So what can we expect from the Marlins this season?
Some thoughts from oddsmakers, analysts and a team executive in advance of Monday’s 1 p.m. opener at Washington:
• A the MGM Grand and 11 other Nevada casinos, the Marlins are 40 to 1 to win the World Series (tied with the Pirates and Rockies), with 11 teams having longer odds – and 20 to 1 to win the National League pennant.
• Though essentially nobody is picking the Marlins ahead of the Nationals and Mets, MLB Network’s Cliff Floyd insists the Marlins "are better than a third place team. The Mets pitching is not as good as they think. The Nationals don’t have a closer. Christian Yelich is a top 10 player now and will be for the next 10-12 years."
• ESPN analyst and former Nationals GM Jim Bowden worries about Miami’s depth but says "they have a strong lineup, with an average or above-average player at every position. The same can be said for a starting staff filled with middle-rotation types."
• Fox lead analyst John Smoltz: “It always comes down to health. They have a wealth of young players that can excite their fan base. But it's been a few too many setbacks injury wise. Those core guys are good enough [to compete for the playoffs]. The progression of Christian Yelich has been pretty good. I am a huge Martin Prado fan. He gives your ball club options and flexibility. He is a very under the radar really good player [but beginning the season on the disabled list].
“Their rotation is very competitive. Adam Conley has the makings of something [good]. There is upside with Tom Koehler. They have five guys that give them ability to eat up majority of the innings. The bullpen looks great until they have to eat too many innings.”
Smoltz includes the Marlins among “fringe team in the NL that if things go their way they certainly are in that [wild card] conversation.”
• ESPN’s analytics web site, FiveThirtyEight, predicts an 80-82 record.
• Marlins executive Michael Hill: “We needed to improve our pitching. We wanted to put together a strong bullpen. We already
had a strong bullpen but we added pieces we think will help us even more. Offensively, we didn’t score enough runs. We had a high average and didn’t score enough runs. We believe in this core of very talented players and think the right approach will allow us to be more productive on the field offensively. We feel we should be right there and ready to compete for a playoff spot.
“We think we have a very talented group of players. It just wasn’t consistent enough [offensively]. Part of that is maturation. Part of that is approach. That’s why you haven’t seen any changes to our position player group. We believe in them. We think they are the right players to help us get where we want to go. Now it’s just about doing it.
“At some point, you want the results. They know how good they are. … We feel they’re ready to take that step. Valuable lessons learned last year.It’s enough talk. Time to do it.”