I hope everyone is having a safe and happy holiday season!
With 2023 nearly upon us, that can only mean one thing: Spring Training is right around the corner. Though the Marlins still have moves to make, I decided to make three predictions for the upcoming season.
Will I jinx things? Keep this handy, and we'll find out together!
1. Miami will have a Top 5 rotation in the Majors
This one isn't too bold, considering the starting staff finished with the seventh-lowest WHIP (1.18), eighth-lowest ERA (3.70) and 12th-highest fWAR (12.6) in the Majors despite using 14 starters in 2022. Sandy Alcantara won the National League Cy Young Award and Pablo López set a career high for innings (180), but Trevor Rogers struggled in his sophomore campaign (5.47 ERA). Edward Cabrera (3.01 ERA), Jesús Luzardo (3.32 ERA) and Braxton Garrett (3.58 ERA) took steps forward. Two things could hold back this group: injuries and innings limitations. When healthy, Miami's rotation can hold its own with MLB's more heralded and veteran arms.
2. Avisaíl García will bounce back
If everyone is saying it, surely it'll come true? After signing for four years and $53 million last winter as the club's marquee free agent, García disappointed in his first season with Miami. Credit to García, who hasn't shied away from saying it. The 31-year-old has maintained a healthier lifestyle since rehabbing from his first left hamstring strain and is already working with first-base/outfield coach Jon Jay.
García expects to see a jump in production due to more familiarity with the division, similar to what happened from his first to second years in Milwaukee (78 to 119 OPS+). Will he be a 30-homer bat? Unlikely, considering he's never done that before and because of pitcher-friendly loanDepot park. But Miami will take a reliable run producer.
3. Eury Pérez will debut during the summer
Miami's top prospect (MLB Pipeline's No. 9 overall) will be only 20 next season. Facing competition five years older didn't faze the right-hander, who impressed at Double-A Pensacola in 2022 until an oblique injury wound up sidelining him for a month across August and September.
Will the Marlins continue to challenge Pérez and start him at Triple-A Jacksonville to begin 2023? If so, that would leave him just one step away from the big leagues. How the rotation looks heading into Opening Day -- and any injuries that might affect it in-season -- will determine when Pérez receives the callup. That's assuming he continues to take care of business on the mound.
When was the last time the 1997 Marlins were in first place in the National League East?
A.) Sept. 17
B.) March 25
C.) April 13
D.) July 31
This year marked the 25th anniversary of the 1997 World Series championship ballclub. In this final installment, we catch up with World Series MVP Livan Hernandez, who attended the May 13-15 celebration at loanDepot park.
Hernandez, who debuted on Sept. 24, 1996, didn't pitch again in the big leagues until June 15, 1997. The 22-year-old right-hander went 9-3, posted a 3.18 ERA to finish second in NL Rookie of the Year voting and was the World Series Most Valuable Player. The Marlins won all five games he appeared in during the playoffs, including Games 1 and 5 of the Fall Classic. His best performance came in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series -- of which he was also the MVP -- when he struck out a Series-record 15 Braves.
MLB.com: Is there anything you learned from your stint in 1996 that helped you in 1997?
Hernandez: I pitched in one game, three innings and watched the rest of the games, and that's it.
MLB.com: The way you started the season in the Minors in 1997 to how you ended it, is it anything you could have imagined?
Hernandez: Everything that has happened to me in baseball, this baseball, the best baseball in the world, I've got to thank God for giving me a chance to do it, because it's not easy to play 16 and a half years, different teams, and it's not easy to win the World Series. It's not easy to win MVP. Nothing's easy in baseball. You've got to work hard every day, you've got to prepare every single day, 162 games, seeing the same face every day. It's not good sometimes. But you have to do it and deal with it. So this is what I do. I have fun every day. Enjoy it every day, every moment in baseball, and that's it.
MLB.com: What does it feel like pitching a 15-strikeout game?
Hernandez: When you're there, it's something I didn't know. I'll watch the game on TV, and all that I can say is 'amazing.' Watching the game again. Wow. Too many strikeouts. I never had that before.
MLB.com: 'I love you, Miami.' Where did that come from?
Hernandez: I don't know. I said that on that day because it's something that came out, and I still feel happy.
Oct. 26, 1997: Franchise folklore is born
Where were you during Game 7 of the Fall Classic? I was pretending to be asleep, watching the final moments on my 13-inch TV in my childhood bedroom. After being named the World Series MVP, Hernandez exclaimed what generations of local baseball fans happily remember to this day: "I love you, Miami."
C.) April 13
As many of you already know, the Marlins have captured two World Series titles but have never won the division. In 1997, they spent 11 days in first, the last during the season's opening month!
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