With the All-Star Game residing at Marlins Park this year, I thought I’d focus in on the team that usually calls the ballpark home. 2017 began without much applause for the Miami Marlins, but they’ve made a valiant effort back to 41-46 at the break. It could be a lot worse.
Unfortunately, however close they come to the line of mediocrity, the ultimate goal of a World Series title remains very, very distant. When your ace is Edinson Volquez —albeit the man with this season’s only no-hitter— it’s hard to forecast clear skies.
The Marlins pitching staff is one of the bleakest in all of baseball. They’re “only” 20th in team ERA at 4.62 and they’ve actually squeezed some very credible production from guys like Dan Straily, Jarlin Garcia and Jose Urena, the latter two very rare cases of homegrown arms, something the team should not disregard.
There’s no way around the incomparable loss Jose Fernandez, whose death was obviously a surprise and was an elite talent on the field with perhaps an even more elite presence off of it. There’s no replacing him. But we’re dealt the hands we’re dealt.
The farm system isn’t keen on reinforcements, but the team does have two high-profile arms to brag about. Unfortunately, 2014 second overall pick Tyler Kolek and 2016 seventh overall pick Braxton Garrett —the team gave away their 2015 12th overall pick Josh Naylor for half a season of Andrew Cashner— have both fallen victim to Tommy John.
Tommy John surgery isn’t the dead end it used to be, so there’s hope. But nothing from these two high first round picks will help the Major League club anytime soon.
On the other side of the ball, it’s a completely different story. The Marlins batting lineup is...to put it plainly...awesome. It’s just kind of wasted, because you can only win so many Tom Koehler starts.
It’s really a shame, too, because on top of the expected success of Christian Yelich, they’re receiving breakout years from Marcell Ozuna, J.T. Realmuto, Dee Gordon, Justin Bour and Giancarlo Stanton is looking more like his old self.
Yelich has actually been the one to play under expectations but is still having a very nice season and should see a second half power surge. He’s 25.
Ozuna and Realmuto are 26. Stanton is 27. Bour and Gordon are the “elder statesmen” at 29 years young. This core has a ton of potential, but the extreme lack of arms to go in tandem with this potent young lineup has the Marlins in the position of sellers here in July.
Only three teams have a better aggregate batting average than the Marlins. Houston (duh), Washington and Colorado. The Astros have 60 wins while the Nationals and Rockies have 52. Miami has 41. These guys can hit with the very best.
All six players listed above are hitting .277 or higher. Ozuna leads the way at .316 and Gordon’s 32 stolen bases trails only the uncharted waters that Billy Hamilton and Trea Turner reside in.
Ozuna is also tied for the league lead with 70 RBI. Realmuto’s three triples leads the league from the catching position and his five stolen bases is tied for first (with Yadier Molina, of all people). Only future Hall of Famer Buster Posey has a more prestigious slash line from behind the plate than J.T.
Giancarlo is, to no one’s surprise, in the home run elite. He’s tied for third with 26, Ozuna has 23 and Bour has 20. Stanton and Bour competed in Monday’s Home Run Derby and if you watched Stanton’s interview on ESPN during Bour’s turn at the plate, there wasn’t a lot of talking. Just a lot of cheering. Genuine, supportive, caring and rowdy cheering.
These guys really have something special with the bats. It’s a true baseball travesty that there isn’t much pitching in the short or long-term picture to help them become a contender.
The star-studded ownership group featuring Derek Jeter and former Chicago White Sox star Michael Jordan (he says with tongue firmly planted in cheek) is reportedly close to rescuing the franchise from Jeffrey Loria’s tyranny. Their plan could change things, but as it stands now the Marlins are said to be shopping 29-year old pair of Gordon and Bour, with the others only relocating if somebody pays an outrageous premium.
It will be a shame not to see this group reach the playoffs together but in the long haul the Marlins, despite not winning the games of their superiors, have a core of bats that can contend with the best.