2015 Fantasy Baseball Team Preview: Miami Marlins
A loud mouth starting pitcher in Mat Latos, an off the bench World Series hero in Michael Morse, and a second generation speedster Dee Gordon have been added to a Marlins team that should finish in the middle of the pack of the NL East in 2015. Even with these additions, among others, the Marlins are not primed to contend with the Pennant favorite Nationals, and may have to go toe to toe with the super-hyped New York Mets, but they are heading in the right direction. A mid-season return of their charismatic ace Jose Fernandez could be a much needed shot in the arm distraction for a team that will likely already be looking towards 2016 by the time he takes the hill this season.
TOP DRAFT PICKS (STUDS)
GIANCARLO STANTON (OF)
I wish I could provide more than one here, but due to Jose Fernandez’s rehab from elbow surgery the only shining star to target early, and by early I mean the top three picks of your draft, is Stanton.
Stanton is one of the only legitimate 40-plus home run threats in post-steroid baseball. However, he is not only good for power, as he has shown he can hit upwards of .290 with an on-base percentage approaching .400. In a moderately improved lineup he can be locked in for 100 RBI, and will even flirt with double-digit steal totals for you. The exciting part is he just turned 25 years old so we may not have seen his best yet. If I was in the top half of my league’s draft and Mike Trout was gone, Stanton would be my second choice without a doubt.
HIGH UPSIDE (SLEEPERS)
MAT LATOS (SP):
Before 2014, Mat Latos was an image of durability and consistency, hurling over thirty starts every year since 2010. His widely publicized problems with the Reds regarding his knee injury last year have dominated his headlines, but what should dominate your headlines for Latos is that he is targeted in the 13th round in standard leagues, which would be a steal if he pitches the full season. Latos is only 27 years old and has now moved to a pitcher friendly ballpark in Miami. If he returns to his typical stat line, he is an absolute steal that late in your draft. If you need to reach for him late in the twelfth round, I’d see no problem in that whatsoever.
MARCELL OZUNA (OF): Do you want 30 home run potential in the 10th round of your draft? Then maybe you want to highlight Ozuna on your draft sheet. While Stanton, Fernandez, and even Yelich were grabbing all of the attention in South Beach, Ozuna quietly launched 23 over the fence with 85 RBI in his first full season. At only 24 years old, he should only be improving. If he is able to lower his strikeout rate and increase his walks from last season, he can be an excellent value pick out of the middle of your draft, and if he puts it all together, he could flirt with 30/100.
HIGH DOWNSIDE (BUSTS)
DEE GORDON (SS/2B):
I can’t blame Marlins fans for being excited about the offseason acquisition of speedster Dee Gordon, but I can blame fantasy owners who draft him because that might be a mistake. Yes, Gordon led the league with 64 stolen bases last season, but there are a lot of facts that are having me avoid him come draft day. First, Gordon fell off drastically after the All Star break. The most important part to a player’s game when stolen bases are his main value is getting on base, and his on-base in the second half plummeted to .300. Second, probably due to the lower OBP, his average of stealing a base every 2.1 games fell to 2.7. It doesn’t seem like much in that direct comparison but if you stretch it out it has a big impact. I think Gordon will be drafted too early this year, with flashes of his brilliant and exciting first half of 2014 still fresh in people’s minds. You can find your steals elsewhere; he isn’t worth the headache for the rest of the necessary offensive stat categories.
CHRISTIAN YELICH (OF):
Unless you are in a position specific outfield league, outfield is deep and can be filled in with excellent choices if you draft well. You will not achieve this if you draft Christian Yelich (ADP: 7th round). Yelich is a ground ball hitting machine who only popped nine home runs in 144 games last season. I can accept this low level of power if he is going to give you 30-plus steals but not 20. The outfield position is just too deep to blow an important seventh round pick on him. While he isn’t a bust in the traditional sense, I think he is overvalued in the rankings. You would be better served grabbing Jason Heyward in the same round, at least he’ll give you some pop.
STEVE CISHEK (RP):
The Marlins closer finished in the top 5 in saves in baseball last season with 39. He also struck out 84 batters in 65 innings, increasing his K/9 ratio to 11.6. His strikeout to walk ratio also improved, and pitching in a big ballpark in Miami will keep a lot of hitters in the ballpark. He isn’t demonstrative and gets the job done quietly. Cishek is one of those closers that nobody pays attention to but when you look up at the end of the year he is up there with the best. In a position where job security is at a minimum, Cishek is a lock as one of ten safe bet season long closers in baseball, and one you should fill your RP spot with on draft day, especially if you don’t want to spend an early pick on a Kimbrel or Chapman.
IMPACT MINOR LEAGUER
JT REALMUTO (C):
The Marlins 23 year old catching prospect will be an interesting player to watch this season. As of now he is a couple rungs down on the catching depth chart. After a very good AA campaign last season, slashing .299/.369/.461 with 8 HR, 62 RBI, and 18 stolen bases (yeah that’s right, and he’s a catcher) in 97 games, he was called up for an 11 game cup of coffee. I think the Marlins will give him a bigger taste of the majors this season behind Saltalamacchia, and he is obviously their catcher of the future. He won’t be a fantasy factor this season, but he is a player to keep an eye on. A young catcher with a good slashline that can steal bases is no easy commodity to come by. Although Saltalamacchia is under contract through 2016, I can see Realmuto taking the starting job next season if he performs well again this year at AAA and the majors.
Stanton stole more bases in 2014 than he did in 2011, 2012, and 2013 combined. He stole 13 bases in 145 games last year and was only caught once, compared to stealing 12 bases and getting caught 7 times in 389 games from 2011 to 2013. If Stanton legitimizes his SB threat with another double digit season he enters the conversation with Mike Trout for best player in the game. 40+ HR power and stolen bases? Yes, please.