The Miami Marlins begin their 2022 season schedule in San Francisco on Friday afternoon. Following a disappointing 67-95 season, Miami upgraded its lineup, locked in their top starter long term, and added to their bullpen. Although other teams in the division improved as well, the Marlins Opening Day lineup will be the team’s best in recent years.
Although if you’re reading this, you’re likely going to watch anyway, here are five reasons to watch the Marlins on Opening Day.
1. Offseason Improvements
The Marlins spent this offseason, as principal owner Bruce Sherman promised. Miami shelled out $165 million over various contracts, including avoiding arbitration, extensions, and free agent signings. According to Spotrac, only 10 teams spent more than the Marlins this offseason.
These additions, as well as the development of the young talent already in the organization, has many excited. Including Ochocinco:
Marlins winning it all ⚾️
— Chad Johnson (@ochocinco) April 8, 2022
The Marlins brought in established veterans via free agency and trade, most notably, World Series MVP Jorge Soler. Following his impressive postseason run last season, Soler signed a three-year, $36 million deal in Miami, making him the first Cuban-born player on the active roster since Odrisamer Despaigne in 2018 and 10th all-time.
Miami also brought in Jacob Stallings from the Pittsburgh Pirates this offseason. He’ll be the Marlins Opening Day catcher and is poised to help propel these pitchers to the next level. A Gold Glove winner last year, Stallings racked up 42 Defensive Runs Saved over the last three seasons, including 21 DRS in 2021. Marlins starters will benefit from his framing and game-calling abilities.
2. Versatile Roster
The Marlins sought to upgrade up and down the roster, especially considering only four players played more than 100 games last season. And one of those was Magneuris Sierra. Injuries submarined Miami’s efforts throughout 2021. So, adding depth and versatility to the Marlins Opening Day roster was a must.
Your 2022 Miami Marlins. pic.twitter.com/Rbhs9QT8py
— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) April 7, 2022
The Marlins Opening Day roster this season stands out as the deepest the club’s had under in the Sherman era. With all due respect to the 2016 team, this could be the deepest roster top-to-bottom with Don Mattingly as manager.
Miami added versatile utility player Joey Wendle to take over at third base. Wendle can also play at second and shortstop, allowing Mattingly to rest some of his most important players regularly. That’s particularly valuable considering the condensed nature of Spring Training this season.
Avisail Garica provides another proven bat to the lineup who can play multiple positions in the outfield. Brian Anderson moves from Gold Glove-caliber third baseman to potent utility player. Anderson worked in the outfield this spring and could see some spots starts out there. Jon Berti remains on the roster as a super utility option off the bench with blazing speed.
Additions to the bullpen also give Mattingly options in high-leverage situations. Anthony Bender will get the first turn as closer this season since Dylan Floro landed on the 10-day IL to start the season, but there are other relievers who can step in as well. Floro traveled with the team to San Francisco. He’s expected to throw bullpen sessions under the watchful eye of pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr.
The taxi squad for this trip includes utility player Willans Astudillo and right-handed pitcher Tommy Eveld, who by all reports was a backfield star at Marlins camp this spring.
3. Marlins Opening Day Lineup
Miami needed to upgrade their lineup in order to conceivably contend in 2022. Marlins general manager Kim Ng said multiple times this offseason that the team sought to add bats, taking an offense-first approach. The result? The Marlins projected Opening Day lineup will be the team’s best, most potent collection of hitters since the 2017 season.
— Glenn Geffner (@GlennGeffner) April 8, 2022
Miami languished near the bottom in most offensive metrics last season. The Marlins ranked 29th in RBI (594), Runs (623), Slugging Percentage (.372), and OPS (.670). Miami finished 28th in Home Runs (158) and 27th in Doubles (226).
What’s more, the Marlins managed the second-highest strikeout-rate (26.2 percent) and ranked 24th hitting with Runners-In-Scoring-Position (.239 batting average). The team ranked 16th with RISP and two outs (.224).
The four bats Miami added this offseason look to be significant offensive improvements. Garcia hit .413 with RISP and two outs. Wendle’s managed a .262 average over his career with RISP. Stallings has a .260 batting average with RISP, and Soler sports a career .250 batting average in that situation.
These additions lengthen a lineup that too often featured too many subpar producers last season.
Miguel Rojas led the team in games played (132) and plate appearances (539). Only two other players (Jesus Aguilar, 510, Jazz Chisholm, 507) had more than 500. The next five players on that list now play for other clubs: Adam Duvall (339), Jorge Alfaro (311), Lewis Brinson (290), Isan Diaz (278), and Starling Marte (275).
4. Alcantara Starts Cy Young Case on Opening Day
Marlins pitcher Sandy Alcantara stands to make his third consecutive Opening Day start. He joins Josh Beckett (03-05) and Josh Johnson (10-12) as the only other players in franchise history to do so. Alcantara enters this one 1-0 on Opening Day, combining for 12.2 innings pitched, with just five hits and one earned run while striking out 14 batters over those two games.
Last season, Alcantara surpassed the 200-innings pitched plateau for the first time in his career. He’s the first Marlins pitcher to do so since Mark Buerhle did it in 2012. He was one of three pitchers in MLB to post over 200 innings pitched and over 200 strikeouts. Alcantara became just the fifth pitcher in franchise history to hit those numbers, joining Al Leiter (1996), Kevin Brown (1997), Ryan Dempster (2000), and A.J. Burnett (2002).
Alcantara made a team-leading and career-high 33 starts in 2021, finishing with a 9-15 record. His 3.19 ERA ranked 15th in MLB last season. Take out the 18 earned runs he surrendered in two starts (5/14 at Dodger Stadium and 8/6 at Coors Field), and Alcantara would have finished with a 2.47 ERA. That figure would’ve tied for the third-best in baseball.
The improved lineup should help Alcantara in one very specific metric: run-support. Last season, Alcantara received 3.09 runs-per-game from his offense. That was the lowest figure of any pitcher with at least 30 starts last season. It was the second-lowest among pitchers making at least 20 starts.
Alcantara has a career record of 17-10 when receiving three or more runs in support of his starts. Unfortunately, he’s received two or fewer runs in 35 of his 78 career starts.
5. Playoffs Within Reach
Marlins fans should be excited on Opening Day because this team is built to make a run at the 2022 playoffs. With an improved lineup, bolstered bullpen, and excellent starting pitching, this team features all the necessary components to make the postseason.
It helps that MLB expanded the playoffs to feature 12 teams (six from each league) instead of the 10 of years past. That leaves three Wild Card spots to fill, and, given relative health, Miami’s built to compete for one of those.
Should the Marlins make the playoffs, their starting pitching should provide the team with an advantage in a shortened three-game series. Miami upset the Chicago Cubs thanks, in part, to solid starting pitching in the 2020 Wild Card round. With a rotation that features Alcantara, Pablo Lopez, and Trevor Rodgers on the front end, the Marlins will be a tough out in any three-game series.
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Here’s More on the Marlins Opening Day Roster: