5 Florida Marlins

After yet another postchampionship purge, youth will be served up
April 02, 2006

The Marlins'history is as odd as it is brief. In their 13 seasons they've won two WorldSeries, a record any team outside the Bronx would envy. But each title win hasbeen followed by a purge. After the 1997 championship run the team dumped suchstars as Moises Alou, Robb Nen, Jeff Conine and Kevin Brown. Now, two seasonsremoved from their second Series win, the Marlins again gutted the roster in apayroll-cutting frenzy prompted by the failure to secure a new stadium deal. Ifa long-discussed move from South Florida is indeed in the works, ownershipwould be wise to consider another coastal location, because the Marlins areexpert at building baseball castles in the sand.

The list ofplayers gone from last year is impressive: pitchers Josh Beckett and A.J.Burnett, catcher Paul Lo Duca, infielders Carlos Delgado, Luis Castillo andMike Lowell, and outfielders Juan Pierre and Juan Encarnacion. The two piecesof bedrock retained by the Marlins are 22-year-old Miguel Cabrera, who'll movefrom the outfield to third base, and 24-year-old lefthander Dontrelle Willis,the 2005 Cy Young runner-up who will be the team's No. 1 starter. During springtraining the remaining 23 roster spots were up in the air. Even more unnerving,of the 40 roster invitees to spring training, a stunning 35 were in the minorsfor at least part of 2005. "I've never been to a big league camp that hadthis many guys without big league experience," says third baseman WesHelms, a seven-year veteran who spent the last three seasons with Milwaukee.The man to lead this youth movement is 41-year-old Joe Girardi, a rookieskipper just 2 1/2 years removed from his playing days.

Marlinsfans--those who remain--might not be excited about having to learn so many newnames yet again, but for the players it's another story. Promising prospectssuch as Jeremy Hermida, Mike Jacobs, Hanley Ramirez and Josh Willinghamsuddenly have a wide-open road to the majors. If nothing else, the Marlinsshould put a couple of horses in the race for Rookie of the Year.

Hermida, arightfielder who was the Marlins' first-round pick in 2002, hit a grand slamlast Aug. 31 in his first major league at bat. The Georgia native has impressedGirardi with his maturity and is the Marlins rookie who looks most ready tomake a smooth transition to the bigs. "He reminds me a little bit of[former Yankee] Paul O'Neill," Girardi says, "He's a patient hitter. Hehas an idea at the plate. He's a good defender, and he's got a good arm in theoutfield. He's got that good approach every day." The 22-year-old Hermida,whose lefthanded stroke has impressed scouts for years, spent his off-seasonworking out at the Baseball Performance Center in Marietta, Ga., where he'sbeen going since his senior year of high school. Beyond his physical skills,the 6'4", 200-pound Hermida's greatest asset may be that he rarely forces aswing. "I've always prided myself on letting the game come to me,"Hermida says.

Jacobs, a firstbaseman, came over from the Mets with two other prospects in exchange forDelgado. He sizzled after being called up by New York in August, hitting fourhome runs in his first four games and finishing with a .310 average and 11homers in 100 at bats. Ramirez, who arrived from Boston in a trade for Beckett,won the shortstop job over Robert Andino, who came up through the Marlins'system. Girardi also wants to find a place in the lineup for Willingham, whohit .324 with 19 home runs in 66 games for the Marlins' Triple A club lastyear. He's been catching this spring.

With so manyopen jobs, the Marlins at least had a spirited training camp. "Even when wehad our first intrasquad game, everyone was all pumped up for that," Jacobssaid. Adds Girardi, "You have a lot of hungry players here."Admittedly, it's not the kind of hunger you'll find in St. Louis or Atlanta orNew York, where the appetite is for winning a World Series. That may come laterfor some of these Marlins--and then, if the pattern holds, for the teamsthey'll be traded to. --B.S.

Last season the Marlins had the fewest multihomer games in the majors--three,all by Miguel Cabrera. The Braves and Rangers led the majors, with 22apiece.

a modest proposal

The Marlins aregoing to need all the scoring help they can get, and to aid their cause theycan give lots of playing time to three young guys with power bats. Florida cansplit catching duties between two players who have recent experience behind theplate, Josh Willingham (right), who hit .324 with 19 homers in 66 games atTriple A last year, and Mike Jacobs (.321, 25 homers at Double A), and useanother prospect, Jason Stokes, at first base. Thumb and wrist injuries havehampered Stokes's development, but he has hit one home run every 17.6 at batsin the minors and has a career slugging percentage of .521.

projected roster with 2005 statistics

tied for third in NL East

Joe Girardi
first season with Florida


SS Ramirez

RF Hermida

3B Cabrera

1B Jacobs


2B Uggla

C Olivo


PVR 135
BA .253
HR 10
RBI 23
SB 7

PVR 192
BA .324
HR 19
RBI 54
SB 5

PVR 72
BA .293
HR 4
RBI 11
SB 2

HANLEYRAMIREZ*(R) [New acquisition]
PVR 131
BA .271
HR 6
RBI 52
SB 26

DAN UGGLA*(R)[New acquisition]
PVR 225
BA .297
HR 21
RBI 87
SB 15

PVR 11
BA .323
HR 33
RBI 116
SB 1

MIKE JACOBS [Newacquisition]
PVR 64
BA .310
HR 11
RBI 23
SB 0

MIGUEL OLIVO[New acquisition]
PVR 283
BA .217
HR 9
RBI 34
SB 7

CHRIS AGUILA [New acquisition]
PVR 240
BA .244
HR 0
SB 0

WES HELMS [Newacquisition]
PVR 289
BA .298
HR 4
RBI 24
SB 0

[This articlecontains tables. Please see hard copy or pdf.]


LH Dontrelle Willis 22 22 10 170 1.13 2.63
RH Brian Moehler 187 6 12 95 1.52 4.55
RH Sergio Mitre [New acquisition] 226 2 5 37 1.41 5.37
LH Jason Vargas 130 5 5 59 1.38 4.03
RH Josh Johnson*(R) 206 12 4 113 1.35 3.87


RH Joe Borowski [New acquisition] 111 1 5 0 1.08 4.47
RH Matt Herges [New acquisition] 270 1 1 0 1.62 7.14
RH Ricky Nolasco*(R) [New acquisition] 240 14 3 0 1.22 2.89

New acquisition
(R) Rookie
B-T: Bats-throws
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
*Double A stats
†Triple A stats
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 59)

coming to a ballpark near you this summer...

One of threeprospects picked up from the Mets in the November trade for Carlos Delgado,Yusmeiro Petit has a deceptive delivery. Keeping the ball behind him out of thehitter's view a beat longer than normal, the 21-year-old Venezuelan went 9-3with a 2.91 ERA and 130 strikeouts in 118 innings in Double A last year. IfPetit can do better against lefties than the .525 slugging percentage he had,he could get a call-up this summer.

PHOTOJOHN IACONOCATCHING ON Hermida has shown promise at the plate, hitting a grand slam in his first at bat, and Girardi likes his defense, too. PHOTODOUG MURRAY/WIREIMAGE.COM PHOTOMLB PHOTOS/GETTY IMAGES ILLUSTRATION