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Examining Marlins candidates for the 2019 All-Star Game

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With J.T. Realmuto in Philadelphia, who will represent the 305 in the mid-summer classic?

MLB: Miami Marlins at Colorado Rockies Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

As you all know by now, J.T. Realmuto is no longer a Miami Marlin. It’s always sad to see another top player leave, but the haul the Marlins got back also bring excitement and promise to the franchise. While we wait for the arrival of Sixto Sanchez, we turn to the more immediate and pressing concern: with J.T. now in Philly, who will play in this year’s All-Star game wearing a Miami uniform? Let’s take a brief look at the top options.

Brian Anderson

Anderson might have been a strong contender for Rookie of the Year honors in the NL had generational phenoms Ronald Acuña and Juan Soto not also been in the same class. According to several projection systems, “BA” is projected to lead the team in WAR, and it stands to reason he’ll have the flashiest stats on the offense. His ability to play multiple spots on the diamond makes him more likely to find a spot on an All-Star roster than the next hitter, who plays a loaded position in the NL. And he’s just 25, which means he has time to make adjustments and improve as well.

Starlin Castro

Starlin the Marlin (because I don’t know why Jarlin Garcia should have all the fun) is the only player after Anderson projected for more than 550 at-bats and is second in projected WAR according to most systems. Based simply on the fact that the soon-to-be 29-year-old will play every day, bat near the top of the lineup, and have more opportunities to put up numbers than the rest of the team (save Anderson), it seems likely he’d have better counting stats than everyone else, too.

The everyday first baseman?

If there is one. Neil Walker has been a 1.9-WAR player every full year he’s been in the league, except for last season, in which he was hampered by injuries. He can play all over the diamond, seeing at least 25 games at first, second and third last season while adding 16 in the outfield, so if the 33-year-old can stay healthy and lock down an everyday role as a utility man, he’ll have a shot at his first All-Star nod.

However, that’s a lot to ask given his age and recent history, and he’ll likely see most of his time at first base, where he’ll have to contend with Peter O’Brien, a former top prospect who hit 34 home runs across three levels and two organizations last season, including four in a 22-game stint in the majors. O’Brien has always struggled to make contact, but if he can keep his strikeout rate at a “manageable” 30 percent like he did in his short time with the Fish last September, he could finally break out at age 28. Either of these two could be the team’s offensive leader if they can lock down the playing time with consistency and health.

Caleb Smith

Smith is projected to lead the Miami pitching staff in WAR this season and was in the midst of a breakout rookie 2018 when he tore his lat in June and missed the remainder of the year. Although he should miss the start of spring training, the team expects him to be a full-go by the time the regular season starts. That 27 percent strikeout percentage from his abbreviated 2018 sure looks juicy as do his first two months of last season during which he went 4-5 with a 3.51 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP, and 69 strikeouts in 56.1 innings. Repeating those two months would likely earn him All-Star consideration.

Jose Ureña

After “ñ-gate”, wherein Ureña was ejected in the first inning for intentionally hitting a red-hot Acuña with a pitch in mid-August, the 27-year-old Dominican went on a tear of his own, finishing the season with a 5-0 record in his final six starts. He credited the surge with a change in approach and pitch mix. If he can maintain those gains over the first half of 2019, he’d be a strong candidate for his first All-Star game.

Honorable mention

Ultimately, whoever takes the next and biggest step in their development will likely be the 2019 Marlins All-Star. My personal favorites are Anderson and Ureña. Another potential candidate is Lewis Brinson, who has loads of talent but needs to make more contact in his second big-league season. “El Profe” Trevor Richards and top prospect Sandy Alcantara are each an improved third pitch away from having a full arsenal and possible breakouts. Bullpen mates Drew Steckenrider and Adam Conley each showed flashes last season, and if one of them takes the closer mantle and runs with it, he could also be an option. Curtis Granderson is one of baseball’s “good guys”, and, if he has a decent enough showing in the first half, could earn a “legacy” nod as his career winds down. All of these guys bear watching as the Process continues. Who said rebuilds can’t be fun?