MIAMI -- Offensive upgrades and bullpen help have been the Marlins’ top offseason priorities, and the organization has made strides in addressing both areas.
There is still more work to be done before Spring Training opens on Feb. 12 at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla. But the picture is getting clearer of how the Marlins’ Opening Day roster might shape up.
A majority of the players who grinded their way through the 2019 season, which finished 57-105, project to be part of the '20 club. The big question this year is: Will some of the top prospects make the leap to the big leagues?
Based on the current inventory of players either on the 40-man roster or players already announced as non-roster invitees, MLB.com projects what the Marlins’ 26-man roster might look like entering Spring Training.
Locks: Jorge Alfaro, Francisco Cervelli
Possibilities: Chad Wallach, Ryan Lavarnway, B.J. López, Santiago Chávez, Brian Navarreto
Alfaro and Cervelli project to be the two on the big league roster, and Wallach is the third catcher on the 40-man. Cervelli signed a one-year deal worth $2 million, and he is expected to back up Alfaro. Acquired from the Phillies in the J.T. Realmuto trade, Alfaro was a workhorse, appearing in 130 games last year, while hitting .262/.312/.424 with 18 runs and 57 RBIs. Of concern are his high strikeout rate (33.1 percent) and defensive inconsistencies. Wallach, who made the Opening Day roster in 2019 as Alfaro’s backup, dealt with concussion issues that limited him to just 19 games. Wallach projects to open at Triple-A Wichita.
Locks: Jesús Aguilar, Garrett Cooper
Possibilities: Lewin Diaz
An All-Star with the Brewers in 2018, Aguilar was claimed off waivers from the Rays on Dec. 2. After an inconsistent '19, when he split time with Tampa Bay and the Brewers, Aguilar projects as a middle-of-the-lineup threat and the regular first baseman. He recorded 12 homers and 50 RBIs last season, compared to 35 homers and 108 RBIs in Milwaukee the year before. Cooper was Miami’s Opening Day right fielder each of the past two years, but he ended up playing more first base in '19. Durability has been an issue for Cooper, who projects to back up at first base and in the outfield. Díaz, who hit 27 homers in the Minors last season, is a left-handed hitting prospect worth monitoring.
Locks: Isan Díaz
Possibilities: Jonathan Villar, Gosuke Katoh
After being the understudy to Starlin Castro last year, Díaz projects as the second baseman of the future. Still, he has to win a job in Spring Training, and he will be given every opportunity. If not, Villar, acquired from the Orioles, is an established veteran who can step in. At Triple-A New Orleans, Díaz hit .305 with 26 home runs and 70 RBIs. But in 49 big league games, he batted .173 with five home runs and 23 RBIs. Katoh, a second-round pick of the Yankees in 2013, is a non-roster invitee who might surprise in the spring. He’s played second base and first base in the Yankees system.
Lock: Miguel Rojas
Possibilities: Jonathan Villar, Jon Berti, Jazz Chisholm
Rojas is a veteran presence who has completely bought into what the Marlins are building, so much so that he signed a two-year, $10.25 million contract extension in September. Rojas will make $5.125 million in 2020, after he hit .284 with five home runs and 46 RBIs. Villar had a career year with the Orioles in '19, establishing personal highs for home runs (24) and RBIs (73). Berti could also handle short on occasion. Chisholm, acquired from the D-backs for Zac Gallen, is a power-hitting shortstop option at Double-A Jacksonville, and the general feeling is he will need a full season at Triple-A before he is ready.
Lock: Jonathan Villar
Possibilities: Brian Anderson, Miguel Rojas
Acquired from the Orioles for lefty pitching prospect Easton Lucas, Villar projects to lead off and play regularly. The question is exactly where. Third base is the likely choice at the start of Spring Training, but if Díaz opens the season at Triple-A Wichita, Villar could be at second and Anderson at third. For now, Villar fits at the hot corner. He appeared in all 162 games with Baltimore last year. Rojas is a fallback, but he primarily is expected to be at shortstop.
Locks: Corey Dickerson, Brian Anderson, Harold Ramirez, Lewis Brinson, Magneuris Sierra, Jon Berti
Possibilities: Monte Harrison, Jesús Sánchez, Garrett Cooper
Dickerson, a free-agent addition, signed a two-year deal that became official this month, and he projects to start in left field. Anderson’s 2019 season was derailed in late August when he was hit by a pitch and fractured the fifth metacarpal bone on his left hand. He missed the rest of the season. With the addition of Villar, Anderson should again split time in right field and third base. Last year, Anderson appeared in 67 games at third base compared to 55 in right field. Now entering his third big league season, he hit .261 with 20 home runs and 66 RBIs and was heating up at the time his '19 ended.
Otherwise, it’s time to put up for Brinson, who will get his chance to prove himself in center field. But to secure a roster spot, he has to produce. Last year, he hit .173 with no home runs in 75 games with the Marlins while also splitting time in the Minors. Ramirez showed plenty of promise in 119 big league games, and he has played all three outfield spots. Left field makes the most sense for him. Sierra is out of options, so, he either makes the club, gets traded or is cut loose. Berti, like Sierra, is a speed option and he also can play the infield. Cooper provides the flexibility to play left field and right field. Dean is an option to play left field and first base.
Locks: Sandy Alcantara, Caleb Smith, Pablo López, Jordan Yamamoto, Elieser Hernandez
Possibilities: José Ureña, Robert Dugger, Nick Neidert, Jorge Guzman, Sixto Sanchez
Miami’s lone All-Star in 2019, Alcantara made major strides last season, posting a 3.88 ERA while logging 197 1/3 innings. The hard-throwing right-hander pitched far better than his 6-14 record suggests, and he projects to be the Opening Day starter. Smith was arguably the best starter in the first half, before he went on the injured list with left hip inflammation. He had a 3.50 ERA in the first half, but he wore down in the second with a 5.42 ERA. López missed time with a right shoulder strain that limited him to 21 starts and 111 1/3 innings. Hernandez is an option for the rotation or bullpen. Yamamoto made 15 starts, and the 23-year-old has a chance to win a back-end spot.
Ureña, Miami’s Opening Day starter the past two seasons, will be fighting for a roster spot. His role could be in the rotation or relief. The 28-year-old has to show more consistency because prospects like Guzman, Neidert and Sanchez are knocking on the door.
Locks: Drew Steckenrider, Jarlin García, Ryne Stanek, Adam Conley, Sterling Sharp, Jeff Brigham, Jose Ureña, Yimi García
Possibilities: José Quijada, Brian Moran
Some work still could be done to address the bullpen, but as is, the emphasis on the relief corps has been to find strike-throwers. Steckenrider, limited to 15 appearances due to right elbow inflammation in 2019, is healthy and in line to potentially be the closer. Ureña has a chance to close as well, after a test run toward the end of last season, and lefty Jarlin García was one of the most reliable relievers late in the year. Yimi García, non-tendered by the Dodgers on Dec. 2, is a late-innings addition. Sharp, previously the Nationals’ No. 13 prospect, was claimed in the Rule 5 Draft. He is a multi-innings candidate. Stanek could be used as an opener, setup reliever or perhaps closer, although that didn’t go so well for him in the second half. Conley looks to rebound after a down year.
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.