2002 Record: 79-83
4th in the NL East 23 games back.
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The 2003 Marlins definitely seem to be a team in transition. A lot of last year’s team is gone, and with it the majority of the power that the team had been able to muster. The power hitters have been replaced by speedsters and a team which once prided itself on pitching, now seems to be looking for more.
The vaunted young arms of the Florida Marlins never worked out quite the way that management hoped. They still have talent and seem to be building a team around Josh Beckett, and A.J. Burnett. They’ve still got Brad Penny who has apparently been shopped about and who reputedly is having arm troubles. The above players will make up the starting trio in the rotation, followed by Carl Pavano and Mark Redman. In the wings is Michael Tejera who has talent, but has not shown the ability to handle overwork like his counterparts on this team have.
Redman was one of the two moves made to boost the pitching staff, but that claim seems dubious as his career ERA is 4.57 with a 23-30 record. The one thing in his favor seems to be that he has pitched 200+ innings in both 2001 and 2002.
The other major acquisition was Braves pitcher Tim Spooneybarger. Spooneybarger is a pitcher with more than just an long name, he was considered a top young pitcher by Atlanta and seems built for a career of bullpen duties. He’ll probably start the season as a set up man, but has the potential to close if Braden Looper and Vladimir Nunez can’t do the job.
Most of the big bats we are used to seeing are long gone. Cliff Floyd was dealt last season, and Preston Wilson and Kevin Millar in the offseason. In their place are Ivan Rodriguez, Juan Pierre and Todd Hollandsworth. The new additions have some big shoes to fill and a lot of questions to answer. I-Rod of course will be the biggest one, especially when it comes to his health. How will he hold up to a season of abuse as a catcher without being able to DH? His track record with injuries is not good.
Despite all of the hype about it, the Marlins are not as power starved as one might think. I-Rod and Derek Lee can both hit between 25-30 home runs, Mike Lowell, Juan Encarnacion and Todd Hollandsworth should each put up 15-25. Lowell, however, will probably only be giving a half season of service since the Marlins are expected to deal him before he becomes a free agent for 2004.
The big game for the Marlins will be speed. Luis Castillo and Juan Pierre will give the team a couple of table-setters who should always be in scoring position. These two will probably run on almost any given opportunity to try to help the offense conjure up more scoring. Looking at the Marlins lineup, it might just work.
It would not surprise me to see the Marlins win as many as they did last year, maybe even a few more. They are not legitimate contenders, but in a division where every team should be .500 or better, the Marlins could be a real dark horse if everything falls together.