Marlins get first glimpse of new talent in spring
Club returns to Jupiter after eventful offseason adds of youth, inexperience
JUPITER, Fla. -- The slate wiped clean, the Marlins once again find themselves starting over.
Gone are the high-profile and hefty-priced veterans who garnered so much hype a year ago.
A new beginning is about to get under way when Spring Training starts Monday with physicals and the first workout is set for Tuesday at Roger Dean Stadium complex. The organization is looking for new leadership from first-year manager Mike Redmond, who takes over for the outspoken Ozzie Guillen.
To disheartened Miami fans, the theme is all too familiar. The organization has gotten younger, less experienced and less expensive.
"It is different than a year ago," said president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest. "I think that's all been well documented. What's happened this winter is well documented. I think we're ready to go in with a young group, and really get a chance now to see on the field what we have, and also get a good idea of maybe how far away or maybe how close our good young prospects are to the Major Leagues."
No one wants to hear the word "rebuilding." To Miami's management, it was necessitated by two straight last-place finishes and seemingly a lack of direction.
Because of all the roster moves, the Marlins promise to have a highly competitive Spring Training, as a number of players will be competing for roster spots and playing time. The fifth starter spot, two or three bullpen roles, and perhaps a couple of positions are all up for grabs.
"There's no doubt, it's a different feel to it," Beinfest said. "I would say we're going to have a lot of good looking young players on the field. Some of them are going to be ready to play in the Major Leagues. Some of them are going to be ready soon. I think that's the exciting part of that."
Pitchers and catchers report
Full squad reports
First Spring Training game
Home vs. Cardinals, Feb. 23, 1:05 p.m. ET
Away vs. Nationals, April 1, 1:05 p.m. ET
Triple play: Three questions that need answers
1. When will Logan Morrison be ready?
Two surgeries to his right knee in less than a year has raised concerns about Morrison's availability. Morrison underwent a procedure on his right knee in early September and he isn't expected to be cleared to run until after Spring Training opens. The hope is he will be ready for Opening Day, but neither Morrison nor the Marlins want to rush things. Morrison was limited to 93 games in 2012. Until Morrison is ready, Greg Dobbs, Joe Mahoney, Austin Kearns and Kevin Kouzmanoff will among the candidates at first base.
2. How can Redmond make an impact?
Redmond, who retired as a player after the 2010 season, was brought in to mold a youthful squad as an energetic first-year manager. The 41-year-old former catcher gained experience by managing two years in the Blue Jays' Minor League system. Teaching and developing will be a big part of Redmond's job description. It's a tough challenge, especially with Miami competing in the difficult National League East. Redmond's personality, intensity and ability to connect with people are working in his favor, though. Against tall odds, he will be looking to bring out the best in players who have plenty to prove.
3. Who will be the fifth starter?
Considering how young and inexperienced the Marlins will be, their best chance to be competitive centers around their starting pitching. Four spots appear to be secured. Ricky Nolasco assumes the role of ace. The other three are young, but promising right-handers: Jacob Turner, Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez. The fifth spot is up for grabs. There will be no shortage of candidates. Wade LeBlanc, Brad Hand, Alex Sanabia and Tom Koehler are candidates who are on the 40-man roster. Some non-roster invitees worth watching are John Maine, Kevin Slowey and Mitch Talbot, who offer big league experience. LeBlanc may be the front-runner, but the lefty also could be an option to be a long reliever.
69-93, fifth in NL East
Projected batting order
1. LF Juan Pierre:
.307 BA, .351 OBP, .371 SLG, 1 HR, 25 RBIs with Philadelphia in 2012
2. 2B Donovan Solano:
.295 BA, .342 OBP, .375 SLG, 2 HR, 28 RBIs in 2012
3. 3B Placido Polanco:
.257 BA, .302 OBP, .327 SLG, 2 HR, 19 RBIs with Philadelphia in 2012
4. RF Giancarlo Stanton:
.290 BA, .361 OBP, .608 SLG, 37 HR, 86 RBIs in 2012
5. 1B Logan Morrison:
.230 BA, .308 OBP, .399 SLG, 11 HR, 36 RBIs in 2012
6. CF Justin Ruggiano:
.313 BA, .374 OBP, .535 SLG, 13 HR, 36 RBIs in 2012
7. C Rob Brantly:
.290 BA, .372 OBP, .460 SLG, 3 HR, 8 RBIs in 2012
8. SS Adeiny Hechavarria:
.254 BA, .280 OBP, .365 SLG, 2 HR, 15 RBIs with Toronto in 2012
1. Ricky Nolasco, 12-13, 4.48 ERA in 2012
2. Jacob Turner, 2-5, 4.42 ERA with Miami and Detroit in 2012
3. Nathan Eovaldi, 4-13, 4.30 ERA with Miami and Los Angeles in 2012
4. Henderson Alvarez, 9-14, 4.85 ERA with Toronto in 2012
5. Wade LeBlanc, 2-5, 3.67 ERA in 2012
The new guys
RHP Alvarez: A hard-throwing right-hander, Alvarez is a promising 22-year-old who joins the rotation. He will likely be either the third or fourth starter. Formerly with the Blue Jays, he has made 41 big league starts and has a 4.52 career ERA. Alvarez logged 187 1/3 innings and made 31 starts a year ago.
SS Adeiny Hechavarria: The Cuban-born shortstop has big shoes to fill. He is taking over for Jose Reyes. The two were traded for each other as part of the blockbuster trade with Toronto in November. Defensively, Hechavarria is regarded as an upgrade over Reyes, but he must show improvement at the plate. He hit .254 in 41 games as a rookie last season and has drawn comparisons to Edgar Renteria.
LF Juan Pierre: Entering his second stint with the Marlins, Pierre is a free-agent pickup slotted to start in left field and lead off. At 35, he still is a threat on the bases, stealing 37 bases a year ago for Philadelphia. His 591 steals are the most of any active player. The Marlins initially obtained Pierre in 2003 from the Rockies, and he became a catalyst in the World Series championship season. Now a 12-year veteran, Pierre is being asked to help provide veteran leadership on a young team.
3B Placido Polanco: If healthy, Polanco will be a major addition. The 37-year-old signed as a free agent to solidify third base, where he won one of his three Gold Gloves in 2011 with Philadelphia. He spent the past three seasons in the NL East after playing the previous four-plus years in Detroit.
C Jeff Mathis: Obtained from Toronto, Mathis is a veteran to back up Rob Brantly, who will get most of the playing time. Mathis spent one season with the Blue Jays, after he was with the Angels from 2005-11. Solid defensively, Mathis is considered an ideal backup who should help in Brantly's development.
RHP Jon Rauch: The veteran reliever was the last major signing before the start of Spring Training. He reached his deal exactly a week before the first workouts. Rauch appeared in 73 games with the Mets a year ago. He is an option to pitch the eighth inning or perhaps close.
Prospects to watch
RHP A.J. Ramos: A 26-year-old right-hander, Ramos showed promise as a September callup. In 11 relief appearances, he struck out 13 over 9 1/3 innings. Ramos could emerge as a key contributor in the back end of the bullpen.
RHP Arquimedes Caminero: At 6-foot-4, Caminero is an imposing presence and hard thrower who could be one of the most interesting relievers in camp to watch. He underwent Tommy John surgery two years ago, but rebounded in impressive fashion last year. He combined to strike out 44 in 38 1/3 innings in 2012 while pitching for Class A Jupiter and Double-A Jacksonville.
OF Alfredo Silverio: Selected in December's Rule 5 Draft from the Dodgers' system, Silverio is a five-tool-caliber player who missed all of 2012 due to injuries sustained in an automobile accident. Not expected to be at full strength at the start of Spring Training, Silverio likely will open the season on the disabled list. When healthy, he will be worth watching.
RHP Jose Fernandez: Ranked No. 7 on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospect list, Fernandez is regarded as the future ace of the Marlins. The 20-year-old has the makings of a star. He dominated a year ago, combining for a 14-1 record with a 1.75 ERA in Class A. He struck out 158 in 134 innings. Fernandez is expected to open the season at Double-A Jacksonville.
OF Christian Yelich: Yelich is Miami's top position player prospect, rated 13th overall on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospect list. The 21-year-old was the Topps Florida State League Player of the Year in 2012. Like Fernandez, he will likely start off at Jacksonville. He hit .330 with 12 homers and 48 RBIs in 106 games for Jupiter last year.
On the rebound
1B Morrison: Morrison is not expected to be cleared to run until about a week into Spring Training. The hope is he will be ready for Opening Day, but that isn't certain. The 25-year-old had surgery to his right knee last September after he was limited to 90 games. Miami is switching Morrison to first base, after he's played mostly left field since his 2010 rookie season.
3B Polanco: The 37-year-old is a significant free agent pickup and a veteran the Marlins hope will anchor third base, but health is a concern. Polanco played in 90 games for the Phillies last year, missing substantial time with a lower-back injury.
RHP Jose Ceda: This is a big bounce-back season for Ceda, who missed all of 2012 due to Tommy John surgery. The 26-year-old could factor into the bullpen mix. He throws hard and enjoyed a solid Spring Training a year ago until elbow discomfort arose late in camp.
RF Giancarlo Stanton: In 2012, Stanton was the lone Marlin selected to the All-Star Game, although he didn't attend because he underwent right knee surgery. Now, at age 23, the slugger will represent the Marlins on Team USA. One of the rising stars in the game, Stanton belted 37 home runs a year ago, which were second in the National League to Milwaukee's Ryan Braun.
RHP Steve Cishek: Joining Stanton on Team USA will be Cishek, Miami's closer. The right-hander has a deceptive sidearm delivery and he is an emerging bullpen talent. Cishek took over the closer role in the second half of last year. He saved 15 of 19 chances and posted a 2.69 ERA.
RHP Alvarez: A newcomer who was part of the trade with Toronto in November, Alvarez is set to play for Team Venezuela. For the Marlins, the 22-year-old will compete for a middle-of-the-rotation spot. He made 31 starts for the Blue Jays last year and logged 187 1/3 innings. There is speculation he may opt not to play for Venezuela. If that is his intention, he has not yet told the Marlins.
RHP Josh Johnson: One of the most popular Marlins, Johnson had two All-Star seasons with the organization before being dealt to Toronto. The right-hander enjoyed a healthy 2012 after missing most of '11 with right shoulder inflammation. It wasn't a vintage JJ season in '12 (8-14) but he made 31 starts and had a 3.81 ERA.
LHP Mark Buehrle: As advertised, Buehrle was durable and dependable. He also won a Gold Glove for Miami. But 11 months after signing a multiyear contract, Buehrle was dealt to the Blue Jays. The veteran did extend his personal streak to 12 consecutive seasons with at least 10 wins (13-13) and 200 innings (202 1/3).
SS Jose Reyes: In December 2011, Reyes signed a six-year, $106 million contract, which was the richest deal in Marlins history. Eleven months later, Reyes was dealt to the Blue Jays. The four-time All-Star showed tremendous character in his lone season, insisting on playing nearly every day, even when he could have used a few days of rest. Reyes appeared in 160 games and hit .287 while stealing 40 bases.
OF Emilio Bonifacio: The speedster was hurt most of last year after breaking his right thumb in May and his right knee in August. The setbacks allowed him to play in just 64 games, and he stole 30 bases. Bonifacio now will look to bounce back in Toronto.
C John Buck: After two seasons with Miami, Buck was moved to the Blue Jays after a rough 2012. The veteran struggled at the plate, batting .192, while adding 12 homers and 41 RBIs. Buck's playing time was diminished late in the season, as Brantly became the regular.
RHP Heath Bell: It was a forgetful lone season in Miami for Bell. When he signed as a free agent in December 2011, Bell had a string of three straight All-Star seasons with the Padres. But he struggled in the first half and lost his closer role to Cishek. Bell was traded to the D-backs in late October.