The mantra for the 2023 Miami Marlins will be one that is all too familiar and perhaps trite at this point: Patience is a virtue. Only this season, those words carry some extra weight. After steady residence in the pits of the National League East that was only interrupted in 60-game 2020 season, the club is desperate for marked improvement. Though, meaningful signs of life may be hard to detect in what is arguably the MLB’s most grueling division.
There are certainly reasons for fans to be optimistic, however, as reigning NL Cy Young Sandy Alcantara may solidify himself as the best pitcher in baseball today. Jazz Chisholm became the first native from The Bahamas to grace the cover of MLB The Show 23. He will be determined to prove the honor is more than justified. Skip Schumacher is a young new manager hailed for his natural leadership skills. Trailblazer Kim Ng knows the transcendent impact she can have on sports and perhaps society if she builds a contender.
The degree of difficulty facing the Marlins this season is sky-high, but there is also an aura surrounding them that just feels different. If an intangible feeling is not enough to inspire confidence, then a stout pitching staff and big additions to the lineup should produce at least an iota of enthusiasm from even the most desensitized Fish fans.
Alright, enough of the build-up. Let’s get right to the matter at hand. These are three Marlins bold predictions for the 2023 MLB season.
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3. Marlins finish in top half of MLB in hitting
For the last two offseasons, it has been clear that the Marlins’ top objective is to significantly upgrade their offense. And for good reason. During that span, the club has ranked near the bottom in almost every offensive category. Signing World Series MVP Jorge Soler and former All-Star Avisail Garcia ahead of the 2022 season was the type of proactive front office management that is not always exhibited by smaller payroll teams. Yet, results-oriented thinking tends to overshadow moves that look good on paper.
Both Garcia and Soler had their first seasons in Miami ravaged by injury. When they were healthy, they endured arguably the worst stretches of their respective careers. Now for the positive spin, and it’s not much of a spin at all. There is nowhere left to go but up. Both players tend to be streaky hitters from year-to-year and are therefore due for an upswing in 2023. If that sounds like mere blind faith, then take comfort in knowing that Ng and the organization did not just want to wait for things to pan out.
The Marlins stayed aggressive this past offseason, acquiring 2022 American League batting champion Luis Arraez from the Minnesota Twins and signing veteran infielder and two-time All-Star Jean Segura (two years, $17 million). Arraez has quickly established himself as one of the best contact hitters in the game. He hardly ever strikes out and should just be entering his prime. Segura has amassed a career .285 batting average over 11 seasons. They should be definite needle movers.
Power could still be an issue for the club, but with Soler and Chisholm- 14 home runs in 60 games- now hopefully past their respective back injuries, their should be much more pop in the Miami lineup. Chisholm could also take advantage of the league’s new steal-friendly rules with his speed. The Fish possess a good blend of versatility in their offense and are primed to surprise a lot of pitching staffs.
Expect improvement all around, but specifically a batting average that will be more than 10 points higher than last year’s .230 (28th) and rank 15th-13th in the MLB.
Follow Jazz Chisholm's journey from a sandlot in The Bahamas all the way to the majors. #MLBTheShow #OwnTheShow pic.twitter.com/BO2z9upRZO
— MLB The Show (@MLBTheShow) January 30, 2023
2. Sandy Alcantara will win back-to-back CY Youngs
Seven pitchers have won back-to-back Cy Young awards. The list is nearly full of Hall of Famers or future ones. This claim is not made lightly. Sandy Alcantara has the tools to dominate the league for the foreseeable future.
He looked that special in 2022. His 8.0 WAR was first among pitchers and third overall. Alcantara’s 228 2/3 innings pitched and six complete games are both the most by a pitcher since 2016. The 27-year-old is doing his best to restore fans’ faith in the workhorse pitcher. He is poised for another excellent season in 2023. The pitch clock should not affect his quick delivery, and an improved offense should give Alcantara a good chance of surpassing his career-high win total of 14.
What is even better news for fans is his willingness to be a leader to the rest of the rotation. Alcantara believes the staff can be among the most dangerous in baseball, per Bally Sports Florida: Marlins.
“They can be like me, man. 𝘛𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘤𝘢𝘯 𝘣𝘦 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘮𝘦.” — Sandy Alcantara on the Marlins young pitchers
Hear everything Sandy had to say about being a leader for Jesus Luzardo, Edward Cabrera, and Trevor Rogers & what he thinks of their potential on ‘Miami Mic’d Up’ ♨️ pic.twitter.com/yuZy1EkXce
— Bally Sports Florida: Marlins (@BallyMarlins) February 24, 2023
Miami’s ace will have his work cut out for him, to be sure. Justin Verlander shattered expectations for a 39-year-old coming off Tommy John surgery and now joins the NL with the New York Mets. Max Scherzer probably would have made last season’s Cy Young race much more intriguing had he not spent a couple stints on the Injured List. Julio Urias is at the top of his game at just 26 years old and figures to battle Alcantara for this award now and the seasons to come.
Not this season, though. The Alcantara era is upon us. The native of The Dominican Republic will channel his fellow countryman Pedro Martinez with back-to-back Cy Young crowns. It has been a while, but the Marlins could have their next homegrown superstar.
1. Marlins win 80 games
It is very tempting to add “more than” before that number 80, but there are some factors that could lead to the Marlins suffering their 12th losing season in 13 years (31-29 in 2020). While there should be an infusion of offense, the club’s defense could take quite the dive. Miami ranked third in the MLB in fielding percentage in 2022 but have since traded shortstop Miguel Rojas to the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was arguably the heart of their defense with 15 runs saved according to Fielding Bible.
Furthermore, Rojas’ absence puts the whole infield in flux. Joey Wendle has a solid track record at short but has played primarily second and third base in his career. Segura is expected to slide to the hot corner but has only played 24 games in that position. Arraez played all over the diamond for the Twins and should be able to handle himself well at second. But he might still need a small adjustment period given that he mostly manned first last season. The biggest defensive gamble of all, though, is moving Chisholm from second to the vital position of center field. It is uncharted territory for the All-Star.
It will be a big learning curve all around. That is not ideal for a roster heavily reliant on its pitching. The Marlins’ margin of error will also be small with 13 games apiece against the Mets, Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies. While that is less than the 19 divisional games each in previous seasons, it will still be hard to fathom Miami amassing a winning record against any of those powerhouses.
Those are the hindrances that could keep what is potentially South Beach’s most talented ball club in a decade from reaching the postseason. But make no mistake, 80 wins would be a monumental feat for this beleaguered franchise. It could foretell legitimate success on the horizon, which was not the case in 2020’s playoffs run.
The Marlins are knocking on that basement door, ready to come busting out. It might not happen in the 2023 MLB season, but they will soon escape and ascend back into baseball relevancy.