We're exactly three weeks away from Opening Day, and the Marlins' starting lineup for the start of the 2014 season has begun to form.
On March 2, Marlins manager Mike Redmond named Jose Fernandez, the 2013 National League Rookie of the Year, as his starting pitcher against the Colorado Rockies. Then, on Sunday, Redmond trotted out his projected Opening Day lineup in a spring training game against the Detroit Tigers.
At this point, you might be asking: What does the Marlins' projected starting lineup look like?
Before we delve into that, it's important to know who the starters are. Redmond already provided one answer with his announcement a week ago. Now, according to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro, the starting infield is pretty much set with Garrett Jones at first base, Rafael Furcal at second, Adeiny Hechavarria at shortstop and Casey McGehee at third.
Using logic, it's reasonable to think:
1. Jarrod Saltalamacchia will start at catcher after the Marlins signed Saltalamacchia to a three-year contract worth $21 million.
2. Giancarlo Stanton will start in right field after the Marlins have spent the last 16 months rejecting trade overtures, which included general manager Dan Jennings publicly declaring Stanton as unavailable this past November on SiriusXM's "The Front Office" radio show hosted by Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette.
3. Christian Yelich will start in left field after posting an offensive WAR (wins above replacement) of 1.5, which was second on the team, in 62 games last year. He posted a .288/.370/.396 slash line in 2013.
This just leaves center field as possibly unsettled. However, Redmond might have tipped his hand when his projected Opening Day lineup included front-runner Marcell Ozuna instead of Jake Marisnick.
Here's the projected Opening Day lineup Redmond created Sunday:
2B Rafael Furcal
LF Christian Yelich
RF Giancarlo Stanton
1B Garrett Jones
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia
CF Marcell Ozuna
3B Casey McGehee
DH Greg Dobbs
SS Adeiny Hechavarria
RHP Tom Koehler
Going into Spring Training, I targeted right around this time to start ramping guys up, and getting them in there back-to-back days," Redmond told MLB.com. "We have quite a few new guys. I want guys to get a feel for playing together as soon as possible.
Obviously, Dobbs won't be in the lineup since the designated hitter spot doesn't exist in the National League and Fernandez will take Koehler's spot on Opening Day. Outside of those two items, this is similar to how a lineup should look like on Opening Day, save for some potential shuffling between Jones, Saltalamacchia, Ozuna and McGehee.
Furcal should be the leadoff hitter considering he's seen nearly 90 percent of his career plate appearances (6,445 out of 7,200) at that slot. And in case anyone forgot, Furcal has a career .281/.346/.403 slash line.
The No. 2 slot should suit Yelich just fine. Not only did Yelich show how well he can handle the bat, new Marlins third base coach Brett Butler considers Yelich as one of four Marlins with legitimate speed, according to Manny Navarro at the Miami Herald. The others are Furcal, Hechavarria and Marisnick.
Since Stanton is the team's most productive and only prototypical power hitter, it's only fitting Stanton hits third and drives in Furcal and Yelich.
Skipping down to the bottom of the order, it's also fitting Hechavarria hits eighth since he's the team's worst hitter. Last season, Hechavarria posted a .227/.267/.298 slash line in a team-high 578 plate appearances.
Now if it were up to this guy, the middle of the order would look slightly different. In fact, the lineup would look like this:
2B Rafael Furcal (S)
LF Christian Yelich (L)
RF Giancarlo Stanton (R)
1B Garrett Jones (L)
3B Casey McGehee (R)
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (S)
CF Marcell Ozuna (R)
SS Adeiny Hechavarria (R)
RHP Jose Fernandez
Jones would stay as the cleanup hitter because between him, McGehee and Saltalamacchia, Jones is the most accomplished hitter. Jones has hit 100 home runs in the last five years (hitting between 15 and 27 every season), and his left-handed bat will create balance in the lineup so opposing managers won't be able to match up against it in the late innings.
Continuing with the philosophy of a balanced lineup, McGehee would hit fifth instead of Ozuna because he's had a good spring thus far (six hits in 17 at-bats with a home run; .353/.421/.529 slash line), and dropping Ozuna to seventh should ease any pressure on Ozuna to produce immediately after his solid rookie season (.265/.303/.389 slash line in 291 plate appearances) was cut short due to thumb surgery.
Saltalamacchia hitting sixth would be perfect because, although he's a switch hitter, Saltalamacchia might as well be considered a left-handed hitter. For his career, Saltalamacchia has a .263/.327/.469 slash line as a left-handed hitter, but is a .206/.267/.332 hitter batting right-handed.
Now that we have a glimpse of what Redmond might pencil in for his Opening Day lineup and what this guy similarly thinks it should be, what are your thoughts on what the Opening Day lineup should look like?