Five Miami Marlins questions entering the 2023 season

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With the Miami Marlins opening the 2023 season, their first under new manager Skip Schumaker, at 4:10 p.m. Thursday against the New York Mets at loanDepot park, here are five questions surrounding the team heading into the season.

Can this team seriously, honestly compete in the NL East?

It’s highly unlikely the Marlins will win the division title this year. After all, they have to compete with three teams that made the postseason last year in the Mets, Atlanta Braves and World Series runner-up Philadelphia Phillies.

But as for sneaking into the playoffs, which now feature six teams in each league? National projections don’t have the Marlins too far off. FanGraphs has the Marlins projected to go 80-82 this season that has the Marlins eighth in the National League. Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections also has Miami in the 80-win range and has them ninth in the NL.

That would be an 11-game improvement from Miami’s 69-93 finish a year ago, a mark that would be in contention for the largest year-over-year improvement in MLB from 2022 to 2023 even if the Marlins don’t make the playoffs.

Will the defense work?

In order to improve their offense, the Marlins had to tinker with their defense and now have several players either learning new positions or starting at spots they have not been full-timers at.

Jazz Chisholm Jr. is moving from the middle infield to center field, where he has never played. Joey Wendle, a career utilityman, is starting at shortstop with fellow utility player Jon Berti serving as his backup. Jean Segura, a career middle infielder, is starting at third base, where he has made just 21 starts in his 11-year career. Luis Arraez returns to second base after mostly playing first base and designated hitter last year for the Minnesota Twins.

On a team whose starting pitchers rely on pitching to contact and sound defense behind them, will this group step up?

Can three key players bounce back?

Left-handed pitcher Trevor Rogers as well as outfielders Jorge Soler and Avisail Garcia all struggled last season. Miami is banking on all of them rebounding.

Rogers had a 5.47 ERA in 23 starts last season after finishing as runner-up for the 2021 NL Rookie of the Year. Mentally, he is in a better state after spring training. Physically, his mechanics look much better.

Meanwhile, while the additions of Arraez, Segura and Yuli Gurriel give the Marlins more stability throughout the lineup, the team still needs an infusion of power. That will most likely need to come from Soler and Garcia, their two big additions from the year before who did not live up to expectations in their first year season with the Marlins.

Garcia hit .224 with a .583 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, eight home runs and 35 RBI in 98 games last season. Soler hit .207 with a .695 OPS, 13 home runs and 34 RBI in 72 games before his season was derailed by injury.

Both have potential to put up big home run numbers — Garcia hit 29 in 2021, Soler hit 48 in 2019 and 27 in 2021.

What should be expected from the Marlins’ bullpen?

The Marlins’ revamped bullpen is much deeper this year, with six players who could conceivably pitch in high-leverage situations. The group: Righties Matt Barnes, Dylan Floro and JT Chargois as well as lefties A.J. Puk, Tanner Scott and Steven Okert.

Barnes, Puk and Floro seem to be the three most likely to get first cracks at save situations.

How will new rules impact the team?

MLB is enforcing a slew of new rules this season, including a pitch clock and shift restrictions. There will also be bigger bases.

The pitch clock will speed up the game. The shift restrictions will theoretically mean more balls in play will result in hits — and mean infielders with range and athleticism will become more significant. The bigger bases, as well as limits on pickoff attempts per plate appearance by pitchers, should lead to an increase in stolen bases.