I tried this once before after Miami begin spring training, but I think it's appropriate now that we are a week away from the start of the baseball season.
Don Mattingly told the media last week that wins and losses this time of year mean nothing. He what he and his staff are concerned about is finding the right mix of 25 ballplayers to make the final roster and compete for a playoff spot. He's had time to watch and assess and finalize.
Mattingly and his troops are hoping to finally produce a winning record in 2017. There is plenty of talent in the lineup. Now, the pitching staff must produce. If the starting five can produce 60 wins while the bullpen does its job, there is no reason to believe this team can't win more than 82 games.
There plenty of questions this team has dealt with in the off-season, with talk about selling the team, the failure to sign a top reliever in free agency, and the cloud that still hangs over this organization's head in the death of Jose Fernandez. Don't be surprised if the Marlins are able to overcome everything and prove doubters wrong.
Here are three bold predictions for the 2017 baseball season.
Manager of the Year
I read in the article at the end of 2016 season ranked Don Mattingly as the 18th best coach in major-league baseball.
The best thing for Mattingly this year is a clean slate. The fact that the Marlins have plenty of outside influences surrounding the ball club makes this a challenge and he is the right person to handle it. How will he mold he pitching staff? How will he get the most out of the middle of the lineup? Can he motivate Dee Gordon to be the hitter he was two years ago?
And how will the news of a potential sale affect his players?
Mattingly is the perfect person to take charge of this ball club. And if he is able to handle all of these things, and take the Marlins to the playoffs then there should be hardware for his hard work awaiting have at the end of the season.
A New Closer
A lot was made about the fact that Miami was not able to bring in a top tier closer in the off-season. Pitchers signed elsewhere. AJ Ramos saved 40 games last year despite being injured, and looks to be one of the top players at his position the season.
Somehow, I don't think he gets to mi- season while retaining that role.
Look for Miami to take a shot with David Phelps in that role. The team’s most important picture last year, Phelps can start, working middle relief, and close games. And the fact that he just won an arbitration case means that more will be expected of him in 2017.
If he replaces Ramos, look for the Marlins to trade their current closure for a bat or two, or even minor-league prospects.
MVP - And no, it's not Giancarlo Stanton
Christian Yelich will prove to everybody that he is one of the best centerfielders in the game today. While he set career highs for home runs last year, look for this season to be even better as he approaches 30 home runs, bats over .300, and has over 100 RBI. So much has been made about Stanton and his power and his hitting. I just think that there comes a time when other players will step up and prove to be just as valuable to this team and to the National League.
Yelich, who had an outstanding WBC campaign, will use his performance in the off-season to springboard toward a career year and a possible playoff berth for his team in the process.