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Anderson No. 9 among Top 10 3B prospects

Big '17 season has 24-year-old on cusp of starting job
MLB.com

MIAMI -- After a slow start in 2017, Brian Anderson had a strong finish. The 24-year-old made an impression as a September callup, and he will head into Spring Training competing for the Marlins' third-base job.

It's not a given Anderson will get the nod, because veteran Martin Prado, if he's healthy and isn't traded, is the front-runner to secure the spot. But whether it is by Opening Day or at a later date, Anderson has placed himself in the conversation for being Miami's third baseman of the future.

MIAMI -- After a slow start in 2017, Brian Anderson had a strong finish. The 24-year-old made an impression as a September callup, and he will head into Spring Training competing for the Marlins' third-base job.

It's not a given Anderson will get the nod, because veteran Martin Prado, if he's healthy and isn't traded, is the front-runner to secure the spot. But whether it is by Opening Day or at a later date, Anderson has placed himself in the conversation for being Miami's third baseman of the future.

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

Anderson's progression also has earned him a spot on MLB Pipeline's list of the Top 10 third-base prospects, coming in at No. 9. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the No. 6 prospect in the Marlins' system.

Anderson made some big strides a year ago, working through an early slump at Double-A Jacksonville, eventually participating in the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in July. He advanced to Triple-A New Orleans before his Sept. 1 MLB debut.

"They pretty much told me they were happy with what I did," Anderson said last September after being called up. "They were happy with how I competed out there at a higher level, and they wanted to see me get more and more consistent and do that over the course of a full year."

A year ago, over 87 games with Jacksonville, Anderson had a respectable slash line of .251/.341/.450 with 14 home runs and 55 RBIs.

Video: Anderson named Marlins' Pipeline hitter of the year

Anderson earned a spot on the United States team in the Futures Game, which was played at Marlins Park. He started at DH and had two hits, including a double, before switching to third base and remaining on the field through the final out.

"It's what I've played my whole life to get, get this opportunity, and it was awesome and I had a lot of fun," Anderson said of the Futures Game.

Shortly after the Futures Game, Anderson was promoted to New Orleans, where his numbers took off. He appeared in 33 games, hitting .339/.416/.602 with eight home runs and 26 RBIs. All told, Anderson hit 22 home runs with 81 RBIs to go along with a .275/.361/.492 slash line in 120 Minor League games last year.

Video: Anderson discusses Futures Game during BP

With Prado on the disabled list following Anderson's callup, the rookie handled most of the action at third base. The results were solid in 25 big league games -- .262/.337/.369 with seven doubles, a triple and eight RBIs. The power didn't show as much, as he didn't hit a home run in 84 at-bats, but that's expected to change as he becomes more acclimated to MLB pitching.

The Marlins are restructuring their roster and are open to giving opportunities to their prospects, but Anderson is in a similar situation to many other players in the system. His development won't be rushed.

If the Marlins don't consider Anderson ready to be a regular on Opening Day, there's a chance he could open the year at New Orleans. On the other hand, there is a possibility that Prado could be dealt or even play left field, clearing the way for Anderson. First, Prado must re-establish his health. He missed time in 2017 due to left hamstring and knee injuries. The fact he's overcoming issues to his legs could decrease the chances Miami uses him in left field, especially in spacious Marlins Park.

For Anderson, it's about continued development. If he produces in Spring Training, he could make his case to being a big league regular.

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

 

Miami Marlins, Brian Anderson

Inbox: Where do Yelich, Marlins stand?

Beat reporter Joe Frisaro answers fans' questions
MLB.com

Is Christian Yelich on the trade block? What will it take for the Marlins to trade him?
-- @IzzTenorio via Twitter

The Yelich situation has gotten more uncomfortable, especially after the ESPN story was published last week, stating the relationship between the player and the club is beyond repair. The Marlins are listening on potential offers, and I still wouldn't be surprised if the 26-year-old is traded before Spring Training starts. Recently, Peter Gammons reported on MLB Network that the Marlins and Braves have talked, and Atlanta is reluctant to part with top prospect Ronald Acuna. I've previously reported Miami had interest in Acuna in a potential trade. In fairness to Yelich, the frustration of being part of five straight losing seasons, plus the fact the team is building for the future, makes it understandable that he'd want a fresh start. If the club holds tight and keeps Yelich, I'd anticipate someone in the organization would have to reach out to the player and his representatives to try to smooth the situation as best they can. It would be counterproductive to have a disgruntled player in camp.

Is Christian Yelich on the trade block? What will it take for the Marlins to trade him?
-- @IzzTenorio via Twitter

The Yelich situation has gotten more uncomfortable, especially after the ESPN story was published last week, stating the relationship between the player and the club is beyond repair. The Marlins are listening on potential offers, and I still wouldn't be surprised if the 26-year-old is traded before Spring Training starts. Recently, Peter Gammons reported on MLB Network that the Marlins and Braves have talked, and Atlanta is reluctant to part with top prospect Ronald Acuna. I've previously reported Miami had interest in Acuna in a potential trade. In fairness to Yelich, the frustration of being part of five straight losing seasons, plus the fact the team is building for the future, makes it understandable that he'd want a fresh start. If the club holds tight and keeps Yelich, I'd anticipate someone in the organization would have to reach out to the player and his representatives to try to smooth the situation as best they can. It would be counterproductive to have a disgruntled player in camp.

If J.T. Realmuto is traded, does Tomas Telis get a chance to be a regular?
-- @Ehsan_Kassim via Twitter

First, I'm not convinced Realmuto will be traded before Spring Training begins on Feb. 14. The asking price is high, and the closer we get to the reporting date, my sense is the less likely a major trade will be consummated. Clubs are in the process of preparing to go to Spring Training with pretty much the rosters they already have in place.

:: Submit a question to the Marlins Inbox ::

As for Telis, he remains a fascinating player because he shows so much promise at the plate. He's a switch-hitter with some power, and he has a good approach. What the Marlins need to determine is what position Telis plays. He spent much of last year at Triple-A New Orleans, and when he was with the Marlins, he played more innings at first base (167 1/3) than behind the plate (18). Even at New Orleans, Telis saw a lot of action at first base (123 innings), although he caught 380 1/3 innings. Defensively, there are questions about whether he can handle catching at the big league level. If Realmuto is dealt, I'd expect Chad Wallach would get more playing time. In that scenario, Miami likely would go outside the organization to find a regular, or at least someone who could play a majority of the games.

Video: SF@MIA: Telis knocks in two runners with a double

What are the chances of seeing Jorge Guzman in the Majors in 2018?
-- @RobertLarosa07 via Twitter

A centerpiece in the Giancarlo Stanton trade with the Yankees, Guzman will be one of the most followed players in the Marlins' system. But the 21-year-old, who has had his fastball clocked as high as 103 mph, has not pitched beyond the lower Class A levels. Chances are he will open on Miami's Class A Batavia squad in the Short-Season New York-Penn League. Guzman, Miami's No. 2 prospect per MLB Pipeline, threw just 66 2/3 innings last year, and he's not on the 40-man roster, either. A more realistic MLB debut date is 2019. There is no need to rush his development in any way.

Video: Callis on Marlins acquiring Guzman's electric arm

What's your best estimate for how Brian Anderson, Martin Prado, Garrett Cooper and Justin Bour will get their at-bats? I would hope Cooper can handle a corner outfield spot to keep him in the lineup. Prado in the outfield is risky due to health, but I really want to see Anderson get his at-bats.
-- @all_right_Miami via Twitter

Prado is the key here. Remember, the 34-year-old third baseman appeared in just 37 games last year. He missed substantial time due to hamstring and knee issues. If healthy, I anticipate Prado being the regular third baseman. Some feel he could move to left field, making way for Anderson. I don't see it. Marlins Park is too spacious to ask the veteran to cover that much ground. Prado is solid defensively at third base, and that is where he's comfortable. If he establishes health, playing regularly at third also increases his chances to be traded, perhaps in July.

Anderson showed promise as a September callup, but the Marlins' No. 6 prospect will have to show in Spring Training that he is ready to stick in the big leagues. The organization may want him to work on some things, and if so, he could open at Triple-A New Orleans. Bour will play every day, if he's healthy. Cooper, acquired from the Yankees, is a right-handed-hitting first-base option. He hasn't played an inning in the big leagues in the outfield, but in his Minor League career, he had more than 100 innings at both left and right field.

Video: Top Prospects: Brian Anderson, 3B, Marlins

What are the chances of adding a veteran outfielder like Jose Bautista on a one-year deal? He could provide some pop and leadership for a young team.
-- @DustinLindbom via Twitter

Hot Stove Tracker

Not a bad idea. I could see this making sense, especially if Yelich is dealt. I don't see it happening if Yelich stays. Defensively, Bautista isn't ideal in right in Marlins Park's expansive outfield. But he is familiar with the position. At age 37, Bautista is still a threat. He could also see playing time in Miami as an option, because if he has a solid first half, he could be a trade candidate in July.

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

 

Miami Marlins, Garrett Cooper, Martin Prado, Tomas Telis, Christian Yelich

Source: Miami interested in Cuban OF Martinez

MLB.com

MIAMI -- As part of their organizational makeover, the Marlins are placing a greater emphasis and more resources into signing international players. One of their early targets is Cuban-born outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez.

According to a source, MLB.com has confirmed Miami's interest in the 21-year-old left-handed power hitter, who held a private workout for the team on Thursday at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla. Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill was in attendance at the workout, though the club has not commented on it.

MIAMI -- As part of their organizational makeover, the Marlins are placing a greater emphasis and more resources into signing international players. One of their early targets is Cuban-born outfielder Julio Pablo Martinez.

According to a source, MLB.com has confirmed Miami's interest in the 21-year-old left-handed power hitter, who held a private workout for the team on Thursday at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla. Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill was in attendance at the workout, though the club has not commented on it.

According to Baseball America, the Marlins, Yankees and Rangers are considered the three favorites for Martinez, who is also expected to have a private workout with the Yankees at their complex in Tampa, Fla.

The Marlins are going through a transitional phase on their international side. In recent months, Fernando Seguignol was named director of international operations, replacing Albert Gonzalez, who has joined the Royals after spending 12 years with Miami.

The Marlins would be looking to sign Martinez as part of the 2018-19 international signing period, which starts on July 2. That's when they get their new international pool figure.

Due to a couple of offseason trades, the Marlins are more limited in what they can currently spend on the international market, as they've already traded away $1.25 million in pool money.

In November, Miami dealt right-hander Michael King and $250,000 of pool money to the Yankees for left-hander Caleb Smith and first baseman/outfielder Garrett Cooper. A more hefty exchange came in December. The Marlins sent Dee Gordon and $1 million of international pool money to the Mariners for three prospects -- Nick Neidert, Chris Torres and Robert Dugger.

At the time, the Yankees and Mariners were making strong pushes for Shohei Ohtani, who eventually signed with the Angels.

Of the three favorites, the Rangers are better positioned -- pool wise -- to sign Martinez during the current international signing period, which runs through June 15.

Martinez defected from Cuba in November before establishing residency in Haiti. He's already petitioned MLB to become a free agent, and that formality is expected to happen before the current signing period ends.

Martinez is regarded as a first-round caliber talent who batted .333 with six home runs and 24 stolen bases in his final season playing in Cuba.

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

 

Miami Marlins

Five low-cost starters for Marlins to target

MLB.com

MIAMI -- Through trades, the Marlins stocked their Minor League system with several potentially high-end pitchers. Four of them are in the Top 10 on MLB Pipeline's list of Marlins prospects -- Sandy Alcantara (No. 1), Jorge Guzman (No. 2), Nick Neidert (No. 7) and Merandy Gonzalez (No. 10).

At some point during the season, the Marlins anticipate seeing some of these prospects. They just might not be big league ready by Opening Day.

MIAMI -- Through trades, the Marlins stocked their Minor League system with several potentially high-end pitchers. Four of them are in the Top 10 on MLB Pipeline's list of Marlins prospects -- Sandy Alcantara (No. 1), Jorge Guzman (No. 2), Nick Neidert (No. 7) and Merandy Gonzalez (No. 10).

At some point during the season, the Marlins anticipate seeing some of these prospects. They just might not be big league ready by Opening Day.

In case they're not, the Marlins are surveying the market for starting pitching depth. Before Spring Training gets underway on Feb. 14, the organization would like to add one or two veterans to low-cost free-agent contracts.

The candidates likely will be starters with previous track records of durability, or those looking to re-establish their careers.

MLB.com takes a look at five potential free agent targets for the Marlins:

1. LHP Wade Miley 
Miley has been on Miami's radar in the past, and the club once again could make a push for a one-year deal with the 31-year-old. The left-hander was with the Orioles last year, posting an 8-15 record with a 5.61 ERA in 157 1/3 innings. Miley has a history of durability, making at least 30 starts in six straight seasons.

Video: OAK@BAL: Miley fans six, allows two over six innings

2. RHP Chris Tillman 
A teammate of Miley's in Baltimore last year, Tillman is a bounce-back candidate. He comes off a rough season where he was limited to 92 1/3 innings due to right shoulder issues. The 29-year-old had his average fastball velocity drop to 90.65 mph last year, according to Statcast™. If he's able to regain arm strength, he could be a low-risk, high-reward pickup. When healthy, Tillman has been a top of the rotation-caliber starter. In '16, he was 16-6 with a 3.77 ERA in 172 innings.

Video: TEX@BAL: Tillman tosses six innings of one-run ball

3. LHP Jaime Garcia
Garcia was with three clubs last year, and ended up being on a playoff team with the Yankees. He started off with the Braves, before being dealt to the Twins, and then to New York. Marlins vice president of baseball development and scouting Gary Denbo and several new Miami team executives were previously with the Yankees, and they have a good feel for what the lefty can offer. Garcia combined for a 5-10 record with a 4.41 ERA in 157 innings in 2017.

Video: NYY@CLE Gm 1: Garcia allows no hits in 2 2/3 innings

4. RHP Ricky Nolasco 
No stranger to the Marlins, Nolasco is the organization's all-time leader in victories (81), strikeouts (1,001) and innings pitched (1,225 2/3). Now 35, the right-hander broke in with the Marlins in 2006 and was with the club until July of 2013, when he was dealt to the Dodgers. Nolasco was 6-15 with a 4.92 ERA in 181 innings with the Angels last year,

Video: LAA@WSH: Nolasco hurls 5 2/3 strong innings

5. RHP Bartolo Colon
At 44, Colon is wanting to pitch at least one more season, and the Marlins could provide a fit in a low-pressure environment. With all of his experiences, Colon would be a nice addition to mix in with young starters. Reportedly, Colon would only consider a non-roster invitation from the Mets. However, Miami could be a fit with for the 20-year veteran on an incentives-based big league contract. 

Video: DET@MIN: Colon tosses 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball

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

 

Miami Marlins

Marlins sign 1B Rodriguez to Minors pact

MLB.com

MIAMI -- Jonathan Rodriguez, a power-hitting first baseman and outfielder, has signed a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training. 

The 28-year-old played for Double-A Chattanooga in 2017, batting .309, which placed him second to Marlins prospect Braxton Lee for the Southern League batting title.

MIAMI -- Jonathan Rodriguez, a power-hitting first baseman and outfielder, has signed a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training. 

The 28-year-old played for Double-A Chattanooga in 2017, batting .309, which placed him second to Marlins prospect Braxton Lee for the Southern League batting title.

Rodriguez is a power-hitting threat, belting 21 home runs in 119 games for Chattanooga. A native of Puerto Rico, he provides right-handed hitting depth, and will compete for a roster spot in Spring Training.

Rodriguez and Lee battled it out for the Southern League batting title in 2017. Both finished at .309, with Lee technically getting the edge by a percentage point in a race that went down to the final at-bat.

The two will now be in Spring Training competing for positions on the Marlins.

Lee was acquired last June from the Rays as part of the Adeiny Hechavarria trade, joining Double-A Jacksonville for the remainder of the season.

Lee is already on the 40-man roster, while Rodriguez will try to fight his way onto the Marlins' roster in Spring Training.

Listed at 6-foot-2, 250-pounds, Rodriguez was a 17th round Draft pick of the Cardinals in 2009.

In nine Minor League seasons, he has a career slash line of .273/.368/.450 with 119 home runs and 486 RBIs in 913 games.

In 2017, Rodriguez was in the Twins' system, and played 119 games at Double-A and five for Triple-A Rochester, adding one additional home run at that level. 

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

 

Miami Marlins, Jonathan Rodriguez

Ziegler says he won't ask Marlins to trade him

Veteran reliever feeling good after injury-plagued '17 season
MLB.com

MIAMI -- Brad Ziegler signed a two-year, $16 million contract with the Marlins last offseason, and the veteran right-hander has every intention to stick with the club until he is told otherwise.

Ziegler addressed his status and the direction of the organization as a guest Wednesday morning on Sirius XM Fantasy Baseball, hosted by Craig Mish and Jim Bowden.

MIAMI -- Brad Ziegler signed a two-year, $16 million contract with the Marlins last offseason, and the veteran right-hander has every intention to stick with the club until he is told otherwise.

Ziegler addressed his status and the direction of the organization as a guest Wednesday morning on Sirius XM Fantasy Baseball, hosted by Craig Mish and Jim Bowden.

Asked if he has requested a trade, Ziegler said: "No, I have not. I understand the frustration. I made sure my agent would not do that. I don't think he would do that anyways. He knows. I'm happy where I'm at. Whatever team wants to have me the most, that's the team I want to play for, because I want to be wanted wherever I'm at."

The Marlins have already had a busy offseason, trading Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon and Marcell Ozuna.

On Tuesday, Joe Longo, the agent for outfielder Christian Yelich, told ESPN.com that his client wants to be traded. In recent weeks, catcher J.T. Realmuto and infielder Starlin Castro, less publicly, expressed a desire not to be part of a rebuild situation in Miam

Ziegler, who will make $9 million this year, is a possibility to be dealt, either before Opening Day or around the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Earlier in the offseason, the Cardinals were among the clubs that had discussions with the Marlins regarding the right-hander.

Video: SD@MIA: Ziegler seals the win by earning ninth save

If he stays, Ziegler is a front-runner to close in Miami. The 38-year-old saved 10 games last year and has 95 saves in his career.

After the Marlins went 77-85 in 2017, new ownership has decided to restructure the roster and build from the bottom up. Ziegler, who has been part of rebuilds in the past, understands the industry.

"When we were not a playoff team with the best player in the National League, and another All-Star, and a former batting champ and stolen-base champ that have been traded away this winter, it kind of feels like it's going to be a challenge for us to compete this year," Ziegler said. "It doesn't mean we're not going to go out and give it everything we've got. I get the mentality, and the frustration.

"But I signed a two-year deal to play in Miami. I'm fully expecting to play those two years in Miami. If they end up trading me at some point, it's not going to be because I asked them to. It's going to be because they felt like it was the best move for the team going forward."

Ziegler had an injury-plagued 2017, spending time on the disabled list twice due to a right back strain. The right-hander said he suffered an injury early in Spring Training and tried to labor through it in the first half. He finished with a 4.79 ERA in 53 appearances.

"I feel really good," Ziegler said. "I've been playing catch every morning about 7 a.m. It gets my body woken up for the early Spring Training work. I'm feeling good right now."

 

Miami Marlins, Brad Ziegler

Cutch deal affects markets for Yelich, Realmuto

Giants likely done making major trades after acquiring 2013 NL MVP
MLB.com

MIAMI -- The trade market has heated up in recent days, and the Pirates are at the forefront of stoking the flames. Pittsburgh on Monday dealt former National League MVP outfielder Andrew McCutchen to the Giants just two days after ace Gerrit Cole was sent to the Astros.

The two major moves have reshaped the market, which could potentially impact the number of clubs coveting Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich and catcher J.T. Realmuto.

MIAMI -- The trade market has heated up in recent days, and the Pirates are at the forefront of stoking the flames. Pittsburgh on Monday dealt former National League MVP outfielder Andrew McCutchen to the Giants just two days after ace Gerrit Cole was sent to the Astros.

The two major moves have reshaped the market, which could potentially impact the number of clubs coveting Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich and catcher J.T. Realmuto.

Yelich and Realmuto have been at the center of trade speculation for weeks, but right now talks have simmered for both. The same is true for second baseman Starlin Castro, who recently expressed a desire to be dealt.

Hot Stove Tracker

Realmuto is entering arbitration for the first time and is not eligible for free agency until after the 2020 season. Yelich is signed through '21 with a club option for '22.

With both cost-friendly and under club control, the Marlins have no urgency to move either one. Still, the club remains open to listening, but they're seeking overpay trade scenarios. The Braves, Nationals, D-backs, Padres, White Sox and Phillies are among the more than dozen clubs interested.

Video: MIA@WSH: Realmuto rips a triple to left in the 5th

With nothing seriously in the works, the Marlins are prepared to head into Spring Training with Yelich and Realmuto. Barring a team stepping up in the next couple of weeks, it appears a more realistic trade scenario could be before Opening Day or at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in July.

That could change, if there is more movement in the market.

The McCutchen trade likely means the Giants are not a realistic fit for Yelich, because the prospect package in return would be extremely high. San Francisco could opt for a free agent like Lorenzo Cain rather than take away from its system.

Pittsburgh is a potential sleeper for Yelich now that it cleared McCutchen's $14.75 million 2018 salary off its books. Part of Yelich's appeal to clubs is that he'll make $7 million in '18, and he's owed $43.25 million through '21. He has a $15 million club option for '22 with a $1.25 million buyout.

The Pirates just added more prospects to their system after the Cole and McCutchen trades, which puts them in a better position to pursue Yelich.

Video: Callis on Pirates' top prospects from Cutch trade

More than 15 teams have touched base on Yelich. Perhaps the A's are a match?

The Marlins had discussions with Oakland regarding Marcell Ozuna, who was dealt to the Cardinals in December. Ozuna attended an event last weekend in St. Louis, where he noted that he thought he might be dealt to the A's. If Oakland was interested in Ozuna, chances are it also discussed Yelich, and it has the high-end prospects that could make a deal work.

The Marlins aren't forcing the issue for another major trade, and with Spring Training set to open on Feb. 14, there's a greater chance Miami will add more low-cost outfield and pitching depth than deal Yelich or Realmuto.

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

 

Miami Marlins, J.T. Realmuto, Christian Yelich

At plate, Sheffield struck fear in foes

Slugger compiled great career numbers with offensive prowess
MLB.com

The other day, we talked about how, by some defensive metrics, Andruw Jones was the greatest defensive center fielder in history, ahead of Willie Mays and Paul Blair and the rest. This is an extraordinary claim. The legend of Mays, Blair, Garry Maddox, Curt Flood and so many others is such that more people are likely to say that those defensive metrics are nonsensical than agree with the conclusion.

Well, by defensive wins above replacement (WAR), Gary Sheffield is the worst defensive outfielder in history.

The other day, we talked about how, by some defensive metrics, Andruw Jones was the greatest defensive center fielder in history, ahead of Willie Mays and Paul Blair and the rest. This is an extraordinary claim. The legend of Mays, Blair, Garry Maddox, Curt Flood and so many others is such that more people are likely to say that those defensive metrics are nonsensical than agree with the conclusion.

Well, by defensive wins above replacement (WAR), Gary Sheffield is the worst defensive outfielder in history.

Are people more or less likely to believe that one?

Sheffield was a crazy good hitter. You can talk about his connection to steroids -- he admitted using "the cream" in 2002 to help his right leg recover from injury -- but beyond that, there hasn't ever been a hitter quite like Sheff. Before the pitch, he waved the bat like he was an out-of-control madman about to go on a rampage. And then the pitch would come, and he was surgical in the way that he smashed the ball in whatever direction seemed appropriate.

Hall of Fame coverage

It was ridiculous how precise a hitter Sheffield was. The only members of the 500-homer club with fewer strikeouts than Sheff are Ted Williams, Mel Ott and, for the time being, Albert Pujols (Pujols will likely pass Sheffield in strikeouts early in the 2018 season). Sheffield only struck out 80 times in a season once, and he played in a time of many strikeouts. He walked 300 more times than he struck out for his career. Sheffield might be the last player to finish a career that much in the black.

Video: WS1997 Gm3: Sheffield homers in 1st for early lead

Yes, Sheffield's career hitting numbers are extraordinary, legendary. He's 23rd all time in Rbat (the hitting component for Baseball Reference WAR), ahead even of surefire first-ballot choice Chipper Jones (not to mention Mike Schmidt, Reggie Jackson, Carl Yastrzemski, Al Kaline and Ken Griffey Jr.).

Lists like these are always a bit deceptive, but they're fun anyway -- here's a list of the eight players in baseball history with 500 homers and 200 stolen bases:
1. Barry Bonds
2. Hank Aaron
3. Alex Rodriguez
4. Mays
5. Griffey Jr.
6. Frank Robinson
7. Jackson
8. Sheffield

Of these, Sheffield has the second-highest on-base percentage behind Bonds, and he struck out by far the least. Sheffield, Bonds and Aaron are the only ones to walk more than they struck out.

Sheffield's hitting is legendary, but if you buy into defensive stats at all, his defense is just about as legendary the other way. By Baseball Reference's figuring, Sheffield was 195 runs below average, an astonishing number that roughly means he cost his teams 20 or so games just with his defense.

Video: MLB Now responds to Kenny's essay on Sheffield

To dig into those numbers even more: Sheffield's 60.3 career WAR puts him a full 13 wins below the average Hall of Fame right fielder, which seems to suggest he has no Hall of Fame case. But his ERA is that low because of how much his defense drags him down. His 79.9 offensive WAR ranks him fifth among right fielders only behind four of the greatest players in baseball history, Babe Ruth, Aaron, Robinson and Ott. This guy was an all-time hitter.

Can someone be such a poor defensive player that it all but cancels out such legendary hitting?

In Sheffield's case, there's a more pertinent question: Why did he put up such poor defensive statistics? Sheffield was a fantastic athlete. It isn't hard to understand why, say, Adam Dunn or Frank Howard struggled in the outfield -- they were big men, not fast, not especially agile. But Sheffield came up to the big leagues as a shortstop. He was fast, nimble, had remarkable hand-eye coordination. He had a pretty good arm. In other words, Sheffield had everything necessary to at least be an average outfielder; he seemed to have everything necessary to be an outstanding one. Bill James, for one, believes he was a better outfielder than these numbers suggest.

Video: WS1997 Gm7: Sheffield robs Thome with sliding catch

But these rough defensive numbers are very real. Take something as simple as putouts. As a right fielder, Sheffield made 1.9 putouts per nine innings -- .2 less than the league average. The stats work out the same in left. That means 32 more baseballs a year dropped when hit in Sheffield's range than the average outfielder. That's a lot of singles and doubles where outs should be.

As for why, it's hard to say. Sheffield was an emotional player. He played for eight teams in his career -- never more than six seasons for any one team -- and no other player of his caliber had that disorienting of a career (with the possible exception of Rickey Henderson, who played for nine teams, but five of them in the last few years of his career when he was trying to hang on).

Sheffield, like Luke Skywalker, always looked away, to the future, to the horizon, never his mind on where he was. Hmm. He was a disappointment with Milwaukee, and he was traded to San Diego. He won a batting title with San Diego, and he was traded to Florida. He was probably the best hitter in the league in 1996, and the next year he won a World Series with Florida. And he was traded to Los Angeles. He averaged .312 with 38 homers and 103 RBIs for the Dodgers, and he was traded to Atlanta. He hit .330 with 39 homers and 132 RBIs with Atlanta, and he left for the Yankees.

Video: FLA@SF: Sheffield homers to tie game in 9th

Some of these moves were his doing, some of them weren't, but it leaves behind an impression of instability. Sheffield made nine All-Star teams and he finished top five in the MVP Award voting three times, but he never seemed to be viewed as one of the greatest players in the game. Since appearing on the Hall of Fame ballot in 2015, Sheffield has not yet drawn 15 percent of the vote. Part of it, maybe even most of it, is the steroid connection. But the poor defensive numbers and the career of many teams have left their marks, too.

I have said before that if I was a pitcher, the two scariest hitters of my lifetime would have been Jeff Bagwell and Sheffield. Bagwell's intimidation came from the still way he would stand at the plate, that big wide stance, that bat just fluttering ever so slightly. This was a guy who meant to turn on a pitch and pull it all the way to Shaker Heights.

And Sheffield was the opposite, all that nervous energy, that bat waving wildly behind him, that glare he would give pitchers that showed this was all very personal. Sheff is almost certainly not going to get elected by the Baseball Writers' Association of America. But if there was a scary pitcher and hitter Hall of Fame, he'd be a first-ballot selection. I'd love to watch him face Bob Gibson, day after day after day.

Joe Posnanski is a national columnist for MLB.com.

 

Mayors tour Marlins Park, discuss HR sculpture

MLB.com

MIAMI -- The Marlins had a couple of distinguished guests tour their ballpark on Tuesday. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez and City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez each made separate visits, and according to the team, they discussed a variety of topics.

Among them was the future of the colorful home run sculpture, which stands more than 70 feet tall and is protected by the county's Arts in Public Places program.

MIAMI -- The Marlins had a couple of distinguished guests tour their ballpark on Tuesday. Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez and City of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez each made separate visits, and according to the team, they discussed a variety of topics.

Among them was the future of the colorful home run sculpture, which stands more than 70 feet tall and is protected by the county's Arts in Public Places program.

The Marlins have never publicly said they want the sculpture to go, but there is a possibility the fixture that stands behind the wall in center field could be removed.

"I just don't think they're all that crazy about it," Gimenez told the Miami Herald. "I'm not a fan. We're looking at it. … We'll see if anything can be done."

After each home run by a Marlins player, it sprays water and features mechanical spinning marlins. It's been the subject of discussion since it was revealed when the park opened in 2012.

The structure cost $2.5 million, and the club paid for it as part of the team's $155 million commitment to the building, which is owned by Miami-Dade County.

On Tuesday, Gimenez encouraged local residents to give the Marlins' new ownership group, headed by Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter, a chance.

Tweet from @MayorGimenez: Today, I met with the new management team of the Miami @Marlins, including #DerekJeter. We had a great meeting and toured @MarlinsPark. pic.twitter.com/QPUyLXNgaq

During the day, the Marlins gave Gimenez an early birthday present, a special cake with the team's logo. The mayor turned 64 on Wednesday.

The Marlins are going through roster restructuring, and they have parted with some of their core players, including Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon and Marcell Ozuna. After the tour, Gimenez was encouraged by the team's new direction.

"He wants to build a team the right way, from the ground up," Gimenez told reporters. "I understand what he's doing. It's going to be tough for a couple of years. … He wants to do right by the town."

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

 

Miami Marlins

Marlins sign Van Slyke, Diaz to Minors deals

Pair receives invitations to ST; Cloyd, Kickham also added as NRIs
MLB.com

MIAMI -- The Marlins added right-handed hitting and pitching depth to their system by signing outfielder/first baseman Scott Van Slyke and right-hander Jumbo Diaz to Minor League contracts on Saturday with invitations to Spring Training.

Miami also added right-hander Tyler Cloyd and lefty Mike Kickham as non-roster invitees for when Spring Training opens at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla., on Feb. 14.

MIAMI -- The Marlins added right-handed hitting and pitching depth to their system by signing outfielder/first baseman Scott Van Slyke and right-hander Jumbo Diaz to Minor League contracts on Saturday with invitations to Spring Training.

Miami also added right-hander Tyler Cloyd and lefty Mike Kickham as non-roster invitees for when Spring Training opens at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla., on Feb. 14.

Van Slyke was traded from the Dodgers to the Reds last July as part of the deal that sent lefty Tony Cingrani to Los Angeles. The 31-year-old previously played for Marlins manager Don Mattingly when the two were with the Dodgers.

Miami has a shortage of right-handed-hitting outfielders.

Van Slyke saw limited action with the Dodgers last season, appearing in 29 games. In 355 big league games, he owns a .242/.326/.417 slash line with 29 home runs and 95 RBIs. The son of former big leaguer, Andy Van Slyke, Scott dealt with right wrist and lower back injuries in 2016.

Diaz, 33, made 31 appearances for the Rays last season. The right-hander posted a 5.70 ERA with a 4.52 FIP in 30 innings, and he averaged 8.4 strikeouts and 4.5 walks per nine innings. He broke in with the Reds in 2014, and has 173 games of big league experience with a 4.02 ERA.

Cloyd, 30, broke in as a starter with the Phillies in 2012. He signed with the Samsung Lions of the Korea Baseball Organization in '15. He signed a Minor League contract with the Yankees in '16, and he made one relief appearance for the Mariners last season.

Kickham, 29, last pitched in the big leagues with the Giants in 2014. The lefty has 30 1/3 innings of big league experience.

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

 

Miami Marlins

J.T., Straily, Bour appear headed for arbitration

Rojas, Dietrich agree to terms on 1-year contracts
MLB.com

MIAMI -- The Marlins reached agreement with infielders Miguel Rojas and Derek Dietrich on one-year deals Friday, but the organization was unable to come to terms with three of its core players who are arbitration-eligible for the first time.

Miami now is preparing for arbitration hearings with catcher J.T. Realmuto, right-hander Dan Straily and first baseman Justin Bour. The sides were unable to reach agreements prior to Friday's 1 p.m. ET salary-exchange deadline.

MIAMI -- The Marlins reached agreement with infielders Miguel Rojas and Derek Dietrich on one-year deals Friday, but the organization was unable to come to terms with three of its core players who are arbitration-eligible for the first time.

Miami now is preparing for arbitration hearings with catcher J.T. Realmuto, right-hander Dan Straily and first baseman Justin Bour. The sides were unable to reach agreements prior to Friday's 1 p.m. ET salary-exchange deadline.

MLB.com has confirmed Realmuto has filed for $3.5 million, while the Marlins' offer is $2.9 million. Bour's figure is $3.4 million, with the team countering at $3 million. Straily's gap is closer, as the right-hander is seeking $3.55 million to the team's $3.375 million.

Avoiding arbitration remains an option because negotiations are permitted up until the hearing begins. But the Marlins have traditionally been a "file and trial" franchise, increasing the likelihood the three will have their 2018 salaries determined by an arbitration panel. Arbitrators will pick the figure filed either by the team or the player.

Five Marlins qualified for arbitration, with Realmuto, Straily, Bour and Rojas going through the process for the first time. Dietrich is in his second year of eligibility.

Video: MIA@ARI: Straily fans Pollock and gets out of a jam

Rojas, according to sources, avoided arbitration by agreeing to a deal for $1.18 million. He made $535,000 in 2017.

Due to a broken left thumb and left shoulder issues, Rojas was limited to 90 games last year but was still impactful playing mostly shortstop, compiling a .290/.361/.375 slash line. The right-handed-hitting utility player has 3 years and 43 days of service time.

Rojas and JT Riddle are the frontrunners to be regulars or platoon options at shortstop.

Video: ATL@MIA: Rojas lines RBI triple to left-center field

Dietrich has been a valuable role player the past few seasons.

Dietrich, with 3 years and 151 days of service, is a left-handed hitter who compiled a 2017 slash line of .249/.334/.424 with 13 homers, 22 doubles and 53 RBIs in 132 games. He gets a raise after earning $1.7 million last year. Dietrich provides depth at second base, third base, left field and first base. He will make $2.9 million, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman.

Video: ATL@MIA: Dietrich crushes three-run homer to left

Players eligible for arbitration generally have between 3 to 6 years of Major League service time. There are exceptions, with those qualifying as Super Two status. Miami had none that fit that category.

Realmuto, with 3 years and 38 days of service, has emerged as one of the top catchers in the Majors. He's also among the most athletic. Last year, he appeared in 141 games and posted a slash line of .278/.332/.451 with 17 home runs and 65 RBIs. His salary was $562,500.

The Marlins have three more seasons of control on Realmuto, who would be eligible for free agency in 2021. There are still questions as to whether the 26-year-old wants to be part of the club's rebuild, and Miami is listening to potential trade offers.

Video: Frisaro discusses Yelich, Realmuto trade rumors

Bour, who made $552,500 last year, has become the Marlins' biggest power threat. The left-handed-hitting first baseman had a slash line of .289/.366/.536 with 25 homers and 83 RBIs. He has 3 years and 64 days of service time, but he missed about two months in 2017 due to a right oblique injury.

Video: MIA@ARI: Bour clubs two-run homer down the line

The Marlins acquired Straily from the Reds last January, and the right-hander came as advertised. The 29-year-old paced the club in innings (181 2/3) and starts (33) to go along with a 10-9 record and a 4.26 ERA. He is a candidate to start on Opening Day.

Straily has 3 years and 126 days of service time, with a salary of $552,100 in '17.

 

Miami Marlins, Justin Bour, J.T. Realmuto, Miguel Rojas, Dan Straily

Prospect Alcantara: 'New doors are opening'

Right-hander 'ready to compete' with Marlins at Spring Training
MLB.com

MIAMI -- Sandy Alcantara possesses a 100-mph fastball, and he has top-of-the-rotation starter potential. With all the makings of a future ace in place, it would be tempting for the Marlins to speed up the developmental clock for the 22-year-old.

They're not. They're going to let their No. 1 prospect progress at his own speed.

MIAMI -- Sandy Alcantara possesses a 100-mph fastball, and he has top-of-the-rotation starter potential. With all the makings of a future ace in place, it would be tempting for the Marlins to speed up the developmental clock for the 22-year-old.

They're not. They're going to let their No. 1 prospect progress at his own speed.

To further acclimate to the next level, Alacantara recently participated in MLB's Rookie Career Development Program.

Alcantara has had a taste of pitching in the big leagues, making eight relief appearances as a September callup for the Cardinals last year. A native of the Dominican Republic, Alcantara is welcoming the fresh start ahead of him with Miami.

"For me, I think it's a big opportunity, because new doors are opening to keep moving forward and to keep competing hard like I've always done," the right-hander said.

Alcantara was one of the centerpieces of the December trade that sent All-Star outfielder Marcell Ozuna to the Cardinals. In return, the Marlins also received outfielder Magneuris Sierra, right-hander Zac Gallen and lefty Daniel Castano. According to MLB Pipeline, Sierra is now the Marlins' No. 5 prospect and Gallen is No. 15.

Video: Michael Hill discusses trading for Sandy Alcantara

"I feel happy, because they've given me that responsibility to be there with them," Alcantara said. "I'm going to work hard and keep being humble. Also, for the guys coming in behind me, to help them to follow my advice and also follow in my footsteps."

Ability-wise, all the makings are there for the right-hander to be a standout. It's now a matter of experience and commanding his pitches.

Per Statcast™, Alcantara's four-seam fastball -- on 45 pitches tracked in the big leagues -- averaged 98.51 mph. The MLB average was 93.19 mph. His fastball spin rate average was 2,359.16 rpm, also roughly the league average (2,254.62 rpm).

In 8 1/3 big league innings, Alcantara had a 4.32 ERA, striking out 10 and walking six.

"All of these guys are considered prospects, because they haven't proven themselves at the Major League level yet," Marlins vice president of player development and scouting Gary Denbo said. "They all have things they need to work on. You can probably say that every one of the pitchers that we acquired need to work on their fastball command.

"They have to make sure they can locate fastballs where Major League hitters aren't going to be able to impact them. You can say the same thing about Sandy. That's our No. 1 objective with all of our pitchers, to make sure they have good command of their fastballs."

Alcantara had been with the Cardinals since 2014, and he's logged 369 Minor League innings. A year ago, he went 7-5 with a 4.31 ERA in 25 games (22 starts) at Double-A Springfield. In 125 1/3 innings, he struck out 106 and walked 54.

After being called up in September, Alcantara threw as many as two innings just once. But he gained valuable experience, working with All-Star catcher Yadier Molina and picking up advice from starters like Carlos Martinez.

"They helped me a lot to keep competing and just being there with them," Alcantara said. "I'm going to try to take the advice that guys like Carlos Martinez and Yadier Molina gave me to Spring Training, to be ready to compete for a spot at the Major League level with the Marlins."

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

 

Miami Marlins, Sandy Alcantara

Marlins boast bevy of fireballers in '18 bullpen

Miami hoping relievers' high velocities help outweigh inexperience
MLB.com

MIAMI -- The wear and tear of logging the most innings in the Majors last year caught up with the Marlins' bullpen. The taxed unit paced the league in innings (612) and ranked in the bottom third in ERA (4.40).

With so many questions regarding their rotation, the Marlins again are bracing for the bullpen to take on an expanded role. That's why it is likely they will carry eight relievers -- and 13 total pitchers -- for the second straight season.

MIAMI -- The wear and tear of logging the most innings in the Majors last year caught up with the Marlins' bullpen. The taxed unit paced the league in innings (612) and ranked in the bottom third in ERA (4.40).

With so many questions regarding their rotation, the Marlins again are bracing for the bullpen to take on an expanded role. That's why it is likely they will carry eight relievers -- and 13 total pitchers -- for the second straight season.

The bullpen has an abundance of promising, hard-throwing candidates. What they lack is high-leverage experience. Command is key. In 2017, Miami's bullpen walked 271, which was tied with Milwaukee for second most.

2018 previews: Lineup | Rotation

With six weeks remaining before the start of Spring Training, MLB.com is taking a look at the projected relief corps of all 30 teams. Here's how the Marlins might stack up:

BULLPEN IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Brad Ziegler, RHP (closer)
Kyle Barraclough, RHP
Jarlin Garcia, LHP
Junichi Tazawa, RHP
Drew Steckenrider, RHP
Nick Wittgren, RHP
Brian Ellington, RHP
Caleb Smith, LHP

STRENGTH
Ziegler, 38, is the most experienced reliever on the roster, and a frontrunner to close. The submarine-style right-hander has 95 career saves, including 10 after AJ Ramos was dealt to the Mets last July. Ziegler, too, may be traded at some point. Barraclough is another candidate to close, but he'd have to show better command. The right-hander struck out 76 in 66 innings last year but walked 38. Steckenrider is a sleeper candidate to become the closer. The right-hander struck out 54 and walked 18 in 34 2/3 innings after being promoted from Triple-A New Orleans. His four-seam fastball average, per Statcast™, is 95.33 mph, and he has one career save.

Video: MIA@COL: Marlins turn two, Barraclough earns save

QUESTION MARK
Wittgren had a procedure to remove loose bodies from his right elbow. He anticipates being ready for the start of Spring Training. If healthy, the 26-year-old is a candidate to pitch in the late innings, and perhaps eventually close. A strike thrower, Wittgren has 81 Minor League saves, including three seasons with 20 or more. This is a pivotal season for Ellington, whose average fastball was 98.21 mph last year. The right-hander has pitched in parts of three big league seasons, but he's struggled to throw strikes. He struck out 48 but walked 35 and hit six batters in 44 2/3 innings in 2017.

Video: MIA@WSH: Ellington K's De Aza, side in 8th

WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
A couple of left-handers could find themselves switching roles. Garcia, coming off a strong rookie season, paced the club with 68 appearances. The 24-year-old is the team's top lefty specialist, but he may wind up in the mix to start. Before shifting to the bullpen in 2016, Garcia had 89 Minor League starts. Smith, acquired from the Yankees, made nine appearances with two starts for New York last year. In the Minors, the lefty was 9-1 with a 2.41 ERA in 19 games, 17 of them as a starter. Smith could perhaps handle a long-relief or lefty specialist role. Justin Nicolino, another lefty who has been a starter throughout his career, may be a long-relief or bullpen option. The same holds true for right-hander Odrisamer Despaigne.

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

 

Miami Marlins