Should the novel coronavirus permit, Major League Baseball will kick off its regular season on July 23. The season will be an abbreviated one, lasting just 60 games and featuring a slew of modifications, including a universal DH and altered extra-inning rules. Even the rosters will be different, with teams carrying 30 players to begin the year before gradually getting down to 26.

Because you can't have a baseball season (however weird and potentially ill-advised) without team previews, we'll be touching on every team between now and Opening Day. 

Today, that means highlighting the Miami Marlins.  

The Marlins haven't reached the postseason since 2003, when they won the World Series. Heck, they haven't had a winning season since 2010. They're due, right? Well, maybe not. Most projection systems have them bringing up the rear of the National League East. Even if they don't have legitimate competitive aspirations, the Marlins could be worth watching. They spent the winter adding second-division veterans, and they should promote some promising prospects during the year. Contention is still a year away, at minimum, but this is arguably as interesting as the Marlins have been during the Derek Jeter era.

Win total projection, odds

  • 2020 SportsLine projection: 22-38
  • World Series odds (via William Hill Sportsbook): +30000
  • 2019 record: 57-105

Projected lineup

  1. CF Jonathan Villar
  2. 3B Brian Anderson
  3. LF Corey Dickerson
  4. 1B Jesus Aguilar
  5. DH Matt Joyce
  6. C Jorge Alfaro
  7. 2B Isan Diaz
  8. SS Miguel Rojas
  9. RF Lewis Brinson

Bench: C Francisco Cervelli, 1B/OF Garrett Cooper, UTL Jon Berti, OF Harold Ramirez

The Marlins added a number of veteran hitters to their roster during the offseason: Villar, Dickerson, Aguilar and Joyce are all newcomers who figure to receive significant playing time out of the gate. That last qualification is important, because the Marlins' lineup could look significantly different by the time the year is over as they phase in more prospects. Don't be shocked if Lewin Diaz, Jazz Chisholm, Monte Harrison and Jesus Sanchez all make their big-league debuts this season.

Projected rotation

  1. LHP Caleb Smith
  2. RHP Sandy Alcantara
  3. RHP Pablo Lopez
  4. RHP Jose Urena
  5. RHP Jordan Yamamoto

As with the lineup, the Marlins' rotation is likely to change in-season through trades and promotions. Smith is likely to remain a popular target for contenders, and the Marlins shopped Urena and Yamamoto during the winter. If and when Miami pulls off a deal or two, expect Sixto Sanchez, Nick Neidert, and Edward Cabrera to get looks. It's conceivable the Marlins could bring up Max Meyer, the No. 3 pick in June's draft, at some point as well, especially if they find themselves in contention late.

Projected bullpen

Miami signed Kintzler and Garcia during the winter to help shore up the back of their bullpen. It's possible another veteran, like Brad Boxberger, makes their way into this group before the season opens. Again, as with the other units, the Marlins could make some in-season alterations if they're successful in marketing Kintzler, Garcia, and Stanek as trade targets. Jorge Guzman, one of the top pieces in the Giancarlo Stanton trade, could end up making his debut in a relief capacity.

Addition by addition

The theme with the Marlins' veteran acquisitions was improving the offense, especially with regards to the outfield. It was a wise approach. In 2019, Miami's outfielders cumulatively hit .231/.293/.360, good for a .652 OPS that ranked last in the majors by more than 30 points. Villar, Joyce and Dickerson should help them fare better in 2020.

Villar is the most intriguing of the three, in part because the Marlins are banking on him making a successful transition from the middle infield to center. You can trace Miami's thought process. Here you have a capable, above-average hitter with good wheels who had a rough go on defense last season. Why not see if he can leverage his speed better on the grass? 

Joyce and Dickerson's value is tied up in their bats. They're both platoon outfielders coming off productive, if shortened seasons, and they do it in contrasting ways. Joyce has a masterful command of the strike zone. He's walked in at least 12 percent of his plate appearances in each of the last four seasons. Dickerson, conversely, is a bad-ball hitter who can seldom resist expanding his zone. As a point of comparison, Dickerson's chase rate in 2019 (43 percent) was essentially double that of Joyce. Clearly there's more than one way of being productive.

The Marlins' other notable offensive addition was Aguilar. He made the All-Star Game in 2018, but is now on his third team since then. (Hey, baseball has a short memory when it comes to right-handed first basemen.) The funny thing about Aguilar is that, while his slash line wasn't as good last season, he did improve his strikeout and walk rates, and his exit velocity (89.3 mph) was right in line with his now-career mark (89.4 mph). He's a decent bounce-back candidate.

On the pitching side, the Marlins inked Kintzler and Garcia to give them a stronger end-game trio. Kintzler figures to open the season as Miami's closer. He upped his strikeout rate last season by leaning more on his secondary pitches. Opponents hit .200 or worse and whiffed at least 30 percent of the time against both his changeup and his slider. Garcia is a spin-rate monster who serves up entirely too many home runs. 

Better, but by how much?

Because all those additions have their merits, you might wonder how improved the Marlins will be this season. The answer is they'll be better … just not enough to make the playoffs.

Both Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs' projection systems have the Marlins winning 26 games, good for last place in the NL East. Bummer, right? Except that equates to 70 wins over 162 games, which would represent the most for the Marlins since 2017, when they finished in second place with 77 wins.

Weird things can happen over 60 games, and maybe the Marlins beat the odds and remain in serious contention longer than expected. But even if they just win their 26 games, that (sort of) counts as a step in the right direction.

More deals to come?

Again, as noted above, the Marlins could make for an intriguing seller at the trade deadline. Depending on how things go, they could look to move Villar, Dickerson, Joyce, Aguilar, Kintzler and company. They could even entertain trading Urena and Yamamoto again, as they did during the winter.

One motivation for making those moves is to clear space for the future. The Marlins have a number of interesting prospects nearing the majors, including Lewin Diaz, Jazz Chisholm, Jesus Sanchez, and Monte Harrison offensively, and Sixto Sanchez, Nick Neidert, and Edward Cabrera on the pitching side of things.

The Marlins' farm system is heavy on volatility, so it's anyone's guess how things play out over the next three to four years. But it stands to reason that Marlins fans are going to get their first looks at some potentially pivotal players over the coming months.