Yar...I got me a Marlin - 2009 Florida Marlins Preview

Nobody expected the Florida Marlins to go 84-77 in 2008 after unloading two top players in Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Detroit Tigers.

This offseason featured more unloading for payroll reasons as first baseman Mike Jacobs was unloaded to the Kansas City Royals while starting pitcher Scott Olsen and outfielder Josh Willingham were jettisoned as well.

While the historically cheap Marlins likely will avoid any further spending they return the majority of their key pieces from last season in addition to welcoming uber-prospect Cameron Maybin to the fold.

Maybin was the centerpiece of the Cabrera/Willis deal that should eventually work out evenly for both teams even if Willis doesn't return to form.

Florida's lineup is chock-full of consistent young power threats with speed to boot.

Shortstop Hanley Ramirez, the pull from the Josh Beckett trade, has been as advertised for the fish since the day he stepped foot on the field. Ramirez paced the lineup with an outstanding mix of speed, power and precision hitting .301 with 33 home runs, 35 stolen bases and 125 runs scored.

His middle infield parter Dan Uggla had an outstanding season as well outside of his defensive play in the all-star game (and the second half in general). Uggla clubbed 32 home runs, drove in 92 runs and scored 97 runs.

Jorge Cantu had a quietly impressive season as well, which made the trade of Jacobs make sense. Cantu will take over first base duties full time after hitting .277 with 29 home runs, 95 RBIs and 92 runs scored.

Add in the potential of Curtis Granderson clone Maybin and the early part of this lineup is as good as any in the league.

Unfortunately, it will be the pitching and defensive questions that limit any growth in the standings due to playing in the same division as the defending champion Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets.

The Marlins rotation simply isn't on par with the Mets, Phillies or even the Atlanta Braves' staff.

That doesn't mean there isn't anything to look forward to this season for all 4,000 Florida Marlins fans out there.

It will be interesting to see if ace-to-be Chris Volstad can build on his rookie debut. Volstad went 6-4 in roughly a half season with a 2.88 ERA.

Fellow youngster Josh Johnson also did well in his half season with a 7-1 record and a 3.61 ERA but the key will be the two wild cards in the rotation in Andrew Miller and Anibal Sanchez.

Sanchez was hurt for most of 2008 and wasn't effective when he was healthy. He is looking to duplicate his phenomenal rookie season that included a no-hitter and an ERA of 2.83.

Miller on the other hand hasn't had an ERA under 5.60 in his three-years of limited MLB experience. He was a gem in the Tigers system and came with Maybin in that very same blockbuster trade. Miller's age 23, and high ceiling are causes for hope.

All this being said, there isn't a whole lot of wiggle room in the NL East for the Marlins to make that much progress in the standings. However, the continued development of the pitching staff will be key in terms of this team being a contender in 2010.

Lebron should be there by then right?