2023 MLB Season Preview: Miami Marlins

Image: Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports

2022 Record: 69-93 (.426 win%, 4th in Division)

2023 Payroll: 81,075,000 (22nd)

2023 Projected Lineup:

1. 2B Luis Arraez, .311 AVG/.372 OBP/.410 SLG, 2.8 fWAR

2. CF Jazz Chisholm, .251 AVG/.313 OBP/.457 SLG, 3.1 fWAR

3. DH Jorge Soler, .230 AVG/.324 OBP/.447 SLG, 1.9 fWAR

4. 1B Garrett Cooper, .259 AVG/.338 OBP/.410 SLG, 1.2 fWAR

5. RF Avisail Garcia, .243 AVG/.301 OBP/.380 SLG, 1.2 fWAR

6. 3B Jean Segura, .271 AVG/.329 OBP/.387 SLG, 2.4 fWAR

7. LF Jesus Sanchez, .247 AVG/.313 OBP/.427 SLG, 2.2 fWAR

8. C Jacob Stallings, .239 AVG/.311 OBP/.341 SLG, 2.5 fWAR

9. SS Joey Wendle, .268 AVG/.317 OBP/.399 SLG, 2.1 fWAR

10. 1B Yuli Gurriel, .276 AVG/.325 OBP/.418 SLG, 2.1 fWAR

2023 Projected Starting Rotation:

1. Sandy Alcantara, 209.0 IP/3.32 ERA/1.10 WHIP, 3.7 fWAR

2. Trevor Rogers, 121.2 IP/4.22 ERA/1.28 WHIP, 1.5 fWAR

3. Jesus Luzardo, 107.2 IP/3.93 ERA/1.20 WHIP, 1.6 fWAR

4. Johnny Cueto, 143.2 IP/4.20 ERA/1.36 WHIP, 1.2 fWAR

5. Edward Cabrera, 97.2 IP/4.24 ERA/1.29 WHIP, 1.6 fWAR

2023 Projected Top 4 Relievers:

1. Dylan Floro, 54.1 IP/3.48 ERA/1.25 WHIP, 0.5 fWAR

2. Matt Barnes, 46.1 IP/4.28 ERA/1.43 WHIP, 0.0 fWAR

3. Tanner Scott, 59.2 IP/3.62 ERA/1.36 WHIP, 0.4 fWAR

4. A.J. Puk, 60.2 IP/3.71 ERA/1.24 WHIP, 0.3 fWAR

What Does Baseball Mean to Miami?

Ever since the turn of the century, the Miami Marlins have consistently been near or at the bottom of the league in attendance numbers. Even in their World Series season of 2003, the Marlins ranked 15th out of 16 teams in the National League in attendance. It seems that no matter how well the team does, the Marlins have been unable to draw fans to their ballpark.

However, there is some hope. The World Baseball Classic just played a good portion of their games in loanDepot Park. An average of 29,585 fans attended the several games played there, meaning that there is at least some interest in baseball within the Miami area. In fact, I think this interest could grow as Jazz Chisholm is the cover athlete of this year’s version of MLB The Show. Chisholm is the first Marlin to appear on the video game’s cover, bringing some newfound exposure to the organization.

Overall, I think the Marlins could see an uptick in their attendance this year. I believe the new rules, leading to more action in less time, along with the new players on the roster, like Luis Arraez and Jean Segura, might bring more faces to the ballpark no matter how well or poorly the team performs this year.

2022 Offseason Recap:

Well, Marlins general manager Kim Ng certainly made noise in the offseason with the moves they made. Let’s get into them.

Brian Anderson and Jean Segura

The Marlins’ offense has not been good for years but letting Brian Anderson go to the Brewers for only $3.5 million was a mistake. Yeah, over the last two seasons, the third baseman has not particularly been great offensively, but I argue that his poor performance was due to injuries as he has not been able to play through a whole season since 2019, making it difficult for him to get a consistent rhythm at the plate.

Before 2021, Anderson was very productive offensively, producing wRC+ results of 113, 114, and 120 in 2018, 2019, and 2020 respectively while being solid defensively at the hot corner. If Anderson can put together a full season, the Marlins will regret letting the third baseman go.

To try and replace Anderson, the Marlins acquired Jean Segura for a two-year, $17 million contract with a $10 million club option in 2025 including a $2 million buyout for that year. Segura will earn $6.5 million in 2023 and $8.5 million in 2024. Miami just gave a guy, who is three years older than the 30-year-old Anderson, more years, and more money than Anderson is earning with Milwaukee.

Segura is a good player. Over the last three seasons, he has proven to be above average in his offensive and defensive play, but frankly, he is most likely only getting worse from here as he continues to grow older. I can understand why the Marlins wanted to bring in Jean Segura over Brian Anderson.

I mean, Segura is a more popular name in baseball, and he has generally stayed healthy while providing productive play at the Major League level for a long time. However, for the money that the Marlins gave Segura, signing him was not a great move when they could have brought back Anderson who, when healthy, is arguably better than Segura, for much less.

Richard Bleier and Matt Barnes

In January, the Marlins traded away left-handed pitcher, Richard Bleier, making $3.5 million in 2023, to the Boston Red Sox for right-handed pitcher, Matt Barnes, making $7.5 million this season, and cash considerations. Did I mention that the former Red Sox pitcher was designated for assignment a week before the Marlins acquired him? Did I mention that Richard Bleier has a career ERA+ of 143 in 299.2 innings while that number is 112 for Barnes in 431.2 career innings?

Okay, that’s enough. Again, I can see what the Marlins are trying to do here. Their goal was to add an experienced late-inning right-handed relief arm. They were also trying to get rid of a lefty pitcher as they already have Tanner Scott and Steven Okert (but they acquired lefty A.J. Puk just a couple of weeks later). Having said these things, this was still the wrong trade to make. The Marlins unnecessarily increased their payroll by giving away a pitcher that’s probably better than the one they are getting.

Pablo Lopez and Luis Arraez

Also in January, the Marlins sent Pablo Lopez and two prospects to the Twins for Luis Arraez. Another disappointing move from the Marlins, and I actually really like Arraez.

The second baseman is adept at making contact and getting on base while having an above-average expected slugging percentage. But, the Marlins gave up too much. Pablo Lopez might not be a groundbreaking pitcher, but he is a productive one as he does not give up many walks and extra-base hits while striking out more batters than the average pitcher.

I believe that in Major League Baseball, it is much more difficult to find good starting pitching than good positional play. So, even though Arraez, who is terrific at the plate, has a year more of team control than Lopez, this is a move that does not make much sense, especially considering that the Marlins also had to give up two solid prospects as well in Jose Salas and Bryan Chourio.

To replace Lopez, the Marlins signed Johnny Cueto, who had a revival of a season with the Chicago White Sox in 2022, to a one-year, $8.5 million contract. This is definitely an interesting signing that could easily make the Marlins look like geniuses or fools.

However, Cueto is going into his age 37 season, and I think his previous season was a fluke. He managed to not walk very many, but his strikeout rate was very low, and his opponent’s expected slugging percentage was below average. I think the Marlins are going to look like fools spending this amount of money on Cueto, but maybe I’m wrong.

Miguel Rojas and Jacob Amaya

After a run of eight years with the Miami Marlins, Miguel Rojas was traded this offseason to the Los Angeles Dodgers for Jacob Amaya. Needing a shortstop after Seager left, the Dodgers decided to trade their 24-year-old shortstop prospect Jacob Amaya for Rojas, who played for them in his rookie season.

I think this was a good trade for both sides. The Dodgers get a veteran shortstop, and the Marlins get a young shortstop with potential while shaving roughly $5 million off their payroll. Amaya has performed well in the minors, and it would not be surprising if the Marlins called him up at some point this season, but for now, Joey Wendle will be the starting shortstop.

A.J. Puk and JJ Bleday

As I alluded to before, the Marlins curiously acquired another lefty reliever after trading away Bleier. I think that if you look at the trade itself, it is probably a good one for the Marlins. They traded away an outfielder who is turning 25 years old and only had one good season (2022 in Triple-A) in the minors up until this point. In his big-league time last year, Bleday performed terribly in 238 plate appearances, owning a mere 67 OPS+.

Turning to A.J. Puk, the pitcher, has had Major League success as in 66.1 innings last season, he had a 120 ERA+. However, this is the only year we have seen Puk perform this well as this was his first full season in the league. Therefore, we cannot be 100 percent confident in his abilities, but based on 2022, there is much reason to believe that he will continue to pitch well. Furthermore, Puk has several seasons of team control left, which is a luxury they did not have with Bleier.

Although I think Bleier is the better pitcher, I think this specific deal will prove beneficial for the Marlins in the near and long-term future.

Xavier Edwards and JT Chargois

The Rays have been a familiar trade partner with the Marlins for the last few years. The Marlins traded pitching prospects Santiago Suarez and Marcus Johnson (two players that are young and do not have much information on) for infielder Xavier Edwards and righty reliever JT Chargois.

The Marlins won this trade. They were able to take advantage of the fact that the Rays had to make some moves to fit certain players on the 40-man roster. J.T. Chargois should be a solid right-handed relief option who is under team control through 2025. Edwards’ value has gone down recently due to lackluster play, but he is still only 23 years old, so he has a lot of room to grow.

Yuli Gurriel

Gurriel had a terrible season in 2022, but he still is not far removed from his amazing 2021 campaign where he had a 131 OPS+. The Marlins signed Gurriel in the offseason to a minor league deal, which could prove to be a bargain. I would not be surprised if he took over the first baseman or Designated hitter spot at some point.

The Marlins had the option of selecting Jose Iglesias or Garrett Hampson, both of whom also signed minor league contracts in the offseason, to their opening day roster, but Miami did opt to go with Gurriel.

2023 Regular Season Preview:

The Lineup:

See the Players to Watch section below for profiles on CF Jazz Chisholm. 

Jacob Stallings will be the starting catcher for the Marlins, but I would watch out for Nick Fortes. Over the last two seasons, Fortes has an OPS+ of 106, and his framing and pop-time numbers are above average, so he should be getting more playing time this season, especially considering that Stallings has disappointed offensively since he has come to the Marlins. Fortes is only 26 years old and under team control through 2028; he could be the catcher in Miami for years to come.

I would also watch out for Jacob Amaya eventually taking control of the starting shortstop role. As mentioned before, Amaya has performed well in the minors and could easily jump to the majors this season. Joey Wendle, the current starter at shortstop, is solid defensively, but he has not performed very well at the plate recently, as he had just a 68 OPS+ in 371 plate appearances in 2022. If Wendle struggles in the first couple of months of the season, I think Amaya is going to be brought up.

The rest of the batting order seems to be set. Jazz Chisholm, whom I will discuss in further detail later in the article, should be a staple in the second spot in the order. Luis Arraez, whom I discussed earlier, should be an offensive force at the top of the lineup. Jean Segura figures to keep his spot in the lineup as long as he remains healthy. There could be some movement with Garrett Cooper, Jorge Soler, and Yuli Gurriel in terms of shifting them in and out of the lineup.

Having said that, Soler has notoriously always had a problem with strikeouts as for his career, he strikes out in over one out of every four plate appearances, so he is prone to extended slumps. As for Cooper, I would not be as worried. For the past four seasons, he has performed pretty consistently, never dropping below a 108 OPS+ while staying relatively healthy. At the end of the day, I do expect Cooper and Soler to keep their spots.

Avisail Garcia was one of the worst-qualified batters last season as he finished with a 65 OPS+ in 380 trips to the plate. Two seasons ago, Garcia had a 119 OPS+ with the Brewers in 515 plate appearances, so there is reason to believe that he will be better, and I think he will. He did overperform in 2021, but he severely underperformed last year, and I think it is unlikely that he will repeat that dreadful stretch. However, Bryan de la Cruz is only 26 years old and he owns an OPS+ of 106 through 574 career plate appearances. If Avisail Garcia struggles, I could see first-year manager, Skip Schumaker, switching things up.

I could also see Jesus Sanchez also struggling. I mean, he is a young hitter, and in his 623 career appearances at the plate, he has been below average with a 95 OPS+. He should improve this season, but like Soler, he strikes out a lot. His career walk percentage, however, is around average, and he hits the ball hard, as he has an average exit velocity of 90 mph for his career. But his expected slugging percentage took a major dive last season as that number was only .383. Basically, I would not be 100 percent confident about his abilities going into the 2023 campaign.

On the bench, I see Jon Berti being a huge weapon. With the bigger bases and limited pickoff attempts allowed this season, the speedster should have a field day on the basepaths. He will be a huge weapon, especially in close-game situations where the Marlins would need to make something happen on the bases.

Overall, the offense is probably going to be below average, but it should still be much improved from last year when they ranked 28th in runs per game.

The Starting Rotation:

See the Players to Watch section below for profiles on SP Sandy Alcantara and SP Trevor Rogers

The Marlins have not released their starting rotation yet, but I think after Sandy Alcantara and Trevor Rogers, Jesus Luzardo will be next in line.

Acquired two seasons ago in the trade that sent Starling Marte to Oakland for the back portion of the season, Luzardo has since thrown 157.2 innings, pitching to a 93 ERA+ but recording a 3.83 FIP. Last season, in 100.1 innings, Luzardo was tremendous, having a 123 ERA+. Very impressively, at just 24 years old, he struck out 30% of the batters he faced.

Johnny Cueto is next up as I project him to be the fourth starter in the rotation. As I mentioned before, I do not know if I like the Marlins spending the amount of money that they did on him to replace Pablo Lopez, but Cueto did show that he had something left in him last season. But again, I must say that I am not confident he can carry that forward into this season.

My fifth projected starter is Edward Cabrera, who, like Luzardo, is also very young with a lot of potential and some proven success at the Major League level. Last season, Cabrera had a 135 ERA+. However, he did have a 4.59 FIP, which means he probably got a little lucky in terms of the number of earned runs he allowed in his 71.2 innings of work.

Along with the five projected starters, I expect Sixto Sanchez to step in and get some starts when one of these starting pitchers inevitably lands on the IL when Sanchez comes back into the fold. Sanchez, who is another very young starting pitcher for the Marlins, has missed the last two seasons as he blew out his throwing shoulder and has had setbacks since then. In fact, he will not even be ready to start the season, but he should be ready at some point in June. I believe Sanchez, formerly the top prospect in the Marlins organization, will get a legitimate shot at a starter’s role this year.

The Marlins starting pitching staff still looks very formidable even with the loss of Pablo Lopez. Last season, the Marlins starters had a 3.70 ERA. I expect them to be around that number again this season. Even if Johnny Cueto flops, I think Trevor Rogers, Jesus Luzardo, and Edward Cabrera will all improve their numbers from last year to make up for it.

The Bullpen:

It looks like the bullpen, to start the season, will consist of three lefties and five righties. We’ve already gone over the lefties in this article in A.J. Puk, Steven Okert, and Tanner Scott. I think the Marlins should have kept Richard Bleier, but I like how Miami did decide to have three lefty relievers. This gives them the flexibility to match up as best they can with the opponent’s lineup, specifically in platoon situations where you want a lefty-on-lefty or right-on-righty matchup.

If any of their lefties get injured, they do have depth on the 40-man roster to replace them as they have left-handers Andrew Nardi and Josh Simpson. In his minor league career so far, the 23-year-old Nardi averages 13 strikeouts per 9 innings; same with Simpson, except his control still needs a bit of work.

For this reason, I do not think Josh will have success in the Majors this season. I do think Nardi could though, but he does still need to work on his control (allowing 3.4 walks per nine innings in the minors), it is not as bad of an issue for him as it is for Simpson plus he already has some experience pitching in the majors from last season.

Going back to the three projected lefties on the opening-day roster, they all look like they should have good seasons. Although, specifically with Tanner Scott and Steven Okert, they need to keep their walks down as they both allowed over 4.6 walks per nine innings in 2022. If they can have better control of the strike zone while still striking out over 10 per nine innings, they will be especially dangerous.

Turning to the righties, it looks like the Marlins will have Matt Barnes, JT Chargois, Dylan Floro, Tommy Nance, and Huascar Brazoban in their opening-day bullpen. To the average fan, there are a couple of recognizable names in Barnes and Floro, but the rest are kind of unknown.

We talked about JT Chargois earlier as he was acquired in the Rays trade. In his 152.2 career innings, he has an ERA+ of 115. Over his five years in the league, he has proven to be a consistent arm that any team could use in their bullpen.

With Tommy Nance and Huascar Brazoban, that has not been the case. Nance has only been in the league for two years and Brazoban for one, so we just can’t really tell if they will be consistent or not. Despite the lack of experience, they both show flashes of the great skills they possess.

Nance, who is 32 years old, struck out 29.1% of the batters he faced in 43.2 innings in 2022. His curveball is his most used pitch, throwing it at a 39.3% clip, and it is extremely effective as batters had just a .260 woba against the pitch. He did ultimately have an ERA of 4.33, but his FIP was 3.71.

Brazoban, who is a year older, pitched 32 innings for the Marlins last season, having an ERA+ of 133, although his FIP (3.99) indicates that he was lucky. However, Brazoban still looks to be a good relief arm. For Huascar, it has been quite the journey.

He pitched in the minors and other independent leagues, dealt with injuries for a couple of seasons, and then finally made his way to the majors just last season. Incredibly, his average fastball velocity is 97.2 mph, and he should be, like Chargois and Nance, very solid middle relief options for the team.

If any of these righties get injured, the Marlins have more on the 40-man roster that will be of use. They have a lot of solid arms in their system, but they lack a bonafide closer (this is something I will discuss later in the article).

Furthermore, they have a decent number of inexperienced relievers who have shown potential of pitching well, but we simply do not have enough sample size to make a confident statement on how good or bad they are. In my opinion, though, Miami has a top-15 bullpen in the MLB, and I would not be surprised if they ended up being top 10.

Player to Watch #1: SP Sandy Alcantara

We know that Sandy Alcantara will be the ace of the rotation. As the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner, he is one of the most efficient and high-volume pitchers in the league. Last season, he pitched the most innings in Major League Baseball: 228.2. The season before, he threw for 205.2 innings. The man is a workhorse.

It will be interesting to see if newly acquired manager, Skip Schumaker, will manage Alcantara’s innings differently than his predecessor, Don Mattingly (or as I like to call him, “Donny Baseball”). I would not be surprised if Schumaker decides to pull Alcantara earlier in games this season because it seemed that Sandy was tiring as we got later and later into 2022. In the first half of last season, Alcantara had a 1.76 ERA in 138.1 innings while in the second half, it was 3.09 in 90.1 innings. It might be a good idea to pace Alcantara a little more this season.

All in all, he did still have a fantastic 2.28 ERA, but his FIP was 2.99, meaning that he got lucky at times. He probably should have had a higher ERA than he had. I know that he is supposed to be entering his prime, but I could see him performing worse this season, especially considering that Jazz Chisholm has never played center field before and Luis Arraez is not the greatest defensive second baseman. There is a good chance that Alcantara does not have a good defense behind him this season which would affect his output.

That being said, Alcantara will still be one of the best pitchers in baseball this season, and if the Marlins are going to truly compete this year, they are going to need as much of Sandy as they can get, and probably more.

Player to Watch #2: CF Jazz Chisholm

I’ve always loved the name Jazz. In fact, I’ve been listening to more jazz recently. Anyway, Chisholm is entering his third full year in the league, and after just 810 career plate appearances, he has emerged as one of the game’s brightest young stars.

However, I would be a little cautious about this presumption. Although his expected slugging is above average at .422 for his career, the 25-year-old has struck out at a high rate of 27.4%. He also only walks at a 7.4% clip. The point I am trying to make is that I am not convinced he can become a superstar. He still has a lot to prove.

I’m also skeptical about his move from second base to center field. Jazz is a phenomenal athlete, but he has played the infield his entire life. I do not expect the transition between positions to be seamless, but I do believe Chisholm will eventually find his groove out in center. He has a great arm and is very fast, having a sprint speed of 29.2 feet per second in 2022.

For Chisholm, I am concerned about his offensive and defensive play, but also excited at the same time.

Player to Watch #3: SP Trevor Rogers

Along with Alcantara, Miami is also going to need Trevor Rogers to perform at a very high level, and I believe he can.

Last season, Rogers disappointed. In 107 innings pitched, he had an ERA+ of 74, severely below the league average. However, part of the reason he performed so poorly probably had to do with the injuries he accrued throughout the year. He was out with back spasms for over a month July and August, and then he returned briefly to only incur a Grade 1 lat strain in mid-September, which sidelined him for the rest of 2022.

In 2021, when he was fully healthy, his strikeout percentage was well above average at 28.6%, his walk percentage was around average at 8.4%, and he limited extra-base hits extraordinarily well as his opponent expected slugging was .343 in 133 innings pitched. Last season, when he was unable to get into a rhythm, he struck out 22.2%, walked 9.4%, and his opponent expected slugging jumped to .425. This all contributed to his ERA+ decreasing from 160 in 2021 to a mere 74 just a year later.

Ultimately, if Rogers manages to stay relatively healthy in 2023, I am confident he will regain his 2021 All-Star form and be a great number-two starter for the Miami Marlins.

Position Group to Watch: Closer

I said we were going to talk about this earlier in the article, and now here we are. Personally, I do not think a team necessarily has to have one guy close all the games to be successful. The Rays had a barrage of closers last season as they had several different pitchers close games out. Out of the 44 games saved in total, Pete Fairbanks and Jason Adam tied for the lead on saves with 8 each. Just 8, and the Rays were still able to have one of the best pitching staffs in the Majors.

I think Miami can do the same. I believe they will rotate between Matt Barnes, Dylan Floro, A.J. Puk, and Tanner Scott in the closer role. They will do this based on matchups and how rested the relievers are, and I think it will all go well. These are four really solid pitchers, and I doubt Miami will need to go get a traditional closer at the trade deadline.

That being said, I think it will be interesting to see how often Schumaker uses each of these relievers and if he does deviate in any way from the close-by-committee approach, especially if it is not working at the beginning of the season. I say this because people around baseball would be quick to point out the fact that Miami needs a real closer (which they would still be wrong about). So would this pressure get not only to the Marlins pitchers for not being able to consistently save games, but also to first-year manager Skip Shumaker, and possibly trickle to the front office?

2023 Record Prediction: 75-87

Despite all the number of questions and negative comments I have made about the moves the Marlins have made during the offseason, I think the Marlins will fair significantly better this season (record of 69-93 last season). There are a couple of reasons why I think this.

One is that they are playing the Mets, Braves, and Phillies much less this season. With the number of divisional games going down from 76 to 52, the Marlins’ schedule should be a little easier.

Furthermore, the Marlins are a young team that should improve this year. Miami has a lot of guys that are 26 years old and under with MLB experience, so I expect at least some of them to significantly improve this season, especially on the pitching side.

Overall, I believe the team will rank in the 22-24 range in the Majors for offensive runs per game, and around the 11-13 range in runs given up per game. I do not expect a playoff push this year, but I could see one happening as soon as 2024.

Categories: 2023 Season Preview, Articles, Season Analysis

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