It was so, so tempting to name the late Jose Fernandez as the Miami Marlins 2016 Player of the Year. Statistically, the argument would be an easy one to make.
Fernandez went 16-8 with a 2.86 ERA and 1.119 WHIP. Still at just age 23, the righty allowed just 149 hits in 182.1 innings over 29 starts with a 253/55 K:BB ratio.
An NL All-Star for the second time in his brief career, Fernandez finished seventh in the NL Cy Young Award voting. There is little doubt that he was just scratching the surface of what was sure to be a great career to come.
But in the end, I simply didn’t want to get into the habit with any player of making this about sentiment. Had Fernandez life not ended in such sudden, tragic circumstances, he would have finished as the runner-up for this year’s Miami POY award. I decided to stick with that.
There were others who had strong seasons in Miami, and one who in my estimation deserves to have their season appropriately honored.
The Marlins were in contention for much of this summer. The club spent almost the entirety of July and August in second place in the NL East Division. As late as July 27th, they were nine games over the .500 mark, controlling a Wildcard berth, and still just four games out in the division.
From that point on, however, the Marlins struggled home to a 24-36 finish over the season’s final two months. They ultimately finished in third place, a distant 15.5 behind the division-winning Washington Nationals and 7.5 off the NL Wildcard pace.
MARLINS 2016 PITCHING LEADERS
No pitcher aside from Fernandez was able to fashion a double-digit victories total. But 26-year old Adam Conley did go 8-6 with a 3.85 ERA, allowing 125 hits over 133.1 innings while striking out 124 batters. He lost much of the last two months to injury after making 25 starts.
A.J. Ramos registered 40 Saves and was a first time NL All-Star this year. He allowed 52 hits in 64 innings over 67 games with a 73/35 K:BB ratio.
26-year old Kyle Barraclough emerged as a bullpen force. Over a staff-high 75 games he yielded just 45 hits in 72.2 innings with a 113/44 K:BB ratio.
David Phelps appeared in 64 games, including making five starts. He allowed just 61 hits over 86.2 innings with a 114/38 K:BB ratio.
MARLINS OFFENSIVE STATS LEADERS
Right fielder Giancarlo Stanton did not make the NL All-Star team this year, but he was at the festivities in San Diego. The slugger took over the MLB Home Run Derby, crushing balls all over Petco Park to win the contest.
Stanton hit 27 homers with 74 RBI this season over 470 plate appearances. But again, he missed time with injury. This time it was a week at the end of May, and then the entire second half of August as the Marlins faded out of the race.
Center fielder Marcell Ozuna did make the NL All-Star team, a career first for the 25-year old. He hit 23 homers, drove in 76 runs, and scored 75 times. 25-year old catcher J.T. Realmuto hit .303 with a dozen steals.
The real speed in the Fish lineup came from second baseman Dee Gordon, who swiped 30 bags in just 346 plate appearances. He missed all of July and most of August, and his absence certainly contributed to the team’s fold.
Veteran Ichiro Suzuki received much more playing time than anticipated, partially due to Stanton’s injury. But Ichiro also was productive as he drove towards his 3,000th career MLB hit. He reached the mark with a triple on August 7 at Coors Field in Denver.
The 42-year old future Hall of Famer hit for a .291 average over 365 plate appearances while legging out five triples and stealing 10 bases.
YELICH TAKES MARLINS TOP PLAYER HONORS
The top overall player this season in Miami was left fielder Christian Yelich. The 24-year old was already in his fourth season, and he is clearly one of the game’s best and most underrated performers.
Yelich hit for a .298/.376/.483 slash line with 21 home runs, 38 doubles, 98 RBI and 78 runs scored. His 5.3 WAR mark led the team, and he won his first career NL Silver Slugger Award.
“The power ticked up a little bit this year,” Yelich said per Clark Spencer at the Miami Herald. “And working with Barry Bonds and Frank Menechino and talking to Don Mattingly a little bit, and just the combination of talking to those guys really helped a lot.”
Not only is Yelich an excellent hitter, but he is just as strong a defender. The 2014 Gold Glove Award winner was once again a finalist for the honors this year. He spent much of the final part of the year covering center field when Ozuna was out with injury.
“I think everyone just tries to get better ever year as far as consistency,” he said. “You just want to improve as a player every season and build off what you did. That will probably be the goal going into spring training.”
Improving every year through his early career, Christian Yelich is not only the Miami Marlins 2016 Player of the Year, but a key part of the team as it tries to build a consistent contender moving forward.