Miami Marlins 2023 Season Preview
I’m always intrigued by quality rosters that are overshadowed a few times over because of the strength of the division. That is true of the Miami Marlins and the NL East. I low-key like this roster and like some of the trades that have been made recently by the front office. The Jazz Chisholm/Zac Gallen deal has worked out well for both sides and I expect the Luis Arraez/Pablo Lopez deal to transpire the same way.
The Marlins are in a division with the 2021 World Series champs, the offseason spending champs and the reigning NL champs, so it makes sense that they wouldn’t get much love, but first female GM Kim Ng has put together a quality group and rookie manager Skip Schumaker comes from an organization with a longstanding history of performing at a high level.
Schumaker has two World Series rings as a player and worked his way up the coaching ranks quickly. He’s only five years older than recently-signed Johnny Cueto, but he’s a good fit for a team that could be much feistier than people realize.
Explanations of the stats used in this preview can be found in my “MLB Stats to Know” article.
2023 Miami Marlins Odds
(odds from DraftKings as of Mar. 15, click for updates)
World Series: +8000
NL Pennant: +4000
NL East: +3000
Win Total: 76.5 (-110/-110)
Make Playoffs: Yes +320 / No -400
Miami Marlins Offense
Even with the stats graded on a curve, the Marlins offense wasn’t very good last season. LoanDepot Park is an awful venue for offense, so the Marlins got a little bit of sympathy from park-adjusted stats like wRC+, but still finished 12% below league average and 25th in that department, better than only the Rockies, Reds, Pirates, A’s and Tigers.
In hopes of correcting that problem, the Marlins shipped a top-line starter in Lopez to the Twins for the 2022 AL batting champ in Arraez. Miami is at a big disadvantage with the home park factor because trying to hit for power is pretty futile. Instead, this is a lineup that needs to focus on minimizing strikeouts. Few do that better than Arraez, who only struck out 43 times in 603 plate appearances last season. For his career, Arraez has six more walks (137) than strikeouts (131) in 1,569 trips to the plate.
That’s virtually unheard of in today’s game and his bat-to-ball prowess is badly needed for a team that had the fifth highest K% in baseball last season. Chisholm strikes out a lot, but he’s one of the few Marlins with power potential, so you take the good with the bad. He only managed to have 241 PA last season due to injuries, but paced the team with a 139 wRC+ when he was out there.
Health and poor platoons plagued this position player group last season. The Marlins had 18 players with at least 100 plate appearances, but only one with more than 500. Miguel Rojas went to the dish 507 times and only posted a 73 wRC+, as nearly all of his value comes from his defensive skill set. Garrett Cooper, Jesus Aguilar and Jon Berti were the only other ones with at least 400 PA. Cooper had a 115 wRC+, Aguilar is gone and Berti was a below average hitter, but stole 41 bases. The new rules should be beneficial to him.
Berti is something of a homegrown talent, as he was acquired after the 2018 season. Nick Fortes is the only Marlins draft pick projected to be on the Opening Day roster. The rest of that side of the roster was acquired by trade or free agency. As good as Miami has done developing pitching talent, the opposite has been true on the player dev side. It is a hard way to make a living constantly having to give up assets to get players from other teams.
There is a big lack of balance for this roster, as Chisholm, Arraez, Joey Wendle and bench bat Jesus Sanchez are the only left-handed hitters. If Avisail Garcia follows his recent “every other year” trend by having good seasons in odd-numbered years, that would help. He posted a 138 wRC+ in 2017, a 92 wRC+ in 2018, a 113 wRC+ in 2019, an 83 wRC+ in 2020, a 116 wRC+ in 2021 and then a 66 wRC+ during an injury-plagued 2022 campaign. That wasn’t exactly what the Marlins were hoping for in the first year of a four-year, $53 million contract, but maybe they shouldn’t have given an inconsistent player a four-year deal.
I will say that Garcia still posted a 44.8% Hard Hit% in 250 batted ball events, so his contact quality suggested more success, but he struck out more than ever and his walk rate cratered. I’m not saying miracles are coming, but he shouldn’t be as bad as he was. Wendle is also a bounce back candidate after posting an 87 wRC+ last season. He had posted a 105 wRC+ or higher in three of the last four seasons.
It should help to have a professional hitter in Jean Segura with a wRC+ of 105 or higher in six of the last seven seasons. I can also talk myself into seeing Bryan De La Cruz repeat what he did from a power standpoint with 13 dingers in 355 PA. If we get a full season out of Jorge Soler, who has 30-homer upside, the Marlins offense is starting to look better.
This won’t be an award-winning offense. Far from it. But, there is a path in which the Marlins creep a little closer to being league average. The depth is better this season with the signing of Segura, the trade for Arraez and better health across the board. Former Blue Jays farmhand Jordan Groshans has a little untapped potential in his bat as well.
Miami Marlins Pitching
The Marlins sure have squandered a hell of a lot of pitching talent. Miami’s only winning season since 2009 was the 60-game season when they went 31-29 with a -41 run differential. As mentioned in the intro, they’ve traded away Gallen and Lopez in search of position player help, so they have been able to use a position of strength to acquire positions of need, but it is hard to produce results going about it like that.
The Marlins haven’t won 70 games in a season since 2017. One of the problems had been that they would struggle away from home when outside of the friendly confines of Marlins Park. Over the last two seasons, they’ve figured that part out. It’s just that the offense hasn’t followed suit. Now that Lopez is gone, it’s fair to wonder if attrition in the rotation will start to take a toll or if it will be business as usual.
Sandy Alcantara is the one guy in this rotation that you don’t have to worry about. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner is in the heart of his prime and has racked up 10 fWAR over the last two seasons. He had a 2.28 ERA with a 2.99 FIP over 228.2 innings last season after posting a 3.19 ERA with a 3.42 FIP in 205.2 innings the previous season. It will be interesting to see if Alcantara is hurt by the new shift rules because he’s posted a GB% over 53% each of the last two seasons. He may have to go for more strikeouts, but he’s posted above average swinging strike rates the last two seasons, so he should be able to do it if need be.
Alcantara’s durability has been incredible over the last three full seasons and he’s worked hard to have one of the best walk rates in baseball. He also does a terrific job of preventing home runs. He’s the favorite at +450 to run it back as the Cy Young winner.
The rest of the rotation is pretty interesting. Jesus Luzardo has had issues staying healthy and was babied a bit by the A’s, but he had a 3.32 ERA and a 3.12 FIP in his 100.1 innings over 18 starts as a Marlin last season. He has an absurdly high ceiling with a slider that grades as a 70 pitch on the 20-80 scale and a triple-digit fastball. Health will dictate his ceiling. He hasn’t thrown more than 124.1 innings in a single season.
I couldn’t believe Trevor Rogers was only 25 when I started writing this. He has 268 MLB innings to his name with a wide range of results. He struggled during the pandemic year, pitched really well in 2021 and then struggled again in 2022. That 2021 season saw a 2.64 ERA and a 2.55 FIP over 133 innings, but he had a 5.47 ERA with a 4.36 FIP in 2022.
The Marlins have a similar guy from the right side in Edward Cabrera, who has control problems and had them dating back to his days in the minors. He’s more of a ground ball guy than Rogers (who is adding a sinker this season), but he had batted ball luck on his side last season. Cabrera had a .207 BABIP against en route to a 3.01 ERA and a 4.59 FIP. Rogers had a .330 BABIP against. The truth lies somewhere in between for both guys.
The 24-year-old Cabrera also mirrors Rogers in that each guy has a pitch with elite potential, but it’s all about the total package coming together. It came together for Lopez and Alcantara. It also came together for Gallen and continues to, so Miami is on to something with the arms they draft, sign and develop. Can it come together for these two?
I don’t think it will hurt to have Johnny Cueto on this roster for a year or two. The 37-year-old wily vet will be something of a player/coach, but there’s still a little tread left on the tires if last season is any indication. Cueto was a savior for the White Sox over 158.1 innings with a 3.35 ERA and a 3.79 FIP. Cueto is the ultimate pitch-to-contact guy, so we’ll see how he settles in with Miami, but I would certainly anticipate his home numbers to be solid.
This will shock you, but there’s another dynamic arm waiting in the wings. Eury Perez is only 19 and only has 38 minor league starts to his name, but he’s coming quickly. The 6-foot-9 right-hander was named as FanGraphs’ fourth-best prospect in their Top 100. I’m not sure how quickly he’ll be promoted with fringy guys like Braxton Garrett, Devin Smeltzer, Chi Chi Gonzalez and Daniel Castano in the organization, but it might be sooner rather than later. The Marlins only have six available starters on their 40-man roster because Max Meyer and Sixto Sanchez are recovering from surgery. Sanchez has a chance at returning to the Majors this summer if all goes well with his shoulder rehab.
I spent a lot of time talking about the rotation because there isn’t much to say about the bullpen. It’s merely fine, if not a bit below average. After finishing 22nd in ERA and 18th in FIP, the Fish added Matt Barnes, A.J. Puk and JT Chargois in hopes of getting some better middle relief work. Walks were a problem for guys like Tanner Scott and Steven Okert, but they also missed a lot of bats. Closer Dylan Floro had a 3.02 ERA with a 3.13 FIP. Scott also had 20 saves, but a BB% of 15.9%, which won’t get it done.
The Marlins could really benefit from the new schedule. They’re going to have 24 fewer games against the Braves, Phillies, Mets and Nationals, though they’d certainly like a few more against the Nationals. They were just 19-38 against the Braves, Phillies and Mets. This is also a team that was 43-48 going into the All-Star Break, but totally fell apart and went 26-45 after.
The Marlins played 64 (!!!) one-run games and went just 24-40 in those games. That was the third-lowest win percentage, better than only the Diamondbacks (17-29) and Rangers (15-35). That was also the most one-run games in baseball. The Yankees played 58 and went 31-27.
Just how detrimental was Miami’s offense? The Marlins were only 12-12 when allowing two runs. They were 15-14 when allowing three runs. The bullpen was also a big problem, as Miami lost 14 games with a lead after five innings. Their .774 win percentage was well below the league average of .853.
Player to Watch
SP Trevor Rogers: The 2021 season for Rogers was not a random occurrence. His fastball ranked in the 90th percentile last season and he throws with above average velo and extension at 6-foot-5. Back in 2021, he ranked in the 65th percentile in Hard Hit% and 89th percentile in Barrel%. His Whiff% was in the 81st percentile. None of that really carried over to 2022, as his Whiff% was in the 53rd percentile, but he was just slightly above average in Hard Hit% and Barrel%. All of his pitches were less effective. He didn’t spot his fastball well and wasn’t on the edges of the lower portion of the zone with his changeup. Hitters didn’t chase the changeup as much.
In his final four starts, though, Rogers made a mechanical change. Throughout the season, his vertical release point had been dropping, which can be a sign of injury. He eventually missed a month from June 25 to August 31. When he came back from injury, he threw 19.1 innings with 23 strikeouts against four walks before getting shut down on September 17. I don’t know how healthy he is, but if his release point is in a good spot early, I’ll be invested.
Miami Marlins Season Win Total Pick
I feel like the Marlins are a team that nerds like me try to talk ourselves into every single year. A lot of talent has rolled through this organization over the last decade or so, but the team just hasn’t performed up to its capabilities. There has also been some turnover in the dugout and the front office. Disjointed visions from those in power often leak over to the field. I think they’re in a better spot now with Ng as the GM and Schumaker as the manager, but that will all take time to come together.
It is hard to look at this (or virtually any Marlins roster) and say that’s the one that will get this team in the playoff hunt. Had 2020 not been 60 games, the Marlins would have eventually fallen apart and finished with yet another losing record. I don’t think this is the roster to get the team to 77 or more wins for the first time in six seasons. Cueto, Cooper, Wendle, Floro and Barnes are all viable trade candidates with expiring contracts or club options at season’s end.
I do think 18 fewer games with the Braves, Mets and Phillies absolutely helps, but the AL has a lot of .500 or better teams and the Marlins still have a long way to go, especially with a first-year manager and a lack of starting pitcher depth with trades and existing injuries. I think this one is worthy of a wager.
Pick: Under 76.5