Senior Writer

Marlins camp report: Likes and dislikes


JUPITER, Fla. -- What I like, and don't like, about the Marlins:


 Young pitching, starting with Josh Johnson. While Roy Halladay ran away with the NL Cy Young award (deservedly so), it was Johnson who led the NL with a 2.30 ERA. He's 26-11 with a 2.80 ERA since the beginning of the 2009 season, and watch him closely in 2011: After he was shut down around Labor Day last summer with back and shoulder issues, he spent the winter working with a personal trainer to strengthen those areas. Behind Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad are back, and the Marlins acquired veteran Javier Vazquez.

 There is optimism around Florida's camp that Hanley Ramirez has grown up a bit. He's been engaging and cooperative with everyone from teammates to the media. If he really has matured, he could be on the verge of a monster season and ready to take the Marlins with him.

 Young talent everywhere. Typical Marlins team: Relatively small payroll, relatively anonymous roster (this side of Johnson and Hanley Ramirez) but big, big talent among the young guys. Mike Stanton crushed 22 homers in 100 games in 2010. Left fielder Logan Morrison is a comer. Third baseman Matt Dominguez is reminiscent of Mike Lowell in the field with his quick hands, the question is whether he'll hit enough.

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 A beefed-up bullpen. The Marlins acquired Edward Mujica and Ryan Webb from San Diego's great 2010 'pen in the Cameron Maybin deal. They need to settle into the ninth innings; Leo Nunez lost the closer's job last September to Clay Hensley. Both are back, and with Nunez having developed a slider to go with his fastball and change, the Marlins are encouraged this spring that Nunez can be an effective closer.

 Manager Edwin Rodriguez. He's been compared to Felipe Alou in that he is highly intelligent and dispenses morsels of wisdom in the manner of a philosopher. He's got a ways to go, of course, to develop Alou's track record, and managing the Marlins always is a dangerous game with loose cannons Jeffrey Loria and David Samson running the show. But he could be a good one.


 As always, catching the ball is an issue. The Marlins ranked 23rd in the majors in defensive efficiency last summer, according to one respected metric used by Baseball Prospectus. Though they will miss Dan Uggla's bat, the Marlins should be better at second base with Omar Infante, acquired over the winter from Atlanta. (Assuming Dominguez wins the third base job. If he doesn't, Infante likely will flip over to third).

 No more Uggla. Young prospects must step up. Uggla is the Florida franchise's all-time home run leader and there will be times this summer when the Marlins miss his bat.

 The Marlins limped to the finish line last year. Johnson was too sore to pitch much of September. Gaby Sanchez batted just .212 in the season's final month. The team went 12-16 in September and surrendered 142 runs, highest total for any month all summer. This is a danger with young teams. Question is, did the Marlins learn from it? We'll know in September how hard some of them worked over the winter.


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