2011 Marlins Preview: Back To Square One

2011 Marlins Preview: Back To Square One

This article is part of our MLB Team Previews series.

Once again in 2010, the Marlins flirted with respectability before falling back to mediocrity. While players such as Dan Uggla and Josh Johnson had impressive individual performances, and Michael Stanton burst onto the scene with a bang, franchise cornerstone Hanley Ramirez slipped back to being merely exceptional and the team couldn't score enough runs to overcome a thin rotation hit hard by injuries and a porous defense.

Feeling that last season's lineup took the team as far as it could go, the Marlins made some extensive renovations to the roster. Uggla was sent packing – to a division rival no less – while the disappointing Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller were also given new addresses. In their place is a sharper focus on the leather, with semi-legendary fielding coach Perry Hill brought back into the fold. Omar Infante will replace Uggla at second base and young defensive whiz Matt Dominguez is poised to take over at third. The bullpen was also restocked to help the team weather any future rotation emergencies, and Javy Vazquez was brought in as a veteran innings-eater.

The moves involved a certain amount of deck-chairs-on-the-Titanic shuffling – the Maybin trade added depth to the 'pen while leaving a gaping hole in center field – but the club has to make do with what they can under their self-imposed budgetary skinflintedness. The Marlins are back where they usually are – a middle-of-the-pack team that could surprise if they get a couple of breakout performances and a lot

Once again in 2010, the Marlins flirted with respectability before falling back to mediocrity. While players such as Dan Uggla and Josh Johnson had impressive individual performances, and Michael Stanton burst onto the scene with a bang, franchise cornerstone Hanley Ramirez slipped back to being merely exceptional and the team couldn't score enough runs to overcome a thin rotation hit hard by injuries and a porous defense.

Feeling that last season's lineup took the team as far as it could go, the Marlins made some extensive renovations to the roster. Uggla was sent packing – to a division rival no less – while the disappointing Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller were also given new addresses. In their place is a sharper focus on the leather, with semi-legendary fielding coach Perry Hill brought back into the fold. Omar Infante will replace Uggla at second base and young defensive whiz Matt Dominguez is poised to take over at third. The bullpen was also restocked to help the team weather any future rotation emergencies, and Javy Vazquez was brought in as a veteran innings-eater.

The moves involved a certain amount of deck-chairs-on-the-Titanic shuffling – the Maybin trade added depth to the 'pen while leaving a gaping hole in center field – but the club has to make do with what they can under their self-imposed budgetary skinflintedness. The Marlins are back where they usually are – a middle-of-the-pack team that could surprise if they get a couple of breakout performances and a lot of luck – but they still have a nice collection of young talent as they prepare to move into their new stadium next season. If the new revenue stream eventually results in better veteran talent around the young core, Florida may yet jump to the next level while Ramirez is still in his prime.

Offseason Moves:

Traded Dan Uggla to the Braves for Omar Infante and Michael Dunn.

After making at least some effort to sign Uggla to a long-term deal, the Marlins made their standard move and traded him away instead of going to an arbitration hearing. Infante won't come close to replacing Uggla's power, but he will represent a defensive upgrade whether he ends up at second base or third. Dunn could be a Matt Thornton-like power arm in the bullpen if he can find a little more control.

Traded Andrew Miller to the Red Sox for Dustin Richardson.

The Marlins wiped away almost all evidence of the Miguel Cabrera trade in the offseason, sending Cameron Maybin west and Miller north. Miller's health and control remain major issues, but his first-round pedigree and the fact he throws from the left side should earn him chances for a while yet. Richardson has command problems of his own, but he strikes out enough batters to maybe have a future as a LOOGY.

Traded Cameron Maybin to the Padres for Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb.

After 548 inconsistent major league at-bats, the Marlins finally cut bait on Maybin. They never really gave him an extended run though, so the Padres are hoping he still has some untapped potential. Mujica should slot in immediately as one of Florida's top setup men, while Webb will have to battle for a spot among the middle relief corps.

Signed Javier Vazquez to a one-year contract.

After another New York flameout, not to mention an alarming loss of velocity, Vazquez fell into the Marlins' lap (and price range). Ideally he'll slot in as the #3 starter behind Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco and impart some veteran wisdom to a young staff, but the move from the AL East to the NL East may not be enough to keep him afloat if all those innings have indeed caught up with him.

Signed John Buck to a three-year contract.

The Marlins' catching ranks were hit hard last season by injury, suspension and general ineptitude, so the club signed Buck to provide some stability behind the plate. Buck will be the top guy, but he will be hard-pressed to match the offensive numbers he put up last season with the Jays.

Signed Randy Choate to a two-year contract.

He got exposed a bit last season in regular duty with the Rays, but his numbers should look better if the Marlins keep him strictly in a LOOGY role and use him as Ryan Howard Kryptonite.

Signed Greg Dobbs, Victor Garate, Ruben Gotay, Chris Lubanski, Joe Thurston and DeWayne Wise to minor league contracts.

Dobbs has an inside track at a job as the Marlins' primary left-handed bench bat. The rest are expected to be Triple-A depth, although Gotay has a small shot at a big league job due to the multiple vacancies in the Marlins' infield.

Lost Ryan Tucker on waivers to the Rangers.

Tucker's control problems in 2010 were exacerbated by a rare medical condition that caused numbness in his hands, but the Marlins likely won't be sorry to see him go. The Rangers have since outrighted Tucker off their 40-man roster, and he likely doesn't figure in their immediate plans either.

Projected Lineup/Rotation:

Lineup (vs. RH/LH)

1. Chris Coghlan CF
2. Omar Infante 2B
3. Hanley Ramirez SS
4. Michael Stanton RF
5. Logan Morrison LF
6. Gaby Sanchez 1B
7. John Buck C
8. Matt Dominguez 3B

The lineup above represents something of a best-case scenario for the Marlins and requires a lot of things to go right this spring. Coghlan is really going to be stretched in center field defensively, and given his injury problems last season the club might be smarter to move him to a less strenuous position. If it turns out he's not up to the job in center, second base is his likely destination, which would push Infante to third base. In this situation, Dominguez would head to the minors to get more playing time and someone like Scott Cousins or Emilio Bonifacio would take over in center.

Even if Coghlan proves capable though, there's no guarantee Dominguez's bat will be ready for the majors. His glove certainly is, and the Marlins do seem to be placing emphasis on the leather, but Dominguez had trouble with Double-A pitching last season and probably is not ready to be a consistent offensive contribution. Bonifacio and Wes Helms are the 'safe' candidates to plug the third base hole if Dominguez heads back down to Triple-A, but the most intriguing option might be to move Infante to third base anyway and give young Osvaldo Martinez a chance at second.

Regardless of how those two positions fall out, the top of the lineup should be surprisingly potent. Coghlan (who may swap places with Infante against lefties) and Morrison get on base with relative ease, and pairing Ramirez with young moonshot launcher Stanton in the heart of the order should give opposing pitchers cold sweats. Infante and Sanchez can contribute as well, but things will likely grind to a halt at the bottom of the order thanks to out machine Buck and whichever unproven player (or Bonfacio, who has proven he's mediocore) ends up hitting eighth.

Starting Rotation:

1. Josh Johnson
2. Ricky Nolasco
3. Javier Vazquez
4. Anibal Sanchez
5. Chris Volstad

Johnson ended last season on the DL due to shoulder and back woes, but he'll be healthy to start the season. If he gets 30+ starts, he should be a legitimate Cy Young contender. Nolasco has yet to replicate his breakout 2008 season, but he remains a FIP superstar thanks to outstanding K and BB rates. Vazquez is hoping for yet another bounceback season away from the spotlight (you can't get much further from the baseball spotlight than south Florida), while electric-armed Sanchez and groundball machine Volstad still have youth on their side and may yet take their performance to another level. It's not the embarrassment of riches the Phillies will trot out to the mound, but it wouldn't be a shock if the Marlins' starters ended up being the second-best group in the NL East.

Closer:Leo Nunez

Nunez had manager Edwin Rodriguez spitting mad at times last season due to a love affair with his changeup, but his overall numbers ended up better than 2009's and he added a slider to the mix this offseason. A big arbitration award paints a bullseye on Nunez's back though, and while he'll probably open the season as the Marlins' closer, the odds are decent he'll finish it as a setup man on a contending team. If he does get dealt, or Rodriguez yanks him from ninth inning duty again, Clay Hensley would probably get the first shot. Hensley looked good last September when filling in as closer, but a young fireballer like Mike Dunn, Jose Ceda or Jhan Marinez might be a better bet to take over if they're hot at the right time.

Notes of Import, Fantasy and Otherwise:

1. How good can Michael Stanton be this season?

There is no doubt in anyone's mind that Stanton will hit home runs in the majors. He hit 22 in 100 major league games last season, and 43 total in 2010 when you include his Double-A performance. Thus, it wouldn't be much of a surprise if he broke the 40-HR mark in his first full season in the bigs. Given his probable spot in the lineup hitting behind Chris Coghlan and Hanley Ramirez, Stanton should have plenty of RBI opportunities as well. However, his dangerously high strikeout totals likely make the .290+ batting averages he routinely put up in the minors something of a pipe dream, and he could struggle to match even last season's .259 effort in the majors. Optimists can point to his off-the-charts makeup and work ethic, and the fact that he started slowly after every minor league promotion before exploding (a pattern which appeared to repeat itself in the majors last season given his .312/.370/.578 line in September/October) as evidence that those batting average worries are overblown, but major league pitchers have also had all offseason to assemble a book on the kid. In single-season leagues Stanton's massive power potential still gives him plenty of value, and obviously in keeper leagues his immense ceiling makes him worth pursuing at almost any price, but it's probably safe to bet the under on his batting average in 2011.

2. Where will Chris Coghlan play?

When Cameron Maybin was traded for bullpen help this offseason, Coghlan piped right up and said that he was willing to move from left field to center field to fill the lineup hole. With no other MLB-rady options on hand the Marlins are going to go ahead with the experiment, but there's very little reason to think it's going to work. Coghlan, who came up through the system playing mostly second base, has shown sub-standard range in left in both 2009 and 2010, and it's hard to imagine the lower body injuries that hit him hard last season will be any less of an issue if he's asked to play a more strenuous defensive position. Putting Coghlan in center does allow the Marlins to take a look at potential future Gold Glover Matt Dominguez at third base, with Omar Infante at second, but Dominguez's bat is almost certainly not ready for prime time. Moving Coghlan to second base and sliding Infante over to third, on the other hand, gives Dominguez more development time but then leaves a gaping hole in center that has no obvious plug. In short, the Marlins are one starter shy of a full lineup, and unless a surprise candidate emerges in the spring, it could be a long season of roster juggling.

3. Can the rotation keep this team competitive?

While the Marlins' offense shouldn't have much trouble producing given the nice mix of on-base skills and pop that it features, the rotation has question marks in every slot and could be anywhere from very good to very bad. Josh Johnson has Cy Young-level talent, but the injuries that ended his 2010 season early mean he has still only managed 30 starts in a season once in his career. Ricky Nolasco is coming off knee surgery of his own, and while his command of the strike zone makes him a stathead darling, his ERA the last couple of years has left a lot to be desired. Javier Vazquez put together a great season the last time he was in the NL East, but he lost a couple mph from his fastball in 2010 and may be on his last legs. Finally, neither Anibal Sanchez nor Chris Volstad has proven much of anything yet at the major league level. The Marlins' new emphasis on infield defense should give the ground ball pitchers like Volstad extra cushion; but while there is a lot of potential in this group, there is also a lot of volatility.


Infield defense, especially if Dominguez wins the third base job. A solid mix of OBP and power in the lineup. A deep collection of power arms for the bullpen.


Outfield defense could be a huge issue, with Coghlan and Morrison both potentially big liabilities in the field. Every member of the rotation has a question mark or two.


Rising:Michael Stanton is of course the biggest young rising star on the Marlins, but Logan Morrison is still under the radar thanks to the move to the outfield from first base. Morrison's power stroke has yet to develop, but his ISO increased every month he was in the majors (from a paltry 87 ISO in July up to 200 in September). If he can add even 12-to-15 HR power, he'll be a surprisingly valuable fantasy player given his batting average and solid control of the strike zone.

Falling: The pattern looks clear: Javier Vazquez struggles pitching in New York, but then bounces back once he gets out of the Big Apple. A closer look reveals a pitcher who has logged a ton of innings in his career and whose fastball has been steadily eroding the last few years. Vazquez simply isn't the power pitcher he was in the mid-2000s, and while he might yet figure out how to get by on guile and moxie rather than blowing high heat past batters, he could be in for some rough times in 2011 while making the adjustment. Let someone else take their chances with another Vazquez rebound.

Sleeper: Former first round pick Chris Volstad never lived up to his pedigree in the minors, posting decidedly average K rates, and his major league career so far has been marked by a lot of one step forward, one step back action. His numbers are ground-ball driven though, and with the Marlins putting renewed emphasis on defense with Omar Infante replacing Dan Uggla and future Gold Glove-candidate Matt Dominguez possibly making the jump to third base, Volstad is the pitcher most likely to benefit from ground balls becoming outs instead of baserunners.

Supersleeper:Scott Cousins doesn't do anything particularly well, but he does do everything OK, or even a bit better than OK. On a strong team that would make him an ideal fourth outfielder, but in Florida his prospects are a little bit better than that. If the Marlins pull the plug on the Chris Coghlan experiment in center field, Cousins could inherit the job. With a starter's workload he could chip in modest five-category production.


Here's the rundown of players not mentioned above:

Burke Badenhop - A rough May aside, Badenhop had another solid season in the Marlins' middle relief corps. The key number for him is 2.05, his GB/FB ratio. As long as his sinker his sinking he can be effective, and the departure of Dan Uggla's mediocre defense at second base could even be a slight boon for him.

Emilio Bonifacio - Bonifacio's conversion to utility player was completed in 2010, as he played at least five games at six different positions. He was also a perfect 12-for-12 on the base paths, but beyond speed and flexibility he really doesn't offer much. With question marks for the Marlins in center field and at second and third base heading into spring training, there are plenty of avenues for Bonifacio to get at-bats and starts, but he's purely a one category player.

John Buck - Buck cashed in on a career year by inking a three-year deal worth $18 million with the Marlins. He walked just 16 times against 111 strikeouts so it'll be tough to sustain his power gains with that kind of batting eye. There's virtually no way he repeats his 2010 this season even if the Marlins are paying him to do so.

Randy Choate - Choate entered last season with the role of the left-handed specialist out of the bullpen. He filled that role more than adequately but was allowed to face too many right-handed hitters. Choate owned a 2.39 ERA against lefties, holding them to a .529 OPS and only one home run over 124 at-bats. Against righties he was routinely lit up, allowing two home runs in only 39 at-bats while holding a 8.30 ERA. He'll make for a fine lefty specialist once again; as long as he's used exclusively in that role.

Chris Coghlan - The sophomore jinx hit Coghlan hard. His walk rate dropped, his strikeout rate shot up and then to cap it off he tore his MCL in July while delivering a shaving cream pie to Wes Helms' face following Helms' walk-off hit. On the bright side his BABIP and line-drive rate stayed strong, which points to better offensive days ahead, but a discussed move to center field could open him up to further injury if he proves to be overmatched defensively. The Marlins have holes at second base and third base too, though, spots that would be much better fits for Coghlan's skills. If he gets back on track, and on base with the frequency he did as a rookie, he could score a lot of runs hitting ahead of Hanley Ramirez and Mike Stanton.

Mike Dunn - Dunn has great velocity (94.8 average mph on fastballs last season) that results in outstanding strikeout rates (12.4 K/9IP between Triple-A and the majors last season). However, Dunn walks a few too many batters to think he'll be an elite reliever (5.71 BB/9IP between Triple-A and the majors last year). Still, he held lefties to a .581 OPS in the majors. He could move into a high-profile setup role with the Marlins after being traded from Atlanta in the offseason.

Wes Helms - Helms put up another mediocre season as the Marlins' designated veteran righty off the bench, but instead of being cut loose not only was he rewarded with a contract extension, he actually has a shot at winning the starting third base job this spring if the team decides young Matt Dominguez isn't ready. Stranger things have happened than Helms having a good spring and carrying that momentum into April to provide some cheap early value, but he should still be firmly locked away in your 'Break Glass Only In Case of Fantasy Emergency' box.

Clay Hensley - After years of being labeled as a Quad-A swing man, the Marlins pressed Hensley into middle relief service and his career took off. Ditching his inconsistent slider for a slow curve and changeup, he went from journeyman to closer by the end of the season and the Marlins expect him to be a big part of their late-inning plans again in 2011. A repeat performance may be unlikely, especially in the strikeout department given that he rarely breaks 90 mph even with his fastball, but Doug Jones and Trevor Hoffman got by pretty well with similarly uninspiring stuff. If you're hunting for cheap saves Hensley is as good a gamble as any.

Omar Infante - Phillies manager Charlie Manuel took a lot of heat for naming Infante to the NL All-Star team, but he looked prophetic as the former utility player hit .321 and finished third in the NL batting race. Infante hit .313/.359/.424 with six home runs after the break when pressed into everyday duty after Chipper Jones was lost for the season with a knee injury. He'll begin 2011 as an everyday player as he'll take over second base for Florida after being traded from Atlanta. Infante hit at least .290 in his three seasons in the NL thanks to a good contact rate, but he doesn't draw walks and offers little power or speed. While qualifying at multiple positions (second base, third base, outfield and even shortstop in some leagues) will boost his fantasy value, don't overpay for last year's batting average.

Josh Johnson - Johnson celebrated his new four-year, $39 million contract with a big year, putting up Cy-worthy numbers for five months until shoulder and back issues shut him down in September. While his ERA will probably creep back up due to a lucky HR/FB rate in 2010, the rest of his skill set is still improving (he topped 9.0 K/9IP for the first time last season) and promises more seasons of ace-like numbers to come. Last year's injuries weren't serious, but with the memory of his 2007 Tommy John surgery still lingering and the Phillies' four aces overshadowing the rest of the pitchers in the NL East, you might just be able to get Johnson at a discount this spring.

Edward Mujica - Mujica showed outstanding command in 2010 as he posted a 72:6 K:BB ratio. His strikeout rate spiked to 9.3 K/9IP as he used his splitter more than ever before. It wasn't all roses, however, as his home-run rate was again very high. In the offseason he was traded to the Marlins. The move away from PETCO Park mixed with his troubles with the long ball may not be the best formula for success. Those speculating on saves will want to keep this in mind, should Mujica find himself in a late-inning role.

Ricky Nolasco - Once again Nolasco put up a shockingly high ERA given his stellar K/BB ratios, and a late knee injury robbed him of any chance to shave a few points off it in September. The surgery went well and he should be fine by the start of spring training, and even a slight regression back to the mean for his elevated 2009-2010 BABIPs would mean another All-Star caliber season. The Marlins were confident enough in his return to form that they signed him to a three-year extension, which is a pretty big vote of confidence from a penny-pinching organization like Florida. Don't let those inflated ERAs scare you away.

Leo Nunez - Nunez had a better season than he did in 2009 by most measures - more saves, better ERA and K/9IP, lower HR/9IP - but somehow lost manager Edwin Rodriguez's confidence along the way. Part of Rodriguez's issue with Nunez was his increasing reliance on his changeup, as Nunez has essentially ditched his slider in Florida and become a two-pitch reliever. Given Clay Hensley's emergence and all the young power bullpen arms the Marlins have accumulated, Nunez is on very shaky ground when it comes to ninth-inning duty, but he should still be considered the marginal favorite for the closer job simply because he's the guy with the track record.

Hanley Ramirez - After three all-world seasons, Ramirez stumbled last year and put up his worst offensive numbers since he was a rookie. It's a testament to his talent that a .300 average and 20 HR/30 SB would be considered a crushing disappointment, but nagging injuries dragged him down and an early-season run-in with manager Edwin Rodriguez didn't help put to rest questions about his work ethic and commitment. In real terms, his "poor" numbers were a result of a big spike in his groundball percentage at the expense of flyballs and line drives, and assuming better health and/or a tweak in his stance to address that problem there's no reason to think Ramirez won't regain his place among the fantasy elite.

Brian Sanches - Sanches had another career year in 2010, as the split-finger pitch he added two years prior continued to frustrate hitters. The .223 BABIP that fueled his stellar rate stats isn't close to sustainable, though, no matter how good his splitter is, so a big regression is likely in store in 2011. He should still be a serviceable middle-relief arm, but don't expect anything beyond that.

Gaby Sanchez - Sanchez finally got his shot last year and put up exactly the kind of season his minor league numbers predicted, showing moderate power and on-base skills. He's just coming into his prime and likely hasn't yet hit his ceiling, but that ceiling still appears to be pretty low for a first baseman. If the Marlins pull the plug on the Logan-Morrison-in-left-field experiment, it's Sanchez who will get pushed aside. He can provide some cheap production, but don't get too invested.

Anibal Sanchez - Sanchez finally managed to stay healthy for an entire season, and the results last year were as good as the Marlins could have hoped. His slider was nearly as nasty as it had been in his rookie season, and for the first time in his major league career he struck out more than twice as many batters as he walked. He'll never be an ace, but just so long as he can keep taking the mound 30-plus times a year and deliver solid numbers, he'll be plenty useful.

Michael Stanton - Starting Stanton off in Double-A fooled no one but his arbitration clock, but as he had done the season before when making the jump from High-A to Double-A Stanton struggled after his promotion to the majors last season. A big finish (.312/.370/.578 in September/October) gave him entirely respectable numbers as a rookie, and those numbers look even better when you consider he was only 20 years old. The kid has thunderous, once-in-a-generation power that makes even his batting practice sessions a spectacle, and given his ferocious drive to improve we wouldn't bet against Stanton joining Eddie Mathews and Mel Ott as the only members of the "40 HR season as a 21-year-old" club.

Ryan Webb - Webb spent the majority of 2010 with the Padres (he was also at Triple-A Portland) pitching out of the bullpen. He doesn't have dominant stuff and his control is marginal, but he knows how to induce groundballs at a high rate (62.3 percent). If he can work on his control, he could round into a nice reliever who's able to get most righties and the occasional lefty out. In the offseason he was traded to Florida. It's doubtful he ends up with a late-inning role there, but stranger things have happened.

Sean West - He started the season with a bad back that cost him any chance of breaking camp with a major league job, but after he got back on the mound at Triple-A, West showed signs of developing the control he needs to finally break through. A knee injury then cut short his year before he could bring his new skills to the Marlins rotation, and elbow soreness even got him pulled from the AFL. Health is now his biggest obstacle. If West can just put together six consecutive months without a DL stint he could really surprise, but we've said the same things about Andrew Miller before and look how that bit of optimism turned out. The Marlins aren't counting on West to fill a rotation spot, and neither should you.

Top Prospects:

Jose Ceda - The big Dominican regained his health and his stuff last year, taking his mid-90s fastball and nasty slider all the way from High-A to the big league bullpen. Ceda's control is still an issue, though, and while he looks like the prototypical intimidating ninth-inning arm he may not be quite ready for closer duty, and he's hardly the only fireballer in the Marlins' system. Don't get too invested in his upside.

Matt Dominguez - He could challenge for a Gold Glove in the majors right now, but Dominguez's bat hasn't yet caught up to his glove. That's too bad, because the Marlins have an immediate need for a third baseman. He'll get a long look this spring and be given a legitimate chance to win the starting job, but they may have to make do with stopgaps for a while yet until the 21-year-old is ready. If he does make the major league roster, he could get you double digit home runs but would be a huge batting average risk.

Brad Hand - Hand improved his control while maintaining his K/9IP rate as a 20-year-old at High-A, and as a result put himself firmly in the Marlins' future plans. He projects to have three solid pitches although none of them are exceptional, which makes him a mid-rotation starter at best in the majors, but given the way the organization's starting pitching depth has been gutted the last couple of seasons they'll take what they can get. Assuming he doesn't stumble against Double-A competition this year, Hand could get his first taste of the big leagues in 2012.

Chad James – The Marlins' top pick in 2009 didn't have an impressive debut, striking out batters at a decent clip but struggling with his control and his command. Both his mechanics and his approach on the mound need work, but James already touches 95 mph with his fastball and has a good curve so the potential is there for a big breakthrough. His 2010 ERA looked worse than it should have thanks to a hitter haven home park, and the friendlier confines in the High-A Florida State League will help. Don't write James off just yet.

Jhan Marinez - Marinez rode his 95-97 mph fastball all the way from High-A to the big leagues last year, striking out 64 minor league batters in 42 innings along the way. He strained his elbow almost as soon as he got to the majors though, and while the injury wasn't deemed too serious Marinez is just one of many young fireballers the Marlins are expected to look at in their bullpen this season. Until one of them steps forward, there's little reason to invest in Marinez over Jose Ceda or Mike Dunn.

Osvaldo Martinez - Martinez had a breakout season at Double-A and looked right at home in the majors during a September callup, and while Omar Infante is expected to replace Dan Uggla at second base, it's Martinez who probably convinced Marlins brass that Uggla was expendable. He's smooth defensively at shortstop and makes great contact at the plate, and while he doesn't have much in the way of power, a .300 batting average with double-digit steals are certainly attainable numbers for him if he wins a starting gig this spring. Down the road he could be the guy who bumps Hanley Ramirez to a less demanding defensive position, but in the short term a year on the bench as a utility player, or back in Triple-A getting steady work, shouldn't hurt him.

Marcell Ozuna – While Mike Stanton and his massive power were graduating to the major league roster, Ozuna began producing some thunder of his own at Low-A. Like Stanton he's projects to be at least an average defender in right field, but unlike Stanton he hasn't yet shown the potential to be anything but an all-or-nothing slugger, swinging for the fences every time the bat leaves his shoulder. It won't take much more than a small increase in his patience and selectiveness to make him a top prospect though.

Rob Rasmussen – Rasmussen is a better than average polished college lefty. His fastball sits in the low 90s and he throws a ridiculous assortment of secondary pitches, with his curve, change, cutter and slider all projecting to be at least average offerings. He's got some work to do to prove himself as a pro, but last year's second round pick could move up the ladder quickly.

Alex Sanabia - Sanabia seemingly came out of nowhere last year, and the former 32nd-round pick rode great control and a truly exceptional changeup all the way to the major league rotation where he held his own as a 21-year-old. Given his age and frame (he's 6-foot-2 and might just weigh 170 soaking wet) there's plenty of room for growth in his profile, though in the short term he's a marginal fantasy pick due to his need to sharpen his show-me slider and develop better stamina. Down the road though, it looks like the Marlins have stumbled upon a gem.

Christian Yelich – 2010 first round pick Yelich has a prototypically sweet lefty swing, and enough athleticism that the Marlins are going to try turning him into a left fielder rather than settle for him being an above-average defensive first baseman. The career templates for players like Yelich range from Casey Kotchman on the low end up through solid citizens like Hal Morris and Sean Casey in the midrange and elite performers like Mark Grace and John Olerud at the top, and at this point there's really no way to tell which path Yelich will follow until we see what kind of power and plate discipline he develops. He's intriguing, but for now that's about it.

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Erik Siegrist
Erik Siegrist is an FSWA award-winning columnist who covers all four major North American sports (that means the NHL, not NASCAR) and whose beat extends back to the days when the Nationals were the Expos and the Thunder were the Sonics. He was the inaugural champion of Rotowire's Staff Keeper baseball league. His work has also appeared at Baseball Prospectus.
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