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Staying the course remains Marlins' vision

MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

MIAMI -- Trying to find a trade match for J.T. Realmuto dominated the Marlins' Hot Stove season news cycle until Thursday. But during that time, the organization's long-term outlook never changed.

The vision of president of baseball operations Michael Hill, manager Don Mattingly and the rest of the front office and coaching staff is squarely centered on staying the course. The commitment remains to building from the Minor League system on up, and Spring Training will help provide some answers.

MIAMI -- Trying to find a trade match for J.T. Realmuto dominated the Marlins' Hot Stove season news cycle until Thursday. But during that time, the organization's long-term outlook never changed.

The vision of president of baseball operations Michael Hill, manager Don Mattingly and the rest of the front office and coaching staff is squarely centered on staying the course. The commitment remains to building from the Minor League system on up, and Spring Training will help provide some answers.

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Pitchers and catchers begin workouts on Wednesday at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla., with full-squad drills scheduled for Feb. 18.

At a time in the sport where depth is paramount to becoming a serious championship contender, the Marlins have stayed trued to their philosophy to infuse as much talent into the system as possible, with the vision of eventually allowing it to progress upwards to the Major League level. It's still a work in progress.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Miami's biggest financial commitment to a player this offseason was to prospect Victor Victor Mesa, who defected from Cuba last May and signed for $5.25 million as an international free agent in October.

The 22-year-old outfielder will be in camp as a non-roster invitee. His younger brother, Victor Mesa Jr., who signed for $1 million, will be in camp with the Minor Leaguers.

Before the Marlins acquired right-hander Sixto Sanchez (No. 27 overall prospect) from the Phillies in the Realmuto trade, the elder Mesa brother was ranked by MLB Pipeline as their top prospect (No. 99 overall).

Although Mesa is expected to open the season at either Class A Advanced Jupiter or Double-A Jacksonville, he will be one of the top storylines in Spring Training.

Video: Top Prospects: Victor Victor Mesa, OF, Marlins

As tempting as it possibly could have been to make a big free-agent signing or two, the Marlins instead refrained during a slow-moving offseason market. Instead, they signed two notable veteran left-handed hitters, infielder Neil Walker to a one-year, $2 million deal, and outfielder Curtis Granderson to a Minor League contract with an invitation to Spring Training.

Granderson, who turns 38 next month, will have an excellent opportunity to make the club as either a bench player or a platoon option in the outfield.

In terms of the bigger picture, Walker and Granderson will provide leadership to an inexperienced roster. Miami is committed to allowing its young players to get their feet wet at the big league level.

Video: Hill on Neil Walker's impact on the Marlins

The Marlins aim to build a roster around pitching and defense, with an emphasis on athleticism.

A couple of rotation spots are up for grabs in Spring Training. Barring injuries or anything unanticipated, Jose Urena, Dan Straily and Wei-Yin Chen are expected to be in the starting five.

Four rookies from last season are in the mix for the other two: right-handers Sandy Alcantara, Trevor Richards and Pablo Lopez, along with lefty Caleb Smith.

Smith (left lat surgery) and Lopez (right shoulder strain) each finished up 2018 on the disabled list, so how they bounce back from injuries will be monitored.

Video: PHI@MIA: Steckenrider K's Quinn to nail down the save

Spring Training also will sort out bullpen roles, particularly who will be the closer. Drew Steckenrider, who paced the club in appearances with 71, and lefty Adam Conley are considered the front-runners.

In terms of the big picture, Spring Training will give the brass a better indication of where many of its top prospects stand.

Outfielder Monte Harrison, second baseman Isan Diaz and right-handers Nick Neidert and Jorge Guzman are among the most-touted prospects in the system. It's doubtful any of the four will make the Opening Day roster, but each is getting closer.

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

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