Tuesday, March 31, 2009

NL East Preview: Florida Marlins

Prediction: Florida Marlins: 3rd place finish

Strengths: The three returning starters of the Marlins infield, first baseman Jorge Cantu, shortstop Hanley Ramirez and second baseman Dan Uggla, combined for 94 home runs last season. They represent the core of a very talented line-up top to bottom. Ramirez is the face fo the franchise and is among baseball's elite hitters. While the Marlins lack a true "Ace" their rotation is loaded with talented young arms. Florida's farm system may be their biggest strength. Their minor league teams are stacked with top prospects at every position.

Weaknesses: While the Marlins offense is first rate their defense leaves much to be desired. Given their young rotation their defensive woes are even more pronounced and is a problem that Florida needs to address. The Marlins biggest weakness is their ownership's unwillingness to spend money to improve their team. Florida has had the lowest payroll in baseball over the last three season and has been a complete non-factor in free agency. If the Marlins would add just 2-3 solid players they would be a serious contender in the NL.

Farm Aid: The Marlins have a lot of help on the way from the minors, but their brightest star may be center fielder Cameron Maybin. Maybin, who is just 22 years old, should patrol center field for years to come for the Fish and be a big part of Florida's offense. Emilio Bonifacio, who was acquired in a trade with the Washington Nationals this offseason, won the starting job at third base in spring training. Though a second baseman by nature, Bonifacio should add another stolen base threat to the Marlins athletic line-up.

Outlook: The Marlins have a lot of talent but probably lack the experience to compete with the Mets and Phillies for the NL East title. Given their depth in the minors don't be surprised to see the Marlins trade off some of their young starters for additional prospects.

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