The Miami Marlins face some interesting decisions once some of their 10 disabled list members return from their injuries and assume their roles in the 25-man roster. The Marlins thus far have suffered so many injuries that the team has been forced to promote their top prospects to replace the fallen players. But once those players return, what will become of the prospects? Will the Marlins make subsequent moves with their vetearns to accommodate both youngsters and the returning players?
The team has five positions of interest on the team in which significant injuries have occurred and players might return within the next month. Each of these positions has its own small dilemma involved.
The Marlins are expecting Jeff Mathis to return soon following his broken collarbone injury suffered in the first spring training game. Mathis was always expected to be the team's backup catcher, but when he went down, the team signed Miguel Olivo to a minor league deal. Olivo thus far has been Olivo; he is currently batting .186/.226/.373 (.260 wOBA) with three home runs.
However, that line is better than what we can expect from Jeff Mathis, as Mathis has a career line of ,198/.256/.314 (.252 wOBA). This season, ZiPS is expecting him to hit .202/.252/.320 (.251 wOBA). Hey, at least it's above the Mendoza line!
One of these two players will definitely back up the struggling Rob Brantly and likely steal plenty of left-handed starter plate appearances from him, but there is an off-chance the Marlins will delay the decision on who that player is until after the first base situation is resolved. Despite the Marlins working in a deal with Olivo that allows them to release him before 90 days and not be responsible for his full year's salary, the Marlins may hold onto him as a backup first baseman and third catcher once Mathis returns. At the moment, the Marlins really only have one first baseman in Greg Dobbs, and until the various first basemen return from injury, that could be how the Fish solve this problem.
Logan Morrison is set to start extended spring training and should be able to return in early June. The Marlins could use the help, since the Fish have been running Dobbs primarily at the position. The decision here is the easiest one, as Morrison will take on his starting spot and add some much needed hitting to a lineup that has lacked offense all season.
The question then is what happens to the rest of the Marlins' injured first basemen? Casey Kotchman and Joe Mahoney are both out with hamstring strains, and neither is expected back all too soon, but what happens to them when they do return? Both players are left-handed hitters, and the Marlins could use one as a second lefty off the bench. But with Dobbs already on the roster, the Marlins would have an awful lot of players who cannot play other defensive positions. The Fish have poor flexibility on the roster as it is, so they may not be able to risk this.
Expect at least one of the two to be designated for assignment, if not both.
Donovan Solano and Chris Valaika are out with injury for at least another week and a half, so Derek Dietrich's job is safe for now. But with the short turnaround, do the Marlins demote Dietrich if he continues to stay hot, as he is right now (.364/.364/.727, .463 wOBA in 11 plate appearances)?
If Solano or Valaika return fairly soon, expect the Marlins to simply demote Dietrich even with the hot start. It is simply too early for even the Fish to make a judgment call on his readiness for the majors. Solano's return will almost assuredly send Dietrich packing, as the team loves Solano despite all signs pointing against it. If Valaika returns first, expect Dietrich to hold onto the spot until Solano's return.
Here the Marlins have a similar situation but with an added twist. Marcell Ozuna will have received plenty of playing time, easily over 100 plate appearances at least, by the time Giancarlo Stanton returns from his hamstring strain. For the Marlins, 100 plate appearances is more than enough to make a snap judgment call on a player's readiness for the majors. Stanton will assume his position in right field, and Justin Ruggiano has a stranglehold in center field on the basis of him being the team's best position player at the moment. Does Ozuna get sent to left field by default?
The Marlins have resorted to platooning Juan Pierre with Matt Diaz in left field, as it is possible Pierre is now just a platoon player. The team could do the same with Ozuna and Pierre once Stanton returns, but it seems like a waste of a prospect's service clock to platoon him with a struggling veteran. It is much more likely that the Marlins simply ask Pierre to assume a bench role for Ozuna as he fills in in left field.
The Marlins currently have two starting pitchers on the disabled list, with Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez residing on the 60-day DL with shoulder problems. Eovaldi should be able to return within the month, though there has yet to be any news of a rehab assignment. The Marlins are looking at an Alvarez return set for some time near the All-Star break.
This decision may be the easiest one for the Fish. Just as they have had two pitchers injured, they also have had two current starters struggling. Wade LeBlanc has done so poorly that the Marlins replaced him in the rotation temporarily with Tom Koehler, who did not fare much better yesterday. Meanwhile, Alex Sanabia has a 4.85 ERA and 5.64 FIP with only two more strikeouts than walks, so he is a prime candidate to leave the rotation. The Marlins simply cannot wait to replace these two players with infinitely more competent pitchers in Eovaldi and Alvarez.