Predicting the Miami Marlins' 25-Man Roster If They Make No Other Big Moves
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
The holiday season is finally over, which means many teams are in the process of finishing their offseason shopping spree.
In the Miami Marlins' case, though, they had more of a clearance sale than a Christmas wish list.
The Marlins made three separate trades—Heath Bell to the Arizona Diamondbacks; Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, John Buck and Emilio Bonifacio to the Toronto Blue Jays in a 12-player fire sale; and Yunel Escobar to the Tampa Bay Rays. They also signed just four recognizable free agents, two to a minor league deal.
On the bright side, all this means is we get an early start as to what first-year manager Mike Redmond's team will look like come Opening Day. Of course, this is barring any major moves the Marlins might still make such as trading Ricky Nolasco and/or Giancarlo Stanton, or shocking the world and signing a free agent such as Michael Bourn.
But until then, this is what the Marlins' 25-man roster might look like when they hit the field April 1 against the Washington Nationals.
Jacob Turner is the future of the Marlins pitching staff.
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Virtual locks: Nolasco, Jacob Turner, Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez.
Again, for the sake of this exercise, we're assuming Nolasco won't be traded. In this scenario, Nolasco will, in all probability, be the Marlins' ace and Opening Day starter. Following the Marlins' all-time winningest pitcher are Turner, Eovaldi and Alvarez.
Turner was once thought of as a potential ace and might have the highest upside between him, Eovaldi and Alvarez—all of whom will be 23 or younger this season. Eovaldi should be the No. 3 pitcher based on his 94 mph fastball and mid-80s slider. He does need to find a quality third pitch in order to take the next step in his maturation. Alvarez, who struck out 3.8 batter per nine innings last season, needs to find a way to miss more bats. Perhaps a move from the AL East to the NL East will do the trick.
Who is still in play: Brad Hand, Tom Koehler, Wade LeBlanc, John Maine and Alex Sanabia.
The Marlins expect these five pitchers to battle for the final spot in the starting rotation. However, they all have flaws.
Maine signed a minor league deal during the offseason after spending the last two seasons in the minor leagues. The 31-year-old right-hander pitched for the Baltimore Orioles and New York Mets from 2004-10. Maine owns a career 41-36 record with a 4.35 ERA, but he was limited to nine games in 2010 because of shoulder problems and hasn't been the same since. Last season, Maine went 8-5 with a 4.97 ERA at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Sanabia, meanwhile, never saw time with the big league club after seeing action with the Marlins in 2010 and 2011. Left-hander Brad Hand, a 2008 second-round pick, had a similar experience as he started 12 games in 2011 but had only one start in 2012.
With those three options out of the way, that leaves Koehler and LeBlanc as the most viable options.
Koehler made his major league debut last year and pitched in eight games, including a start against the New York Mets in the season finale. In the minors, Koehler started in all but three of his 123 appearances and he owns a 54-31 record with a 3.74 ERA.
Because of Koehler's inexperience, though, LeBlanc might be the best suited to be the No. 5 starter. In LeBlanc's five-year career, he has made 79 appearances, 61 starts. As a starter, LeBlanc is 18-25 with a 4.43 ERA—respectable numbers even in this day and age. Further bolstering LeBlanc's case is he's a left-hander, which is something Nolasco, Turner, Eovaldi and Alvarez are not.
Steve Cishek is expected to anchor the Marlins bullpen in 2013.
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Virtual locks: Steve Cishek, Mike Dunn and Ryan Webb.
When former Marlins closer Heath Bell lost his job permanently, Cishek was the first in line to claim it. And when the 2013 season begins, he should continue to hold the role. The side-arming right-hander was 1-1 with a 3.42 ERA and recorded 14 saves after last season's All-Star break.
Bridging the gap between the starters to Cishek will be setup men Mike Dunn and Ryan Webb. This pair are the most experienced among Marlins relievers as Webb has 200 career appearances (11-9 record, 3.45 ERA) while the left-handed Dunn has 161 career appearances (7-9 record, 3.81 ERA).
The favorites to claim a spot: Koehler, LeBlanc and A.J. Ramos.
If Koehler and/or LeBlanc doesn't win the final spot in the starting rotation, then one or both will probably find themselves in the bullpen as well. Ramos, meanwhile, impressed as a September call-up last season as he struck out 13 in 9 1/3 innings.
Competing for a job: Arquimedes Caminero, Jose Ceda, Grant Dayton, Chris Hatcher, Dan Jennings, Scott Maine and Evan Reed.
Based on our projections thus far (Nolasco, Turner, Eovaldi, Alvarez and LeBlanc in the rotation; Cishek, Dunn, Webb, Koehler and Ramos in the bullpen), the Marlins could use a second left-handed reliever. Among this group, that would be Dayton, Jennings and Scott Maine.
Dayton is the wild card as he's never pitched in the majors. But in three minor league seasons, Dayton has struck out 213 in 174 1/3 innings. Scott Maine could be the answer with a strong spring. He'll need it to ease any doubts since he has a career 5.59 ERA in 50 appearances over three seasons.
The second left-hander could very well be Dan Jennings. Last season, Jennings had a 1.89 ERA in 22 appearances. However, he will need to miss more bats as he had just eight strikeouts in 19 innings.
Given the Marlins young rotation, it might be wise for them to carry 12 pitchers so the bullpen doesn't get worn out if the starters are ineffective or doesn't pitch deep into games. That leaves Caminero, Ceda, Hatcher and Reed fighting for one spot.
This leaves Hatcher as the most viable option. Hatcher has pitched full-time the past two years as he was converted from a catcher to a pitcher, and he's had mixed results. In the majors, Hatcher has a 5.40 ERA in 22 appearances over two years, but in the minor leagues, the 27-year-old has struck out 102 in 94 1/3 innings with a 1.34 ERA. What will also help Hatcher's case is he could be the team's emergency catcher.
Logan Morrison might be the most dangerous Marlin in the infield.
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Virtual locks: Rob Brantly, Greg Dobbs, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jeff Mathis, Logan Morrison, Placido Polanco and Donovan Solano.
If anyone needed evidence of the Marlins' youth movement, point them to the infield because it's youth galore.
The star of the revamped Marlins infield is Logan Morrison, provided he's healthy. After spending most of his three-year major league career in left field, Morrison will return to first base, a position he played in the minors, if he can be productive after undergoing right knee surgery (patella tendon) for the second time in less than a year back in September.
Donovan Solano, who is 25 years old like Morrison, will man second base after batting .295 in 285 at-bats in 2012. Solano's double-play partner, shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, will play in his first full season in the majors after arriving in the Marlins' 12-player fire sale two months ago. Hechavarria hit .254 in 41 games with the Toronto Blue Jays last season.
At catcher, 23-year-old Rob Brantly has been entrusted with the position after batting .290 in 31 games after arriving in a midseason trade from the Detroit Tigers. Jeff Mathis, one of the few high-priced players—by Marlins standards—remaining will back up Brantly.
Greg Dobbs, a backup first baseman and third baseman, will be a valuable left-handed bat off the bench.
Speaking of third base, the Marlins signed Placido Polanco to fill the role. At 37 years old, Polanco is the oldest player on the team. It also means the infield could get younger if...
Looking for a job: Chris Coghlan, Zack Cox, Kevin Kouzmanoff, Joe Mahoney and Kyle Skipworth.
Cox can win the starting third base job out of Spring Training. Cox, one of the top prospects in the Marlins farm system, arrived in a midseason trade from the St. Louis Cardinals' farm system. Cox was considered the best college hitter in the 2010 draft, but he took a step back last season after hitting a combined .254 with Triple-A Memphis (Cardinals organization) and Double-A Jacksonville (Marlins organization). If Cox can rediscover his stroke, he can provide the Marlins with some much-needed offense.
Furthermore, if Cox wins the third base job, then Polanco can become a super utility player, which can be beneficial since the Marlins are short on middle infielders.
Coghlan and Kouzmanoff, the other third base candidates, are more hard-pressed to land a job as Coghlan has been injury-riddled the past couple of seasons while Kouzmanoff signed a minor league deal after spending all of last season in the minors with the Kansas City Royals organization. In his six-year major league career, Kouzmanodd is a .255 hitter with 85 home runs.
Mahoney can win a gig to back up Morrison, but he will be 26 with only four major league at-bats to his credit. Kyle Skipworth, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2008 draft, could earn a spot out of Spring Training, but he'll need to show vast improvement from his minor league numbers (.219 batting average with 61 home runs in five minor league seasons.
Giancarlo Stanton will be the featured player in the Marlins outfield ... if he's not traded.
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Virtual locks: Juan Pierre, Justin Ruggiano and Stanton.
On the other side of the outfield is Pierre. A catalyst of the 2003 World Series champion Marlins team, Pierre signed a one-year deal to return to his old stomping grounds as the Marlins leadoff hitter. Pierre showed he still has what it takes as he batted .307 and stole 37 bases with the Philadelphia Phillies last season.
Ruggiano will play in between Pierre and Stanton as he's slated to be the team's center fielder. In the most major league playing time he's received in his career, Ruggiano hit .313 with 13 home runs and 36 RBI in 91 games last season.
In the mix: Coghlan, Gorkys Hernandez, Kevin Mattison and Bryan Petersen.
Among this quartet, the fourth outfielder should be Hernandez, who arrived in a midseason trade from the Pittsburgh Pirates last year. The 25-year-old Hernandez is out of options, so he will have to make the Opening Day roster or the Marlins will risk losing him to another team. The former is more likely to happen since the Marlins gave up former All-Star first baseman Gaby Sanchez to acquire Hernandez.
With three players to choose from, Coghlan might be the best candidate to fill the Marlins' final roster spot.
The 2009 National League Rookie of the Year's production has declined with each passing season thanks to various injuries, but Coghlan could be productive if he proves to be healthy. Furthermore, Coghlan is versatile as he can play all three outfield positions, as well as third base and second base. For a squad carrying only five bench players—for the purpose of this exercise—Coghlan's ability to play the infield and outfield is a precious commodity.