SB Nation Blog
The opponent in one sentence
The Marlins have been stripped to the bare bones this offseason after being bought by an ownership group faced by Derek Jeter, and now they project to be perhaps the worst team in baseball for 2018 #RE2PECT
All things considered, things are looking up for the Marlins after the opening series of the year. It seemed reasonable to expect them to struggle mightily against the Cubs, but instead they came out of things with a series split. Does that mean the Marlins are going to be better than we thought? Probably not! But it’s a nice start, at least.
4/2: Brian Johnson vs. Trevor Richards, 7:10 PM ET
Johnson is set to make his first start of 2018 on Monday night as the Red Sox slotted him fifth in their rotation specifically for this series. The lefty was a star at the University of Florida at the beginning of the decade and he was supposedly a pretty good hitter back then, too, so they preferred him in the NL park. What’s most important is his pitching, though, and there’s reason to be excited about that too. Johnson had a phenomenal spring and was solid last year as a depth option in the bullpen. Now without minor-league options, this is a big year for Johnson but he has a relatively easy test to start things off. Of course, he also has a hell of an act to follow with how Boston’s first four starts went.
If you haven’t heard of Richards, don’t feel bad as the 24-year-old righty is set to make his major-league debut on Sunday and in fact he has only 14 starts above High-A with none coming at Triple-A. He’s a major success story for the organization even at this point, however, as he was undrafted and picked out of the Indy Leagues in 2016, and he’s been strong ever since. Last season, between High-A and Double-A, Richards pitched to a 2.53 ERA in the Marlins system over 146 innings with over a strikeout per inning and fewer than two walks per nine. Richards throws a fastball in the high-80s to low-90s, a changeup and a curveball.
4/3: Chris Sale vs. Jose Ureña, 6:10 PM ET
Sale is ready to make his second start of the season after looking mostly like his typical self in his 2018 debut. The southpaw shut down the Rays but was robbed of a victory after the bullpen ruined his strong performance. His slider was mostly everything we expected it to be in Tampa, and while his fastball certainly wasn’t bad it also lacked some of his typical command. What I’m trying to say is that we could see an even better Sale on Tuesday. It will also be interesting to see if Alex Cora will be willing to throw his ace out for more than the 92 pitches he tossed in his debut.
Ureña was Miami’s Opening Day starter, which says more about their rotation than it does about Ureña. The righty struggled a bit in his first outing of the year, allowing five runs to the Cubs in just four innings of work in a start that also included a couple home runs. Ureña did pitch to a 3.82 ERA in 2017, which is obviously solid, but the peripherals didn’t match up with that performance. He struck out just six batters per nine innings while walking more than three and allowing 26 home runs in 170 innings of work. The righty features a fastball in the mid-to-high-90s to go with a slider and a changeup.
The Marlins have a couple of old friends in their bullpen, led by Brad Ziegler. The righty, of course, was a trade deadline acquisition by Dave Dombrowski back in 2016 and he was phenomenal for Boston as a setup man. He’d end up in Miami for the 2017 season, and things didn’t do quite as well. The veteran is still with the Marlins and is in fact their closer to start the year, though one would assume he will be trade bait later in the summer if he pitches well enough.
Junichi Tazawa was with the Red Sox for parts of seven years, mostly for the five-year stretch from 2012-2016. He was a mainstay in the late-innings of games for Boston and underrated during most of his time here, though he’s not the pitcher he once was and, like Ziegler, struggled last year for the Marlins.
Notable Position Players
Lewis Brinson was the most exciting player to come back to the Marlins as part of their firesale this past winter and the top prospect has started the year in Miami’s outfield and atop their lineup. If he reaches his full potential we’re talking about a consistent All-Star level player with big-time athleticism and legitimate pop to go with a strong glove in the outfield. There’s a long way to go for that, but he has the potential to change at least one of these games.
Justin Bour is arguably the best player left in Miami when all of the dust settled, as the power-hitting first baseman would look good in the middle of a number of lineups. Bour is coming off a breakout year in which he smashed 25 home runs in just 108 games with a .902 OPS.
Starlin Castro was one of the pieces that went back to Miami in the deal that sent Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees, and the infielder figures to be another potential trade chip this winter if he can recreate his solid 2017.
Derek Dietrich plays all over the diamond for Miami and is a generally underappreciated player who can provide solid on-base skills and sneaky pop near the top of a lineup.
Brian Anderson is a rookie third baseman who had a breakout in the high-minors last year and could be a solid league-average bat.
Miguel Rojas is the Marlins starting shortstop though he’s much better suited for a bench role where he can show off a little versatility, though he did have a shockingly solid year at the plate in 2017 in which he finished with an exactly average 100 OPS+. It doesn’t seem sustainable, though.
Garrett Cooper was traded from New York to Miami last winter in a separate deal than the Stanton one, and he’s another guy better suited for a bench role that is being forced into more playing time on a subpar roster.
As I mentioned above, Ziegler is the closer for now, but he is not really the most talented reliever in this bullpen.
Miami actually as a pair of electric and exciting young righties that pitch in setup situations in front of Ziegler, and either or both could be future closers not too long from now. Kyle Barraclough and Drew Steckenrider are both hard throwers with fastballs in the mid-to-high-90s, and while both use that velocity to generate a ton of swings and misses they also have questionable command. Look for patience from Red Sox pitchers if either enters a game in this short series.
Chris O’Grady is the top lefty in the Marlins bullpen, though he only has 35 innings of major-league experience and much of that has come in more of a swingman role.
J.T. Realmuto is the other player, along with Bour, who could have an argument for best Marlins player remaining from their old rosters. The catcher is out with a bone bruise in his back and isn’t expected to return until the middle of April at the earliest.
Martin Prado was involved in some weird trade rumors with the Red Sox last summer, but obviously that never came to fruition. He’s a solid enough player who gets paid more than he’d make on the open market and the veteran is still recovering from knee surgery he underwent shortly after those trade rumors disappeared. There’s no timetable on his return.
Dan Straily should be the best starter in the Marlins rotation this year, but the righty has inflammation in his right forearm. They’re hoping for a quick return, but setbacks could prevent that from happening.
You likely remember Wei-Yin Chen from his Orioles days, but the righty hasn’t been the same since coming to Miami. Right now, he’s out with an elbow injury and won’t be back until at least June.
J.T. Riddle was going to see some time at shortstop this year, but is still recovering from shoulder surgery he underwent last June.
Brett Graves was a Rule 5 draft pick who was placed on the 60-day disabled list prior to Opening Day with an oblique injury.
Elieser Hernandez is another Rule 5 pick who missed the start of the season after getting his wisdom teeth removed but should be back shortly and is projected to join Miami’s rotation.
It is going to be a gorgeous couple of days in Miami with both nights expected to be in the low-to-mid-70s. There is the potential for some showers on Tuesday night, but Miami has a retractable roof that should prevent any delays or postponements.