Rotation depth takes focus as Marlins open ST

February 13th, 2019

JUPITER, Fla. -- With a new logo, new uniforms and many of the same starting pitching candidates from a year ago, the Marlins open Spring Training on Wednesday with pitcher and catcher workouts.

How quickly the organization progresses towards being a playoff contender will largely hinge around the rotation depth assembled over the past 18 months.

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Spring Training will provide some answers.

"That's how we feel like we are built," said Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill. "When you look at all the trades we've made, we've been able to layer pitching throughout."

Predicting Marlins' Opening Day roster

After an offseason consumed largely by where All-Star catcher would be traded -- he went to the Phillies -- the Marlins finally are taking the field. Pitchers and catchers reported Tuesday and begin workouts at 1 p.m. ET Wednesday at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex.

Full-squad workouts begin on Monday, with the first Grapefruit League game set for Feb. 23 against the Cardinals in Jupiter.

Coming off a 63-98 season in 2018, plenty of unanswered questions still remain for the organization. At least two outfield spots are up for grabs, as is first base. Bullpen spots also remain to be settled. But the area that has been a priority from the start of the rebuild is the rotation.

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Four rookies from last year -- , , and -- are in the mix.

The veterans are , projected as the Opening Day starter, and .

At Triple-A and knocking on the door to reach the big leagues at some point in 2019 are right-handers , and Robert Dugger.

, a standout in the Arizona Fall League, projects to be at New Orleans. And at Double-A, the rotation is likely to feature a pair of right-handers who throw 100-plus mph -- Jorge Guzman and Sixto Sanchez, the organization's top prospect, who was acquired from the Phillies in the Realmuto trade.

With inexperience comes inconsistencies, and Miami's staff had its share of growing pains in 2018.

The starters had a combined ERA of 4.34, which ranked 20th in the Majors, and they walked 326 (sixth highest).

But a lack of command shouldn't be confused with a lack of talent. There are plenty of hard throwers, and candidates who project as middle to back-end starters.

A challenge new pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. faces is getting the pitchers to harness and refine their fastball command and secondary pitches.

"I think with all of our young players, especially our young pitching, we challenged them at the end of last year to really lock it in and focus this offseason," Hill said. "Work on the areas they need to improve, because our incremental success will be from what they've been able to accomplish.

"You take that incremental success, player by player, and you put it together with a team. That's how we make that next step and how we continue to get closer to the playoffs and compete for championships."