2018 Record: 63-98
Last Place, NL East
Team ERA: 4.76 ERA (25th in MLB)
Team OPS: .659 OPS (last in MLB)
What Went Right
Not a lot, but that was sort of by design after Derek Jeter and company traded most of the team’s prominent names (Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and Dee Gordon) for prospects and salary relief last winter. J.T. Realmuto was the most noteworthy player who remained and he carried the load for the offense by reaching new career-highs with 21 homers and 74 RBI while putting up a .277/.340/.484 batting line. It’s hard to find many obvious positives beyond that, as this was the worst offense in the majors, but rookie Brian Anderson (.273/.357/.400 batting line in 156 games) looks like a future piece for Miami. As for the pitching staff, Jose Urena and Wei-Yin Chen pitched well during the second half while young arms like Caleb Smith, Sandy Alcantara, and Trevor Richards showed some potential at times. Adam Conley was mostly good after returning to the majors as a reliever.
What Went Wrong
There wasn’t much material for the category above, which should tell you everything you need to know about this season. The club was last in the majors in both runs and home runs. After Marlins outfielders led the majors with an .887 OPS in 2017, they were last in the majors this year with a .660 OPS. If Marlins fans were hoping for an instant impact from any of the names acquired in the team’s big offseason trades, it didn’t happen. Lewis Brinson had the potential to be that guy, but he struggled with a .199/.240/.338 batting line in 109 games while striking out in 29.6 percent of his plate appearances. I included Sandy Alcantara among the positives above, but he also walked 23 batters in 34 innings and didn’t miss a lot of bats in the minors. Caleb Smith didn’t pitch after June 24 due to a severe oblique strain. Justin Bour regressed with a .759 OPS over 112 games before being traded to the Phillies. The Marlins were dead-last in the majors with a 5.34 ERA from their bullpen. Marlins shortstops — mostly Miguel Rojas and J.T. Riddle — combined for a .645 OPS, 29th in the majors.
**Gary Sanchez was the undisputed top fantasy catcher in draft this spring, but J.T. Realmuto was easily the top performer at the position in 2018. Some of this was about high-profile names like Sanchez, Buster Posey, and Willson Contreras not living up to their lofty draft positions, but Realmuto also took a healthy step forward offensively. While he only stole three bases — down from eight in 2017 and 12 in 2016 — he posted new career-highs in homers (21), RBI (74), OPS (.825), and runs scored (74). This was even with .721 OPS after the All-Star break. With increases in his average launch angle and hard-hit percentage, there’s reason to believe in the power. Realmuto should enter 2019 as the top fantasy catcher, though a trade to a better situation would obviously be ideal.
**Before the NL Rookie of the Year race has become a dead heat between Ronald Acuna, Jr. and Juan Soto, Brian Anderson was very much in the mix at one point. Showing good contact and patience, the 25-year-old batted .288/.369/.422 with nine homers in 112 games through early August before fading with a .231/.324/.340 batting line over his final 44 games. He still finished with a 115 OPS+ — comfortably above the league average — but he was more strikeout-prone down the stretch. There’s no reason he won’t be a regular for the Marlins in 2019, but he’s going to need to show more power to have sustained value in mixed leagues. It’s not out of the question, as he hit 22 homers in 120 games between Double- and Triple-A in 2017.
**What to make of Lewis Brinson at this point? It’s hard to imagine his season going much worse. As noted above, he hit just .199/.240/.338 with an ugly 120/17 K/BB ratio and also missed two months with a hip injury. The approach definitely needs work, as he had one of the lowest walk rates in the majors as well as one of the lowest contact rates. Brinson is capable of playing good defense in center field and enjoyed plenty of success in the minors, so there’s still reason for patience. He doesn’t turn 25 until next May and the Marlins aren’t going anywhere next season anyway. They need to keep running Brinson out there, though he’s off the mixed league radar until he proves otherwise.
**When the Marlins acquired Starlin Castro from the Yankees in the Giancarlo Stanton deal, it was assumed that he would end up elsewhere before the start of the season. Not only did he begin the season with the Marlins, but he spent the entire year with the team. The 28-year-old predictably missed Yankee Stadium, hitting four fewer homers and collecting nine fewer RBI than 2017 despite logging 174 more plate appearances. His home run-to-fly ball ratio collapsed from 16.2 percent to 8.8 percent. Still, he actually had a higher OPS+ (107) than he did last year (106) with the Yankees. That’s more of a fun fact than anything else. A change of scenery would be a good thing from a fantasy perspective, but Castro is just not very interesting from a counting stat perspective in mixed leagues.
**Who is going to close for this team next season? After what we saw this year, it could very well be wide open. Kyle Barraclough appeared ready to run away with this gig during the first half, but he had a ghastly 10.24 ERA over his final 24 appearances. Drew Steckenrider and Adam Conley were among the pitchers who notched saves the rest of the way. Steckenrider had a rough August, but he converted all three of his save chances in September while posting a 2.45 ERA in eight appearances. There’s always the chance the Marlins will bring in a cheap veteran over the winter, but we can put Steckenrider’s name in pencil at the top of the depth chart for now.
**We can’t talk about the Marlins without examining some of the prospects from their offseason trade haul. The results were mixed. Top prospect Monte Harrison (centerpiece of the Yelich deal with the Brewers) struggled at the Double-A level while Nick Neidert (acquired from the Mariners in the Dee Gordon deal) continues to make steady progress. Neidert might not possess huge upside in terms of fantasy value, but he should get a shot in the Marlins’ rotation at some point in 2019. Magneuris Sierra (acquired from the Cardinals in the Marcell Ozuna deal) didn’t really hit in either the majors or the minors and Jorge Guzman (acquired from the Yankees in the Giancarlo Stanton deal) really struggled with his control in High-A ball. Isan Diaz (acquired from the Brewers in the Yelich deal) has some interesting pop and speed, but making contact continues to be an issue for him.
Key Free Agents: None
Team Needs: Catcher is the only position where they are set, so pretty much everything else. The Marlins are expected to make overtures on a contract extension for Realmuto, but they could listen to trade offers if no progress is made. They will surely hear plenty of interest no matter what. The Marlins are more likely to make notable additions in their lineup rather than their rotation this offseason, though don't expect them to be in the market for any big names. They have also been mentioned as a possible landing spot for highly-touted Cuban outfielder Victor Victor Mesa and his brother, catcher Victor Mesa, Jr. Adding to the farm system should remain a priority.