The Miami Marlins have become one of the surprise teams in the National League in 2016. They are only six games back of the Washington Nationals and finish the first half with a 44-41 record. Represented by four player at this years’ All-Star Game, the Marlins are primed to compete for a playoff spot this season. They bolster one of the most impressive outfields in the majors, with a trio all under 26 years of age. They also have a dominant back end to their bullpen with A.J. Ramos and recently acquired Fernando Rodney. The returning 2013 Rookie of the Year, Jose Fernandez, has also had a dominant first half, and if the second is anything like the first, he may be the 2016 National League Cy Young award recipient.
Marlins 2016 Midseason Report
Numerous players have stepped up for the Marlins in 2016 so narrowing down who has been the biggest shock is no easy task. Left fielder Christian Yelich is only 24 years old, but, alongside Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton, is one third of the most prolific outfields in the majors. He has always been a player that hits for a near .300 average, but this season he has improved on his power. He finished all of 2015 with seven home runs and forty-four RBI. This year he has already hit seven out of the park to go with forty-five RBI.
Few players have disappointed for the Marlins this season, but starter Wei-Yin Chen has struggled in his transition to the National League. Between 2014 and 2015 with the Baltimore Orioles he posted a 27-14 record with a 3.44 ERA. Miami hoped they would get a reliable veteran arm when they signed the free agent left hander in January. Although he has pitched 98.2 innings with seventy-nine strikeouts so far this season his 4.83 ERA is less than desirable. His ERA is nearly one point higher than his career 3.86 and he will have to perform like he did with Baltimore in the second half for the Marlins to make a post season run.
Midseason Team MVP
Marcell Ozuna has earned himself a spot on the 2016 All-Star Game roster and continues to perform at an elite level for the Marlins. He controls the center field position with ease, and over his 354 career games at CF he has twenty assists with only ten errors. Keeping base runners to singles instead of doubles and forcing the third base coach to throw up the stop sign are important in close games and Ozuna surely does that.
He has elevated his average from .259 last season to .307 in 2016. He has also surpassed his total home run an RBI numbers from a season ago with seventeen and forty-seven, compared to ten and forty-four in 2015. His .903 OPS is also impressive and a strong second half will see him have his first .300/30/100 season in his young MLB career.
What to Watch for in the Second Half
It’s Ichiro Suzuki watch. The success of the Marlins make them an intriguing team to watch, but Suzuki alone is why you should tune in. At 42 years old, he may not have the power numbers that David Ortiz does, but he is still batting with a .335 average. He will look to become the 30th member of the 3,000 career MLB hit club shortly, currently sitting at 2990. Although the talented young outfield the Marlins possess has limited his playing time to only 34 games and 164 total at bats, Suzuki will reach this milestone shortly and further solidify himself as one of the most prolific hitters in MLB history and a more than certain Hall of Fame call will come his way.
Another big story is what to do at second base. Dee Gordon is set to return from his suspension on July 29 and, as the reigning NL batting champ, should have the starting role handed back to him. However, with the stellar play of Derek Dietrich in his absence it is not that easy. Batting .303 with a .837 OPS this season, Dietrich has taken the opportunity presented to him and elevated his game to a new level.
He has certainly shown he can be an everyday second-basemen, but Gordon is a player that you cannot keep on the bench. Gordon will however not be eligible to be on a playoff roster, should the Marlins make it that far. That, along with how they play throughout July and August, will likely determine the playing time he receives. The one benefit Dietrich has going for him is his ability to play multiple positions, as well as playing in the National League where pinch hitters and runners are used far more often than in the American League.
After undergoing Tommy John surgery in May of 2014, Fernandez has shown that his 2013 Rookie of the Year campaign was no fluke. He owns a 2.52 ERA to start 2016 and has 154 strikeouts over 107.1 innings. His 11-4 record isn’t to shabby either and in four seasons we may be witnessing a pitcher go from Rookie of the Year, to Tommy John surgery, to Cy Young award winner. He has yet to pitch 400 innings at the MLB level but already has 490 strikeouts and a 33-13 record with a 2.43 ERA. He is the cornerstone to the pitching staff of the Marlins and crucial to their success not just in 2016, but well beyond.
Another player to keep an eye on is right-fielder Stanton. He continues to hit for tremendous power with twenty home runs, but his .233 average is on pace for the worst in his career. His worst average season came back in 2013, when he hit .249 before exploding in 2014, batting .288 with thirty-seven home runs and 105 RBI. If he can elevate his average from the dismal mark it is now, while continuing to smash the long ball, the outfield trio of Ozuna, Stanton and Yelich may combine for 75 home runs and 250 RBI this season.
The Marlins have shown that they will be buyers this season if the price is right. They have added veteran reliever Rodney, and if they continue to perform like their talent suggests they can, the Washington Nationals will not just have to worry about the New York Mets in the race for the NL East.