The Miami Marlins' young guns look dangerous

Rob Foldy

Miami is a lot better than expected this season, and it's their young players that are doing the job.

Like any season, 2014 has its share of surprise players and teams. We are only in mid-June so there is some small sample size wackiness, but even the skeptics are beginning to believe in some of this year's breakouts. Even wait-and-see types are starting to concede that there might be something to this Dallas Kuechel fellow, and that the Tampa Bay Rays are probably no longer a good World Series pick. Among the unexpected twists and turns of the year has been the rise of the Miami Marlins.

The Marlins are not a powerhouse team by any means but sitting at 35-34 entering today's action, they are only one game back from the top of the NL East. To be fair the NL East has been a fairly weak division this year, but the Marlins are in the mix and that is a surprise.

When the Marlins traded their veteran core to the Blue Jays prior to the 2013 season in exchange for prospects it seemed like it would be a long time before they would be competitive, or even respectable. Last year Miami went 62-100 and put together an offense that was pitiful and quite literally painful to watch. There were some promising performances from pitchers, particularly Jose Fernandez, but it wasn't as if the team looked on the brink of big things. No one could have reasonably expected 2014 to be their year.

To be fair, it probably won't be.

Down an ace and with an offense that is probably over-performing, it is hard to see the Marlins making a run this season. That being said, the fact that they are in a position to is rather astounding.

The reason for this isn't exactly rocket science and Jeff Sullivan laid it out pretty clearly in his recent post for Fox Sports. The offense has improved drastically, and now that this team can score some runs they can win some games.

What's interesting is their ability to do it with young players. Since Miami made their blockbuster deal with Toronto, it was expected that they'd go young, the fact that they've been able to be both young and good is the story here.

Usually, to some degree, you have to choose whether your team is going to rebuild and be young and inexpensive, or try and win now and be older and more expensive. That is incredibly far from being a hard and fast rule, incredibly far, but the basic premise holds. It's hard to win without at least some proven commodities and when you trade away veterans for prospects it usually means your window of contention is a few years down the road.

For this reason being old and good is fine, being young and not-good is fine, but being old and bad like the Philadelphia Phillies is disastrous. The Marlins have gotten younger, but performed well, bringing them dangerously close to the Holy Grail of being young, inexpensive contenders. That's the dream, especially when you have a particularly miserable owner.

Words like "young" and "good" are awfully imprecise, especially in the context of analytics. So, in order to give a sense of the way Miami's young guns have performed I will define "young" as 25 and under and measure goodness by WAR.

It's an oversimplification to be sure, but we're merely painting a picture here. The table below shows the Marlins WAR from position players and pitchers in 2014. They lead in both categories so the chart also includes the next best total from an MLB team to give some perspective.

Team

"Young" Position Player War

"Young" Pitcher War

Total War from "Young" Players

Miami Marlins

7.2

4.8

12.0

Next Best Team

6.0

4.2

8.2

The Marlins are lapping the field when it comes to getting production from young stars with guys like Marcell OzunaNathan Eovaldi and, of course, Giancarlo Stanton leading the way. Some of this has to do with raw quantity of plate appearances and opportunities for players 25 and under, but a lot of it is those players excelling. For a frame of reference, Miami's division rival the Mets have produced a total of 7.8 WAR as an entire team, so it's not like you get 12.0 WAR just for running guys out there.

As I mentioned earlier, 2014 is very unlikely to be Miami's year. However, given the potential this team is showing their year is coming, and possibly sooner than was widely believed pre-2014. Better yet, there is a chance that sustained success could be on the horizon.

If they hold onto this wave of talent that is. Given Jeffrey Loria's reputation, the threat of a firesale lurks around every corner. That being said, the Marlins are better than expected in the present, and giving the guys who are doing the damage they could be better than expected in the future. For a team that seemed completely irrelevant at this time last season, that's a pretty sunny outlook.

. . .

All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs

Nick Ashbourne is an Editor for Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @Nick_Ashbourne.


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