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What awaits Marlins in '20? Key dates and info

@JoeFrisaro
January 29, 2020

MIAMI -- After enduring two straight years of growing pains in a rebuild, the Marlins are inching closer to being in a position to start competing. They hope to take a big leap forward in 2020, as their youthful roster gains more experience and they continue to pursue established veterans.

MIAMI -- After enduring two straight years of growing pains in a rebuild, the Marlins are inching closer to being in a position to start competing. They hope to take a big leap forward in 2020, as their youthful roster gains more experience and they continue to pursue established veterans.

“We're starting to feel like we're getting to the top of the hill,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said.

Coming off a 57-105 campaign in 2019, there is clearly work to be done for Miami to become a contender. But the future is looking brighter, especially with some promising prospects expected to make their Major League debuts in the upcoming season.

“We're looking at it like it's time to start moving forward,” Mattingly said. “I think a lot of guys we think are going to be part of the future are moving to that Triple-A range and have been through Double-A. They know that they're right there.”

MLB.com takes a look ahead at the Marlins entering the new year.

Spring Training report date
Pitchers and catchers report on Feb. 12 to the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla. The first full-squad workout will be on Feb. 17.

First Spring Training game
The Marlins take on the split-squad Mets at 1:10 p.m. ET on Feb. 22 in Port St. Lucie, Fla. Miami’s first Grapefruit League home game is Feb. 23 against the reigning World Series-champion Nationals (split squad) at 1:05 p.m. ET.

Opening Day
The 2020 season for the Marlins opens at 4:10 p.m. ET on March 26 against the Phillies at Marlins Park. Mattingly enters his fifth season with Miami. This will be the regular-season debut for Phils skipper Joe Girardi, who managed the Marlins in 2006.

Three FAQs entering the new year

1. ETA for top prospects?
A big reason for optimism is several of the Marlins’ most-touted prospects should reach the big leagues at some point in 2020. Heading the list are right-hander Sixto Sanchez (Miami's No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline), outfielders Jesús Sánchez (No. 3) and Monte Harrison (No. 5) as well as first baseman Lewin Diaz (No. 12). The position players have the best chances to reach the big leagues before the pitchers, as the Marlins are being cautious with their young starters. All are expected to open the year at Wichita, the new home of the organization's Triple-A affiliate.

2. When will the Marlins be in the playoff picture?
Realistically, it appears to be another two or three years until the Marlins are expected to be in the postseason hunt. But rather than forecast a specific year, the answer really comes down to how quickly the starting pitching develops. The young starters are the strength of the organization. The rotation features All-Star Sandy Alcantara, left-hander Caleb Smith and righty Pablo López. At the Winter Meetings, more than half of MLB inquired about the trade status of all three. And behind them are Jordan Yamamoto and Elieser Hernandez.

The next wave includes hard-throwers like Sánchez, Edward Cabrera, Jorge Guzman, Nick Neidert and lefties Trevor Rogers and Braxton Garrett. Sánchez, Cabrera, Guzman and Neidert all project to be in the Triple-A rotation on Opening Day, with Rogers and Garrett at Double-A Jacksonville. When they’re ready is when Miami will be positioned to make a postseason push.

3. Has the offense improved?
The additions of infielder Jonathan Villar and first baseman Jesús Aguilar immediately upgrade an offense that ranked last in the Majors in homers (146) and second to last in runs (615). The Marlins then signed veteran outfielder Corey Dickerson to provide pop from the left side. Along with personnel, Miami also has hired James Rowson as its new bench coach. Rowson was the hitting coach for the Twins in 2019, a club that set an MLB single-season home run record with 307. The fences at Marlins Park moving in a bit in center and right-center field also should increase home run and run production.

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