Miami Marlins 2014 Spring Training primer
Optimism is in the air as the Marlins arrive in Jupiter, Fla. for Spring Training.
Despite just the second 100-loss season in club history, Miami returns a young pitching staff that set the organization’s lowest ERA mark. Promising rookies and projected starters Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Adeiny Hechavarria now have big-league experience.
Over the offseason, the Marlins signed World Series winners Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Rafael Furcal as well as veterans Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee through free agency to improve a lineup that finished last in almost every offensive category.
"I think the additions we made are great," lefty Mike Dunn said. "I think their addition to the team and the talent that we have on the team are going to be good. I’m really excited for the season. I’m ready for it to get going. I think we’re going to surprise some people this year. We’re going to have a really good team."
Miami Marlins Spring Training Primer
Where: Roger Dean Stadium, Jupiter, Fla.
When: Pitchers and catchers report Sunday, work out Monday; position players report Thursday with the first full-squad workout on Feb. 21; First game is Feb. 26 vs. University of Miami.
2013 Record: 62-100, fifth in the NL East
Manager: Mike Redmond (second season)
As a first-time big-league manager, Redmond did the best he could with an inexperienced team that battled injuries before Opening Day. The Marlins won just 14 games over the first two months, but finished 48-59. Offseason moves to surround the young players with experienced bats should help him out in 2014.
Coaches: Frank Menechino (Hitting), Chuck Hernandez (Pitching), Perry Hill (First Base), Brett Butler (Third Base), Rob Leary (Bench), Reid Cornelius (Bullpen) and Jeff Urgelles (Bullpen Coordinator).
Menechino, who spent parts of seven seasons in the Majors (1999-2005), becomes the club’s fifth hitting coach since Opening Day 2010. Over the past few years he coached in the Yankees’ farm system. Miami scored the fewest runs in the Majors in 2013. Butler takes over Joe Espada’s position. Under Hernandez’s guidance, a young staff set the franchise mark for best ERA (3.71).
1. Rafael Furcal, 2B — Furcal, who missed 2013 with Tommy John surgery, signed a one-year deal this offseason. Named an All-Star before his injury in 2012, the 13-year veteran is a lifetime .281 hitter who will move from shortstop to second base.
2. Christian Yelich, LF — Miami’s first-round pick in 2010 earned his call-up on July 23, 2013. In 62 games, the 21-year-old batted .288 with four home runs and 16 RBI.
3. Giancarlo Stanton, RF — Stanton is still considered one of the top power hitters despite a down year. Thanks to a lack of protection in the lineup as well as injuries the 24-year-old finished with a .249 average, 24 dingers and 62 RBI (34/87 in ’11 and 37/86 in ’12).
4. Garrett Jones, 1B — Eight guys played at first base in 2013, including Logan Morrison, who was traded to the Mariners. Jones, 32, has knocked at least 15 home runs and 44 RBI over the past five seasons.
5. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C — The South Florida native became the Marlins’ first key free-agent signee this offseason fresh off a World Series victory with the Red Sox. The switch hitter hit 55 homers and drove in 180 runs from 2011-13.
6. Casey McGehee, 3B — The 31-year-old, considered a stopgap for top selection Colin Moran, spent last season in Japan where he blasted 28 homers and 93 RBI. McGehee played parts of five years in the Majors before then (61 HRs, 293 RBI).
7. Marcell Ozuna, CF — Called up on April 30 when Stanton went on the DL, the 22-year-old immediately became a spark for the offense. Ozuna posted a .265 average, three homers and 32 RBI before fracturing his left thumb diving for a ball in the outfield.
8. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS — Acquired in the blockbuster trade between the Marlins and Blue Jays, the 24-year-old came as advertised. Hechavarria wowed with his glove but struggled at the plate, recording a .227 average with three homers and 42 RBI in a team-high 148 games.
Projected Reserves: C Jeff Mathis, INF Jeff Baker, INF Greg Dobbs, OF Brian Bogusevic, UTL Ed Lucas.
Mathis worked wonders behind the plate for a young pitching staff and will serve as Saltalamacchia’s backup. Baker, signed just this month, collected 11 homers and 21 RBI with the Rangers in 2013. Dobbs returns as the pinch-hit specialist, but struggled to a .228/2/22 clip last year. Miami acquired Bogusevic from the Cubs and should be the fourth outfielder. Lucas spent a decade in the minors before proving his versatility last season (.256/4/28).
1. RHP Jose Fernandez (12-6, 2.19 ERA) — The National League Rookie of the Year and NL Cy Young finalist was supposed to start the year in Double-A Jacksonville. Instead, the 21-year-old All-Star finished with the second-lowest ERA in baseball.
2. RHP Nathan Eovaldi (4-6, 3.39 ERA) — Eovaldi opened the season on the DL with right shoulder inflammation. Upon his return on June 18, 13 of his 18 starts lasted six innings or more. The 24-year-old struck out just 78 batters in 106 1/3 innings.
3. RHP Henderson Alvarez (5-6, 3.59 ERA) — The 23-year-old pitched a walk-off no-hitter on Closing Day. Alvarez allowed just two home runs in 17 starts. Like Eovaldi, he started the season on the DL and didn’t make his debut until July 4.
4. RHP Jacob Turner (3-8, 3.74 ERA) — After struggling in the spring, Turner was demoted to Triple-A New Orleans before getting called back up in late May. The 22-year-old won three of his first four decisions before ending the season on a seven-game losing streak.
5. RHP Tom Koehler (5-10, 4.41 ERA) — When Kevin Slowey hit the DL, Koehler moved from the bullpen to the fifth spot in the rotation. The 27-year-old surrendered just six total runs in his five wins (43 in 10 losses).
Projected Bullpen: LHP Dan Jennings, RHP Carter Capps, RHP Carlos Marmol, RHP A.J. Ramos, LHP Mike Dunn, RHP Steve Cishek (Closer).
Some key relievers return from a bullpen that posted a 3.42 ERA (11th in Majors), but back-end arms Chad Qualls and Ryan Webb didn’t. Cishek enters his second season as closer. Heading into last June, the 27-year-old had three losses and a blown save before ending the year with a club record 29 straight saves. Dunn set career highs in appearances (75), innings (67.2) and strikeouts (72). Ramos led all rookie relievers in innings pitched (80), third in strikeouts (86) and seventh in appearances (68). Of Jennings’ 47 outings, 36 were scoreless. Miami acquired Capps from the Mariners this offseason. The hard-throwing 23-year-old struck out 66 batters in 59 innings but gave up 12 homers. Marmol was signed as a free agent this month. The former Cubs closer (117 saves) was traded to the Dodgers after continuing struggles. He bounced back with a 2.53 ERA.
1. Can Stanton play a full season injury-free?
The All-Star slugger went to the 15-day DL once from April 30-June 10 hampered by a hamstring injury. Since playing in 150 games in 2011, Stanton has totaled just 239 over the past two seasons (116 in 2013). His health will be instrumental in the team’s success as well as his long-term future with the organization.
2. Will Fernandez and the staff recreate its 2013 success?
Fernandez produced one of the best rookie pitching performances in baseball history. Alvarez’s finish to 2013 made up for its late start. Turner failed to win a game over the final two months and must earn his slot in the rotation. Who will win the fifth spot: Koehler or southpaws Brad Hand and Brian Flynn? The staff set the franchise mark for lowest ERA (3.71). Can it do the same or better with a year of experience?
3. Were the offseason acquisitions enough to bolster the offense?
While pitching kept the team in games, the offense sputtered from the get-go — scoring just one run in the opening series against the Nationals. It finished with the lowest run total in the Majors by 83. The additions of Saltalamacchia, Furcal, Jones and McGehee bring veteran bats to the lineup that should take pressure off Stanton. But how much improvement will the offense actually see?
4. When will top prospects earn their call-ups?
Some of Miami’s top prospects were extended invitations to big-league camp, mostly to get their feet wet. Left-hander Andrew Heaney, who dominated in 2013 after returning from a lat strain, will make his MLB debut this season. It’s just a matter of when. The same could happen with Moran, lefty Justin Nicolino and reliever Nick Wittgren.