MIAMI – Opening day. A day for optimism. A day for baseball fans to come together and dream of a winner.
Unless you're the Miami Marlins.
I'm going to preface my 2018 Marlins preview by stating a pretty simple take. The Marlins will be awful this season. They will be one of the worst teams in baseball.
If you're looking for sugarcoating then it's probably best you stop reading right here.
I'll break up this preview into two parts; what the team is doing for the long term and what the team will be like in the short term.
I think anyone who has read my Marlins takes or follows me on social media knows that I'm all in for Derek Jeter's so-called "building" plan.
Since the death of Jose Fernandez changed the franchise forever, I've advocated for the Marlins to start from scratch. The plan they had wasn't working. Despite having the NL MVP and a solid part of the order, the Marlins hadn't sniffed a playoff team or a .500 record in about a decade. This team wasn't close, and the farm system was decaying to the point of being the worst minor league systems in baseball.
Combine that with the highest payroll in franchise history and one of the lowest attendances in baseball, and clearly something needed to change.
Exit Jeffrey Loria. Enter Derek Jeter. Hallelujah! Or at least most would think.
As Jeter has learned since taking over the team, baseball is a tough sell in this town. Years of being betrayed by Loria has left fans bitter and cynical. I can’t blame them.
Jeter can choose to say he's building something, and that's fine. But let's not kid ourselves. This is a complete rebuild. A massive overhaul that will take years to complete and will take a lot of losing and suffering to get to the payoff.
I'm not going to spend too much time on whether Jeter is actually capable of doing this the right way. His critics have already said he doesn't know how to do this and can’t lean on just being a future Hall of Fame player to make it work.
Fair enough. That's a debate for another day. So far, I like what he's doing, but only time and patience will tell.
Back to the 2018 Marlins. There is no debate. This team is bad. This is basically an expansion team. Manager Don Mattingly pretty much admitted that during spring training.
The starting rotation on opening day is the worst in baseball. It’s not even close.
The bullpen will be overworked and isn't very deep to begin with.
The lineup will have all kinds of issues scoring runs.
Let's see, bad pitching. A weak offense. Yeah, this team will have issues.
What do fans have to look forward to? The youth movement. Prized prospect Lewis Brinson will open the season with the big league club and get a fair shot to prove he can play every day
Brinson fits the profile of a future star. He's big, strong, fast, charismatic and hard-working. He can potentially be the future face of the franchise, though we should temper expectations for this season, as he will have some growing pains.
Brian Anderson will get a shot to prove he belongs over at third base while Martin Prado starts the season on the disabled list. He could keep the job if he proves worthy.
We should see top pitching prospect Sandy Alcantara up in the big leagues very early in the season. That's something to watch for.
Starlin Castro, Justin Bour and JT Realmuto, when he returns from injury, are expected to be the run producers. It's quite a drop off from Stanton, Yelich and Ozuna, but that's where the Marlins are as a team for 2018.
Everything is a drop off.
The real story of this season is what's going on behind the scenes and away from the major league field. The Marlins have revitalized a terrible farm system with some exciting players who will likely be ready to help for 2019 and 2020.
That's not exactly what you want to hear on opening day 2018, but that's what comes with the territory in rebuilding an organization.
Off the field, Jeter is tying to build his blueprint and image of what a franchise should look like. A team that plays hard and the right way and a ballpark, in-game experience that is fun for the family.
Again, all of this sounds great and I’m all for the long term plan, but this plan includes lots of pain short term. This season will be about as painful as possible to watch.
The last two seasons I've lucked out with my Marlins preseason predictions by correctly saying the team would win 79 and 77 games. I wish I had been wrong and those teams had been better.
This season I can't imagine this team will win more than 70 games, and it's possible they could lose 100 games. Again, I hope I'm wrong, but it's unlikely this team can surprise people.
Better times may be ahead, and with every passing day the memory of Jeffrey Loria gets farther and farther away in the rear view mirror.
The only thing that remains, for now, is the losing. And, oh yeah, the home run statue in the outfield. The upside of being so bad is that I wouldn't expect it to go off that often.
Marlins 2018 season prediction: 65-97