Rays News

Tampa Bay Rays Citrus Series: What We’ll See From Marlins

By Robbie Knopf
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Nov 19, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton smiles as he arrives for a press conference at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Robbie Knopf: The Marlins had their most exciting offseason in recent memory as they extended Giancarlo Stanton and acquired guys like Dee Gordon and Mat Latos. How excited are you about this team?

Ehsan Kassim: I wish the answer was super excited, but I cannot say that. While this Marlins team is going to be an exciting one and one of the better ones in recent memory, the team is still short of a playoff contender in my view. Signing James Shields would have put the Marlins over the top in my opinion, but they seem to be a player short as of right now.

But the Giancarlo Stanton extension is very exciting. Having a franchise player, much like Evan Longoria, locked in long-term provides a little stability for a franchise that has lacked it for the longest time.

I truthfully was not a fan of the Dee Gordon deal at the time of the trade and feel the same way today. While Gordon is a decent player, the Marlins heavily overpaid for a one-tool guy coming off of his career year. Even with his bad second half, I doubt Gordon will ever match his 2014 numbers.

RK: On the other side, the Marlins also gave up several talented players like Andrew Heaney and Nathan Eovaldi. Which departure will they regret the most this year?

EK: Nathan Eovaldi, easily. While I do believe Heaney can eventually evolve into a number 2 starter, I believe Eovaldi is going to break out in 2015. He’s already got an amazing fastball and has been working on his offspeed stuff. With Jose Fernandez out right now, I’d make a strong argument that he would have been the Marlins best starter to start the season, as he did lead the team in fWAR last year (3.0).

RK: Speaking of Latos, both him and Steve Cishek looked terrible in their first outings of the season. Any reasons for concern?

EK: With Cishek, no, I’m not concerned. He has historically been a slow starter and been consistently been among the top closers in the league the past 2-3 seasons. He will turn things around, as it has to be kept in mind he hadn’t pitched for 4-5 days before that appearance.

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Latos is another story. While I do believe he’ll never have a start as bad as the one on Tuesday, there have to be legitimate questions about his stuff. After throwing in the mid-to-low 90’s for most of his career, Latos had a tough time even getting to 90 on some pitches. If that’s the case, you have to wonder if his other offerings take a hit with a below average fastball. It’s just one start, so Latos can easily turn it around, but I am keeping a close eye on him.

RK: The Marlins have one of the most promising young outfields in baseball: Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna. We know how good Stanton is, but do you think that Yelich and Ozuna can join him as core players for this team? How concerned are you with the exorbitant amount of strikeouts from that trio?

EK: I do believe Yelich and Ozuna both have huge upsides, capable of making them franchise-caliber players. Yelich has a higher floor than Ozuna, as his game is more complete and sound. Yelich, in my opinion, could be a 20-20 guy that will contend for batting titles as well as get on base at a decent clip, as his eye at the plate is very advanced.

Ozuna has the ability to be a top-of-the-line right-handed power hitter at a time when that’s hard to find. Ozuna, unlike Yelich, is a free-swinger, so his slumps are usually bad. 

While all three outfielders strike out way too much for my liking, it’s not a huge concern for me. Stanton has proven he can still be effective while ranking near the top at strikeouts as he walks to make up for it. Yelich will likely improve on his K’s as he gains more experience and masters the strike zone even more.

RK: Ex-Blue Jay Henderson Alvarez has always been a pitcher that has fascinated me. He strikes nobody out, yet he has been incredibly effective for Miami. What has worked so well for him? Do you think his success is sustainable to this extent?

EK: The two keys for Alvarez’s game have always been groundball outs and suppressing his home run totals. The latter is helped out a lot by him pitching half his games at Marlins Park. The former is possible because of his two-seamer that induces weak contact and usually groundball outs. While I don’t think he will have a repeat of his 2.65 ace-level ERA, I do think he can settle in as a 2-3 starter with ERA’s in the mid-3’s. He is a really fun guy to watch every time he takes the mound.

RK: Other than the home run statue, what are some things to look for from the Marlins in this series? Do you think that they can rebound from their rough beginning to the year?

EK: I hope the Marlins finally set the home run statue off, as the team didn’t hit any home runs in the Braves series. But other than the sculpture, the three outfielders that play in front of it are a joy to watch. While they did not get going offensively against the Braves, they made huge impacts with their gloves, with Stanton making one of the top plays of the season already.

I do think the Marlins can rebound after getting swept by the Braves. I think they take 2 of 3 from the Rays and salvage a 2-4 home stand to start the season.

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