Miami, Florida – The wait is finally over fellow baseball fans, the anticipated 2023 Miami Marlins season has arrived. America’s favorite pastime returns. With the very successful World Baseball Classic in our rearview mirror and Spring Training complete, Major League Baseball is all set for the action-packed 162-game season. There are going to be so many storylines throughout the year in what’s likely a roller-coaster season for some of these teams. Top performances, injuries, brawls, suspensions, unexpected surprises, the whole smash. Who’s a buyer or seller come the trade deadline? Which players make this year’s All-Star Game at T-Mobile Park (Seattle Mariners) and what sort of a postseason push will we see from various ball clubs?
— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) March 30, 2023
All this leads to the subject of the loveable Marlins. The Fighting Fish’s front office was very busy this past offseason making several acquisitions and doing exactly what they intended. Primarily, they added bats in an effort to bolster what has been one of the weakest offenses in the entire league. Enter veteran hitter Jean Segura and reigning AL batting average champion Luis Arráez. The bullpen is seeing some new acquisitions in the form of JT Chargois, A.J. Puk, and Matt Barnes. Speaking of pitching, Johnny Cueto, a free agent signing, will be in the backend of the rotation for Miami.
With all that said, it’s still the NL East. Barring the Washington Nationals, the Marlins are going to have their hands full with the Philadelphia Phillies, Atlanta Braves, and New York Mets. These formidable teams are expected to be in a three-way dogfight. Miami is on the outside looking when it comes to any sort of postseason conversation. Without further ado!
Defense around the diamond
I needed to lead off with this. Spring training looked like something out of the film “Major League”. To say there’s concern about the fielding aspect is a bit of an understatement. At times the defense made mistakes you’d more likely find in little league. Keep in mind moves have been made resulting in players practicing at new positions. Jazz Chisholm Jr., for example, is now patrolling centerfield, a spot he’s never played before. He spent all spring getting acquainted with the new assignment to mixed results looking like a Fish out of water. It appeared downright ugly at times but it was the perfect opportunity to work out the kinks when the games counted for little. He’ll be great at the plate at least.
Not sure if Jazz didn't see it right away or what, but it's a leadoff double for Mercado in the 3rd. pic.twitter.com/hxnrpdQHC2
— Isaac Azout (@IsaacAzout) March 17, 2023
If it doesn’t work out, Arráez could find himself back at first in a positional shuffle.
Segura was bumped over to third base, a place where he’s got scant familiarity. El Mambo has been in the big show for over a decade. During that span, he’s recorded 24 appearances at the hot corner. His preseason included participation at the WBC playing behind Manny Machado in the depth chart. Segura made two plate appearances for the Dominican Republic.
Third baseman Jean Segura with a nice play for the final out of the second.
— Christina De Nicola (@CDeNicola13) March 19, 2023
Joey Wendle, meanwhile, will be the starter at shortstop despite a lack of experience there.
For better or worse, MLB is implementing shift restrictions for the season adding another layer to the defensive strategy and making things like range and first-step movements even more important in executing plays. For the rest of the field, things look pretty solid.
Leading from the mound
The starting rotation is led by the reigning NL Cy Young Winner Sandy Alcantara (14-9, 2.28 ERA, 5.7 WAR). Without a doubt, we can expect another stellar year from The Sand Man so long as he’s healthy. Looking at the rest of the starters, Jesus Luzardo (4-7, 3.32 ERA, 2.2 WAR) and Edward Cabrera (6-4, 3.01 ERA, 0.3 WAR) will be building on their successes from 2022. All signs point to a great 2023. The concern is on the backend. Trevor Rogers (4-11, 5.47 ERA, 0.8 WAR) is coming off a bad season, hoping to bounce back and we all saw how the aged Johnny Cueto (8-10, 3.35 ERA, 2.4 WAR) performed in spring training.
Sure, the games didn’t matter then but they do now for the 37-year-old. I’m calling it now, these won’t be the same five starters come the trade deadline. Cueto seems the most likely not to be in the pitching rotation by then.
— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) March 30, 2023
Moving to something less certain. The bullpen is a pretty big wildcard. We’ve got our familiar stalwarts in Dylan Floro and Tanner Scott complemented by 2022 midseason callups Huascar Brazoban and Andrew Nardi. Puk was acquired in February via a trade with the Oakland Athletics shipping out JJ Bleday, both teams swapping their former top-10 draft picks. He looks the part of a closer, if the southpaw can stay healthy it’s his job to lose. Injuries limited his career, a big reason why the A’s were okay giving him up.
Bright spot for the Marlins today: A.J. Puk's scoreless inning with 3 K's pic.twitter.com/rvwDx5cHLq
— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) March 17, 2023
Another intriguing acquisition is JT Chargois. Acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in a four-player trade, Chargois was also with the Dodgers, Twins, and Mariners wielding a sinker that makes it to the mid-90s and a high 80s slider. He missed most of the 2022 season due to injury and looks ready for this year’s workload. The front office traded for an additional experienced arm in Matt Barnes.
Acquired in a trade with the Boston Red Sox in late January, the Marlins parted ways with reliever Richard Bleier in the move. He built a solid reputation for the Red Sox by 2016 and showed great stuff during the 2018 World Series Championship run. He became the club’s closer in 2021 but struggled in the second half of the season. 2022 saw more of the same with shoulder inflammation adding to his woes landing Barnes on the 60-day IL. He may have ended the season with a 4.31 ERA, 1.44 WHIP and 3.87 FIP but since his return from injury, he recorded a 1.59 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, and 2.80 FIP in his final 24 appearances.
Matt Barnes, K'ing the Side. 😷 pic.twitter.com/Em5LL3bPbD
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 25, 2022
Rounding off these boys we’ve got Braxton Garrett (3-7, 3.58 ERA, 1.25 WHIP). I’m expecting growth from him.
Swing and a…?
First Marlins XBH ✔️
First Marlins RBI ✔️
— Bally Sports Florida: Marlins (@BallyMarlins) March 30, 2023
Their success in the season will hinge on success at the plate. Ranking near the bottom in just about every category, the front office went out and bolstered the lineup with Jean Segura (.277/.336/.387, 10 HR, 45 R, 33 RBIS, 13 SB) and Luis Arráez (.316/.375/.420, 8 HR, 88 R, 49 RBI, 3.2 WAR). If both Avisail Garcia (.224/.266/.317, 28.7% K) and Jorge Soler (.207/.295/.400, 29.4% K) turn it around while the rest of the hitting excels, the Fish will see significant improvements.
Garrett Cooper (.261/.337/.415, 1.4 WAR, 9 HR, 37 R, 50 RBIs) was at one point the only productive hitter with a batting average above .300 last season. He started off the year slow hitting .259 in April raising it to .289 during May before going on a hot steak in June with a blistering .378 at the plate. Unfortunately, he cooled off big time for July and August hitting well below the Mendoza Line. If Cooper can be more consistent it’ll be a huge boon.
— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) March 30, 2023
Fans are looking for a breakout season from Bryan De La Cruz (.252/.294/.432, 13 HR, 38 R, 43 RBI). Hitting .261 during the preseason, De La Cruz will aim to lower his strikeout rate. Last year he whiffed 25.4% of the time marking it a goal to work on.
Over at shortstop Wendle (.259/.297/.360, 3 HR, 32 RBIs, 12 SB, 4% BB) is slated to grab the bulk of the work although Manager Skip Schumaker suggested using Jon Berti against lefties while Joey faces righties.
Jesus Sanchez, the team’s fifth outfielder, will be the only left-handed hitter coming off the bench. Nick Fortes, Berti, and Yuli Gurriel (.242/.288/.360 with a .647 OPS) will also be available to pinch-hit most days. Gurriel beat out José Iglesias nabbing one of the last spots on the 26-man roster.
— Swing Completo LLC (@SwingCompletoBB) March 25, 2023
Without a doubt, the Miami Marlins did what they could in what’s regarded as a successful offseason. They were proactive in trying to meet their needs and will now see whether their moves produce. This leads to the question, in the highly competitive NL East were these acquisitions enough? Last year the Marlins finished 69-93. 2023 can very well be one of two extremes. Either it’s a memorable season for all the right reasons or a disaster.
I personally see an eight-win improvement. For the postseason, it won’t be enough. However, it’ll be a step in the right direction in the Skip Schumaker era.
Final 2023 Record: 77-85
Photo | JC Ruiz