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Marlins have opportunities in starting rotation

Straily, Urena locked in for 2018 as Miami hopes for arms to emerge in Spring Training
MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

Spring Training is quickly approaching, with the Marlins opening camp on Feb. 14 at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla. As the countdown gets closer, MLB.com will break down the 2018 roster, position by position. First up: starting pitching.

MIAMI -- The Marlins have made seven trades since June, and the common thread in each of them is that they received pitching in return.

Spring Training is quickly approaching, with the Marlins opening camp on Feb. 14 at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla. As the countdown gets closer, MLB.com will break down the 2018 roster, position by position. First up: starting pitching.

MIAMI -- The Marlins have made seven trades since June, and the common thread in each of them is that they received pitching in return.

At the heart of the organizational redirection is building from the bottom up, with an emphasis on compiling as much starting pitching as possible. The deals landed hard-throwing right-handers Sandy Alcantara and Jorge Guzman, Miami's No. 1 and 2 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline.

Alcantara comes over from the Cardinals as part of the Marcell Ozuna trade, and Guzman was a centerpiece in the Giancarlo Stanton deal with the Yankees. Both have 100-mph fastballs, and they project as top-of-the-rotation starters. As much promise as both have, however, neither will be rushed to the big leagues.

Video: Alcantara on learning from 2017, veteran advice

Derek Jeter, the club's chief executive officer, has repeatedly stated that the process will not be completed overnight, and patience is being stressed. That holds true with all of Miami's prospects.

Alcantara, who threw 8 1/3 innings for the Cardinals last year, may still need more seasoning before being ready to lead a rotation. Guzman was at Class A Short-Season last year, and he is likely a year or two from being big league ready.

"The starters we brought back [from the Cardinals and Yankees], we feel these are pieces that can lead a rotation," president of baseball operations Michael Hill said in December. "Mid-to-upper 90-mph fastballs are just the start of it."

How to manage and monitor their prospects will be among the biggest challenges for the Marlins this season. Until their high-end pitching prospects are ready, they anticipate wide-open competition for at least three rotation spots.

Video: Callis on Marlins acquiring Guzman's electric arm

It's no secret that the rotation was problematic in 2017. Marlins starters posted a 5.12 ERA, which was 26th in the Majors, and their 830 2/3 innings were 29th. Throwing strikes also was an issue. Their 356 walks were third highest.

About the only sure bets to be in the starting five are right-handers Dan Straily and Jose Urena. Straily came as advertised in his first year with Miami, going 10-9 with a 4.26 ERA, while Urena went 14-7 with a 3.97 ERA.

Miami isn't sure what it will get from lefty Wei-Yin Chen, who has been hampered by elbow issues the past two seasons. A year ago, he made five starts and threw 27 innings, and he continues to deal with a partial ligament tear in his left elbow.

Another lefty, Adam Conley, will look to bounce back from a rough 2017 after he showed so much promise the previous season. Conley went 7-7 with a 6.17 ERA in 20 starts last year. If the 27-year-old can regain his form from '16, when he went 8-6 with a 3.85 ERA, he would be a lock to make the starting five.

Video: Joe Frisaro discusses Urena's 2017 season

Spring Training also will be crucial for a couple of other lefties who started on occasion in 2017 -- Justin Nicolino and Chris O'Grady. And Caleb Smith, acquired from the Yankees, is a lefty who could wind up in the rotation or bullpen.

Perhaps the most intriguing southpaw in camp will be Dillon Peters, Miami's No. 8 prospect. He could open the season at Triple-A New Orleans.

There also are a couple of wild cards who could be in the mix, but they must make the club first. Elieser Hernandez and Brett Graves were Rule 5 picks in December, and their status is cut and dry. They must either be on the 25-man roster or risk being returned to their previous clubs. But the day they were selected, the club made it clear they would get a chance to compete.

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

Miami Marlins, Dan Straily, Jose Urena