Some random predictions for 2016
MIAMI — Pitchers and catchers workouts get underway in exactly one week (Feb. 19) at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla. When they take the field, it will officially launch Spring Training for the Marlins. Actual baseball is just around the corner.
The Marlins had a relatively quiet offseason, but they did strike with some well-measured moves, headlined by the signing of Wei-Yin Chen as a top of the rotation addition.
With baseball activities set to begin, the time is right to make some early predictions. Here are a few random thoughts I have regarding what may transpire once the players take the field.
* Christian Yelich will bat third and Giancarlo Stanton, who hit third last year, will slide into the cleanup spot. Of course, manager Don Mattingly will make the call. But my guess is the organization believes the time is now for Yelich, 24, to move down from second (where he primarily hit in 2015) to No. 3.
Yelich is regarded as the best pure hitter on the club. I think this is the year his power starts to emerge. Granted, he has just 20 career home runs in 332 big league games. Get this, just three have been at Marlins Park. Want to know why moving in and lowering the fences finally occurred? A look at Yelich’s power splits was one reason.
Now, to increase his home run production, Yelich also must add more drive the ball more. According to Fangraphs, in 2015 Yelich had a 62.5 percentage ground ball rate.
Working with new hitting coach Barry Bonds, my guess is Yelich will start driving the ball more into the gaps and eventually over the wall.
* Predicted batting order. Again, Mattingly will decide. But I’m going with this order, and the second hitter may surprise some.
1) Dee Gordon, 2B
2) J.T. Realmuto, C
3) Christian Yelich, LF
4) Giancarlo Stanton, RF
5) Martin Prado, 3B
6) Marcell Ozuna, CF
7) Justin Bour, 1B
8) Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
Why Realmuto second and not Prado? J.T. is athletic, runs well, and can hit behind the runner, if necessary. And he showed some pop last year. Prado hitting fifth, behind Stanton, gives the lineup a proven situational hitter in a place he frequently could have runners on base. Ozuna could end up there, but he is more of a free swinger.
* Going out on a limb. I can see Dee Gordon stunning some people and belting at least seven or eight home runs in 2016. That’s right. I know he has eight total homers in 474 big league games, but four came last year. Off the top of my head, in 2015, he hit one drive to very deep right center at Marlins Park that was caught. There may be more examples, but that one is clear. With the fences moving in, the same ball that was caught would be gone now. Like Yelich, working with Bonds, I could see Gordon flashing a little more power.
Knowing Dee, I also predict, he won’t be totally happy with this prediction.
* When Opening Day rolls around, Miami’s fifth starter will be – (envelope, please) – Edwin Jackson. Vice president of pitching development Jim Benedict pushed for the Jackson signing. We’ll see what tweaks are made in Jackson’s mechanics to make him one of the surprise additions this year.
* Bold prediction. Nefi Ogando, who threw four innings of relief with the Phillies last year, will win an Opening Day roster spot in Miami’s bullpen. Ogando has a power arm. He’s already on the 40-man roster.
— Joe Frisaro