MIAMI -- When the 2020 Marlins reached the postseason for the first time in 17 years, they did so behind young starting pitching and veteran position players. Miami will turn to that formula again for a full 162-game season in '21.
Many of the faces are the same, but there will be stiff competition at second base and to round out the rotation. Spring Training also will help decide roles in the Marlins' revamped bullpen.
"The identity for our club is pretty simple," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "We hang our hat on our pitching. We feel like that's going to be our kind of thing. I want to be a club that is able to play fast. You know, [CEO Derek Jeter has] talked about it. We want more athletic guys, we want to play a pressure game where we have speed. And we think we're getting there. Not quite there yet, but a club that plays aggressive and plays smart, and a game that people like, right? I think we're seeing that in baseball in general that people want action."
Here’s a look at how Miami's 26-player roster may shape up come Opening Day on April 1 at Marlins Park. This projection will be updated throughout Spring Training:
Catcher (2): Jorge Alfaro, Chad Wallach
Though the Marlins turned to Wallach in the postseason, general manager Kim Ng expressed confidence in Alfaro bouncing back. He never could quite get going in 2020, missing time during Spring Training with a left oblique strain and then the first month of the season with COVID-19. In his first year with the Marlins in '19, Alfaro was near league average with a 94 OPS+ in 130 games. He flashes raw power but also lacks plate discipline and needs improvement behind the dish. Veteran Sandy León, a non-roster invite, has an outside chance of making the Opening Day roster.
First base (2): Jesús Aguilar, Garrett Cooper
When the offseason began, the Marlins had to be flexible depending on the status of the universal designated hitter. Aguilar and Cooper -- both right-handed-hitting sluggers -- play first base. In 2020, Aguilar (.809 OPS, 120 OPS+ in 51 games) and Cooper (.853 OPS, 130 OPS+ in 34 games) posted similar numbers. During the postseason, Cooper started at first, with Aguilar at DH. With the addition of Adam Duvall, that takes away the option of Cooper as the primary right fielder. Barring an injury, it will be tough to keep both Aguilar's and Cooper's bat in the lineup. Still, Miami has talked to Cooper about the possibility of some action at either of the outfield corners.
"As it's constructed right now, we do still think that there are enough at-bats for everyone," Ng said. "And again, in terms of the playing time for everyone, I think this is a great way and it gives Donnie a lot of options and different scenarios to keep our guys fresh."
Second base (2): Jazz Chisholm, Jon Berti
The battle will be between fourth-ranked prospect Chisholm and Isan Díaz, with Berti in the mix as a utility player. Díaz, the former prospect once deemed the second baseman of the future, has struggled with a .174/.251/.294 slash line in 56 MLB games. Last season, he elected to opt out after the COVID-19 outbreak, then returned and sustained an injury. Miami may send Chisholm, considered the future shortstop, to the Minors to open the season. But he could get the call should Díaz falter.
Third base (1): Brian Anderson
Anderson, who turns 28 in May, led all National League East third basemen in WAR in 2020. He was named a Gold Glove Award finalist for the first time after staying at the hot corner rather than bouncing back and forth from third base and the outfield. Over his past 185 games, Anderson has a slash line of .259/.343/.467 with 31 homers, 104 RBIs, an .810 OPS and a 115 OPS+. He has proven to be a formidable middle-of-the-order threat in Miami's lineup.
Shortstop (1): Miguel Rojas
The ballclub's unofficial captain enters the final year of his contract, with Chisholm waiting in the wings. Rojas, who will be 32 on Opening Day, was named a Gold Glove Award finalist in 2020 and continued to improve with the bat. He slashed .304/.392/.496 with an .888 OPS in 40 games last season. Chisholm might make the Opening Day roster as the second baseman, or he may spend more time grooming in the Minors.
Outfield (4): Corey Dickerson, Starling Marte, Adam Duvall, Magneuris Sierra
An all-veteran outfield will complement the club's young starting pitching. Dickerson and Marte return to man left and center, respectively, while Duvall takes over right. From 2019-20, Duvall compiled an .852 OPS and a .545 slugging percentage for the Braves. Until his signing, right field was expected to be an open competition among internal candidates. The left-handed-hitting Sierra, who is out of options, is a sparkplug -- but he has struggled to stay healthy. Sierra can play all three outfield spots.
Starting pitchers (5): Sandy Alcantara, Pablo López, Elieser Hernandez, Sixto Sánchez, Nick Neidert
Alcantara and López form a formidable 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation, while Hernandez made great strides (3.16 ERA) before a right lat injury cut his season short after six starts. Sánchez, the organization's top prospect, showed flashes of dominance during his first taste of the Majors. No. 9 prospect Trevor Rogers, who experienced growing pains upon his callup, had only four starts at the Double-A level before his debut. Perhaps that inexperience favors Neidert (No. 11 prospect), who has nine starts at Triple-A. Other names in the discussion include swingman Daniel Castano, Braxton Garrett (No. 7 prospect) and Paul Campbell (No. 25 prospect), a Rule 5 Draft pick who needs to make the club or be returned to the Rays. Edward Cabrera (No. 6 prospect) has an inflamed nerve in his right biceps and is not pitching. The biggest storyline of the season will surround how the Marlins manage innings for such a young staff.
Relievers (9): Anthony Bass, Yimi García, Dylan Floro, Richard Bleier, John Curtiss, Adam Cimber, Ross Detwiler, James Hoyt, Zach Pop
There are many new faces in the bullpen. Leading the way is Bass, who paced the Blue Jays with seven saves in 2020. He and García appear to be the frontrunners for the closer role, though Floro was named as another late-inning option. Both he and Curtiss appeared in last fall's World Series for the Dodgers and Rays, respectively. Detwiler and Bleier will be tasked with getting out the NL East's lefty sluggers, while Cimber and Hoyt could see the majority of the middle innings. Pop is a Rule 5 Draft selection who could start the season on the injured list since he hasn't pitched since 2019. Campbell and Castano are long-relief options.