2021 Miami Marlins: Spring Training Roster Battles

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With a playoff series win under their belt, this young Marlins club is poised to build on their progress. The 2021 Miami Marlins roster has a few position battles heading into spring training. Juan Paez notes the battle at first base, “The Marlins could have Jesús Aguilar, Garrett Cooper, and prospect Lewin Díaz battling for playing time at 1B.Don Mattingly earned Manager of the Year honors in the National League in 2020 and will look to get more good results from his team again this year.

2021 Miami Marlins: Conquer the NL East Cheatsheet

The 2021 Miami Marlins biggest acquisition this offseason was Ng. The first female GM in Major League Baseball. Miami agreed to terms with left-hander Ross Detwiler and catcher Sandy Leon.

Detwiler, who turns 35 in March, compiled a 3.20 ERA, 3.90 FIP, and 1.22 WHIP across 19-2/3 innings of relief for the White Sox in 2020. His 58.3 percent ground-ball rate was the highest of his career. Over 12 big league seasons, Detwiler is 27-48 with a 4.56 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in 224 games (95 starts).

Since leaving the Nationals in 2014, he has played for six MLB clubs and an independent league team.  He has a 4.48 ERA and 1.45 WHIP as a starter, vs. a 4.80 ERA and 1.54 WHIP as a reliever in his big league career. The southpaw started 12 games in 2019 for the White Sox, his highest total since making 13 starts in 2013 with the Nats.

Miami has made it known that its bullpen (which had a 5.50 ERA in 2020) is an offseason focus, with manager Don Mattingly calling it a “work in progress” last month. Detwiler joins right-handers Adam Cimber (trade with Cleveland), Paul Campbell (Rule-5 Draft selection), and Zach Pop (Rule-5 Draft trade).

2021 Miami Marlins Roster

Projections Going into Spring Training

At catcher, Jorge Alfaro and Chad Wallach are splitting time behind the plate. Alfaro was once a top prospect, but the bat has flatlined around average-ish for a catcher (below average overall). Wallach is mainly serving as a back-up.

In this offseason, the team tendered contracts to Jesús Aguilar and Garrett Cooper who will platoon at first base. Both are arbitration-eligible at the end of 2021. Most baseball executives feel top prospect Lewin Díaz could be up by the season’s end.

The Brewers selected Aguilar off waivers in February 2017. In Milwaukee, he became their regular first baseman and slugged 51 dingers across 282 games between the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Aguilar slumped through 94 games and was sent to the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for Jake Faria. The Venezuelan lasted only the second half of the campaign over in the AL East until the Marlins claimed him off waivers on December 2, 2019.

Fulton injured his elbow at the U.S. 18-and-Under trials last August and had Tommy John surgery a month later. The Marlins snapped up Fulton with their second-round pick and paid him $2.4 million, a record bonus for a prep pitcher who missed his senior season due to injury. Fulton’s best offering is a legitimate plus curveball with power and depth, and he shows the aptitude to vary its shape.

He pitches with his 6′ 6″ build and high three-quarters arm slot. The tendency of pitchers to throw harder once they complete the arduous rehab process following elbow reconstruction means he could have a mid-90s heater once he returns to full health. Development of his changeup will come. His mechanics are strong; keeping his long limbs in sync and throwing strikes with his entire arsenal. Scouts project Fulton to have a higher ceiling than Braxton Garrett and Trevor Rogers.

Jose Salas comes from a baseball family. His grandfather, father, and uncle all played professionally in Venezuela. Salas was born in Florida and grew up in Orlando. He moved back to Venezuela and became the jewel of the Marlins’ 2019 international class, signing for $2.8 million last July.

Because of his background, he has an advanced feel for the game and is fluent in English as well as Spanish, which should expedite his development. A switch-hitter, Salas has a quick swing from both sides of the plate, and pitch recognition is top amongst his peers. Marlin’s talent evaluators project 20-homer power. He has plus speed but will slow a bit as he matures physically.

The Marlins shortstop Isan Diaz opted out of the 2020 season before deciding to play in September but failed to add an impact due to an injury. In January 2016, the D-Backs traded him with Chase Anderson and Aaron Hill to the Brewers for Jean Segura and Tyler Wagner. Two years later, Miami acquired him in the Christian Yelich trade, along with outfielder Monte Harrison, outfielder Lewis Brinson, and RHP Jordan Yamamoto.

Díaz appeared in 49 games in 2019. Miami practically handed him the spot but his putrid performance opens the door for Salas or Nunez. He was solid in Triple-A (.305/.395/.578) but has been a major disappointment in the big leagues (.173/.259/.307).

Diaz played seven games in the shortened 60-game regular season. He played two games before opting out after the team coronavirus outbreak. At the time, Diaz called the decision a “difficult choice,” but “the best one for me and my overall well-being” in an August 1 Instagram story post.

He applied for reinstatement, returning to the active roster on Sept. 10 but played in just five games before a left groin strain ended his season. Diaz slashed .182/.182/.364 with one RBI, three runs, and seven strikeouts in 22 at-bats. For his career, he’s batting .174/.251/.294 in 201 ABs.

While there are some questions about Jose Salas’ long-term ability to stay at shortstop, there is no doubt he is talented. The Marlins scouting department believes he has “the actions and twitchy athleticism” to do so. He has the solid arm strength and a good internal clock. Also, He should provide enough offense to profile at second base or center field. Position flexibility has gained value as lineups become more fluid.

The sons of legendary Cuban center fielder, Victor Mesa, defected from the island in May of 2018. The older receiving six-million dollars and Victor Mesa Jr. getting one-million dollars. Junior has eclipsed his older and more athletic brother during their 2019 debuts. He slashed .284/.366/.398 as a 17-year-old in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.

Mesa led Cuba’s 18-and-under league in hitting (.440), on-base percentage (.560), and slugging (.667) in his final season before defecting, and his fluid left-handed swing and advanced bat-to-ball skills immediately translated to the United States. Scouts note his approach at the dish; especially how he works counts and manages the strike zone. He has the tools to be a solid defender with arm strength to match.

His feel for the barrel and ability to backspin balls has the Marlins believing he might develop average power as he gets stronger and drives the ball in the air more often.

Mesa Jr. has average speed and a plus/plus defense. He spent most of his pro debut in center field. Pro scouts note “he lacks the quickness to play there regularly at the highest levels”. He is more likely to wind up in right field.

Max Meyer, RPH, was taken third overall in this year’s First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Minnesota, wielding a fastball that can regularly hit triple digits. He has pitched out of the bullpen before, but Miami views Meyer as a long-term candidate for the starting rotation.

Personally, I project Meyer to be a number-one. In college, Meyer whiffed 187 batters in 148 innings and kept a 2.13 ERA. He touts big league-ready weapons with his fastball-slider combination. Max should make his debut in The Show this year.

JJ Bleday, OF, the first-round pick from 2019 made strides during his time at the teams’ alternative site in 2020. A college hitter with an advanced approach, Bleday showed flashes of that in his stint with Class-A Advanced Jupiter, batting .257/.311/.379 in 38 games.

Bleday has been in trade rumors involving catcher Wilson Contreras. Personally, while JJ’s bat projects to be strong, the hitting weakness at catching throughout the league creates an opportunity for a competitive advantage. The Marlins have a deep OF farm system.Hot Corner Catch. 2018 ROY, Brian Anderson, has developed into a consistent player; adding 20 HRs in 2019. His career WAR of 8.7 slash line .266/.349/ .431. He appears to be the answer at third base. The club expects Miguel Rojas and Jazz Chisholm to split time at short.

Uncertainty looms at second base for the 2021 Miami Marlins. Berti finished 2020 with a team-leading .388 on-base percentage while appearing in games at second, short, third, center, and right field. Ng has declined to comment on Brian’s longer contract situation until she has time to settle in and evaluate the state of the organization.

Pencils down. Pass your Quiz to the front.

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