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Can the Marlins hang with the big boys of the National League East?

By: Zachary Hoffmann

Coming into the 2009 season the question was, “do the Marlins even have a chance to compete?” With the New York Mets, Philadelphia Phillies, and the Atlanta Braves having payrolls of close to 100 million dollars or more, the Marlins were sitting at a little over 35 million dollars for the year, which is still over 20 million dollars less the Nationals. There was a lot of talk that a small market team like the Marlins didn’t stand a chance in the heavily upgraded National League East. The Mets added two premier closers into a bullpen that desperately needed it. The Atlanta Braves added three starting pitchers and a veteran left-handed hitting outfielder. The Philadelphia Phillies added another left-handed power bat into a World Champion lineup full of power. After a quiet offseason of signing players and letting go of three starting position players, two starting pitchers, and their closer it wasn’t looking too good for the Marlins.

Little did people know that the young core of the Marlins would in fact be able to hang with the powerhouse of the East. Beginning in 1991, the Braves won 14 straight division titles with great pitching. It seems like the Marlins took a page out of their book because they have a great young pitching staff. The rotation is led by co-aces Ricky Nolasco and Josh Johnson. Nolasco had a break out season last year where he posted a 3.52 ERA with a respectable 15 wins and 186 strikeouts. Johnson has been sidelined most of the past two seasons due to injury, but finished the 2008 season winning 7 of his 8 decisions. Following them is Anibal Sanchez, Chris Volstad, and Andrew Miller. Sanchez had a great rookie season but just can’t stay healthy enough to remain in the rotation. Volstad and Miller are both young with a lot of upside.

Although the strength of the young Marlins is their pitching, they also have a surprisingly powerful lineup. The lineup is anchored by Hanley Ramirez who is arguably the best all-around player in the game. The 40 homerun, 40 steals threat leads an offense that saw all four starting infielders hit at least 29 home runs in 2008. Protecting Ramirez in the lineup are two 25+ homeruns and 90+ RBI guys in Dan Uggla and Jorge Cantu. Also, keep an eye on prized prospect Cameron Maybin on making a return to the big leagues after straightening things out in the Minors. With their power and their pitching this young roster should not only be able to hang but they should be able to make a run for the division title.