This isn’t going to be a discussion on who the Marlins have already wrapped up for 2017; it’s going to be a look at who the Marlins should wrap up for next season. Here’s a look at five Marlins who should be untouchable heading into next season.
- Catcher J.T. Realmuto – The backbone of any successful franchise is its catcher. He’s sort of the quarterback of the team. Every pitch goes through him behind home plate. And while defense isn’t necessarily what makes Realmuto untouchable in this conversation, his leadership skills and what he was able to do at the plate rather than behind it is more the focus. One of the most athletic catchers in the game today, the 25-year-old Realmuto is a rising star in the National League. He hit .303 with 11 homers and 31 doubles. Manager Don Mattingly utilized his versatility, batting him in the leadoff position on occasion, which helped him to accumulate 12 stolen bases.
- Center fielder Christian Yelich – It took an injury to Marcel Ozuna for Yelich to slide over and settle into a center field position where this rising star can shine the brightest. Yelich was a staple in left field for the Marlins before subbing for the injured Ozuna. It became clear quickly that this is the place Yelich should be playing and probably should have been playing all along. Moving forward, Yelich will become a cornerstone of the Marlins team as a leader in center field. Parallel to that move was a career-year at the plate. Yelich had his best season in nearly every offensive category, including hits (172), homers (21) doubles (38) and RBI (98), and was two percentage points away from a second consecutive .300 season.
- Third baseman Martin Prado – Leadership is critical both in the clubhouse as well as on the playing field. Prado exudes that much-needed leadership, and while he may not be the best player in the game, or even at his position, the combination of what he brings both on and off the field makes him untouchable. The Marlins know this; that’s why they signed him to a three-year extension for a reported $40 million. He is a core piece of the franchise and rightfully so. Prado led the Marlins at the plate this season with a .305 batting average and was among the top-fielding third basemen in the National League. He’s a rock at third base, a gamer, whatever term you like; Prado is a pillar within the Marlins franchise.
- Second baseman Dee Gordon – It took him until the end of the season to begin to look like the old Dee Gordon. Sitting out 80 games for PED usage can do that. It went a long way in the 2016 season turning out to be a throwaway year for the 2015 National League batting champion. But a talent like his cannot be looked at lightly. Expect him to return to the form of his last two seasons, which included a combined 122 stolen bases and 180 runs scored. Can we expect him to win another batting title next season? Perhaps not, but a solid leadoff hitter and table-setter for a team struggling to score runs is a key component in turning things around next season.
- Relief pitcher Kyle Barraclough – This will raise some eyebrows, but Barraclough has become a critical component in the Marlins’ bullpen in just his second season in the majors. He appeared in a team-high 75 games this season. He led the National League in strikeouts (113) among relievers. He compiled a 6-3 record out of the Marlins’ bullpen and a 2.85 ERA. The opposition hit just .176 off Barraclough, who finished the season with a 1.22 WHIP. In 72.2 innings this season, he walked just 44 batters. He’s the kind of reliever who can fit in any crunch-time situation. He’s adept at playing the setup role or could even become the Marlins’ closer if given the opportunity, though he does not have a big league save in five chances. The 26-year-old has displayed the ability to work himself into that role nonetheless.