The Miami Marlins lead baseball in runs. They scored 42 runs in their first seven games, a mark they didn't reach until the ninth inning of their 19th game in 2013. It is not confrontational to suggest the first-place Marlins have had a better start to the 2014 season.
You know four percent of the season is over, right? This is what statisticians call "a trend." If the Marlins are in first place now, there's a strong chance they'll be in first by September. A strong chance.
Or not. But it's not our job in April to pooh-pooh every single early-season mirage with 1,000-word essays that are basically acrostics spelling out "SAMPLE SIZE." It's more fun to travel down the what-if road. What if the Marlins are actually good? It's probably coming soon, you know. Let's look at what would have to happen for the Marlins to be good this year.
Giancarlo Stanton turning into a monster
Everyone's talking about George Springer, the Astros prospect who should probably be starting in the majors right now. Man, where's Springer? Are the Astros playing games with Springer? What's up with George Springer? How good is he going to be?
Springer is over a month older than Giancarlo Stanton.
Which isn't to besmirch Springer's reputation as a Grade-A prospect, but rather to remind you that Stanton is still a freak, a puppy with gigantic puppy feet, and that dingers in the rearview mirror might be more impressive than they appear. It's amazing to think of what Stanton's already done, but not as amazing to think of what he still has left to do.
Dingers, sure. Impressive dingers. But any good Marlins season in the next three years starts with Stanton staying healthy and going freaky. He's off to a nice first-week start. More importantly, most of the players who did the things Stanton did as a young 20-something went on to great things.
Jose Fernandez existing
In this scenario, Jose Fernandez exists.
Nathan Eovaldi and friends taking a step forward
Marc wrote about this on Monday, but there's a chance that Nathan Eovaldi is something of a badass. He's always had the stuff and the scouting pedigree, even if it didn't turn into statistical gold. Say, that's what they said about Henderson Alvarez, too. Pick two or three others to at least be average alongside Fernandez, and the Marlins suddenly get a lot more interesting. As long as you forget they scored close to 500 runs last year.
Please forget they scored close to 500 runs last year.
Outfield of the future becomes the outfield of the now
Everyone's agog with the Pirates' future outfield of Starling Marte, Andrew McCutchen, and Gregory Polanco, as they should be. But I could see the Marcell Ozuna/Christian Yelich/Stanton outfield of the Marlins to at least be the Kinks to the Pirates' Beatles. There are some smart folks who would prefer The Kinks, actually. The Marlins have some organizational issues; the outfield shouldn't be one of them. We all remember the Mark Kotsay/Todd Dunwoody explosion that set the world ablaze, right? This will probably be even more impressive than that.
Yelich is off to a slow start; Ozuna is off to a fast one. That doesn't matter as much as the truism that tools can turn into production before we expect it. Marte had an 823 career OPS in the minors before the Pirates brought him up, and he wasn't exactly young for his respective leagues. Tools can turn into runs with a little alchemy and good fortune, and it's not like Yelich and Ozuna are Marlon Byrd from last year, needing divine intervention and general providence to be relevant. They should be good soon. That's the point.
Dunno. Maybe they're good now.
Free agents working out
Did you realize the Marlins spent a little money this offseason? More than the Blue Jays, at least. It's like a No Pepper sign on your warmup break. The Marlins have a new catcher (Jarrod Saltalamacchia) and a new second baseman (Rafael Furc … wait, he's hurt). They also signed Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee, even though the latter is a figment of your imagination.
It's not like all of them have to work out. Just one. Or maybe two. McGehee could be the Ryan Vogelsong of a new generation. He probably isn't, but there are going to be 211 things that don't make sense about this season. The Marlins getting one of them is a component of them being surprisingly good.
Maybe stuff happens. You weren't expecting stuff, were you? Because it can totally happen. There will be at least one team that makes the playoffs this year because of stuff. Watch out for that team.
What if the Marlins are good? No idea. They probably aren't. But crazier things have happened in baseball, and within the last 365 days, too. There's enough latent talent on the Marlins to make us all revisit those preseason predictions. This is just one blueprint.
(Rafael Furcal hitting .330 is another one.)
(Don't bank on that one.)
(Unless you're Eugene, and you're in my fantasy league. Please assume that will happen, Eugene.)