Beyond the beautiful Los Angeles and Miami climate, the two teams can't relate. The Dodgers are 42-9 over their last 51 games and the Marlins only sport 47 wins all season. The statistics don't lie, but the Fish Stripes Michael Jong kindly stopped by to help TrueBlueLA get to know more about the Marlins.
BEN: Who deserves to be the Miami Marlins' Cy-Young and MVP?
MICHAEL: The Miami Marlins' Cy Young and MVP winners are really the same person: Jose Fernandez. In a season in which everyone struggled, both as part of the plan or unexpectedly, the 20-year-old rookie was dominant in his first Major League season, with a 2.47 ERA and 2.77 FIP in 139 2/3 innings pitched. Fernandez leads the team in most win-based metrics, and deservedly so, as the rest of the Marlins are floundering, with the club's offense nearly setting records for futility and the rest of the pitching staff working through issues as young talent. Every five days, Fernandez has been stellar much more often than not, and that has been a blessing in awful 2013 campaign.
BEN: Looking ahead, will the Marlins build around Giancarlo Stanton or trade him?
MICHAEL: The suspected plan as of right now is for the Marlins to offer Giancarlo Stanton a long-term contract extension likely to buy out two or three free agent seasons. The Fish will put the offer on the table this offseason, and then the ball will be in Stanton's court. If he accepts or negotiates to a point where he can accept, the Marlins will move on (at least for a few more years) with Stanton as the centerpiece of an improving team. If he rejects an offer, the Marlins will take that as a sign that he is not interested in staying in Miami, and the full-on trade assault from other teams will begin again. If Stanton declines an extension in this offseason, you'd be hard-pressed to expect him to be in a Marlins uniform in 2014.
BEN: Besides Stanton, are there any other hitters that should factor into the long-term rebuilding process?
MICHAEL: Aside from Stanton, the Marlins are short on long-term options on their current Major League roster, but they do have players in the minors expected to take over at some point. The Fish are set in the outfield with three prospects standing in wait for a chance to take a full-on Major League job. Christian Yelich is the team's best hitting prospect since Stanton, and he is already in left field this season. Jake Marisnick, who is currently in center field, and Marcell Ozuna, who earned significant playing time before a season-ending injury, also figure into the equation for the final outfield spot in the future, and they leave the Marlins well-positioned should the team trade Stanton.
In the infield, the Marlins are deficient in talent. Logan Morrison may be here for three more years, but his future is murky. No other infield player has staked a positional claim either now or in the near future.
BEN: The Marlins elected to move Ricky Nolasco out here to Los Angeles to give their young pitchers more opportunities, has that decision panned out well?
MICHAEL: The Nolasco trade worked out as well one could expect given the return the team received. There was no future in Miami for Nolasco, so opening a roster spot for a young pitcher like Tom Koehler and giving him time to prove himself in the majors is better than wasting that time with a player who would leave at the end of the year. The fact that Miami got three minor assets is only the cost of not paying Nolasco's remaining salary.
BEN: Ex-Dodger and current Marlin, Nathan Eovaldi, will face his former team Wednesday. Gives us the scouting report on Eovaldi and where does he fit into the rotation?
MICHAEL: Nathan Eovaldi has significantly improved since his time in Los Angeles. The biggest change has nothing to do with his strikeouts and walks, but it does have roots deeper than that. Eovaldi's major change is in his fastball, which has gotten much faster. He is now averaging 96 mph on the gun, easily touching 98-99 mph as a starter in the early innings and carrying that weight into sixth and seventh. Among starting pitchers with at least 50 innings this year, Eovaldi leads all players in fastball velocity. This is an extremely positive development and raises his ceiling significantly.
BEN: Speaking of Marlin's pitching, it all starts with stand-out rookie Jose Fernandez. The hard-throwing Cuban native boasts a 8-5 record, 149 strikeouts and a 2.45 ERA. Does Fernandez deserve to win the NL rookie of the year over Yasiel Puig and company?
MICHAEL: If you go by win-based metrics like Wins Above Replacement, Jose Fernandez is at least on part with Yasiel Puig, who is hampered by a lack of playing time. Right now, I'd lean towards Puig in the slightest, but it is basically a toss-up. The question going forward is whether Fernandez's impending innings limit (set at around 170 innings) will mark him down enough to match Puig's likely regression to the mean. Those two factors will decide the Rookie of the Year race.
BEN: Before the trade deadline, rumors were swirling about closer Steve Cishek. Do you expect those inquires to continue in the off-season, and would management move him?
MICHAEL: Steve Cishek is essentially an untouchable asset for the Marlins right now. The Fish believe they need a solid closer, and Cishek has developed into an excellent reliever who may become elite at some point. Given the cheap contract he can expect in arbitration, the Marlins would like to keep him around, but once he becomes expensive in the last year or two, he may become trade bait.
BEN: The Marlins currently sport a 47-75 record, can the farm system help them become competitive? What particular prospects stand out?
MICHAEL: The Marlins have two major farm system strengths: outfield and pitching. The outfield was highlighted above, and the pitching depth is tremendous. Thanks to last offseason's infamous Blue Jays trade, the Marlins have restocked their farm with solid talent, and pitching is where that starts. Andrew Heaney, last year's first-round selection, join in-house options like Adam Conley and trade acquisitions Justin Nicolino, Brian Flynn, and Anthony DeSclafani as players who may join the rotation as needed in the next year or two. If any of the team's current young starters falter, the Fish have a long line of players to succeed them. They can also use those young starters as trade bait to improve other areas on their way to potential future contention.
BEN: The Marlins decided to trade away some of their best assets, causing fans to be unhappy. How has that impacted attendance?
MICHAEL: Attendance is obviously down since the previous offseason's infamous fire sale trade, but there is a question as to whether attendance was going to be down to begin with. Last year, the team struggled and owner Jeffrey Loria decided the pull the panic button just one year into the 2012 era's existence. Naturally, fans would be less willing to watch a losing product, especially one that has the reputation for shady dealings like Loria's Marlins. Still, fans were not showing up last year either, in part due to losing and perhaps in part due to the very culture of baseball viewing in south Florida. It is tough to tell if this would have happened had the trade not been made.
BEN: Series prediction?
MICHAEL: The Los Angeles Dodgers are red-hot right now, and the Miami Marlins would be lucky to sneak by a win in this series. The Dodgers stay hot and win two out of three in Miami.