2B Luis Castillo (.314, 6 HR, 39 RBIs, 21 SBs) – As if having one prototypical leadoff hitter isn't enough, the Marlins have two. Castillo is a switch-hitting 2B who from the left side likes to slap the ball around, particularly to the opposite field, while from the right side he carries a bit more pop. Luis is one of the fastest guys around but he has been hampered by a slight hip strain this season which has explains his high percentage of being caught stealing (21 steals in 40 attempts). His injury does not effect his straight line speed so he is still a threat for an infield hit (3rd in the majors this year), but the injury slows his pivot going to his right, so his jump on the base paths is inhibited. Defensively, there are not too many better than Luis at 2B. He has a SS quality arm and the speed to get to any ball. However, his hip injury makes it noticeable that he has trouble getting to balls hit to his left. Up the middle he is still a threat to make an amazing play.
C Pudge Rodriguez (.297, 16, 85 RBIs) – Pudge started slow this season and there were whispers about him being done, but from mid-May on he showed why the Marlins made him the highest paid player on the team at 10 million this season. Dontrelle Willis gets a lot of credit for sparking the Marlins success but it was Pudge whose hitting really swung the Marlins fortunes. Pudge is everything you want in a catcher, a leader through both his words and actions. He was a dominant force in the divisional series against the Giants and was the MVP of the NLCS. He may not be the player he was 5 years ago, but this playoff run has him playing at the top of his game. Defensively, there are few better, although, he may be in decline (threw only 33% of attempted base stealers out as opposed to his career average of 45%). However, that number is still very acceptable for any catcher. If there is one questionable aspect about Pudge's game it is his pitch calling.
3B Mike Lowell (.276, 32 HRs, 105 RBIs) – Lowell suffered a hand injury in mid-August and was only re-activated the weekend before the playoffs began. Prior to going down with the injury and missing the last five weeks of the season, Lowell was arguably the best 3B in the National League. He was among the league leaders in HRs, doubles, and RBIs. Lowell worked exclusively as a pinch hitter during the divisional series against the Giants and for the first half of the NLCS against the Cubs while he worked overtime in the cage to regain his timing and strength. Lowell was ready to rejoin the lineup in Game 5 in the NLCS and marked his return with a 2-run homer. He also had a solo shot as a pinch hitter in Game 1. With Lowell back in the lineup and apparently at full strength it adds additional power to compliment the speedsters at the top. In the field, Lowell is very solid defensively. While he is no Brooks Robinson at the hot corner he is definitely a very capable defensive player.
1B Derrick Lee (.271, 31 HRs, 92 RBIs, 21 SBs) – Lee has made some huge offensive breakthroughs this year going over 30 homers and 90 RBIs for the first time in his career. When Lee is on he can be a dominant force at the plate because of his power. However, when he is bad, he is really bad. Lee is by far the streakiest Marlin in the lineup; huge surges of offense punctuated by dismal slumps. From the last few weeks of the season and through this point in the playoffs he has been in a serious slump, but if he heats up, LOOK OUT!!!! Lee, throughout his career has had better power numbers on the road than at home. And while Lee isn't the fastest guy, you better watch him on the base paths or he'll swipe one on you. Defensively, Lee is might be the most under-rated defensive 1B in the game. I wouldn't be surprised if he wins the Gold Glove this year. He is one of those guys that makes every play in the field look routine and hardly ever makes an error. His huge frame makes for a great target for the infielders and he vacuums up all errant throws.
RF Miguel Cabrera (.268, 12 HRs, 62 RBIs in 87 games) – Cabrera was considered by many to be the best hitting prospect in baseball and ever since the Marlins called him up on June 20th to take over in LF he has proved them right. This kid is a phenomenal young talent. He has the type of pure power that scouts drool over. The Marlins were 35-39 before he was brought up and 54-31 after they called him up so he can claim as much responsibility for the Marlins success as anybody. For all his raw talent however he is still very young at the plate. He can often be completely over-matched by a pitcher and sometimes falls into the tendency to want to pull everything, which makes him vulnerable to the outside slider. However, you can see that the coaching staff has been working with him to become more disciplined. It's a growing process with Cabrera, but the talent is obvious and enormous. In the NLCS, his 3 homeruns are now an all-time rookie record. Defensively, Miguel was originally called up to take over duties in LF and was doing a fantastic job. But with the late season injury to 3B Mike Lowell, Miguel was moved back to his natural position of 3B and has only committed 1 error in 34 games. In the NLCS, with the Marlins down 3-1, McKeon decided to plug Lowell back in the lineup at 3B. But instead of benching Cabrera and taking his bat out of the lineup McKeon put Cabrera in RF, a position that his has never played before. Cabrera played the last 3 games of the series in Right and played the position flawlessly.
LF Mr. Marlin Jeff Conine (.282, 20 HR, 95 RBIs) – Acquiring Conine after Lowell went down with an injury was a move of absolute brilliance. Conine, who was an original Marlin and spent 6 years with the club is known in South Florida as Mr. Marlin (even when he was an Oriole) and is loved as much as any South Florida sports star. Since becoming a Marlin he has gotten timely hit after timely hit. However, his most important and unlikely contribution has been his defense. He has made big play after big play in the field, making great catches, taking away homeruns, and throwing guys out at the plate. Conine is a grizzled old vet and rises to the occasion every time. He didn't get too much notice in the NLCS, however, Conine hit .500 in the series.
SS Alex Gonzalez (.256, 18 HRs, 77 RBIs) – Gonzalez had an unbelievable first half, carrying his average above .300 with 13 homers and 55 rbis. However, in the 2nd half he came back down to earth. Well actually, at times he seemed below it at the plate. Gonzalez has talent at the plate, but something just doesn't seem to click. He is strictly a fastball hitter as breaking pitches make him look ridiculous. Defensively, Gonzalez seems to get it. He and Castillo make up one of the best double play combinations in the majors.
Juan Encarnacion (.270, 19 HRs, 94 RBIs) – Juan was at one time the gem of Cincinnati's farm system. However, he got squeezed out in the numbers game and became one of the Marlins best trade steals (only giving up the washed up???? Pitcher Ryan Dempster). Encarnacion has been the steady rock of the lineup. He is what he is, an all around solid hitting guy, nothing spectacular but as evidenced by his 94 RBIs he gets the job done. He has somewhat of a hitch in his swing with can get him tied up against power pitchers. Defensively, Juan has good speed so he can track down a lot of well-hit balls, and he has a better than average throwing arm. He wasn't having a tremendous series against the Cubs and with Lowell coming back into the lineup, Juan was once again the loser in the numbers game and has taken a spot on the bench. He will serve a role as a right-handed pinch hitter in the Series.
Todd Hollandsworth – Todd was brought in as the starting LF to start the season but he failed miserably and was demoted to bench duty. Late in the season though, he caught fire as a left-handed pinch hitter and has gotten several clutch hits in key situations.
Lenny Harris – Harris was brought in when the rosters were expanded and was given a spot on the roster for the post-season. He is the all-time career leader in pinch hits.
Josh Beckett (9-8, 3.04 ERA 152 Ks in 142 IP) – Don't be fooled by his record, over the past two months of the season and throughout the playoffs, Beckett has been absolutely dominating. At 23, Beckett has finally seemed to have turned the corner and is showing why he was considered one of the best young pitching prospects in the past decade and was selected ahead of guys like Barry Zito in the 1998 amateur draft (Beckett was the 2nd pick overall). Beckett carries a high 90's fastball and a devastating knee buckling curve which some NL hitters, according to a recent poll, consider it to be one of the best pitches in the NL. In the NLCS, Beckett had a shaky first inning in Game 1 before settling down, and he pitched a brilliant complete game two hitter in Game 5. He also came in for long relief duty in Game 7 and pitched 4 innings giving up only 1 run on 1 hit. Beckett was arguably the best young pitcher in the NLCS, which is saying a lot considering the Cubs young guns. Josh has made huge strides this season and seems ready to take his spot as one of the elite pitchers in the game.
Brad Penny (14-10, 4.13 ERA 138 Ks in 196 IP) – Penny is a pitcher who has all the talent in the world. He has stuff that is very similar to Beckett, a high nineties fastball, and a brutal curve, he also throws a back door slider. The problem with Penny is that he seems like a pitcher that can't deal with success. If he pitches 6 innings in a game he will look like Tom Seaver in 5 of them and then look like Mike Maroth in the 6th. Penny is severely prone to making the mistake pitch, a fastball that is supposed to be inside but comes right over the plate, the hanging curve that hitters dream about. Basically, Penny is a guy that drives pitching coaches crazy. Penny can dominate but if he does, don't worry too much, that 1 bad inning can be the next one.
Mark Redman (14-9, 3.59 ERA, 151 Ks in 191 IP) – Redman is the type of pitcher that drives hitters up the wall. I would be surprised if the lefty can throw over 85, however, he mixes his speeds so well that that 85 mph pitch must look like 100 after seeing that 69 mph change up (which is one of the best in the game). If I had to pick a MVP of the pitching staff for the Marlins this season I would have to say its Redman. He has been the steady workhorse of the staff and has been the perfect compliment to the fireballers on the staff. His first half was a lot better than his second half because the scouting report obviously came out on him and I have a good guess at what it says "DON'T SWING AT HIS JUNK" "TAKE PITCHES" and it really is that simple with Redman. The problem is that those slow moving pitches are just too appetizing for hitters to lay off of. Good luck trying to hit them though.
Dontrelle Willis (14-6, 3.30 ERA, 142 Ks in 160 IP) – What else can you say about the D-Train. Dontrelle took the majors by storm with his mid-May call up after Marlins ace AJ Burnett went down with an elbow injury. His signature high leg kick delivery and youthful charisma has made him one of the most popular up and coming young stars in the majors. Dontrelle's stuff isn't necessarily overpowering, his fastball tops out around 94-95 (mostly around 92 though). However, with his quirky delivery it makes it difficult for hitters to pick up the ball in time, which in effect increases the perceived speed of his pitches. Right now Dontrelle pretty much relies on 3 pitches, fastball, curve, change-up. When he is on he primarily throws nothing but his fastball, which he works inside and out, up and down, occasionally mixing in the curve and change. Dontrelle's first 2 months were undoubtedly better than his last two months, however, he seemed to regain his form down the stretch pitching two brilliant games in early September. Dontrelle's biggest problem is settling down his emotions. The talent is there, and with time and maturity he will improve on controlling the situation. It's going to be very interesting how he responds to pitching in the World Series, possibly as our Game 1 starter.
Carl Pavano (12-13, 4.30 ERA) – Pavano was the 5th starter for the Marlins this year and was moved to the bullpen for long inning relief for the playoffs and picked up 2 of the 3 wins against the Giants in the divisional series. Pavano was once considered one the best pitching prospects in the baseball when he was with the Expos and he is still only 26 years old. Pavano could be considered one of the best 5th starters in the majors, giving the Marlins everything one could want from that spot in the staff; 200+ innings and a .500 record. Long relief suited him well and he seems to have taken the role with enthusiasm, however, he started Game 6 of the series and pitched very well giving up only 2 runs in 5 2/3 innings. Carl may indeed have pitched himself back into the rotation and may end up being the Game 2 starter.
Miguel Tejera (3-4, 4.67 ERA) – Tejera is the Marlins left handed long relief specialist who mixes an average fastball with a nice curve. He is very similar in style to Mark Redman but has a little more juice on his fastball. A solid guy to have in your pen, but you don't want to stick him in any tight situations.
Chad Fox (3-3 3.12) – Fox was another late season addition by the Marlins who has been a very pleasant surprise. Fox has come in with his high 90's fastball and back door slider and gotten the Marlins out of several late inning jams. Since joining the Marlins Fox has shown why the Red Sox hoped he could be their closer this year. Their loss. Our gain.
Ugueth Urbina (3-4, 2.81 ERA, 32 saves in 38 chances) – Urbina was acquired from the Rangers to bolster the Marlins pen and he has done a very good job in filling that job. Urbina mixes a strong fastball with a devastating slider that eats up right-handed hitter alive. However, he is weak against left handed hitters and is sometimes prone to making a hold or saves situations more adventurous then they need to be.
Branden Looper (6-4, 3.68 ERA, 28 saves in 34 chances) – Looper had been the dominant closer the Marlins had always hoped him be for most of the season. However, down the stretch he began to fall into his old traps; getting behind in the count, not being aggressive etc. Looper has all the stuff to be a dominant closer, a fastball that can touch 100 mph and a nice slider, however, it's time to question whether he has the mental makeup to be a closer. McKeon has shied away from using him in the post season opting to go with either Fox or Urbina.
Since taking over the managerial duties in mid-May from Jeff Torborg, Jack McKeon has taken the Marlins from a 16-29 record to a 75-49 record after he took over. McKeon's first order of business was to change the Marlins loose canon running style. Under Torborg every Marlin had the green light on the bases. McKeon didn't stop the Marlins completely, as evidenced by the Marlins leading the majors in steals, he just made base stealing more situational then it had been in the past. McKeon has made some bold moves in sticking Dontrelle in the staff, relying on a rookie in Cabrera to hit in the middle of the order, coaxing the front office to get guys to strengthen the pen, openly challenging Beckett and Penny to pitch to their abilities, and so far its all worked out. The only problem that seems to plague McKeon is that he leaves his starting pitchers in 1 inning too long. He has a deep and talented bullpen. He should get a better read of his starters and not be so timid in taking the ball out of their hands. Other than that he has this team believing and playing top-notch baseball. He should be a front-runner for Manager of the Year.
The Marlins have to be one of the most surprising stories of the 2003 season. They have come from nowhere to become one of the best teams in the game. They have that special blend of youthful enthusiasm mixed with savvy, hungry veterans that generally lead to strong post-season runs. This group of Marlins is much different from the World Champion 1997 team in that most of the players were developed in the Marlins organization and they have gone through a lot together as a team; taking their beatings as young developing players, ownership changing hands (three owners in 4 years), threats of contraction, apathetic fan support, constant managerial changes. But all these events have made this team a very cohesive group. You can sense that these guys really like to play baseball with each other and now that their talent is fully developed and they have added the right guys to compliment them they are a very dangerous team to face. Just this year alone this team has over come the loss of their ace, AJ Burnett, the loss of their best player 3B Mike Lowell and a managerial change and have just kept going without missing a beat. In fact, they have actually gotten better in the face of adversity. Perhaps its youthful naiveté, perhaps it's the result of overcoming so much adversity in the past. Whatever, it may be. This team is special and what makes it even more intriguing, is that they are still young and developing. This Marlins team also believes that they have been slighted in recognition by the press, which only serves to drive them harder. This team had a record of 91-71 during the regular season, which was 3 games ahead of their NLCS rival Cubs. The Marlins felt like they were the better team in that series and are also quick to point out that they have the best record in the majors since late-May. This Marlins team believes they can play with anybody. Now they will get the ultimate chance to prove themselves against pinnacle of World Series excellence, the New York Yankees.