The Marlins made some moves this off-season, that, on paper, depleted them a bit, but it was not as dramatic as when they gutted their World Series teams of 1997 and 2003. Gone is Mike Jacobs, traded to Kansas City. Gone are Josh Willingham and Scott Olsen, sent packing to D.C. Still the Marlins have enough pop and some pitching to at least remain competitive in the NL East.
The Marlins will have a new lead off hitter in 2009, as top prospect Cameron Maybin is ready to take the next step and play center field every day for the Fish. Last year Maybin hit .500 with two RBI and nine runs scored in just eight games. He is expected to be a huge base stealing threat when given the chance.
The move with Maybin means that Haney Ramirez will be moved down in the order to the number three hole. Ramirez fits there since he is a power hitter, having belted 33 home runs in 2008 with 67 RBI, as the team's old lead off hitter. Now he can drive more runs in and has even bulked up for such an effort.
And is not like the Marlins not to hit. Dan Uggla (32 HR, 92 RBI), Cody Ross (22 HR, 73 RBI) and Jorge Cantu (29 HR, 95 RBI) will all be back and ready to beat up the mediocre staffs of the NL East.
The one concern? Pitching. Outside of Ricky Nolasco and his 186 strikeouts, the Marlins are very, very young in starting pitching. Chirs Volstad, Rick Vandenhurk, Burke Badenhope and Anibal Sanchez all have two years or less of major league experience. Voldstad showed the most promise pitching to a 6-4 record with a 2.88 ERA, but the others have not shown such promise with ERA's over five.
As for the closer's role, that will go to former Met prospect Matt Lindstrom who can get up to 98 or even 99 mph on the gun. Last year Lindstrom had five saves and a 3.14 ERA, but he was not the full time closer. Now he will be and it will be interesting to see how he does.
The Marlins are a good team. If their pitching holds up and they continue to smack the ball around the park, the Marlins will challenge the Mets and Phillies again. If either New York or Philadelphia slips during the regular season, don't be surprised to see Florida in second place competing for a wild card berth.
PREDICTION: MARLINS 3rd Place 83-79.