The Miami Marlins demoted nine more players off of the main roster, cutting their current camp count down to 29 players. Obviously the Fish have to get down to 25 players before the start of Opening Day, so the roster has to be thinned out of four more players among the guys who are here. This means that Miami is facing some roster questions in the last two weeks before the start of the season. Where are those questions, and which guys have assured themselves of jobs? Let's take a look at the roster and assign each player to a tier based on roster certainty. Call it a Spring Training check on the roster battles.
These guys are 100 percent guaranteed roster spots. Those players either have guaranteed big-league deals or are otherwise sure-fire candidates for roster spots because they are critical to the team's starting lineup. With the exception of perhaps Brad Hand, who is mostly there because Miami will not give him up for free and he has no more minor league options, each player fills a pretty obvious defined role as well.
Cosart was in a battle for the fourth / fifth starting spot, but he was always starting ahead of most of the competitors and it appears as though he will lock up the position heading into 2016. Jackson is only being paid the veteran minimum and he has not thrown well in his five innings in Spring Training, but it seems Miami will give him an opportunity, at least out of the bullpen, in return for that guaranteed big-league deal.
Capps is listed on the active roster but is going to miss the 2016 season, so he will be headed to the 60-day disabled list. There's one cut off of the big-league team!
Likely Fifth Starter
Conley is probably ranked just a nudge below the essentially guaranteed tier of players, as his rain-cancelled game performance against the Detroit Tigers may have sealed his starting spot. From MLB.com:
The club has yet to announce its rotation, but it's hard to image Miami will break camp without Conley secure in one of the five spots.
When you strike out all six of the batters you face in two innings, you tend to look good. Conley probably has the rotation secured.
Of the three players listed here, it is likely only two will make the main roster. Miami already has Chris Johnson, Jeff Mathis, and Ichiro locked in for spot on the big league bench, so two more guys would give them a total of 13 position players, which is the common number used. Gillespie has ten singles to his name this Spring Training, but he is currently occupying a position Miami may feel is unnecessary as a fifth outfielder. Dietrich played the left field role last season to poor results, but the team could opt to use him as an extra outfielder in case of injury. Rojas should make the roster as the primary middle infield backup. Dietrich and Rojas are the most likely options to make the Opening Day club.
These six are the remaining bullpen names left, and of the three, only one is likely to make the roster to start. Of the team's main roster members, Urena has the most Major League experience, but the Marlins may want to keep him working as a starter in the minors and have him stretched out rather than consign him to a bullpen role. Then again, it might be beneficial to move one of those guys to the bullpen as well.
Of the non-roster invitees, Breslow and Ege appear to be the best performances thus far in Spring Training. Including any of these players would require a cut from the 40-man roster, Looking at the club's actual 40-man roster, no player stands out as an obvious person to be designated for assignment; the Marlins have jumped through hoops to keep Brad Hand, so you know they will be unlikely to potentially give up on a prospect just to open up a roster spot.
Which of these players is most likely to make the list? The Marlins want two left-handers in their bullpen, but with Brad Hand on board, they would already have two lefties, eliminating a huge need for someone like Breslow or Lazo. Urena may be best served as a prospect by remaining stretched out in Triple-A. Presuming Miami would prefer not to designated a roster member for assignment to fit a veteran or other prospect like Ege, This might very well leave them with Nefi Ogando as the best option left despite his nondescript Spring Training performance. Going against Ogando is the fact that the Marlins do not have strong organizational ties to him, as they simply claimed him off of waivers. The club may be willing to simply cut him in favor of a veteran like Breslow instead.
It is hard to say who the final bullpen roster spot will go to. My feeling is that Ogando or Lazo will retain the position, but the Marlins may opt for an unnecessary cut to make room for an unneeded veteran instead of an in-house talent.