While many baseball pundits have already put pressure on Miami Marlins’ slugger Giancarlo Stanton to have a monster comeback season, the ball club will focus on its three starters in the outfield to lead the team toward a potential playoff berth.
The power and consistency of Stanton’s bat will be a welcomed addition to the lineup and could ease some of the weight on manager Don Mattingly’s back to produce a winning season, but let’s not forget there are two other outfielders who could have solid seasons as well.
In talking about the team’s roster this past week, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro mentioned the importance of the other members of the trio – centerfielder Christian Yelich and right fielder Marcell Ozuna – as part of a puzzle that must fit properly if Miami is going to take another step forward in the postseason chase.
The Marlins finished the 2016 season with a 79-82 record but were heavily involved in the wild card race, but faded in the final 10 days of the season.
Per Frisaro, the trio of Stanton, Yelich and Ozuna each topped 20 home runs in 2016. Stanton is looking to rebound after an injury-plagued season.
“Ozuna, who is switching to left field, had a rough time after the Midsummer Classic, but he was an All-Star based on a strong first half. Yelich has switched to center field, and he established career highs for home runs (21) and RBIs (98) last year. Ichiro, who became the 30th player in Major League history to reach 3,000 hits, is the primary backup,” he wrote.
It will be interesting to see if spring training invitees, outfielders Matt den Dekker and Moises Sierra can make an impression to potentially crack the opening day roster. Sierra has been in the Marlins fam system, playing at Double-A Jacksonville last season but had an injury-plagued year.
While Yelich and Stanton are expected to build on their 2016 seasons, Ozuna may be the one who has the most to prove. The 26-year-old batted .266 with 23 home runs and 76 RBI for the year. Can he follow through and reach the 30-home run plateau to give Miami more power in the middle of the line-up? Will this outfield continue to become one of the better hitting trios in baseball and will the combination of power and hitting for average help lead the Marlins to the playoffs?
The injuries and hitting issues for Stanton allowed Suzuki to get more time at the plate. A healthy outfield will diminish his role this season and could see time as a pinch hitter or if injuries arise again, he could play a bigger role in the Marlins’ lineup, but will not be able to provide the power any other three starters offer Mattingly and the team on a daily basis.