In the midst of my player projections for the 2006 Roto Authority Fantasy Baseball Guide, I realized just how stacked the Marlins are with young talent. If fire sales didn't leave fan bases in ruins, Florida's strategy of trading every veteran at once for top prospects could become a blueprint for success.
Now, the Fish might still have a hard time topping .500 in 2006. But so did the Tigers, Mariners, and Giants in 2005, and those clubs spent a big chunk of change on free agents and old guys. As the signings get worse every year, I'm starting to question whether signing a major free agent is ever a good move. Except for the rare superstar in his prime (Vlad), most free agent acquisitions end poorly.
Let's take a look at the Marlins' 2006 lineup.
C - Josh Willingham - He's been ready for a starting job in the Majors since 2004. Hit an incredible .324/.455/.676 in 219 Triple A at-bats this year. If his hitting remotely resembles that line, any defensive ability Joe Girardi can instill is gravy.
1B - Mike Jacobs - He can fill in behind the plate as well. Hit 36 HR between Double A and the Majors in '05. He's at least a 20 HR stick in the bigs. With Jason Stokes pushing towards the big club, one of these guys might have to learn to play LF.
2B - Dan Uggla - At 25, this guy is too old to be a prospect. But on a team with nothing to lose, he deserves a crack at the job after hitting .297/.378/.502 in Double A.
SS - Hanley Ramirez/Josh Wilson/Alfredo Amezaga - Give 'em all a shot, see who sticks. There's no pressure in the 8th spot in the Marlins' order. Amezaga looked tolerable in 185 Triple A at-bats this year.
3B - Miguel Cabrera - A superstar at age 22. Need I say more?
LF - Chris Aguila - Another over the hill prospect who could stick if given the chance. Hit .355/.412/.630 in 138 Triple A at-bats after a passable showing in '04.
CF - Eric Reed - Assuming the Fish don't acquire Joey Gathright, Reed has drawn Juan Pierre comparisons. Baseball America said he may be "faster and a better defender" than Pierre. Hit .310/.335/.404 in with 17 steals 171 Triple A at-bats; could be ready to contribute by midseason.
RF - Jeremy Hermida - An early Rookie of the Year favorite. Hermida has ridiculous power and on-base skills at age 21, and is a legitimate 20/20 candidate for '06.
I think a lot of Major League teams will put a much worse starting nine on the field every day than this. Sure, guys like Reed, Aguila, Ramirez, and Uggla might not be ready, but the Fish can still field a competitive lineup.
This post is getting a bit long, so I think I'll leave the starting rotation for next time. I think the young group of starters could be more than serviceable next year, even without Josh Beckett and A.J. Burnett.
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