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5 storylines to watch in Marlins' spring camp

@JoeFrisaro
February 15, 2020

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Marlins have made it abundantly clear that the bar has been raised in 2020. Manager Don Mattingly spoke about it at FanFest Saturday at Marlins Park, noting that anything less than “significant improvement” would be considered a disappointment. That message has been driven home with the

JUPITER, Fla. -- The Marlins have made it abundantly clear that the bar has been raised in 2020.

Manager Don Mattingly spoke about it at FanFest Saturday at Marlins Park, noting that anything less than “significant improvement” would be considered a disappointment. That message has been driven home with the Marlins opening Spring Training on Wednesday at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex.

With indications that Miami's building process has reached the stage where we should start seeing results, MLB.com forecasts five storylines to keep track of over the course of Spring Training.

1. How about a hand for Andy
The Marlins view Brian Anderson as a budding star, and he has the makings of being a 25-to 30-homer hitter.

Health-wise, Miami insists Anderson is full-go. There was some concern because he fractured his fifth metacarpal in his left hand after being struck by a pitch in early September. Anderson had been improving as the season progressed, and he finished 2019 with 20 home runs in 126 games, to go along with a slash line of .261/.342/.468.

There are reasons to believe Anderson is on the cusp of a big year. He’s now entering his third full big league season, and there is a better lineup around him this year. Also, Marlins Park has moved in the fences in center and right-center, areas of the field Anderson often wasn't rewarded in the past. According to Statcast, Anderson’s hard-hit percentage was 45.7 in 2019, which places him in the 86th percentile in MLB.

Anderson's launch angle elevated to 11.1 degrees, up from 8.7 in 2018, and his maximum exit velocity a year ago was 114.4 mph, tied for fifth with Oakland’s Matt Chapman for the hardest-hit ball by a third baseman.

2. Make room from Monte Harrison
If not for a broken right wrist, Harrison, the Marlins’ No. 5 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, likely would have been called up to the big leagues in either August or September.

Harrison is unlikely to be completely big league ready at the end of Spring Training, and it makes sense on many levels to start the 24-year-old at Triple-A Wichita. But it should only be a matter of time before Harrison shows he is ready to make his MLB debut. By that point, Harrison could be primed to take over in center field, if the position isn’t settled.

3. A more consistent Caleb Smith
Often when there are two extremes, the answer lies somewhere in the middle. That may be the case for left-hander Smith, the Marlins’ only double-digit wins pitcher in 2019. Smith finished 10-11 with a 4.52 ERA in 153 1/3 innings and 28 starts.

Before the All-Star break, the lefty had a 3.50 ERA in 72 innings. In the second half, it rose to 5.42 in 81 1/3 innings. Smith did miss about a month midseason with left hip inflammation, so regression in the second half wasn’t completely unexpected.

A healthy Smith should make the case to be Miami’s No. 2 starter, behind Sandy Alcantara.

4. Roster spot for Magneuris Sierra
Out of options, making the Opening Day roster isn’t quite a certainty for speedy outfielder Sierra. But with rosters expanding to 26 this year, it increases the chances Miami hangs on to the left-handed-hitting outfielder, who turns 24 on April 7.

The Marlins acquired Sierra as part of the Marcell Ozuna trade with the Cardinals after the 2017 season, and he hasn't had much MLB experience yet. He appeared in just 15 games in 2019 as a September callup.

Sierra has game-changing speed and is solid defensively. The Marlins simply haven’t seen enough of him at the big league level to risk parting with him.

5. Finding relief in Jorge Guzman?
Hard-throwing right-hander Jorge Guzman has become somewhat the forgotten prospect in a vastly improved farm system. Acquired after the 2017 season from the Yankees in the Giancarlo Stanton trade, Guzman is ranked by MLB Pipeline as Miami's No. 16 prospect. The Marlins continue to groom him as a starter. Guzman had a 3.50 ERA in 138 2/3 innings at Double-A Jacksonville last year. He projects to open at Triple-A Wichita as a starter. But questions remain if the 24-year-old is best suited to start, because he hasn't consistently shown three pitches. If Guzman struggles with either his slider or changeup, then the organization may decide he is best suited for the bullpen. A 100-mph fastball, and one consistent secondary pitch, may be the ticket for Guzman to the big leagues as a reliever.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.