JUPITER, Fla. -- After completing a busy offseason upgrading their offense and bullpen, the Marlins are starting to see some light at the end of their rebuilding tunnel.
For the first time in years, the Marlins have a stocked farm system, filled with high-end prospects close to big league ready. It’s a matter of time before they join a talented core of young players who have mostly taken their lumps the past few seasons.
The Marlins opened full-squad workouts on Monday afternoon at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex, and plenty of competition is expected for what eventually will be the 26-man roster.
Based on the current inventory of players either on the 40-man roster or players already in Spring Training as non-roster invitees, MLB.com projects what the Marlins’ Opening Day roster might look like.
• Forecasting all 30 teams: Lineups, rotations, closers
Locks: Jorge Alfaro, Francisco Cervelli
Possibilities: Chad Wallach, Ryan Lavarnway, B.J. López, Santiago Chávez, Brian Navarreto
Alfaro is the super-athletic 26-year-old who is on the cusp of being a solid big league regular, while Cervelli is the savvy veteran who makes it clear he wants to be more than just a backup. Wallach is the third catcher on the 40-man. Cervelli signed a one-year deal worth $2 million, and he has a strong reputation working with pitchers. 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.
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 spending more time at first base in '19.
Locks: Isan Díaz
Possibilities: Jonathan Villar, Gosuke Katoh, Sean Rodríguez
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. Rodríguez, signed to a Minors deal, has played all over the field, and would be a proven utility player.
Lock: Miguel Rojas
Possibilities: Jonathan Villar, Jon Berti, Jazz Chisholm, Sean Rodríguez
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: Brian Anderson
Possibilities: Jonathan Villar, Miguel Rojas, Sean Rodriguez
This is where the roster uncertainty sets in. Anderson, arguably the club’s best player, will be a fixture in the lineup. But will it be at third base or right field, or a combination of both? For now, we’re leaning towards third base, due to Villar being considered for center 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. Overall 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.
Locks: Corey Dickerson, Jonathan Villar, Matt Joyce, Harold Ramirez, Lewis Brinson, Magneuris Sierra, Jon Berti
Possibilities: Monte Harrison, Jesús Sánchez, Garrett Cooper, Matt Kemp
Acquired from the Orioles for lefty pitching prospect Easton Lucas, Villar projects to lead off and play regularly. But where? The Marlins have said he will play in the middle of the field, and center field is where he will get a strong look. But if Isan Díaz opens the season at Triple-A Wichita, Villar could be at second. Villar appeared in all 162 games with Baltimore last year, and he swiped 40 bases.
Dickerson, a free-agent addition, signed a two-year deal that became official this month, and he projects to start in left field. Joyce, a veteran left-handed hitter, likely will spot start and be an important bench piece. What about Brinson? 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. In right, Ramirez and Cooper are in line to start. Sierra, who is out of options, and Kemp, a non-roster invitee, could each make it as well.
Locks: Sandy Alcantara, Caleb Smith, Pablo López, José Ureña, Jordan Yamamoto
Possibilities: Robert Dugger, Nick Neidert, Jorge Guzman, Sixto Sanchez, Elieser Hernandez
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. Ureña is staying in the rotation after being considered for the ‘pen. He is recovered from a herniated disc. Yamamoto made 15 starts, and the 23-year-old has a chance to win a back-end spot.
Locks: Brandon Kintzler, Drew Steckenrider, Ryne Stanek, Adam Conley, Sterling Sharp, Yimi García, Stephen Tarpley, Jeff Brigham
Possibilities: Brad Boxberger, Pat Venditte
Kintzler, an All-Star in 2017, becomes the front-runner to close. He has 49 career saves, with 29 coming in ’17. Steckenrider, limited to 15 appearances due to right elbow inflammation in 2019, is healthy and in line to set up. 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. Boxberger is a non-roster invitee, who likely will make it with a strong Spring.
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.