The 2010 Florida Marlins are a team that’s on the verge of contention. With a legitimate ace in young Josh Johnson leading their young rotation to the best FIP of any rotation in baseball, the Marlins’ pitching staff is set up to be very good for a long time, as none of their top four starters are older than 27 year old Ricky Nolasco.
However, perhaps more exciting is their young offensive core. Dan Uggla, at 30, has been the Marlins’ most valuable hitter this year, putting up 4.0 WAR so far. However, looking deeper, there are several young hitters who should be able to lead the Marlins for some time to come, and who have yet to reach the peaks of their career that are expected from players in their age 27-29 seasons.
Hanley Ramirez, 26, leads the Marlins’ young guns. He’s been an All-Star in each of the last three years, and probably would have won the NL MVP in 2009 if not for Albert Pujols’ otherworldly performance. But hey, coming in second to the man who will go down as the best hitter of our generation isn’t exactly anything to be sad about. Hanley’s produced more than 7 WAR in each of the last two seasons, and may only be entering his prime. You’d be hard-pressed to argue there’s a better shortstop in all of baseball.
Gaby Sanchez has put up 2.6 WAR so far in a strong rookie campaign. Also 26, Sanchez has provided a strong presence in the 2nd and 3rd spots in the order for most of 2010. Often, teams don’t trust rookies to perform in such pressure-filled lineup spots, keeping them lower in the order to keep pressure and expectations down. The Marlins have trusted Sanchez to hit in the heart of the order, and he hasn’t disappointed. Sanchez has hit 16 home runs, and is 8th in the NL with 34 doubles. As his progression as a big-league hitter continues, don’t be surprised if some of those doubles begin to turn into home runs. A total in the 25-30 range shouldn’t be out of reach for Sanchez in the future.
Chris Coghlan, 25, announced himself as a productive member of this young core by bursting onto the scene in 2009 and winning the NL Rookie of the Year award. He hasn’t been as strong in 2010, posting a wOBA of .322 after his rookie .372. There’s a chance he becomes one of the stronger pieces in this core. There’s also a chance he continues having seasons like this year’s 0.8 WAR campaign. We’ll see.
Cameron Maybin, now 23, was a top prospect for the Tigers when he came up in 2007. However, he’s never really lived up to those expectations, putting up a year of negative WAR, followed by 1.0, 0.9, and 0.1 this year. He’s still got a lot of potential, and he’s never started for a full season, but he’s going to have to do better than that if he ever wants to get a chance to live up to his prospect status.
Logan Morrison, another top prospect who came up this year, has been very good in limited time. Morrison, 22, has been starting in left ever since his call-up on July 27, but has been very good, OBPing .405 with an OPS+ of .127. Morrison, a first baseman all throughout the minors until this year, has been converted and been productive in the majors all while learning a new position. Morrison has a chance to be very good.
Last but not least, Mike Stanton has been one of the best rookies in baseball since his callup on June 8th. In 73 games, Stanton has been worth 1.2 WAR, so he’s hit the ground running. Stanton, only 20, has flashed considerable power, putting up a .241 ISO and mashing 15 home runs. He has a chance to be the best of the bunch, a middle of the order hitter to be feared by other teams in the NL East.
So wait til next year, Fish fans. But know that you’ll be looking at a strong, developing core taking another step on their road to becoming one of the most feared lineups in baseball. Check back tomorrow, when we’ll be taking a look at the Dodgers, who I promise I will try to analyze objectively. I won’t like it, though.