The Facts
Head Trainer: Sean Cunningham
Player Days Lost: 1,253
Total Dollars Lost: $3.26 million
Three-Year Rank: 12

The Marlins are cheap in almost every way, so it would come as no surprise that they’re not spending money on team health either. They’re hardly alone here; most teams’ budgets for everything medical don’t amount to more than a fifth-round draft pick’s signing bonus. Every team spends far more on scouting, on travel-even on groundskeeping-than they do on their doctors and trainers. Given the limited resources the Fish have committed and the problems of the team in the last three years, their better-than-average Three-Year Rank is a pretty impressive feat achieved by Sean Cunningham and his staff.

It’s partly an illusion, however. The team simply doesn’t spend any dollars on player payroll in the first place, so as a portion of the three-year calculation, their rating is held down by the team’s low dollars lost mark. There’s an expected negative trend in days lost, the result of the 2007 fallout from the arm injuries that cropped up during and after 2006. Without many options, Joe Girardi nevertheless used what he had inefficiently, then left the trail of dead arms and damaged careers behind him as he exited. The Marlins started the 2007 campaign with six players on the DL, four of them pitchers, and added another six by the end of April, including three more pitchers. Over the course of the rest of the season, at least the team was able to not add to the injury list. Some could argue that none of the starters were effective enough to build up a high workload, but Fredi Gonzalez’s handling of Scott Olsen, especially given the lefty’s off-field issues, looks very solid.

If the Marlins are hoping to turn another fire sale into yet another World Series ring (or at the very least, a stadium without an oppressive lease), they’ll need to keep the talent they have on the field. Cunningham and his staff are going to have to show that their skill can overcome a decidedly negative trend line in terms of days lost, thereby keeping what they have on the field so that it can develop.

The Big Question
The bloggers at Fish Stripes ask: :”Is it possible to put together a starting rotation from inexperienced pieces and not spend the next two years nursing injury after injury?”

Certainly it’s possible; fans in New York and Boston have their title hopes pinned on young pitchers, but I’m not sure a team has ever had a pitching staff quite so young. Apart from Brian Moehler, the 2006 Girardi-led rotation only had one other player as old as 25. Even more important than the age was the relative inexperience, and as each pitcher crossed the innings threshold where they started taking on some risk, all but Dontrelle Willis fell apart; Anibal Sanchez certainly hasn’t been the same since his no-hitter. With properly-managed workloads, it’s easy to say that the Fish could have been better down the line, but it’s harder to say how Girardi could have done that, though he certainly made his share of mistakes along the way, and still doesn’t seem to recognize that he was part of the problem. For the sake of Andrew Miller-and pitchers coming behind him, like Chris Volstad and Brett Sinkbeil-I can only hope that Fredi Gonzalez is a bit more self-aware and creative. His initial results from 2007 are very solid: with only a slightly older staff and a couple of band-aids like Byung-Hyun Kim and Wes Obermueller, the 2007 Fish were able to avoid stuffing anybody else into their already-full trainer’s room.

C Mike Rabelo Red light: This red is almost entirely based on his projected workload and the uncertainty of how he will deal with being thrust into a starting role. If he’s kept near 100 games, he should have a relatively normal risk profile for a catcher.

1B Mike Jacobs Green light

2B Dan Uggla Green light

SS Hanley Ramirez Red light: Even surgery to repair the damage in his shoulder didn’t allay the concern that it could become a chronic problem. He’ll likely lose a little power in the first half as he continues to recover, but as Gary Sheffield has shown, that power can return after a shoulder injury. That Paul Molitor comp really confuses me.

3B Jose Castillo Green light

LF Josh Willingham Yellow light: Willingham has developed into a solid enough corner outfielder, but the big worry is that the back and knee problems that cropped up in the second half of 2007 could limit his power and further limit his mobility.

CF Cameron Maybin Yellow light: Maybin ended last year with a shoulder strain, and many are concerned about his inflexible body. He’s looked solid so far this spring, but I expect his first full season in the majors will fatigue him and make him very risky in the second half.

RF Jeremy Hermida Yellow light: When healthy, he’s very good, if not as good as many statheads once expected. The knee problems have sapped some power and slow him on the bases, but a new commitment to conditioning could help.

SP Scott Olsen Red light: He was the one healthy pitcher still standing coming out of 2006, and was solid on the field in 2007; off the field wasn’t so good. Olsen showed up to camp this spring with shoulder tendonitis and is behind in logging his exhibition innings, which will likely keep him out of the rotation at the start of the season. His projected workload and mechanics make him the lone red light in the rotation.

SP Sergio Mitre Yellow light: Mitre was tripped up last season by a bad hamstring. At least it wasn’t his arm, which is his issue now; Mitre has been shut down with an elbow problem and won’t be in the rotation until May. Doug Waechter Yellow light is the likely stopgap, with the hopes he’ll be good enough to help them avoid rushing any of their young pitchers.

SP Rick Vanden Hurk Yellow light: The Marlins used him as an emergency starter last year, taking a calculated risk with one of their less valuable prospects in order to save the others. By the end of the season, though, they’d nevertheless shut him down to protect him. It might not be enough, as his control hasn’t been there in spring, leading many to wonder about his elbow.

SP Andrew Miller Yellow light: Having just one role will help him, but having to make 30-plus starts won’t. How Miller does might end up telling us whether the Marlins learned their lessons in 2006 or not. Not many noticed that he was troubled by knee issues and a hamstring strain, which some attribute to his inconsistent mechanics.

SP Mark Hendrickson Green light

CL Kevin Gregg Yellow light: This is a very low yellow; Gregg’s role seems to be more settled now, and that should help reduce his risk.

RP Justin Miller Red light: The tattooed one’s mechanics scare everyone, but he was a consistently effective reliever last season; maybe he learned something in Japan.

Lineups courtesy SportsBlogs Nation.