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Rays at Marlins Series Preview: Opening Day 2021

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Will Vragovic | Tampa Bay Rays

The Tampa Bay Rays open defense of their American League Championship this afternoon against the Miami Marlins.

The Marlins surprised many by sneaking into the expanded playoffs in 2020. They were no one’s pick even in March, but once they opened the delayed 2020 with a COVID-19 outbreak that put half their roster in quarantine they were seen as more of a dark humor punchline than a contending team. Somehow they ended up with a 31-29 record, enough to squeak in to the Wild Card round. They took out the Chicago Cubs in the first round, but that’s where this Cinderella story would end.

What do the Marlins have in store for 2021?

Matchups

Thursday 4:10 PM: Tyler Glasnow vs Sandy Alcantara
Friday 7:10 PM: Ryan Yarbrough vs Pablo Lopez
Saturday 6:10 PM: Rich Hill vs TBA

The Rays will send out Tyler Glasnow against Sandy Alcantara to start the season. Glasnow steps in as the best pitcher on the Rays staff while they face a solid young starter from the Marlins. Alcantara brings an upper 90s fastball with an upper 80s slider as his primary offerings. He will occasionally throw a changeup that doesn’t show much separation (5-6 mph) from his fastball and a curve that comes in the low 80s.

Pablo Lopez was the Marlins most effective starter in 2020. He posted a 3.61 ERA/3.09 FIP/3.73 xFIP. He primarily throws a mid 90s fastball and a 86-88 mph changeup. He will occasionally throw a 80 mph curve.

The Marlins haven’t announced who will start game three. We know it won’t be electric flame throwing youngster Sixto Sanchez. The Marlins optioned him earlier this week as they look to build up (his Spring Training start was slowed by what was later determined to be a false positive COVID test) and monitor innings from their young pitchers. The Rays have announced a “piggyback” start with Hill taking the ball in the first inning and Archer coming in a few innings later.

Note the rare offday on Sunday!

Offense

Last year the Marlins offense was in the bottom ten in runs scored. They hit .244/.319/.384 and put up a 96 wRC+. Their home park is likely the most suppressive park for offense in the majors, so their numbers weren’t as bad as they look, but they still were a below average offense.

This season they are bringing back their key contributors and adding Adam Duvall. Brian Anderson, Starling Marte, and Miguel Rojas are all projected by FanGraphs’ Depth Charts to put up 2+ fWAR, but they are the only ones above one.

Their second tier of role players is led by former Rays Jesus Aguilar and Corey Dickerson.

Jazz Chisholm made the Opening Day roster and will be their starting second baseman.

If the Marlins are to score runs this year, they will need their former top 100 prospect outfielders to take a step forward. Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, and Jesus Sanchez have all shown promise, but thus far none have lived up to earlier projections.

Opening Weekend

The Rays look to get off to a quick start this weekend against a Miami team that should be beatable. Of course, any major league team can do damage on any given day so the Rays should still be prepared to battle through three tough games.