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Why There May Just Be Hope for the Miami Marlins in 2019

As the 2019 season begins, Las Vegas determines the annual over/under win totals for all 30 major league teams and gives us a chance to examine intriguing over/under win lines for the upcoming season. Not surprisingly, the Miami Marlins found a spot right at the bottom of the list at over/under 63.5 wins. Will the Miami Marlins, under the ownership of Derek Jeter and the tutelage of Michael Hill, elude the worst record in baseball? Call me crazy, but there are a number of reasons why Vegas’ determination of 63.5 wins is undervaluing the Marlins.

J.T. Realmuto, a 2018 All-Star and arguably the last star on the Marlins roster, was acquired by the Philadelphia Phillies for Jorge Alfaro, Sixto Sanchez, and Will Stewart this past offseason. While Sanchez is a potential budding ace pitcher and Stewart has a real future as a middle-of-the-rotation starter, Alfaro is the most interesting addition for the 2019 season. He rates as a guy with incredible raw power when he puts the bat on the ball, with the only issue thus far in his career being that his contact percentage is quite low:

The K% is good for 245th out of 247 players (min. 350 PAs) and the BB% ranks in the 8th percentile among those same 247. By looking at his O-Swing%, it’s good for second-to-last and 16% above the 2018 league average of 30.9%, and clearly he’s not making enough contact at 61%. However, when Alfaro does manage to put bat on ball, the results are quite impressive:

How about a video of the swing in action? This ball, at 115 mph off the bat of Alfaro, was absolutely crushed, and I think Junichi Tazawa’s reaction says it all…

With more patience and a better approach at the plate, the Marlins could have something special in Alfaro. It’s evident that this improved approach could be on it’s way by analyzing his second-half statistics from July 2018 to September 2018:

Alfaro managed to cut his K% and increase his BB%, while performing as an above-average hitter according to wRC+. He made strides at the plate by lowering his whiff percentage outside of the zone from 28% in the first half to 25% in the second half, and his batted ball quality improved against breaking pitches, which he had struggled with mightily in the first half, as his xwOBA increased from 0.246 to 0.338 in the second half and his whiff percentage on breaking balls decreased from 34.68% in the first half to 26.52% in the second half. Read the rest of this entry »