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2019 Marlins Season Preview: Chad Wallach

After a rough season, Wallach looks put together a better 2019.

In a few years, a good Marlins trivia question may be, “Who was the Marlins Opening Day catcher in 2018?” Chad Wallach certainly didn’t win the job out of spring training, but rather benefited from unusual circumstances. That really applies to all of Wallach’s major league playing time last season, and his role with the organization moving forward.

How did he get here? Claimed off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds on November 3, 2017

2018 MLB Stats: .178/.275/.267, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 23 K, 4 BB in 45 AB

2019 ZiPS Projection: .203/.280/.329, 6 HR, 23 RBI, 77 K, 22 BB in 231 AB

Ironman J.T. Realmuto sustained a back contusion injury last March. Instead of rushing back their most valuable asset in a rebuilding year, the Marlins decided to place J.T. on the disabled list to start the season.

While absent for the first two-plus weeks of action, Chad Wallach—son of bench coach Tim Wallach—was used as the primary catcher for the Fish. He didn’t make much of the opportunity, going 4-for-21 with 2 RBI and 9 K in that time. On the bright side, his defense was adequate.

Upon Realmuto’s return from the DL, Wallach was optioned down to New Orleans and the Marlins then stuck with veteran Bryan Holaday as the primary back-up catcher for the remainder of the season.

In September, Wallach was called back up to Miami as rosters expanded to give some added depth to the bench. This time, he made more of his opportunity and belted his first big league home run on the 23rd against his old club, Cincinnati.

Going into 2019, Wallach still profiles as the No. 2 or No. 3 catcher for the Marlins (almost interchangeable with Bryan Holaday), behind Jorge Alfaro. The 27-year-old sustained a right quad injury and is just getting back to playing Grapefruit League games, entering Tuesday with a .143/.250/.143 slash line. A 40-man roster spot works to his advantage, though the club has brought several non-roster invitees to Jupiter to provide competition at his position: Santiago Chávez and Rodrigo Vigil as well as veteran Wilkin Castillo.

There is no guarantee Wallach gets a spot on the 2019 Opening Day roster. Then again...

Things are shaping up to be eerily similar to last year. Alfaro looked like a lock for the starting job, but banged his right knee pursuing a foul ball and has been shut down indefinitely with inflammation. While the Marlins have said it’s not a big concern and that he should be ready by Opening Day, they also sang that tune about Realmuto last year.

So who knows—maybe with yet another circumstantial opportunity, Chad Wallach could somehow be the Marlins Opening Day catcher in back-to-back seasons.