StrategyFebruary 8, 2011

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Florida Marlins

By R.J. White

Last season was a typical one for the Florida Marlins, as the team hovered around .500 and missed the playoffs while finishing third in the NL East. In fact, if there’s anything atypical about the recent Marlins it’s that ownership hasn’t went on a one-year spending spree to land a World Series trophy in quite some time. Instead, the Marlins have leaned on competitive pitching and underwhelming hitting — despite having one of the top fantasy baseball stars in the game — to tread water over the last few years. Is 2011 the year they take the next step in a quality division?

In “30 Teams in 30 Days,” the Fantasy Baseball Cafe will preview each team in Major League Baseball on a daily basis. In addition to projecting starting lineups, rotations and closing situations, the Cafe will identify potential targets for 2011 fantasy baseball drafts.
Offensive Starters

C John Buck.281.314.4895320660409w/TOR
1B Gaby Sanchez.273.341.4487219855572 
2B Omar Infante.321.359.416658477471w/ATL
SS Hanley Ramirez.300.378.47592217632543 
3B Wes Helms.220.300.346254390254 
LF Logan Morrison.283.390.447432180244 
CF Chris Coghlan.268.335.3836052810358 
RF Mike Stanton.259.326.5074522595359 

Unsettled: Third Base. After the Marlins traded Jorge Cantu in the middle of last season, Wes Helms assumed the starting role at the hot corner. That’s not good. Instead of bringing in a solid veteran and shifting Helms to a backup role, the Marlins signed Greg Dobbs to a minor-league contract and invited him to spring training with the thought of making him Helms’ backup. Of course, the Marlins’ top prospect according to Baseball America is Matt Dominguez, a 21-year-old third baseman that underwhelmed in Double-A last season. Without much out there in free agency at 3B, Dominguez could find himself taking his bump in the majors before very long.
Target: Mike Stanton. Few prospects have come through the minors with as much power potential as Stanton in recent years. Coming to Florida for the first time in early June, Stanton went on to smack 22 HRs in 100 games at the ripe old age of 20. Extrapolate his home-run rate to 500 at-bats, and you’re looking at a guy with 30-HR power already. If he continues to develop, a 40-HR season could be in his not-so-distant future. If he winds up hitting behind Hanley Ramirez, all the better. Stanton generally comes off the draft board after about 110 picks, but his power potential should easily return positive value on that price.
The Rotation
Josh Johnson (R)11-62.301.1118648183.2 
Ricky Nolasco (R)14-94.511.2814733157.2 
Anibal Sanchez (R)13-123.551.3415770195.0 
Javier Vazquez (R)10-105.321.4012165157.1w/NYY
Chris Volstad (R)12-94.581.4110260175.0 

Unsettled: The first four rotation spots are locked up, and Volstad had a solid run at the end of last season to put him in the driver’s seat for the No. 5 role. He posted wins in each of his final three starts, earning a complete game shutout over the Cardinals before shutting out the Brewers in Milwaukee for 6.2 innings and then closing the season with a six-inning, two-run performance against the Pirates. However, Alex Sanabia had a solid debut season, posting a 3.73 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and a K/BB ratio of nearly 3.0 in 12 starts and three relief appearances. Sanabia will most likely start in the bullpen, but if Volstad struggles he should get the quick hook.
Target: Ricky Nolasco and Javier Vazquez. Josh Johnson led the league in ERA last season, but his high draft price comes attached with injury concerns. The smarter buy comes with these two lesser parts of the Marlins staff. Nolasco has posted outstanding strikeout and walk rates over the past three years, but only once has it led to a sub-4.50 ERA, and that came back in 2008. Fantasy owners may be starting to paint Nolasco as a mediocre-ERA, solid-WHIP guy, but his talent speaks to a far better fantasy commodity. Vazquez was again torched in New York, but a return to the National League East could be just what the doctor ordered. Remember, he was an elite pitcher with Atlanta in 2009. These two pitchers will come with discounts in 2011 drafts, and both could provide a big return on the investment.
The 8th and 9th Innings
Leo Nunez (R)303.461.28712165.0 
Clay Hensley (R)72.161.11772975.0 

Chasing Saves: Leo Nunez has been a solid closer over the last two years, racking up 56 saves since the start of the 2009 season. However, the Marlins went with Clay Hensley late last year, despite Nunez posting better numbers last season than he did in 2009. Nunez is expected to serve as closer again in 2011, but Hensley’s 2.16 ERA could earn him a look at the job before long. Edward Mujica is the darkhorse, having posted a 3.62 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and a 72/6 K/BB ratio in 2010 for the Padres. If he’s not just another product of Petco, he could get a chance to close at some point in 2011.
Final Thoughts
Hanley Ramirez is a top-two pick in all leagues, despite his deficiencies in the RBI category that result from playing in Florida. Should a guy that has topped 81 RBIs only once in his five-year career be in the mix for the No. 1 overall pick? Mike Stanton should continue to develop as a nice complement to Ramirez and is well worth the mid-round pick used on him. Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco and even Javier Vazquez should all be in for good statistical seasons, while there’s also reason to like Anibal Sanchez, Chris Volstad and Alex Sanabia, at least the ones that end up with a rotation spot. Deep-league owners would do well to speculate on Clay Hensley for save opportunities this season. Hitters John Buck, Gaby Sanchez, Logan Morrison, Omar Infante and Chris Coghlan all offer some sort of upside late in drafts.
Check back tomorrow for our look at the New York Mets.

R.J. White is a fantasy blogger at the sports site FanHouse. Check out his work both here and there, and feel free to talk to him in the forums, where he posts under the name daullaz.
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