Florida Marlins v St. Louis Cardinals

Springtime storylines: Is this the year the Marlins finally break the mold?

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Between now and Opening Day, HBT will take a look at each of the 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2011 season. Next up: The ever-pesky Florida Marlins.

The Big Question: Is this the year the Marlins finally break the mold?

We’ve come to expect a particular narrative from the Marlins over the past few seasons. While owner Jeffrey Loria doesn’t spend much on player payroll, we can usually count on the Marlins to be a pesky bunch that will hang around just long enough so that they look like contenders around the trade deadline. However, they ultimately fall short down the stretch.

That’s essentially what we saw from them again last season, as Edwin Rodriguez took over for Fredi Gonzalez in June and led the Marlins to a 46-46 record the rest of the way. The most positive development from an on-the-field perspective was that Mike Stanton flashed elite power potential as a 20-year-old and Gaby Sanchez and Logan Morrison emerged as potential regulars moving forward.

The Marlins engaged in contract talks with the arbitration-eligible Dan Uggla following the season, but ultimately swapped him to the Braves for Omar Infante and Mike Dunn after he rejected a four-year, $48 million extension. It was a disappointing return for the Fish, especially considering that they traded him to a division rival.

The hope is that Stanton can provide the thump in the middle of the order for the long haul – and while he certainly appears capable of doing just that — I have some concerns about their offense this season, especially if they give 21-year-old Matt Dominguez the opportunity to sink or swim at third base. After losing one of the most reliable power hitters in the game, the Marlins are now banking on productivity from a number of young and inexperienced players.

So what else is going on?

  • Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez already give the Marlins a pretty good chance to win, so if Javier Vazquez rebounds, the starting rotation could be a real strength. It’s fair to expect some improvement with the move back to the National League — and away from Yankee Stadium — but Vazquez is unlikely make a major impact unless he consistently throws in the low-90s again. Back end starter? Fine. But let’s not get carried away just yet.
  • The Marlins plan — at least at the moment — to use Chris Coghlan in center field. The decision is bad enough since advanced metrics haven’t been kind to him in left field, but Coghlan is also coming back from knee surgery and is currently dealing with shoulder soreness. The alternatives aren’t great (Emilio Bonifacio, DeWayne Wise, Scott Cousins), but Coghlan could be a real adventure out there. If Dominguez struggles or begins the year in the minors, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Coghlan get a look at second base or third eventually.
  • Marlins relievers led the National League in walks last season and finished ninth in ERA, so they made it a priority to revamp their bullpen during the winter. Leo Nunez, Clay Hensley, Brian Sanches and Burke Badenhop remain, but they added Dunn in the Uggla trade, Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica in the Cameron Maybin deal and Randy Choate as a free agent. Bullpens can be pretty fickle from year-to-year, but they should be better, at least on paper.
  • Dominguez could open the year on the major league roster, but there’s not much more help on the way. Now that Sanchez, Stanton and Morrison have graduated from the minors, the Marlins have one of the weakest farm systems in the game. If they’re going to win, they’re going to have to do it with what they currently have.

So how are they gonna do?

While I expect them to play better than .500 ball this year, I just don’t see them finishing ahead of the Braves or Phillies. Sure, Hanley will be Hanley and there will likely be some progression from Morrison and Stanton, but I’m not crazy about their third base situation and I’m betting against a repeat from new catcher John Buck.

So yes, another third place finish it is. On the bright side, the Marlins have a pretty exciting cast of young players under team control for the opening of their new stadium next season.

Drew Pomeranz: “I definitely feel like I can maybe help (as a reliever in the playoffs).”

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 5:  Drew Pomeranz #31 of the Boston Red Sox pitches during the second inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at PETCO Park on September 5, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Denis Poroy/Getty Images
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Red Sox starter Drew Pomeranz hasn’t pitched in a week due to soreness in his left forearm. He threw a bullpen on Thursday afternoon and said, “I definitely feel like I can maybe help (as a reliever in the playoffs,” as ESPN’s Scott Lauber reports.

The Red Sox clinched the AL East on Wednesday, so they don’t need to rush Pomeranz along. And using him out of the bullpen might ultimately be best as he regressed quite a bit after coming to Boston from San Diego in July. In 13 starts with the Red Sox, Pomeranz has a 4.68 ERA with a 69/24 K/BB ratio in 67 1/3 innings.

Eduardo Rodriguez and Clay Buchholz have been throwing the ball quite well as of late. Paired with Rick Porcello and David Price, the Red Sox still have the depth to be menacing in the postseason.

Jesus Montero suspended 50 games for use of a stimulant

Seattle Mariners' Jesus Montero follows through on an RBI-double in the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the Kansas City Royals, Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Surprise, Ariz. (John Sleezer/The Kansas City Star via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT
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Remember Jesus Montero? The former Yankees and Mariners prospect? Well, he was picked up by the Blue Jays back in March after the Mariners waived him and played 126 games for Triple-A Buffalo this year. That went alright, I suppose, with Montero hitting .317/.349/.438 with 11 homers. He played a bit of first base too, trying to break the mold he’s been stuck in as a 26-year-old DH.

If this season was a platform for him to make one last push to the bigs, the platform was just pulled out from under him: he has been suspended for 50 games after testing positive for dimethylbutylamine (DMBA), a stimulant in violation of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program.

The minor league season is over, of course, so he’ll serve that suspension next season. Assuming the Jays keep him in the fold.