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GM’s: Marlins will have rocky path to playoff berth

Miami Marlins' Christian Yelich, shown in this Sept. 20, 2016, has emerged as one of the best hitters in the majors, said Jim Bowden, former Reds and Nationals G.M.
Miami Marlins' Christian Yelich, shown in this Sept. 20, 2016, has emerged as one of the best hitters in the majors, said Jim Bowden, former Reds and Nationals G.M. pportal@miamiherald.com

Can the Marlins spring a surprise and end their 14-year postseason drought, the second-longest in the majors?

Can they get to October without a pitching ace?

Two former general managers say it’s possible.

Just don’t count on it.

“It’s a fun team,” said Jim Bowden, the former Reds and Nationals GM. “It’s fun to watch.”

But Bowden sees the Marlins finishing no better than third in the National League East, and former Mets GM Steve Phillips concurs.

Bowden and Phillips spent the morning Sunday at Roger Dean Stadium for Sirius/XM radio’s MLB Network.

The two shared their thoughts on the Marlins.

Some highlights:

Bowden said that, despite the loss of Jose Fernandez, it’s still possible for the Marlins to win with a staff lacking a top starter.

“Yeah, you can,” Bowden said. “I’ve been to the postseason without it. The Cleveland Indians got to the World Series without it [in 1997] to face the Marlins. They had a bunch of No. 3’s. The Big Red Machine won world championships with No. 3 starters. So it can be done.”

But …

“It’s difficult when you’re in a division and the Mets are running out their three No. 1’s, and the Nationals are running out their two No. 1’s,” Bowden said.

Said Phillips: “The problem they have is they are in a division if, on a given day, it turns into a pitcher’s duel, you look at the starting rotation for the Nationals and the Mets, they will out-pitch the Marlins.”

Both Bowden and Phillips like the Marlins’ lineup.

“I’m seeing a team that has very talented position players that are good enough to play October baseball,” Bowden said.

Said Phillips: “If everything goes right and they all stay healthy, they’ve got enough to score runs.”

But both Bowden and Phillips said the Marlins can’t afford injuries to any of their core position players.

“What concerns me the most about the Marlins is lack of depth,” Bowden said. “This isn’t a team that’s going to be able to overcome two or three injuries. The farm system is thin.”

Bowden said Christian Yelich has emerged as one of the best hitters in the majors.

“He reminds me of a cross between Fred Lynn, Will Clark and George Brett,” Bowden said.

Bowden also believes Giancarlo Stanton will hit 40 homers if he stays healthy. But he doesn’t like how Stanton’s swing has changed from how it was when he first came up.

“I’m not sure why he’s changed his swing path and isn’t the same guy,” Bowden said. “But I know it’s in there, so that needs to come back.”

The dream scenario for the Marlins, whose owner, Jeffrey Loria, is trying to sell the team?

“Here’s the script for Jeffrey Loria,” Bowden said.

“I have the World Baseball Classic. I sell the place out and break a record, and I prove that Miami and the stadium can rock. I do the All-Star Game. It’s packed. Home Run Derby’s great. Giancarlo Stanton wins it. Crowd goes crazy.

“We get to October as a wild-card team because I let my GM trade my last three pitching prospects and go get the one guy I need. And here we are, champagne bottles, and now I’m leaving. Bye. I brought you two championships.

“Does the script get any better?”

COMING UP

▪ Monday: Marlins RHP Severino Gonzalez at New York Mets RHP Noah Syndergaard, 1:10 p.m., Port St. Lucie.

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