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2020 MLB Team Preview: Miami Marlins

Zach Thompson provides his thoughts on what the 60-game MLB season could look like for the Marlins.

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July Update: The Marlins have battled some injuries to players expected to be significant contributors since the start of Summer Camp. Matt Joyce (undisclosed) and Lewis Brinson (undisclosed) were both placed on the 10-day injured list and will likely be unavailable for Opening Day. Neither has made an announcement about sitting out the upcoming season, but neither has shown up for any team workouts yet, either. The team has not made a statement about their availability beyond pacing then on IL. For as long as those two options are sidelined, Harold Ramirez and Garrett Cooper should get more time in RF and at DH. Miami’s big off-season acquisition, Jonathan Villar (back) has also been limited a bit in the delayed preseason but still hopes to be ready to roll when the season starts. The Marlins don’t have a ton of starting pitching depth, so it will be interesting to see how they piece together the rotation behind Sandy Alcantara, who will get the Opening Day nod.

This will be the third season since the ownership group led by Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter took over the Marlins, and their long-term plan is starting to take shape. Initially, they sold off many of Miami’s key pieces by trading away Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon. The following year, J.T. Realmuto was shipped out as well.

However, those trades and solid drafting have helped the Marlins start to get things headed the right way. They finally look like a team that’s starting to improve at the Major League level along with strengthening its organizational depth. There’s just one big problem for Miami this season — they play in a stacked NL East, where the other three teams all have legitimate playoff hopes. Depending on what the MLB season looks like, even a vastly improved Marlins team could end up finishing with a worse winning percentage if they have to play an unbalanced schedule focused on divisional matchups.

Let’s take a look at who the Marlins added this offseason, who is ready to help them from their farm system, and what to expect when the season gets underway.

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Could Brian Anderson be Miami’s Fantasy MVP?

DraftKings Sportsbook odds

— Division Winner: +20000

— League Winner: +35000

— World Series: +75000

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Key Departures:

Starlin Castro, 2B; Wei-Yin Chen, SP; JT Riddle, SS; Bryan Holaday, C; Martin Prado, 1B/3B; Curtis Granderson, OF

Key Acquisitions:

Corey Dickerson, OF; Jonathan Villar, 2B/3B; Jesus Aguilar, 1B; Francisco Cervelli, C; Matt Joyce, OF; Matt Kemp, OF

2020 Fantasy MVP

Brian Anderson, 3B

While Jonathan Villar’s blend of power and speed has gotten him plenty of deserved fantasy attention in drafts this year, Anderson is flying under the radar but could get a big boost due to the lineup improvements around him. Anderson is expected to hit second in the order right between Villar and newly-acquired Corey Dickerson. It’s a potential upgrade in RBI opportunities as well as to his protection, and Anderson has proven he can be an above-average MLB hitter even in bad circumstances.

Last season, Anderson hit only .261, down from .273 in 2018, but he actually improved his OPS from .757 to .811 and increased his home runs from 11 to 20 in 30 fewer games. Anderson’s .811 OPS ranked him 12th among 3B ahead of big names like José Ramírez, Manny Machado and Vladimir Guerrero Jr. If he sees better pitches, the 26-year-old could be even better this year and crack the top 10 3B available. He’s barely being drafted in most mixed leagues, so he could be a great way to fill a 3B hole with solid production with a late-round pick or an add off the waiver wire.

2020 Fantasy LVP

Jesus Aguilar, 1B

It’s hard to find a Marlins player who is overrated since so few are rated by anyone at all. Miami took a flier on Aguilar after the slugging 1B was let go by the Rays, who acquired him after the Brewers moved on from him. Aguilar had a massive 2018, hitting .274 with 35 home runs and an .890 OPS. He regressed badly in 94 games with the Brewers, though, hitting just .225 with eight homers and a .694 OPS. He did have a little resurgence with Tampa Bay, hitting .261 with four homers and a .760 OPS in 37 games toward the end of the season. He’s likely to hit cleanup and get a shot to turn things around, but he could end up sinking your batting average and not providing much aside from some occasional power. There are much more well-rounded options with higher floors in late rounds if you’re looking for a 1B. There is some obvious upside if he rediscovers his 2018 form, but it does seem like a bit optimistic to think he’ll turn things around right away in Miami.

2020 Breakout Players

Caleb Smith, SP

Smith is expected to serve as the Marlins top SP this season after a solid 2019. He went just 10-11 with a 4.52 ERA, but did rack up 168 strikeouts in 153 1/3 innings. He was 6-4 at Marlins Park with a 3.56 ERA and .208 batting average against while striking out 85 in 73 1/3 innings at home. Smith is a solid streaming option, who can be used in the right matchups and has been able to get on nice roles several times during his time with the Marlins. For example, he went 4-0 with a 3.48 ERA in four starts in July and 2-0 with 2.17 ERA in five starts in April. Unfortunately, he struggled badly toward the end of the season, which hurt his overall numbers. If he can avoid that fade and get back to his early-season form, he’ll definitely be worth watching in mixed leagues.

Lewis Brinson, OF

Brinson has been a bust so far in his time in the majors, but the former top prospect may be finally finding his groove. He hit an unsightly .173 in his 75 games last year without a home run and just a .457 OPS. Brinson was off to a great start this spring, going 10-for-29 with three home runs, two doubles, a triple and a 1.148 OPS over his first 13 games. While that’s an extremely small sample size, it does show there’s still hope for the toolsy 25-year-old. If he can earn regular playing time, he’s worth keeping an eye on to see if he’s finally ready to put it all together.

Monte Harrison, OF

If Brinson struggles again and the Marlins dig deeper into their farm system, Harrison is a name to remember as a potential mid-season call-up with the ability to make a fantasy impact. Last season, he hit .274 in his 56 games at Triple-A with nine home runs, an .808 OPS and 20 stolen bases in 22 attempts. Harrison was lighting up Spring Training and was tied for the Grapefruit lead with six stolen bases while going 8-for-22 (.364) with three doubles and a .981 OPS. If the Marlins move Villar back to the INF or have to abandon some options in their OF rotation, Harrison is a true athlete who could offer great speed from the top of the Marlins lineup, so keep an eye on where he starts the season and when he gets his chance in the Majors.

Final Thoughts:

The Marlins were an abysmal 57-105 last season and finished 40 games behind the Braves in the NL East. They had the worst record in the National League by a whopping 12 games. While they did improve their lineup, the rotation is still shaky and the young arms are still developing. They have some interesting fantasy value pieces to consider but will still likely struggle to win games. The franchise seems to be headed the right direction but has way to far to go to jump to a winning season this year. I do expect improvement and more fantasy relevance, but the Marlins will likely finish last in the East again this year well out of playoff contention.

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