From their potential closer to Jorge Alfaro, there will be interesting stories to follow between now and Opening Day.
After a stressful 2020 season and relatively quiet winter, Spring Training is finally here! The Marlins are having their first full-squad workout on Tuesday and we can already inhale and smell baseball. Major league spring camp brings with it some stories that will develop through March and should help Don Mattingly put the final pieces of this team’s Opening Day roster together.
Let’s dive right into them so you don’t miss anything.
1. Who’s the closer?
The Marlins have added a bunch of arms to their bullpen: RHPs Anthony Bass, Dylan Floro, John Curtiss, Adam Cimber and Zach Pop, and veteran lefty Ross Detwiler. Those hurlers will join a mix of Yimi García, James Hoyt, Richard Bleier plus plenty of prospects with premium stuff.
Out of that group, García and Bass seem to have an edge. The former was outstanding for the Fish last year while the latter was good for Toronto and even compiled some saves, thanks in part to a nasty slider that we recently talked about. In fact, according to Craig Mish, Mattingly went straight to Bass when talking to reporters about the ninth-inning role during his first media availability of the new year.
2. How will Mattingly align his outfielders?
Even with Harold Ramírez DFA’d, the Marlins have plenty of options to cover their outfield. When you imagine their lineup, Corey Dickerson in left and Starling Marte in center should be locks. But who’s in right?
This is a question that has big ramifications, especially with no DH in the National League this year. To play right field, Miami has several names: recent pick-up Adam Duvall, Lewis Brinson, Magneuris Sierra, and even Garrett Cooper, whom Mattingly recently said will see action as an outfielder in order to co-exist with first baseman Jesús Aguilar.
Barring a monster Spring Training from one of those, this will likely be a we-will-see-who-plays-tomorrow scenario moving forward with Adam Duvall receiving the largest share of playing time.
3. Jorge Alfaro’s final chance?
So far, Jorge Alfaro hasn’t fulfilled the Marlins’ expectations. Besides his 18 home runs in 2019, he hasn’t been well-rounded or consistent in two years with the team. But now he’s got another chance to embrace the regular catching role.
The Marlins are betting on Alfaro to reach his potential in 2021. They will enter the season with him and Chad Wallach as their two catchers, but something tells me that time is running out for the Colombian. In fact, the team asked the Cubs about Willson Contreras’ availability during the offseason, according to Mish. They were unable to agree on a fair prospect package to send in return.
So will Alfaro be the kind of player the Marlins still expect him to be? We’ll learn a lot at Spring Training. The job is his to lose.
4. What version of Elieser Hernández will we be seeing?
One of the things we regret the most about last season was losing Elieser Hernández to a season-ending right lat injury after six great starts. He was everything you could ask for in 2020 and probably secured a rotation spot for 2021.
Will we see more of this version of Hernández or the one that recorded a 5.11 ERA and a 5.45 FIP from 2018-2019? The 2020 Hernández will be a massive weapon for a Marlins rotation that already includes promising Sixto Sánchez, ace Sandy Alcántara, and also Venezuelan Pablo López. He told the media last week that using his changeup more often this upcoming season could help him work deeper into his starts than ever before.
5. Who wins the second base battle?
Right now, there are two men who will compete against each other for the second base job: Isan Díaz and prospect Jazz Chisholm. Speedy Jon Berti enters Spring Training projected to be an important part of the roster, though more likely in a super utility role. The Marlins can find playing time for him at various positions.
Spring camp will be critical for Díaz and Chisholm. Whichever one of them performs best over the next month will get the opportunity. The other is probably getting optioned to the minors.