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Gallen, Lee, Hernandez vie for Marlins roster

MLB.com @JoeFrisaro

JUPITER, Fla. -- Marlins management delivered a clear message to the players on the first day of full-squad workouts -- roster spots are up for grabs.

With competition helping decide who makes the Opening Day roster, a youthful Marlins squad will host the Cardinals on Friday at 1:05 p.m. ET at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in its Grapefruit League opener. Left-hander Dillon Peters will get the start.

JUPITER, Fla. -- Marlins management delivered a clear message to the players on the first day of full-squad workouts -- roster spots are up for grabs.

With competition helping decide who makes the Opening Day roster, a youthful Marlins squad will host the Cardinals on Friday at 1:05 p.m. ET at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in its Grapefruit League opener. Left-hander Dillon Peters will get the start.

Marlins Spring Training info

Miami has 69 players in big league camp, including 14 on the club's Top 30 list as put together by MLB Pipeline.

On Monday, the first day the entire roster was present, upper management stressed there would be opportunity for players to move up quickly in the system.

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

"You love competition," manager Don Mattingly said. "I think the fact that these guys know there are a lot of spots open, we'll make those decisions as camp goes on, and they know that they're in a competition."

There's no shortage of newcomers who have a chance to make their mark, and win an Opening Day roster spot.

MLB.com has identified three "darkhorse candidates" -- right-handers Zac Gallen and Elieser Hernandez and outfielder Braxton Lee -- who could be with the club when the Marlins face the Cubs in the season opener on March 29 at Marlins Park.

RHP Zac Gallen: A third-round Draft pick of the Cardinals in 2016, Gallen was acquired by the Marlins in the Marcell Ozuna trade. MLB Pipeline ranks the 22-year-old as Miami's No. 14 prospect. A former standout at the University of North Carolina, Gallen is knocking on the door to be in the Majors. He made major leaps a year ago with the Cardinals, pitching at three different Minor League levels -- Advanced Class A, Double-A and Triple-A. Gallen combined for a 2.93 ERA in 147 2/3 innings. At the start of camp, Gallen is on the outside looking in for a rotation spot, but there are three openings. He has a polished delivery and a fastball that has maxed at 94 mph. If there is an injury or an underperformance, he could surprise and make the club.

OF Braxton Lee: The Marlins considered making Lee a September callup last season, but that never materialized. The 24-year-old speedster is rated by MLB Pipeline as Miami's No. 17 prospect. Lee might be the best defensive outfielder in the organization, and he could make a case to even start in center. Lee came to the Marlins via a trade last June with the Rays for Adeiny Hechavarria. At Double-A, he was the Southern League batting champ, hitting .309.

"Now that the team has been depleted, it's more like scrappy, and get after it," Lee said. "There's a bunch of guys in here who are like that."

Lee faces plenty of competition. The field got tougher with the signing of Cameron Maybin. But with an injury or if the club decides Lewis Brinson is better served to start off at Triple-A New Orleans, Lee could find himself in the big leagues.

RHP Elieser Hernandez: The Marlins struck Rule 5 Draft gold in 2005 when they picked Dan Uggla, who went on to become a two-time All-Star second baseman with the organization.

In Hernandez, who throws 92-94 mph, they may again have uncovered another gem. Generally, it's an uphill climb for Rule 5 picks because they have to make the active roster, or be offered back to their original club. Hernandez showed plenty of promise last year in the Astros' system, striking out 74 in 63 1/3 innings in Class A Advanced.

If he makes the Marlins, the 22-year-old would be leaping from Class A to the big leagues. If Miami feels he is worth keeping, he could be a rotation or a long relief option.

His Spring Training objective?

"I want to be aggressive with hitters," he said. "That can be the key for me to be successful."

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

Miami Marlins, Zac Gallen, Elieser Hernandez, Braxton Lee