lopez is a bit of a fan favorite, but he is another arm who needs to produce to keep his job. The 24-year old posted a 5.09 E.R.A in 2019 and allowed 15 home runs in his 21 starts. The right-hander is a guy that is easy to root for and he can be a joy to watch when he has his arsenal working. Lopez gives up too many hits overall though and it puts him into trouble early and often.  Lopez allowed a hit per inning in 2019, which was the worst mark in the rotation.

Hernandez joined the Marlins via the 2017 Rule 5 draft and has put together a 5.11 career E.R.A in two seasons. The right-hander has electric stuff, which is shown by his solid strikeout numbers. Hernandez though allows too many base runners, with a career 1.331 WHIP. The 25-year old also surrenders too many home runs, which is a rough combination with his WHIP issues. Hernandez allowed 20 home runs in 21 games last season and split time between the rotation and bullpen.

Miami's lineup is going to likely look different as the season progresses. Harrison should be in the lineup at some point in 2020 and it could be quick. The season will begin with a 30-man roster and that will shrink until it is down to the standard 26-man roster. Decisions will need to be made based on shrinking roster size, as well as production quickly. One bad slump from a hitter could derail the season in a hurry. Harrison provides power, which is something Miami's lineup could use. One knock on the outfielder is his struggles with strikeouts, though that is a common problem with power hitters.

With Harrison in Jupiter and Brinson on the Injured List, Miami's outfield will likely consist of Jonathan Villar, Harold Ramirez and Corey Dickerson on Opening Day. Villar can move around the field, but is the best option on the roster for center field as the season begins. Ramirez gives the Marlins some power in the linup, but he could lose his starting job without some early production. Dickerson came to Miami in the off-season as a free agent and should be in the three-hole on a daily basis. Any of these outfielders could shuffle into the designated hitter role on some days as well.

Villar will give Miami the leadoff hitter it sorely missed in 2019. The Marlins picked names out of a hat for the leadoff spot last year, or at least it seemed that way sometimes. Villar can hit for power and he can steal bases, which is a game-changing ability. The 29-year old swiped 40 bags in 2019 and clubbed 24 home runs for the Baltimore Orioles. Villar is going to be a free agent after the season, which makes him a prime candidate to be traded if Miami should fall out of the race early in 2020.

Ramirez smashed onto the season with 11 home runs in his rookie season last year. The 25-year old knocked in 50 runs in 119 games and was a dependable bat in the lineup. Even with that decent production in 2019, Ramirez came into the spring this year without a lock on a job. As mentioned earlier, his job security is still not that great. Harrison and others are knocking on the door for the big leagues and Ramirez will need to do a better job of getting on base. The outfielder struck out 91 times in 2019, while taking a free pass only 18 times.

Dickerson was a big acquisition for the Marlins and he should quickly become a fan favorite. The 31-year old hit .304 in 2019 while making stops in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Dickerson is a lefty, which will give Miami a lefty threat for the first time since Christian Yelich was traded away. Dickerson has done a good job of reducing his strikeouts the last two years, though his power numbers have gone down at the same time. Dickerson has spent time in Colorado and Tampa during his career, in addition to his two Pennsylvania homes in 2019.

Brian Anderson will be back at the hot corner as the season begins. Miami's third baseman spent time in right field in 2019, but he is expected to stick at 3B for this year. Anderson could switch to the outfield in a pinch, but his value to the team is likely improved at third. 2020 will be Anderson's fourth season with the Marlins and he will bring a career 6.7 WAR into the campaign. Anderson has improved every year thus far, with a career-high 20 home runs and 66 RBI in 2019. The 27-year old will remain in the heart of Miami's batting order and he is a candidate for a long term contract.

Miguel Rojas is the unofficial captain of the team and he will be the team's starting shortstop as the year begins. Rojas is a versatile infielder and a leader in the dugout. Rojas is beginning his sixth year with the Marlins and is signed through the 2021 season. Rojas also has a team option in 2022, which will likely be picked up. The 31-year old has quickly become a reliable source of offense, to go along with his dependable defense.

Isan Diaz is starting the year as the second baseman for the Marlins, but that could be short lived. Diaz struggled mightily when he joined the big leagues in 2019 and Miami will not have patience if he has an extended early slump. Diaz showed plenty of promise in the minor leagues a season ago, but was clearly overmatched at the big league level. If Diaz is unable to produce, Rojas and Villar are both potential options at second baseman. Miami could also dip into the player pool in Jupiter for a replacement if needed.

Jesus Aguilar will begin the year as Miami's first baseman, with some starts in the designated hitter role likely coming as well. Aguilar had a down year in 2019, but hit 35 home runs as recently as 2018. The 30-year old is a career .256 hitter in six seasons, after spending time in Cleveland, Milwaukee and Tampa Bay. The Marlins claimed Aguilar off waivers in the off-season and he is under team control until 2023. If the Marlins fall out of the playoff race, Aguilar could be a player on the trading block in August.

Jorge Alfaro is going to be back behind the plate as Miami's primary catcher in 2020. Alfaro did a good job in his first season with the fish in 2019 and he looked even better during Summer Camp. Alfaro hit a career-high 18 home runs last season and compiled a .989 fielding percentage while in the field. Alfaro played in 130 games last year and his total this season could be around 50. On some of the days Alfaro is not catching, he may fill in as a DH. Francisco Cervelli will be Alfaro's backup and Chad Wallach will be around as additional depth as well.

Garrett Cooper is expected to serve as Miami's DH on most days, but could fill in on the field as needed as well. Cooper has battled injuries in the past and it is possible less time on the field could help him stay healthy. Cooper is another power threat in Miami's lineup and was the team's best hitter for a brief period of time last year.

Miami's bullpen will feature Alex Vesia, Adam Conley, Brad Boxberger, Jeff Brigham, Robert Dugger, Yimi Garcia, Jordan Holloway, Nick Neidert, Ryne Stanek, Stephen Tarpley, Brandon Kintzler, and Sterling Sharp. The bench will include Wallach, Cervelli, Jon Berti and Magneuris Sierra.

Miami's taxi squad will start out as Sean Rodriguez and Aaron Northcraft. That squad will likely change each series based on opponent matchups.

The 2020 season will begin on Friday against the Philadelphia Phillies at 7:05 p.m.

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