5 Florida Marlins

"YOU GET CHANCES YOU WOULDN'T NORMALLY."
March 30, 2008

HE HAS done littleto prove that he is ready to pitch above Double A. His 13 starts for Detroitlast summer—39 walks and a 5.63 ERA in 64 innings—were unimpressive. Hisdelivery, even he would admit, is a major work in progress. Yet the moment hegot the call that he had been acquired by the Marlins in the eight-player tradethat sent All-Star third baseman Miguel Cabrera and lefthanded ace DontrelleWillis to the Tigers, 22-year-old Andrew Miller knew he had just become a keypart of a major league rotation.

"I don't knowthat I deserve it," says the baby-faced lefthander, "but the realityis, [with Florida] you get chances you wouldn't normally."

The reality for theMarlins, coming off a season in which they finished last in the NL East for thefirst time in eight years, is that things are going to get even worse beforethey get better. There certainly won't be an improbable run like there was in'06, when the youngest and cheapest team in the majors was within two games ofthe wild-card lead in mid-September. Not with a rotation that is anchored byMiller, as well as the pitcher who had the highest ERA among NL starters lastyear (lefthander Scott Olsen) and a 33-year-old journeyman with a 43--55 careerrecord (lefthander Mark Hendrickson).

Armed with amid-90s fastball and killer slider, Miller—the Tigers' first-round draft choiceout of North Carolina in 2006—undoubtedly has the tools to be a future ace, butat 6'6" he's had difficulty throwing from a consistent arm slot andmaintaining his command. "He needs a full year in Triple A," says onescout, noting Miller's rise from Class A to the majors last year, includingonly two starts at Triple A Toledo. "You worry that what the Marlins aredoing is detrimental to his development."

In return forCabrera and Willis, Florida also received centerfield prospect Cameron Maybin,backup catcher Mike Rabelo and minor league pitchers Eulogio De La Cruz, DallasTrahern and Burke Badenhop—none of whom are major league ready, and yet all maysee significant playing time with Florida this season. Besides sheddingpayroll, the trade of Cabrera should also improve the atmosphere in theclubhouse, where, team officials were concerned, his often-lackadaisical workethic was a negative influence. "[Cabrera] talked about how he wanted to beAlbert Pujols," says a team source, "but he had the attitude of MannyRamirez."

Florida still hasone young star, 24-year-old shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who tops a lineup thatwas surprisingly potent after the All-Star break, when it ranked third in theleague in home runs (101) and on-base percentage plus slugging (.808), and tiedfor fifth in runs per game (5.01). But for a team building for the future, theMarlins' core includes players such as 27-year-old first baseman Mike Jacobs,28-year-old second baseman Dan Uggla and 29-year-old leftfielder JoshWillingham, all of whom hit below .270 last season and are already in theirprime, not blossoming stars.

About the only goodnews to come out of South Florida this spring was the progress made toward thecompletion of a deal with Miami-Dade County and Miami commissioners to build a$515 million, retractable-roof stadium at the site of the Orange Bowl in timefor the 2011 season. "Until then, not much will change," says presidentof baseball operations Larry Beinfest. "We're going to develop our ownplayers and run a reasonable payroll, a payroll that will start to evolve whenthe revenue structure changes as we get to the building opening. We have goodyoung players. We need to get them ready, and we'll see what we look like whenwe enter the new ballpark."

When you considerwhat this year's Marlins look like, 2011 couldn't seem further away.

THE LINEUP
PROJECTED ROSTER WITH 2007 STATISTICS

MANAGER FREDIGONZALEZ
SECOND SEASON WITH FLORIDA

BULLPEN              
PITCHER   PVR W SV K/9 WHIP ERA
RH Kevin Gregg 92 0 32 9.3 1.23 3.54
RH Matt Lindstrom 220 3 0 8.3 1.30 3.09
LH Justin Miller 183 5 0 10.8 1.25 3.65

New acquisitionB-T: Bats-throws
WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 62)

CONSIDER THIS

a modest proposal...

The Marlins'signature off-season move—trading stars for a package of prospects—this timebrought them Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin (plus four others) from Detroitin return for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis. Despite pressure to provethe deal a good one for Florida, the Marlins were wise to send Maybin to DoubleA Carolina on Monday; in fact, a full season in the minors would be beneficial.For all his gifts, Maybin has only 79 plate appearances above A ball and wasovermatched (seven hits and 21 strikeouts in 49 at bats) when rushed to themajors last year. Force-feeding big league pitching on Maybin will only hinderhis development, not to mention start his service-time clock. The Marlins canuse 2007 surprise Cody Ross (left), who had a 1.064 OPS in 173 at bats, incenter until Maybin is ready.

 

THE NUMBERS

DON'T LIE

244

Runs scored byHanley Ramirez in 2006 and '07 combined. The Marlins' shortstop became thefirst player to score at least 119 runs in each of his first two big leagueseasons since Detroit's Barney McCosky and Boston's Ted Williams both did it in1939 and '40. If Ramirez scores 119 runs this season, he'll join Williams, JoeDiMaggio and Lloyd Waner as the only players to reach that figure in each oftheir first three full seasons.

 

 

NOW AT SI.COM

SI VAULT

EXCERPTED FROMSI

NOV. 3, 2003

GAME 6 did notseem the time to suddenly apply conventional wisdom, considering the beating ithad been taking in this Series. Florida was outhit and outscored by New Yorkbut not outmaneuvered, which is why, late Saturday night, the owner was runningthe bases at Yankee Stadium like a little kid, and the visitors' clubhouse feltlike a luxuriant steam bath, with champagne dripping from the seven-footceiling and great aromatic clouds of cigar smoke wafting about.
—Tom Verducci

SI.com/vault

Free access to allMarlins stories and photographs from the SI archive, plus video clips.

 

PHOTOCHUCK SOLOMONREADY OR NOT The 22-year-old Miller, who has only 15 starts above Double A, gets the call as the third starter in the Florida rotation. PHOTORICHARD C. LEWIS/ICON SMI (ROSS) PHOTOJOHN IACONO (COVER)

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)