-- Sarah J., New York
This could become an interesting topic at the end of the season, as well as in upcoming seasons. The team is flatly saying that it has no plans on moving the fences in. Marlins players, however -- along with players and executives on other clubs -- have said that the walls, at some point, should be adjusted to prevent the stadium from playing so big. In terms of total home runs, Marlins Park ranks 26th out of 30 buildings.
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The dimensions were set to make the ballpark more pitcher-friendly. But no one knew how Marlins Park would play once the season started. Without question, it's a hard place in which to homer, and the Marlins' home and road splits show that. In 60 games at Marlins Park, Miami has 44 home runs. On the road, the team has 73 in 69 games. The Marlins just came off an 11-game road trip during which Giancarlo Stanton belted eight homers and the team totaled 18.
Interestingly, the Marlins also rank 26th out of 30 teams in home runs in their home park. But away, Miami's 73 homers are the sixth most of any team while being on the road.
According to spray chart information, Stanton has had seven blasts at Marlins Park that reached the warning track. In many parks, a number of those shots would have been home runs. In Miami, though, four of those balls resulted in outs, while three were doubles.
Hanley Ramirez, before being traded to the Dodgers, had five balls that were in similar locations to Stanton. Four were doubles and one was an out.
Certainly next year, I don't envision the walls being adjusted.
If the walls do stay as is, I think it will be interesting to see if power-hitting free agents will want to sign with the Marlins. Marlins Park may end up being similar to the Giants at AT&T Park, which is an even more difficult stadium in which to hit home runs than Miami.
Will Justin Ruggiano be in the Marlins' plans next year? He's done a great job this season.
-- Gary R., Rochester, N.Y.
Yes, because he is under club control. Ruggiano has certainly been a terrific find. The Marlins acquired him in May in a Minor League trade with the Astros, and at age 30, he's being given a chance. Ruggiano can play all three outfield spots, and he's shown power. At spacious Marlins Park, he doesn't project to be the everyday center fielder, but he can certainly play there.
In many ways, I see similarities between Ruggiano and Cody Ross. When the Marlins traded for Ross in 2006, he was regarded as a fourth outfielder. But he showed he could play every day. At worst, Ruggiano should make the team in 2013 as a fourth or fifth outfielder.
Who will fill the roles at first and third base next season? Will the Marlins go out and get players to fill those spots in the offseason?
-- Jesse C., London, Ontario
When the front office meets after the season, the Marlins will address these two positions. Obviously, they are crucial spots in the retooling process. Carlos Lee, who is 36, is a free agent. He is open to returning, and there is mutual interest, but there is no guarantee a deal will get done. However, if Logan Morrison is healthy, he projects to return to first base. His right knee remains an issue.
Third base will be a spot that the club actively explores in either a trade or through free agency. Ideally, Miami would like to acquire someone like Martin Prado, but he may not be available.
What are the chances that J.T. Realmuto, Rob Brantly and/or Kyle Skipworth will win the starting catcher job next year?
-- Eduardo V., Miami
We're already seeing Brantly get a serious look. The Marlins made it clear when they acquired the 23-year-old from the Tigers on July 23 that he projected as a big league regular.
These final few weeks will be important for Brantly -- ranked by MLB.com as the Marlins' No. 13 prospect -- as he gains experience. He hit his first Major League home run on Sunday at Dodger Stadium.
Realmuto, ranked as the club's No. 7 prospect, is impressing at Class A Jupiter, and he will advance to Double-A next year. He is just 21 years old, and catchers usually take a while to develop.
Skipworth, ranked No. 16, will be interesting to watch. The 22-year-old is a former first-round pick, and he's had his ups and downs at Double-A Jacksonville. He is making strides defensively, and he has a strong work ethic. Skipworth is a lefty bat with power potential. Spring Training will be big for Skipworth.
What are the future plans for the Marlins? With the money they have saved with Hanley Ramirez, are they going to sign guys who can hit?
-- Moises H., Brooklyn, N.Y.
By unloading the nearly $40 million owed to Ramirez through 2014, Miami created some payroll flexibility. Already, manager Ozzie Guillen and team president David Samson have said the Marlins will spend, but they must make sure they do so wisely.
Not all the investments have paid off. The organization is looking to field an attractive, competitive product. If a signing makes sense, I fully anticipate the team will strongly pursue it.