Know Your Enemy: Miami Marlins

Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

What'll it be this year, Jeffrey Loria?

Two years ago, to big fanfare, the Marlins changed their logo and colors and signed a bunch of expensive free agents. That led to a 93-loss season, so they dumped all the expensive free agents and went (mostly) with kids. That led to a 100-loss season in which they scored just 513 runs, the lowest total by a National League team in a non-labor-dispute season since 1968. Only two players on the team hit in double figures in home runs, and one of those two is now a Cub (Justin Ruggiano).

So why should there be any optimism for the Marlins this year? Because they have very, very good young pitching. Jose Fernandez is likely the game's next pitching superstar. An All-Star, National League Rookie of the Year, and third-place Cy Young finisher in his first year at age 20, he will only get better. Henderson Alvarez, just 23, missed a lot of time in 2013 with injuries, but came back, had a solid second half and finished the season with a no-hitter against the Tigers.

The bullpen is equally solid. Yes, it has added Carlos Marmol. Will that make it more or less solid? Honestly, no one can have any idea what Marmol might do. He wasn't awful with the Dodgers last year. But overall in 2013, the Marlins allowed 646 runs, a bit better than the league average of 655, and 43 fewer than the Cubs did. If Miami can get a full, healthy season from Giancarlo Stanton and expected improvement from their young players (Christian Yelich in particular), and contributions from three veterans added (Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Rafael Furcal, and former Cub Casey McGehee), they could approach the .500 mark, presuming the pitching holds up. There will be a big ex-Cub vibe in Marlins camp; in addition to McGehee and Marmol, former Cubs Jeff Baker, Reed Johnson and Brian Bogusevic are all in spring training with Miami this year.

The Cubs will play their entire season series with the Marlins in a two-week period in June. Miami visits Wrigley Field June 6-7-8 and the Cubs head to south Florida June 16-17-18.

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