The Miami Marlins have produced the minimum lone All-Star representative the past three seasons.
Staff ace Jose Fernandez enjoyed a spectacular All-Star debut on Tuesday night, when he struck out two American League batters during a perfect inning. At 20, All-Star starts could be in the right-hander’s future.
Giancarlo Stanton was Miami’s All-Star last year, but he got injured and underwent knee surgery two days before the All-Star Game. He was not replaced on the National League roster.
In 2011, first baseman Gaby Sanchez represented the Marlins. Sanchez was traded to Pittsburgh last July and currently plays for the Pirates.
Should they remain healthy, Fernandez and Stanton figure to play in more All-Star Games. But will they have company? What about in a year they aren’t selected/voted in — who then might wear the Marlins uniform at the Midsummer Classic?
Below are five players who could represent Miami in future All-Star Games.
Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria
Acquired in the much-publicized 12-player offseason trade with Toronto, Hechavarria arrived in Miami with the reputation of being a future Gold Glover. The question was:Ccould he hit enough to hold a major league job?
Hechavarria, 24, happens to be in the midst of a hot streak that has raised his average to .240 from well below the Mendoza Line. The Cuban might never become a .300 hitter, but he plays a position where defense matters. Case in point: Ozzie Smith was a 15-time All-Star with a lifetime .262 batting average.
The key for Miami’s defensive wizard will be to hit .270 or higher.
Outfielder Christian Yelich
If you saw Yelich with the Marlins in spring training when he was the team’s best hitter, or going 2 for 2 in Sunday’s Futures Game, you might wonder why he isn’t in the majors already. A heel injury at season’s start and a small abdominal wall strain in June delayed the arrival time in Miami.
Yelich, 21, currently plays at Double-A Jacksonville to find his groove following the trips to the disabled list. The 23rd overall pick in 2010, he’s expected to be in Miami before season’s — month’s? — end.
When he does arrive, Yelich should become a regular in the Marlins outfield. Initially pegged to play center field, Yelich could move to left because Marcell Ozuna has played well in the middle outfield. Wherever he plays, the left-handed-hitting Yelich will surprise if he’s not an annual .300 hitter.
Left-handed pitcher Justin Nicolino
Like Hechavarria, Nicolino was acquired in the November mega-deal with the Blue Jays. He went 5-2 with a 2.23 ERA and 3.4:1 strikeout/walk ration at Class A Jupiter before being promoted to Double-A Jacksonville this week. He played in June’s Florida State League All-Star Game.
Nicolino, a 21-year-old Orlando native, was taken by Toronto in the second round of the 2010 draft. His favorite player reportedly is Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee, but Nicolino’s low-90s fastball and exceptional change-up have drawn comparisons to Phillies lefty Cole Hamels.
Left-handed pitcher Andrew Heaney
Heaney’s 2013 season began nearly three months late due to a strained lat muscle.
Since returning, the 22-year-old Oklahoma City native is 3-2 with a 1.09 ERA and 3.9:1 strikeout/walk ratio for Class A Jupiter. He was Miami’s first-round pick (ninth overall) in 2012 out of Oklahoma State.
The southpaw relies on three pitches: a 90-93 mph fastball, a slider and a change-up. If he can develop command of a curve, look out.
Outfielder Jake Marisnick
He’s the third of these five players acquired from Toronto in the November deal.
Marisnick suffered a fractured hand in spring training but returned to earn a starting spot in the Southern League All-Star Game. He’s hitting .293 with 10 homers and 41 RBI for Jacksonville and hit two grand slams in a May 30 game.
The Riverside, Calif., native was selected by the Blue Jays in the third round of 2009 draft. Consensus seems to be he has the necessary tools to play in the big leagues but needed to show he could make adjustments at the plate.
Marisnick, Yelich, Stanton and Ozuna — four outfielders for three spots. That means one (Stanton? Ozuna? Marisnick?) might be traded, or one would have to make a position switch.
Perhaps Stanton to first base? If so, what does that mean for Logan Morrison?
Then again, figuring out how to use an abundance of All-Star caliber players would be a good problem to have for the Marlins.