The Marlins didn’t make many big moves in the offseason, but that doesn’t mean their team won’t be improved this season. One reason why the Marlins finished with a 71-91 record last season was because their two biggest stars — OF Giancarlo Stanton and SP Jose Fernandez — both missed most of the season with injuries that limited Stanton to 74 games and Fernandez to just 11 starts. Fernandez did come back to pitch a couple games late last season so he is recovered, and Stanton is also expected to be ready to play during spring training. The team did make a couple of minor additions to its starting rotation, signing free-agent SPs Wei-Yin Chen, who should fill the No. 2 slot in the rotation behind Fernandez, and Edwin Jackson, who will likely compete for a spot toward the back of the rotation.
As mentioned, the Marlins only won 71 games last season, but it could have been better if they had Fernandez and Stanton healthy for the whole year. They didn’t have much trouble getting on base in 2015 — their .260 batting average was fourth-best in the National League — but they couldn’t get those runners home frequently enough, finishing next-to-last in the NL in home runs and RBI, with 120 and 575, respectively. The team’s 4.02 ERA was slightly below the NL average, but the staff had the third-fewest strikeouts (1152) and fewest saves (35) in the league last season. Of the six starting pitchers who made at least 12 starts for the Marlins, only Tom Koehler passed the 100-strikeout mark, with 137. The next highest strikeout total on the team belonged to now-retired SP Dan Haren, who fanned 88 batters in 129 innings.
The Marlins enter the 2016 season with a largely inexperienced roster, especially on offense with players like 1B Justin Bour, OF Marcell Ozuna and SS Christian Yelich all entering their second or third full seasons in the majors. Even Fernandez has only made 47 starts during his three seasons in the league due to injuries. The team will rely on the likes of Stanton and 3B Martin Prado to provide veteran leadership to the younger players on the team. Scoring should be easier for the team this season if Stanton can stay healthy and come close to the career-high 37 home runs he hit in 2012 and 2014. Bour hit 23 home runs in 129 games last season, so he could become a 30-homer guy with a full season of starting this year. Likewise, if Fernandez can get in a full season of starts, that will help improve the team’s middle-of-the-pack pitching. Putting him, with his career 2.40 ERA, back at the top of the rotation allows the Marlins to know they have a good chance of winning every fifth day when he takes the mound. Although Chen isn’t necessarily a household name, he should be a solid No. 2 behind Fernandez, especially since his ERA has gone done in each of the last two seasons. Going from the AL East to the NL East could also provide a bit of a bump for Chen.
While they’re still probably not a playoff team, the Marlins should see an improvement over last season, with players back from injuries and the young players gaining more experience. They finished last season in third place in the division and that’s where I expect them to finish again this year. But I think they can win a few more games, getting up to 75 or 76 wins.