Will Marlins score enough runs?

JUPITER, Fla. — In so many ways it’s been an encouraging and promising Spring Training for the Marlins. Manager Mike Redmond’s club has bonded together, clutching to the spirit that they can prove people wrong. The pitching, as advertised, delivered. Perhaps never before in franchise history have there been this many power arms ranging from the big leagues down to at least the Double-A level.

When the club packs up and exits Jupiter after Thursday’s game against the Cardinals, they will be as prepared as they can be for Opening Day on Monday night against the Rockies at Marlins Park.

The way they pitched and played are reasons for optimism that it’s a matter of time before they become a contender. The club is being built for the long haul, so there are no grand predictions about winning the division or going to the postseason. If all falls right, however, who knows? Maybe they can surprise, and with the second Wild Card, things could get interesting.

Ultimately, how successful the season will be is linked to how many runs they can score. A year ago, the Marlins ranked last in the Majors in runs scored, and the ended up with a 62-100 record, despite setting a staff ERA record (3.71).

All signs point to the fact the pitching will again be strong. The Marlins headed into Thursday with a Spring Training ERA of 3.52, fifth best in the Majors. They’ve allowed 112 runs, which is the 23rd fewest. All the pitching has to do is stay the course.

Offense?

They’ve made strides. They’ve scored 127 runs, which is 20th most this spring. So they’ve jumped 10 spots from last regular season. They’re 21st this spring in batting average (.259) and are tied for 22rd in on-base percentage (.318).

All encouraging signs.

The reality remains, the offense is a work in progress. By Monday the final 25-man roster will be set. In no way, will the offense be a finished product. If they stay to the plan of each player doing his part, they can be gritty, scrappy and opportunistic. The point is they need to make steady steps. Even if they have a big offensive night on Monday, don’t read too much into things. It’s just one game.

From top to bottom in the order, they will need to be a focus.

There has been so many questions about who will protect Giancarlo Stanton? You can also ask, will Stanton become the superstar many envision.

Stanton, who has enjoyed a strong Spring Training, still tends to be hot and cold. Obviously, all players go through good and bad streaks. It’s not that with Stanton. It’s showing the consistent plate appearances, not flash it two games and then let it slip away for a couple of days.

Approach has been one of the most used words in camp. It’s not always executed.

Christian Yelich, as promising as he can be, also is entering his first full season in the big leagues. He has the makings of a .300 hitters, but he is still finding his step.

Garrett Jones will be asked to protect Stanton as the cleanup hitter. Jones has to show he can be productive enough against lefties to avoid being platooned.

Rafael Furcal has dealt with a strained left hamstring. He has to show he can stay healthy.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia is the most significant new addition. He’s still getting familiarized with the pitching staff, and at the plate, he will be adjusting to the National League, a new home park and new teammates.

Casey McGehee is being looked at to upgrade power at third base. Early signs are he will be fine, but he too is back in the National League after spending last year in Japan.

Jeff Baker promises to be a steady performer, offering professional at-bats no matter where he plays.

Adeiny Hechavarria has had a better approach and he’s enjoyed a productive Spring Training. But he has to stay consistent with his swing. We still don’t know what the 24-year-old is capable of at the plate. We know he has a ways to go.

Marcell Ozuna missed substantial time last year due to left thumb surgery. He’s healthy and provides energy and some power. But he also can lack discipline at the plate, and swing wildly. Ozuna will be looked at to stay steady and make strides from month to month. He tends to be all or nothing, and the team has too much of that.

Jake Marisnick has shortened his swing, and posted very good Grapefruit League numbers. But he is an unfinished product, who still must work on his swing. For Marisnick, it’s about getting as many at-bats as possible, and allowing his streamlined mechanics to become second nature. If he can become a polished offensive player, he has game-changing speed and athleticism to become a major impact player. The question is can he reach that potential?

Marisnick, in a number of ways, symbolizes much of the 2014 Marlins’ offensively. There is talent to work with. How quickly will it come together?

Joe Frisaro

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