After finishing in last place in 2007, the Marlins traded away two of their best young players and decided to get even younger. In December, they shipped third baseman Miguel Cabrera, who turns 25 in April, and left-handed pitcher Dontrelle Willis, who is 26, to the Detroit Tigers. In exchange, the Marlins received six players. Five of the players are 25-years-old or younger.
The two most valuable players in the deal – 22-year-old left-hander Andrew Miller and 20-year-old outfielder Cameron Maybin – are expected to immediately contribute and could impact fantasy rosters this season. Catcher Mike Rabelo was also acquired in the deal and is expected to see most of the action behind the plate for the Marlins in 2008. Rabelo is the only player in the deal that is older than 25. He turned 28 in January.
While the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets fight for the division title, and the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals make steady improvements, it will likely be another long season for the Marlins. They have a lot of exciting young players to watch, including shortstop Hanley Ramirez and second baseman Dan Uggla, but they don't have the experience that will allow them to compete in the NL East.
2007 record: 71-91 (5th in NL East)
Key additions: LHP Andrew Miller, CF Cameron Maybin, LHP Mark Hendrickson, LF Luis Gonzalez, 3B Dallas McPherson, 3B Jose Castillo, IF Jorge Cantu, C Mike Rabelo
Key losses: 3B Miguel Cabrera, LHP Dontrelle Willis, C Miguel Olivo
Most valuable fantasy performers:
1. Hanley Ramirez, SS – While Ramirez won't be able to do enough to win a division title in 2008, he could help your fantasy team win a championship. Ramirez won the NL Rookie of the Year award in 2006 after hitting .292 with 17 home runs, 51 stolen bases and 119 runs scored. Last season, his numbers were even better. He hit .332 with 29 home runs, 81 RBIs, 51 stolen bases and 125 runs scored. With Cabrera in Detroit, the Marlins will rely on Ramirez for more production. He could be the best shortstop in fantasy baseball this season. Grab him in the first round if you want him.
2. Dan Uggla, 2B – For a second baseman, Uggla has tremendous power. He hit .282 with 27 home runs and 90 RBIs as a rookie in 2006. Last year, he had 31 home runs and 88 RBIs, but his batting average fell to .245. In order to be a top-notch fantasy player in 2008, Uggla needs to hit at least .270 and keep the power numbers around the same level. Even if he struggles with the batting average again, Uggla is still one of the five best second basemen available.
1. Jeremy Hermida, RF – Hermida could easily be listed as one of the most valuable fantasy performers for the Marlins, but I listed him in this category because I think he has a good chance at establishing career highs in batting average, home runs and RBIs this season. With Cabrera gone, the Marlins need him to take on a bigger role in the offense in 2008. Last year, Hermida hit .296 with 18 home runs and 63 RBIs in 123 games.
2. Kevin Gregg, RHP – With a lot of young starters in Florida, Gregg will be counted on to preserve as many victories as possible in 2008. Gregg posted 32 saves and a 3.54 ERA in 74 appearances in 2007. He'll have similar numbers again this season, so grab him if you'd like to have a second closer on your team. Also, keep in mind that he could be traded to a contender during the season, which would boost his value.
3. Andrew Miller, LHP – Miller has impressed me since I first saw him in the College World Series with the University of North Carolina. He was 5-5 with a 5.63 ERA in 13 starts for the Tigers last season but will be given every opportunity to succeed in Florida. If he's able to lower his ERA, Miller could win 10-15 games and pick up 130 strikeouts in 2008. If you're satisfied with the rest of your team and can afford to take a risk, Miller may be worth a late-round pick.