MIAMI -- With a vastly improved farm system and a core of club-controlled big league tested-players, the Marlins will enter Spring Training with as much organizational depth as they’ve had in years.
Camp opens with pitchers’ and catchers’ workouts on Feb. 12, and full-squad practices get underway on Feb. 17 at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla.
For many already on the 40-man roster, just making the Opening Day roster will be challenging. The task looks to be more difficult for those not on the roster. Still, there are several non-roster invitees who could earn their way onto the roster and become significant contributors in 2020.
MLB.com is taking a look at five NRIs to keep an eye on:
OF Matt Kemp
The 26-man rosters open an opportunity for a veteran like Kemp, a three-time All-Star -- most recently in 2018 with the Dodgers. The 35-year-old outfielder, of course, previously played for Miami manager Don Mattingly when both were in Los Angeles. Mattingly has witnessed firsthand what Kemp has accomplished at his peak. The question is whether he has anything left.
Kemp played in just 20 big league games for the Reds in 2019. The 14-year veteran has 281 career home runs and is a threat from the right side. His road to making the club will be challenging, especially after the club reached a deal with free-agent outfielder Matt Joyce. But if Kemp shows promise, the Marlins may create space for the slugger.
LHP/RHP Pat Venditte
If the situation calls for a lefty or a righty reliever, it really doesn’t matter to Venditte. The 34-year-old is a switch-pitcher, so he can attack hitters as a southpaw or right-hander when the situation is appropriate. Venditte was a 20th-round Draft pick of the Yankees in 2008, and he has familiarity with many in the Marlins’ organization. A year ago, Venditte was in the Giants’ system and appeared in two games with San Francisco. At Triple-A Sacramento, he had a 2.85 ERA in 47 1/3 innings.
MLB now has the rule that requires relievers to face at least three batters. That shouldn't be an issue for Venditte. It actually could improve his chances of making the club.
LHP Alex Vesia
Homegrown, Vesia was the Marlins’ 17th-round pick in the 2018 Draft from Cal State East Bay. The left-hander is a sleeper to win an Opening Day bullpen spot. A year ago, he had success at three different levels, posting a 2.56 ERA at Class A Clinton, a 1.93 ERA at Class A Advanced Jupiter and a 0.00 ERA (16 1/3 scoreless innings) at Double-A Jacksonville. Vesia also impressed in the Arizona Fall League. He has a deceptive delivery, which makes him tough to hit. If he picks up where he left off in '19, the lefty will have momentum heading into '20.
RHP Tommy Eveld
After taking a step backwards in 2019, Eveld has become a bit of a forgotten reliever in the system. But the right-hander is a candidate for a bounce-back season, which could possibly land him a big league opportunity. Eveld had a combined 5.11 ERA a year ago at Triple-A New Orleans and Jacksonville. His results improved at Double-A, where he had a 2.77 ERA in 26 innings.
RHP Aaron Northcraft
Northcraft has pitched nine seasons in the Minor Leagues, and he has international experience as well, previously pitching in Venezuela. Last year, the 29-year-old was in the Mariners’ system, seeing action at three levels. At Triple-A, he has a 1.87 ERA in 33 2/3 innings. Northcraft has been used as a starter and reliever, but he has never pitched in the big leagues. Perhaps, this is the year he does.