2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Miami Marlins

/ Senior Fantasy Writer

Move along, people. Nothing to see here.

What, you think I'm kidding?

If you want to be a technical smarty-pants know-it-all, then yes, the Marlins do have something to offer Fantasy owners. Or two somethings, actually. Jose Fernandez entered the discussion for best pitcher in baseball as a 20-year-old rookie last year. Giancarlo Stanton struggled with injuries and a reduced supporting cast but remains an early round talent. Both are off the board before the end of Round 4.

But after them? Crickets.

Naturally, the Marlins do have some upside on their roster, as any rebuilding team should, but aside from Christian Yelich , who got his first taste of the majors in the second half last year, nobody offers star potential. Factor in closer Steve Cishek , himself a riser at his position, and that's it. Four worthy draft picks in standard mixed leagues.

To make matters worse, the Marlins spent much of their offseason blocking what remains in the minors with everyone else's overflow. Garrett Jones has long offered good power for a part-time player, but as a full-timer and cleanup man, he doesn't have me rearranging my NL-only rankings. Casey McGehee came back from Japan to man third base, a position he hasn't held full-time since 2011, when he hit .223. Rafael Furcal -- who might be the most redeemable of the bunch, for whatever that's worth -- was already in steep decline before Tommy John surgery in 2012. Even Jarrod Saltalamacchia , the Marlins' "big" free-agent signing, has more floor than ceiling. Maybe Marcell Ozuna or Jake Marisnick can take a big step forward -- with one, presumably Marisnick, beginning the year at Triple-A -- but the plate discipline issues are so glaring for both that you wouldn't want to make a real investment in either.

The Marlins are a little more committed to the youth movement with their starting rotation, which, aside from Fernandez, features three former prospects in Jacob Turner , Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez . All three have shortcomings -- most notably, a lack of strikeout potential -- that overshadow the strides they made last year. Are they sleepers? To some degree. But with all the depth at starting pitcher, they're the kind you can leave for NL-only leagues,

The more exciting choice is Andrew Heaney , the team's first-round pick in 2012 who climbed to Double-A last year. The Marlins haven't actually ruled him out for the fifth starter job this spring, but he's clearly a long shot. Of course, you could have said the same for Fernandez last year.

Breakout ... Christian Yelich , outfield

2014 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Rafael Furcal 2B
2. Christian Yelich LF
3. Giancarlo Stanton RF
4. Garrett Jones 1B
5. Jarrod Saltalamacchia C
6. Marcell Ozuna CF
7. Casey McGehee 3B
8. Adeiny Hechavarria SS
Bench Jeff Baker INF
Bench Ed Lucas INF
For a player like Yelich, the "breakout" label is almost too easy. He was so highly regarded as a prospect that most everyone assumes he'll be good someday. But after he hit just four home runs in what amounts to about half a season last year, he's not exactly a hot commodity on Draft Day. Instead of focusing on what he didn't do, though, consider what he did. In his first taste of the majors, with no Triple-A experience and on a historically miserable team, he reached base at a .370 clip that would have ranked in the top 25 if he had the at-bats to qualify. That's the difficult part for must up-and-comers, knowing when to swing and when not to. The rest you'd expect for a scrawny 21-year-old playing in a notorious pitcher's park. In time, he'll only get bigger and stronger, and it may well begin now. Yelich slugged .471 on the road last year, so it's not like he's far off. Worst case, you'll have a high on-base guy capable of stealing 20-25 bags.

Bust ... Jarrod Saltalamacchia , catcher

Health, outlier performances and a strong supporting cast enabled Saltalamacchia to perform like a top-12 catcher, at least in Rotisserie leagues, each of the last two years, which could compel Fantasy owners to draft him as such in 2014. So let's examine those factors one by one, shall we? It's not like Saltalamacchia has a history of poor health, so you can at least expect him to take the field, but outlier performances are by definition unlikely to happen again. So were they really outliers? Well, he showed last year his 25 home runs in 2012 were outliers by connecting for about half as many despite setting a career high in hits. And as for those hits, complete with that shockingly respectable .273 batting average, it's not like he made contact at a higher rate, cutting down on his strikeouts. He put together a .372 BABIP, which is basically Mike Trout territory. Hard to see that happening again. Playing with a putrid supporting cast in an overwhelmingly pitcher-friendly park, I envision Saltalamacchia's stint with the Marlins going something like John Buck 's.

Sleeper ... Nathan Eovaldi , starting pitcher

2014 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Jose Fernandez RHP
2. Nathan Eovaldi RHP
3. Jacob Turner RHP
4. Henderson Alvarez RHP
5. Tom Koehler RHP
ALT Brian Flynn LHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Steve Cishek RHP
2. A.J. Ramos RHP
3. Mike Dunn LHP
4. Carter Capps RHP
5. Arquimedes Caminero RHP
The Marlins are playing with less than a full deck, so backing any of their players (apart from the obvious Stanton and Fernandez) requires a certain level of imagination. Eovaldi isn't exactly an ace-in-waiting and won't be on my radar in mixed-league drafts, but he appeared to make some progress with what skills he has last season. If nothing else, he throws hard, averaging more miles per hour on his fastball than any qualifying starting pitcher last year, including Matt Harvey , Stephen Strasburg and Fernandez. Clearly, that fastball isn't as effective as theirs, resulting in a below-average strikeout rate, but shortening hitters' reaction time helps make up for his modest command issues. It was most evident over his final 12 starts, when he compiled a 3.01 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. Eliminate a particularly ugly start on Aug. 16, and those numbers drop to 1.97 and 1.21. Again, he's not a priority pick. He gets no run support, doesn't help in strikeouts and is predisposed to a high WHIP. But he's someone to monitor at the start of the season.

Prospects Report

Apart from Heaney, the only first-rate prospect left in the Marlins system is Colin Moran , the sixth overall pick in the 2013 draft. And even he only went so high because of his polish. He'll arrive quickly and is a safe bet to contribute, but he may never be more than a middle-tier third baseman in Fantasy because of his limited home run power. ... Brian Flynn made a name for himself last year with a 2.63 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings in 27 minor-league starts -- most of them in the heavy-hitting Pacific Coast League. He struggled in a late-season tryout and hasn't gotten much love from the prospect hounds, but he's a name to remember if he forces his way into the picture midseason. ... Marisnick to this point remains the headliner of the deal that sent half the Marlins roster to the Blue Jays last offseason, but Justin Nicolino is the more projectable of the two prospects and isn't far from claiming a rotation spot at age 22. He struggled with his promotion to Double-A last year, but as a control artist with a fastball that reaches the mid-90s, he should find success in the majors, if only as a middle-of-the-rotation type.

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