Marlins aren’t small fish in a big pond anymore.

The Florida Marlins maybe a relatively young baseball team. But do not get the word,”young” confused with inexperienced. Dan Uggla is the oldest everyday player at 30. Hanley Ramirez the teams MVP is 26, John Baker and Jorge Cantu 28 and Cody Ross 29. Ricky Nolasco is their oldest starting pitcher at 27. The core has been together going into their fifth season and 2010 is the year they expect to take the next step…making the playoffs.

This team is a formidable home run hitting team with four solid run producers in Ramirez, Cantu, Uggla and Ross. They were second in the National league in hitting as well(.268). But the question will be their pitching and maybe even more, their defense.

They had solid starting pitching from 1 and 2 in the rotation in ’09 with Josh Johnson going 15-5 3.23 era in 209 IP and Ricky Nolasco 13-9, 195 K in 185 IP(though his era was a high 5.06). A healthy full-season from Anibel Sanchez would be greatly appreciated, but has a history of shoulder issues. But, when Sanchez is healthy he can be dominant. In nine starts after last years all-star break he had a 2.68 era. The other two spots are open for grabs but i suspect it will come down to Sean West, Chris Volstad and Rick VandenHurk. Their will be a spring training competition for bullpen spots except for Leo Nunez as their closer. He saved 26 of 33 last year after inheriting the job from Matt Lindstrom. Derrick Turnbow, Jose Veras as well as some others will compete for the set-up roll. Renyel Pinto as well as many others will try to fill the voids.

The defense was only better than the Diamondbacks and the Nationals last year, so that should be a focus this spring. Errors always lead to longer innings, more pitches and extra opportunities for the opposing team to score and for the Marlins to make the playoffs this year, this has to improve all the way around. They gave up the most stolen bases, turned the least amount of double-plays and had the lowest amount of assists.

Expectations are higher this year and they were in it late last year. I do believe this year it will come down to the final week, but may just fall short of the wildcard.

Prediction: Tied-Third Place in NL East(84-78).

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