One year removed from a World Series title, the Marlins have retooled their offense by adding the big bat of Carlos Delgado, revamped the bullpen and will feature two rotation members from seasons past (Al Leiter and A.J. Burnett) who hope to reprise their former roles as frontline pitchers. For the second consecutive season, the Marlins seem to be the only team in the division with enough talent to finish first but enough question marks to finish last.
Worth Every Penny
When you realize that Miguel Cabrera won't be 23 until April 18 it should set off an alarm in your head about how good this guy really is. Right now he's probably the major leaguer who most favorably compares both in style and potential to Albert Pujols, which is quite the compliment. Thirty-five home run, 120 RBI, .320 seasons will become commonplace, something to think about if you're faced with deciding whether to spend an extra buck or two in your keeper league.
About to Blossom
For the most part the Marlins players are mostly known commodities. One exception is outfielder Chris Aguila who has a strong chance to make the roster as a fourth or fifth outfielder. Aguila, 26, hit .312 with 11 home runs and 56 RBIs last year at level Class AAA Albuquerque. Just remember before you make any major investments in him that Abraham Nunez was in a similar position last season and barely saw the light of day due to manager Jack McKeon's preference for veterans. The team doesn't want to rush top prospect Jeremy Hermida, but should he get off to a great start in Class AA and an opportunity arise like it did in 2003 with Cabrera, Hermida may get a shot and would be a must pick-up.
To replace the departed Carl Pavano, the Marlins brought back 1997 champion and fan favorite Leiter, 39, who won 95 games with the Mets the past seven years. Leiter has posted decent ERAs recently but his innings have decreased sharply the past two seasons. While Leiter can still be an effective starter, he no longer should be considered a front-of-the-rotation starter so budget accordingly.
Do You Feel Lucky?
Shortstop Alex Gonzalez has the talent at the plate to have a breakout season. Over the past two seasons he's hit 41 home runs but his average is only .243 and he has struck out 232 times. He's working on making better contact, and when he does, he'll put together a career year.
The Marlins who can run, do run, but few players are slower on the basepaths than Mike Lowell and Delgado. Juan Pierre and Luis Castillo combined to steal 66 bases but they're the only Fish who can be counted to regularly swipe second base. Look elsewhere for steals.
If Something Should Happen To Guillermo Mota
Early in the spring, McKeon rumbled that he might use a closer-by-committee approach, but the job really is Mota's to lose. Veterans Todd Jones and Antonio Alfonseca have combined for 307 career saves and could pick up some of the slack although it's more likely that hard-throwing John Riedling would also get an opportunity despite going 0-7 last season in save opportunities.
Don't Forget About
Paul Lo Duca, Burnett, Josh Beckett, Dontrelle Willis
Don't Bother With
Damian Easley, Ismael Valdez, Lenny Harris
David Sabino is the associate editor in charge of statistics at Sports Illustrated and the author of the book, Dominate Your Fantasy Baseball League (Muska & Lipman/Premier-Trade).