MIAMI -- A season that opened with so much anticipation quickly turned into a disappointment, and the Marlins headed into the All-Star break wondering if they can reverse their fortunes before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
On the plus side, second baseman Dee Gordon and right fielder Giancarlo Stanton were voted into the All-Star Game as starters. And right-hander Jose Fernandez appears to have regained his form after returning from Tommy John surgery.
But the first half was unsettled -- marred by injuries and inconsistencies. Even the Marlins' two All-Stars were unable to participate in the Midsummer Classic, as Stanton broke his left hand and Gordon dislocated his left thumb. In the second half, there is still time to salvage at least a .500 record, but it will be an uphill climb.
FIVE KEY DEVELOPMENTS
1. Managerial change
The slow start led to a surprising change of leadership in the dugout. Looking to get the front office on the same page as the manager, Dan Jennings transitioned from general manager to Mike Redmond's replacement.
2. Unsettled lineup
From the Opening Day starting lineup, only shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria remains. Everyone else was injured, demoted to the Minors or released.
3. Closing problems
Looking back, the games that got away are the ones that stung the most. Over the first two months, the bullpen repeatedly watched late leads slip away, prompting the club to install A.J. Ramos as its closer, replacing Steve Cishek.
4. Rotation injuries
Coming out of Spring Training, the hope was that the rotation could hold things down until Fernandez returned from Tommy John surgery. Instead, three other starters spent time on the DL -- Henderson Alvarez, Mat Latos and Jarred Cosart.
5. Offensive struggles
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the first half is that the offense didn't live up to expectations. The Marlins remain baffled that a lineup with the production it received from Gordon and Stanton still labored to score runs.
FIVE STORYLINES TO WATCH
1. Non-waiver Trade Deadline
If Miami can't close in on the .500 mark by the Deadline, trades are highly likely. The club wants to hold its core together, but pitchers like Latos, Dan Haren, Cishek and Brad Hand could be on the move.
2. Jose and Stanton healthy
By now, the Marlins were hopeful of having their ace, Fernandez, and their National Leage MVP Award candidate, Stanton, back on the roster together. Fernandez has recovered from his surgery, but Stanton is out for at least several more weeks.
3. Will Dee finish strong?
With the Dodgers last year, Gordon's production dipped down the stretch. Now, the two-time All-Star is dealing with a dislocated thumb that will keep him out at least a week.
4. Maturation of Realmuto
Growing pains were expected when J.T. Realmuto assumed the starting catching role after Jarrod Saltalamacchia was designated for assignment. The plan entering the season was to give Realmuto a full year at Triple-A New Orleans, but now he's learning on the fly in the Majors.
5. Salvaging the season
The first half was highly disappointing, but the second half provides the Marlins with the opportunity to reach .500 or higher. For that to happen, key players like Stanton, Martin Prado and Alvarez must get healthy.
MVP: Stanton. Only a broken hamate bone in his left hand on June 26 slowed down the slugger, who was pacing the Majors in homers (27) and RBIs (67) when he went down. Cy Young Award: Haren. In a rotation that had three starters on the disabled list at various times (Alvarez, Latos, Cosart), Haren has remained consistent, not only with his pitching, but also with the example he's set for his teammates. Rookie: Justin Bour. The finger injury to Michael Morse at first base created an opportunity for Bour, who has provided a left-handed-hitting power threat. Top reliever: Ramos. When Cishek stumbled in the closer spot, Ramos stepped up, secured the spot and was one of the most effective relievers (stats-wise) in the NL.
PLAYERS TO WATCH IN SECOND HALF
Fernandez: After nearly 14 months recovering from Tommy John surgery, Fernandez made two starts before the All-Star break, but in the second half, he is primed to pitch every fifth day. Alvarez: Miami's Opening Day starter was limited to just four starts due to a right shoulder injury, but he could be back by August. Christian Yelich: It wasn't an ideal start to the season for Yelich, who spent time early on the disabled list, but the left-handed-hitting outfielder started heating up heading into the break.
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.