Spring Training 2013: Miami Marlins Position Battles, Week 2

USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Marlins still have a few roster spots available for the 2013 season, and the position battles going on between players rage on at fifth starter, first base, utility player, and backup outfielder.

Last week, we began discussion on the Miami Marlins and their various position battles during the 2013 spring training season. While it seems as though the Fish are almost set with their roster, even they have admitted that there are still decisions to be made for the 2013 campaign. Joe Frisaro of MLB.com reports on some of those decisions.

The center-field job is up for grabs (Justin Ruggiano, Chris Coghlan and Gorkys Hernandez are the top candidates), and the Marlins also need a utility infielder and backup catcher. There's likely to be some competition at the first- and third-base spots, as well.

"I think we kind of anticipated this coming in, that we were going to have a nice battle for a lot of different positions," Redmond said. "Sitting here now, would I love to have somebody really step out in front of that utility-position role? Of course, but nobody's really stepped out in front of that. That's going to be one of those battles that might come down to one of the last days of spring."

I would dispute that the team has no real choice in center field outside of Justin Ruggiano, who remains the team's second-best position player heading into 2013. But outside of that, it seems that there are still spots with some competition remaining, and Marlins players are frantically working to keep a job.

So what jobs remain open for business? Let us take a look at the latest from this week.

Fifth Starter

PLAYER IP K BB ERA TRENDING
Wade LeBlanc 9 7 0 0.00 --
Kevin Slowey 9 1/3 9 2 2.83 Arrowupgreen_medium
John Maine 5 3 2 1.83 Arrowupgreen_medium
Tom Koehler 8 2/3 8 4 7.27 Arrowreddown_medium

While Maine and Koehler remain on the list in name only, the true competition for the fifth rotation spot is between incumbent Wade LeBlanc and non-roster invitee challenger Kevin Slowey. Each pitcher made a start this week, and both pitched really well. Slowey struck out five Boston Red Sox batters in three innings while walking only two, but he did give up three runs, including one home run, in the process. The Marlins pulled out that win 8-7. Meanwhile, LeBlanc performed in his own victory, shutting out the Atlanta Braves over four innings and making B.J. Upton look silly on the bases by picking him off twice en route to a 10-2 Marlins win.

Both pitchers continue to pitch well, and if this trend goes on, both may actually make the roster. If this happens, the Marlins will have an interesting conundrum regarding which pitcher should work out of the bullpen. Both have done it in the past, but LeBlanc is more familiar with the position, having worked primarily out of the pen last season. This would also give the Marlins another lefty presence in the bullpen. However, LeBlanc has also been the better pitcher, so he would deserve the starting spot on spring training merit alone. This race remains too tight to call.

First Base

PLAYER PA AVG OBP SLG TRENDING
Casey Kotchman 28 .400 .429 .593 Arrowreddown_medium
Kevin Kouzmanoff 20 .400 .400 1.000 Arrowupgreen_medium
Joe Mahoney 31 .233 .358 .567 Arrowreddown_medium

Both Casey Kotchman and Joe Mahoney are naturally regressing to the mean after a very hot start to spring training, and normally that would mean that they would maintain their positions as potential starters at first base in place of the injured Logan Morrison. But a new competitor has availed himself, and his name is Kevin Kouzmanoff. Kouzmanoff, the former San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics third baseman, was initially signed to be a potential third base option for the Marlins, but with Placido Polanco in the way, his likely route to the majors involves playing the same position as the currently injured Greg Dobbs.

Kouzmanoff has been showing off some nice power like Mahoney, but he has been hitting like Kotchman, as they are both batting .400 right now. None of the three players walk much historically, though Kotchman's approach remains the best. Mahoney still has the edge on upside, as the other two are known products. But Kouzmanoff's advantage is his ability to not only play third base, but do so at a good defensive level. He is, after all, a former Gold Glove candidate at the position.

This is another race that, at the moment, is too close to call. But right now, Kotchman holds a small edge over Kouzmanoff, but the third baseman is gaining in the race for first base.

Bench / Utility Player

PLAYER PA AVG OBP SLG TRENDING
Chone Figgins 24 .273 .320 .273 ---
Nick Green 25 .217 .308 .304 Arrowreddown_medium

This race seems all but over given the status of these two players over the last few years. Figgins had a major league contract and used to be a viable player once upon a time, while Green was never a player one could consider worthy of a major league position for long. While neither player is of much use as of right now, the team still needs a backup infielder, and Figgins has occasionally performed decently this spring. Expect to see him on the bench in 2013.

Backup Outfielder

PLAYER PA AVG OBP SLG TRENDING
Chris Coghlan 40 .282 .300 .359 Arrowupgreen_medium
Gorkys Hernandez 30 .251 .355 .269 ---
Bryan Petersen 18 .063 .167 .063 Arrowreddown_medium

If the Marlins plan on running just one backup outfielder, the race between two out-of-option players in Chris Coghlan and Gorkys Hernandez may be tough. Coghlan has had an unspectacular but acceptable spring thus far, and the Marlins are always dying to find out if they can extract value from the former 2009 Rookie of the Year. In the case of Hernandez, the Fish can probably risk losing him in the process of designating him for assignment, seeing as though he has never performed well enough to warrant a major league spot. Bryan Petersen, on the other hand, seems destined to head to Triple-A once again, as the Fish still have one option remaining on him. His spring training performance certainly has not helped in that department either.

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