Miami Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco will fill a leadership role with the young Marlins starters in 2013. - USA TODAY Sports
The Miami Marlins are slowly advancing in spring training and onto the 2013 season, and it begins with the team naming Ricky Nolasco the official Opening Day starter and making 11 cuts from the major league camp.
The Miami Marlins are going to have to eventually begin the 2013 season, much to the dread of Marlins fans everywhere. To that end, they took steps to advance their spring training and move on to the official season, and Fish Stripes is here to discuss those moves.
Marlins trim Spring Training roster by 11 players | marlins.com: News
Round one of Marlins cuts came on Friday morning, and 11 players were informed they wouldn't be part of the Opening Day roster. For many young players, some in their first big league camp, the news was expected. For others, Friday marked their last day in the organization.
The Marlins that were cut from the team's major league camp include some prospects such as 10th-ranked prospect (according to Fish Stripes) lefty starter Adam Conley, 11th-ranked prospect infielder Derek Dietrich, third baseman Zack Cox, and relievers Arquimedes Caminero, Brian Flynn and Raudel Lazo. It also included a number of players who have little to no future with the team, including non-roster invitee Michael Wuertz. The other players who were cut were Michael Brady, Scott Maine, Danny Black, and Kevin Mattison.
For most of these players, it is unlikely they have much of a future on the team, as they represent simple minor league depth. Conley and Dietrich are legitimate prospects for a Marlins team looking to rebuild after an awful 2012 season; both players may very well see major league play by 2013. For Conley, this year in Double-A will be about following up on a very strong 2012 season. Conley threw 127 innings between Low-A Greensboro and High-A Jupiter, and he was very good at both levels. In Low-A, he dominated at a pace slightly below that of Jose Fernandez's level, striking out 84 batters while walking 24 in just 74 1/3 innings. His High-A performance suffered a little, but his strikeout and walk rates stayed relatively close to his Low-A numbers. He now follows fellow prospect Fernandez to Double-A, and if both perform well, there could be rotation spots waiting for them in 2014.
For Dietrich, his goal is to learn a new position in time to man it for the Marlins by 2014. All signs point to him taking over either second or third base in Triple-A New Orleans this season, and if he looks good there defensively this season, he may be in line for a starting job in the majors. Of course, that also depends on how well his bat develops; as good of a performance as he has had in the minors, it has been fueled by a high batting average on balls in play, and he has to either prove he can keep that up or at least drop his strikeouts before making the bigs.
Marlins right-hander Ricky Nolasco named Opening Day starter mid-game | marlins.com: News
Marlins right-hander Ricky Nolasco, the franchise leader in wins, innings pitched and strikeouts was informed by manager Mike Redmond as he was taken out of Thursday's game he'd be the team's Opening Day starter.
This, of course, was no surprise to the Marlins or to their fans. Nolasco is the only viable veteran starter left after the team dealt away one of their remaining ties to the 2006 era Marlins in Josh Johnson. Noalsco, however, is far from the 2008 version who looked like an ace.
Manager Mike Redmond mentioned a few things regarding Nolasco's veteran leadership role on the team.
"He knows how to pitch. He knows the league," Redmond said. "I think he will definitely help some of our young guys about how to pitch certain hitters in certain situations. That experience, we don't have a lot of that, whether it is in the bullpen or with our starters. He's that guy who definitely our young guys will look to for a little guidance."
This may end up being the most important reason why Nolasco represents the "ace" of the staff. The matter of who pitches on Opening Day is hardly relevant, since most starting pitchers make between 31 and 33 starts during the regular season anyway. The difference lies in what the role supposedly represents. Being the ace of the staff, according to Redmond, also brings with it a leadership responsibility that Nolasco did not previously have to provide. The Marlins are looking for him to teach the other young players how to make it through a big-league season and perform well.
Of course, given the fact that Nolasco has struggled since 2009 and has a very questionable future after this year, perhaps he is not the best pitcher to fill this role. Unfortunately, he is the only pitcher the Marlins have to do this, and despite his struggles, he still likely has the best stuff in terms of a fastball / breaking ball mix on the team. His tutelage may be helpful to everyone, particularly Jacob Turner, who presents a similar pitching style. Here's hoping Nolasco can put it together and provide the Marlins' young starters some assistance.