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Johnson and Nolasco will be ready for spring training, but there are plenty of other question marks surrounding the Fish as they enter the final season before their move into a new ballpark. The offseason signings of Javier Vazquez and John Buck were meant to shore up the rotation and the catching corps, both of which were depleted in 2010. However, Vazquez is coming off one of his worst seasons, while Buck just had a career year. The Marlins will need both to perform at their best in order to contend in the increasingly competitive NL East, but both may fall far short of their respective career peaks.
Florida will also have to contend with the loss of slugging second baseman Dan Uggla, who was traded to Atlanta in November, which leaves a gaping hole in the middle of the batting order. Omar Infante, Uggla's likely replacement, will subtract some whiffs from the lineup, but he won't fill the power void. Unless Gaby Sanchez and Logan Morrison can take their homer production up a notch and Michael Stanton can continue his torrid home run pace from last season, it could be tougher sledding for the Marlins' offense in general and for offensive star Hanley Ramirez in particular.
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The team did address its most pressing need in the offseason, acquiring several promising relievers, including Mike Dunn, Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica, along with veteran lefty Randy Choate. With a stronger bridge to reach setup man Clay Hensley and closer Leo Nunez, the Marlins' starters could pick up a few more wins, even if they have to struggle for more run support.
Bust ... John Buck, C
Buck had never batted higher than .247 in any of his first six major league seasons, so skepticism of last year's .281 average is warranted. He didn't make any advances in his home run hitting or contact rate, but rather he built his career-best mark on a .322 batting average on grounders, an extraordinarily high average for a slow runner. Buck will still be good for 15 to 20 homers, but look for him to find the infield gaps less often this year, bringing his average back below .250. Without that higher average, Buck's value drops to that of a low-end No. 2 catcher in mixed leagues.
Bounce-back player ... Chris Coghlan, OF
Coghlan already bounced back once in the past year, recovering from an awful April in which he batted .195 with no extra-base hits. He picked up his pace in the following weeks, putting up a .290/.361/.438 line over the remainder of the season that was closer to what we saw during his '09 NL Rookie of the Year campaign. Unfortunately, his '10 season came to a premature end, as Coghlan tore the meniscus in his left knee when delivering a celebratory shaving cream pie after a late July win. Having undergone knee surgery in August, Coghlan is expected to be ready for spring training as he adjusts to a new position, center field. It's probably too much to ask Coghlan to repeat the .321 batting average from two years ago, but given his gap power and contact skills, another .300-plus season is not out of the question, and neither are 15 to 20 steals. After last season's misfortunes, Coghlan may be an afterthought for many owners, but he could produce enough to stick as a No. 3 Fantasy outfielder.
Late-round flier ... Chris Volstad, SP
When he first arrived in the majors back in 2008, Volstad looked like he could be on the fast track to stardom, compiling a 6-4 record with a 2.88 ERA in 84 1/3 innings. The former first-round pick has been unable to recapture the form of his rookie year, as he has posted ERAs of 5.21 and 4.58 in the two years since. The sinker-throwing righty gave up only three home runs in his first half-season, setting a standard that is nearly impossible to meet. After a gopherball-filled 2009 season, Volstad improved last year, cutting his home run rate nearly in half and continuing to chip away at his walk rate. Volstad has had trouble stranding baserunners in each of the last two seasons, but that trend could change with help from the Marlins' revamped bullpen. As sinkerballers go, Volstad isn't quite Tim Hudson, but the 24-year-old has enough upside to be a worthy use of a late-round pick in mixed league drafts, especially in deeper leagues.
|Projected Lineup||Pos.||Projected Rotation|
|1||Chris Coghlan||CF||1||Josh Johnson||RH|
|2||Omar Infante||2B||2||Ricky Nolasco||RH|
|3||Hanley Ramirez||SS||3||Javier Vazquez||RH|
|4||Michael Stanton||RF||4||Anibal Sanchez||RH|
|5||Logan Morrison||LF||5||Chris Volstad||RH|
|6||Gaby Sanchez||1B||Alt||Alex Sanabia||RH|
|7||John Buck||C|| |
|8||Matt Dominguez||3B||CL||Leo Nunez||RH|
|Top bench options||SU||Clay Hensley||RH|
|R||Wes Helms||3B||RP||Ryan Webb||RH|
|R||Emilio Bonifacio||OF||RP||Mike Dunn||LH|
|R||John Baker||C||RP||Randy Choate||LH|
|Defensive whiz is the frontrunner to be the regular 3B. Development at the plate has lagged the last two seasons.|
|2||Chad James||20||SP||Class A||Class A|
|Struggled with control in his first pro season, but he is still the best minor league arm in the organization. Worth a spot in long-term keeper leagues.|
|3||Christian Yelich||19||OF||Class A||Class A|
|Last year's first-round pick hit for average right away in his first minor league stint. Will get a tougher test in his first full year.|
|Contact hitter impressed in his major league debut last September, filling in for a banged-up Hanley Ramirez. Could win a utility role this spring.|
|Key piece in the Dan Uggla trade with the Braves. Could figure in the Marlins' late-inning plans if Leo Nunez or Clay Hensley falter.|
|Best of the rest: Brad Hand, SP; Jhan Marinez, RP; Scott Cousins, OF; Kyle Skipworth, C; Marcell Ozuna, OF; Rob Rasmussen, RP; Jose Ceda, RP; Tom Koehler, SP; Arquimedes Caminero, RP; Evan Reed, RP; Sandy Rosario, RP; Bryan Petersen, OF; Steve Cishek, RP; and Omar Poveda, SP, 1B.|
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