After an unprecedented 2020 season, baseball is back. The Marlins, fresh off their first postseason berth in 17 years, will showcase some familiar faces, new bullpen arms and top prospects at big league camp. Include general manager Kim Ng among the newcomers eager for the start of spring.
"I feel like a kid on Christmas. This is my Christmas morning," Ng said as Miami opened camp. "We've talked about these guys quite a bit, every day for the last three months, and finally I get to see them live. And you get to see them out on that field, how they react to certain situations, how they compete, what their demeanor is, and you really just get to see them in their element. So I'm just incredibly excited to meet all of them in person, and to see what they bring to the table, live."
As part of COVID-19 health and safety protocols, Grapefruit League play will look different in 2021. Miami will square off against New York, St. Louis, Houston and Washington in a 24-game spring slate in preparation for a 162-game regular season. Two of those clubs are also part of the highly competitive National League East, where each of the five squads found ways to improve over the offseason.
Despite the Marlins' success in 2020, many pundits have picked them to finish last in the NL East, something manager Don Mattingly has taken stock of. Ng believes the club will be competitive with a good mix of veterans to stabilize the group and younger players learning consistency on an everyday basis.
"We've still got a lot to prove, and obviously this division, the Braves really have been the team that's kind of had everybody's number," Mattingly said. "Now it seems like everybody's loading up. I think we will be more confident moving forward because of what happened last year. I think that was good for our players. But I don't think that we're going to come in overconfident, and we know we've got a lot to prove."
Without further ado, here is a guide to what’s ahead in Spring Training, addressing some frequently asked questions.
First pitchers and catchers workout
Thursday, Feb. 18
First full-squad workout
Tuesday, Feb. 23
Where is the facility?
Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium is located at 4751 Main St., Jupiter, Fla., 33458. The Marlins share the complex with the Cardinals.
Will fans have access to the back fields like in years past?
When is the first Spring Training game?
Feb. 28 at 1:05 p.m. ET, against the Astros in West Palm Beach, Fla.
When is the first Spring Training home game?
March 1 at 1:05 p.m. ET, against the Mets.
When is the last Spring Training game?
March 28 at 1:05 p.m. ET, against the Mets in Jupiter, Fla.
Can fans attend games at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium?
Yes. Individual game tickets will be available for purchase in pods of two, four or six. A maximum of six tickets can be purchased per game during the 2021 season. For more information, visit here.
How can I watch/listen/follow Spring Training games?
Every Marlins Grapefruit League game can be followed on Gameday, and the 24 games either will air on the Marlins Flagship Station (940 WINZ AM) or stream on MLB.com. A new TV deal is nearing a conclusion, so there is no word yet on spring broadcasts.
Top prospects to know
RHP Sixto Sánchez (MLB Pipeline's No. 15 overall)
OF JJ Bleday (No. 20 overall)
RHP Max Meyer (No. 28 overall)
INF Jazz Chisholm (No. 66 overall)
RHP Edward Cabrera (No. 68 overall)
OF Jesús Sánchez (Miami's No. 5 prospect)
LHP Braxton Garrett (Miami's No. 7 prospect)
1B Lewin Díaz (Miami's No. 8 prospect)
LHP Trevor Rogers (Miami's No. 9 prospect)
OF Monte Harrison (Miami's No. 10 prospect)
Twenty-three of Miami's top 30 prospects will be at big league camp as the organization’s build continues to progress. Sánchez, Cabrera, Garrett, Rogers, Neidert and Paul Campbell (No. 25) will be in the rotation discussion, while Chisholm will battle for the second-base job. Non-roster invites Bleday and Meyer also will get a close look.
New faces to know
OF Adam Duvall
RHP Anthony Bass
RHP Dylan Floro
RHP John Curtiss
LHP Ross Detwiler
RHP Adam Cimber
RHP Paul Campbell (Rule 5 Draft pick)
RHP Zach Pop (Rule 5 Draft pick)
Duvall, the lone position-player addition this offseason, adds pop to the lineup. Six relievers will give the bullpen, which struggled in 2020, a new look.
What are the key roster battles to watch?
Who's on second? It will be a competition between former prospect Isan Díaz and Chisholm, with utility player Jon Berti in the mix. Then comes the question of who will round out the rotation? Sandy Alcantara, Pablo López and Elieser Hernandez appear to be locks. Can Sánchez and Rogers lay claim to the final two spots after experiencing growing pains during their rookie campaigns? Finally, who will be the closer? Bass led the Blue Jays with seven saves last season, but Yimi García proved to get big outs for the Marlins in 2020.
When is Opening Day?
April 1 at 4:10 p.m. ET against the reigning American League champion Rays.
Who is the likely Opening Day starting pitcher?
Alcantara got the nod last Opening Day, holding the Phillies to two runs (one earned) over 6 2/3 innings in a win. The 25-year-old righty later impressed in Game 1 of the NL Wild Card Series and NLDS. A 2019 All-Star, Alcantara has a 115 ERA+ in three seasons with Miami.
What is the likely Opening Day lineup and rotation?
Corey Dickerson, LF
Starling Marte, CF
Jesús Aguilar, 1B
Brian Anderson, 3B
Adam Duvall, RF
Jazz Chisholm, 2B
Jorge Alfaro, C
Miguel Rojas, SS
Without the designated hitter, the Marlins intend to find at-bats for first basemen Aguilar and Garrett Cooper over the course of a 162-game season. Both are right-handed bats that proved valuable in the middle of the order in 2020. Cooper might even see playing time in the outfield to give Dickerson and Duvall a breather.
Sandy Alcantara, RHP
Pablo López, RHP
Elieser Hernandez, RHP
Sixto Sánchez, RHP
Nick Neidert, RHP
Though Rogers started seven MLB games in 2020, he only had five at the Double-A level prior to his callup, as the COVID-19 outbreak likely expedited his debut. Neidert, meanwhile, made 13 starts across three levels in '19, and then dominated in the Arizona Fall League. He appeared out of the bullpen four times in '20. Young starting-pitching depth is the strength of the organization, so expect to see various names fill out the rotation as the Marlins monitor innings.
Yimi García, RHP
Mattingly mentioned García, Bass and Floro by name in regards to high-leverage situations. I give García the slight edge for now because of his success in 2020 with the Marlins as well as his relationship with Mattingly dating back to their days with the Dodgers.
Is the team planning to sell tickets to regular-season games?
Yes. The Marlins are selling memberships (aka season tickets) as well as Opening Day bundles. Marlins principal owner Bruce Sherman and CEO Derek Jeter recently said the club intends to allow "a little north" of 20 percent capacity (Marlins Park can hold 37,000), with the hope that number increases over the course of the season.