Amazin' Avenue: After making a lot of moves in the offseason, the Marlins have started out just 3-6 in 2015. What were your expectations coming into the season and what have you seen thus far from Mike Redmond's club?
Fishstripes: The expectation going into this season is that the Marlins were going to have a better season than previous, leading up to a .500 or better campaign and at least fringe competition for the Wild Card. So far, the Marlins' offense has let them down, as before the most recent Atlanta Braves series, the Fish had scored a measly 13 runs in six games. This was concerning considering the fact that the Fish had upgraded their position players before the season in an attempt to improve their offense, but it was still way too early to make strong judgments on their play.
AA: "Mets vs. Marlins" was a popular thing on the internet during the offseason and spring training, and a number of analysts picked the Marlins as a Wild Card winner prior to Opening Day. Assuming the Nationals win the division, which team has a better chance of coming in 2nd in the NL East this year and does either team have a legitimate shot at a Wild Card?
FS: I think both teams have a legitimate chance at the Wild Card, and my personal thought was that they were both neck-and-neck for the second place spot in the division behind the Nationals. My preference was to lean towards the Marlins slightly given the improvements to their position players in the offseason, but the edge on the pitching side has to go overwhelmingly to the Mets, and if the early season is any indication, Miami's staff may struggle more than expected while the team waits for Jose Fernandez to recover from Tommy John surgery.
AA: Jose Fernandez is still recovering from Tommy John surgery, Mat Latos has looked dreadful in his first two starts, and now Henderson Alvarez is on the DL with shoulder and elbow inflammation. What does the Marlins' starting pitching depth look like and do you think they're equipped to adequately handle rotation issues like this?
FS: The Marlins have weak depth in the rotation in terms of top-of-the-line talent in the minors. The club traded a lot of their top pitching names in the offseason to acquire their position player improvements, and in these situations, the team definitely misses not having guys like Andrew Heaney or Anthony DeSclafani readily available. That said, they entered the 2015 season with two swing-men in David Phelps and Brad Hand working out of the bullpen, and their presence should at least fill the rotation when injuries occur. They also have a couple of lesser but still intriguing minor league names in Triple-A, led by Justin Nicolino and Jose Urena, who could be used as starters.
AA: Dee Gordon is off to a quick start at the plate, hitting .378/.400/.514 through 9 games. What are your initial thoughts on the Marlins' new second baseman and what do you and other Marlins fans think of the Gordon for Andrew Heaney swap?
FS: Gordon is off to a nice start, and it is good to see him not striking out as much as he was last year early on, but it is way too early to determine a new level of play for him. Last year, he had a horrific second half after an All-Star caliber first part of the year, leaving his overall line decent but his prospects and ceiling going forward questionable. You will hear different perspectives on the Heaney / Gordon trade, mostly dependent on whether or not you feel Heaney could pan out into a quality Major League starter after struggling in 24 innings in the big leagues last year. The majority of our readers, however, agree with me in that the team traded way too much to acquire Gordon, who was a marginal player before half a season of good play.
AA: Hypothetically, if the Marlins are going to make a legitimate run for the playoffs this year, what strength (or strengths) helps them get there? On the opposite side, if the 2015 Marlins disappoint, what do you see as the weakness (or weaknesses) that ultimately sinks them?
FS: If the Marlins are to make a run for the playoffs, it will be on the back of the team's best asset: the trio of young outfielders. Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and the $325 million man Giancarlo Stanton will have to carry this roster on its back if the team is going to be victorious, because wins may be scarce early on from the rotation or in the infield. If the team struggles, it may be due to the rotation makeover and the subsequent lack of depth that we already discussed. If guys like Mat Latos, Jarred Cosart, and Dan Haren struggle as rotation replacements, the Fish could be in for a long year.