The Miami Marlins are ironically not holding competitions for their position player spots, despite the team's clear lack of talent in that area. The Fish signed a number of veteran stopgaps who should be guaranteed their jobs, while the young players on the pitching side are fending each other off for roles in the starting rotation.
But there is one position for which there will be an open competition this spring, and a few more bench spots are likely open for the taking in advance of the 2014 season.
The Marlins are set in left and right field with Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton respectively. It is nice that the franchise has the sort of depth in the outfield that it has to be able to boast two prospects of decent caliber competing for the final starting outfield spot. Marcell Ozuna holds the slim lead to start things off in the outfield, primarily because he began his time in the majors at least somewhat positively. After a hot month of May, a lot of regression of BABIP hit Ozuna in a big way, leading to his finishing batting line of .265/.303/.389 (.304 wOBA).
The optimist would view that line and say that it came with none of Ozuna's calling-card power, which was the ultimate tool that made him a prospect in the first place. The pessimistic view would point to his poor plate discipline continued from the minors and expect that this approach cannot last. The truth is likely somewhere in between. Ozuna should provide more power next year, and that power will be much need for the pop-less Marlins. But he still will not be drawing walks, even though the contact rate (75.3 percent, 89.7 percent in the strike zone) is promising in his chances to avoid a major strikeout problem.
Jake Marisnick looked all sorts of awful in his short Major League stint, and he is also trying to recover from a meniscus injury from late last season. He is a better-ranked prospect than Ozuna, and despite Ozuna's excellent defensive chops from last year, there is a very good chance that Marisnick is an even better defender. But at this stage, he may simply be too raw to work at the big league level. Marisnick displayed similar strikeout and walk numbers as Ozuna did at the same level of competition, and that trend continued for Marisnick as he spent time in Double-A. He could find no such luck in the BABIP department to kick off his career, though, and the power that he has yet to fully develop did not show up in the first 100 plate appearances.
Marisnick is likely still the more important prospect, which makes his development more critical to the Marlins' success. If the Fish feel that he requires more help in the minors, especially in Triple-A, the team will allow Ozuna to play the starting center field role to begin the year. Brian Bogusevic will serve as the team's backup center fielder, with Yelich also being able to play the position in a pinch.
Early Favorite: Marcell Ozuna