The bags are packed, the roster is almost solidified, and the Marlins are set to travel down south from Jupiter. As their driver turns the key in the ignition of the Marlins U-Haul, 2019 Spring Training is officially over. So, what did we learn?
With the conclusion of camp comes clear winners and losers. We saw some Marlins earn a major league roster spot or minor league promotion during this brief period. Others left a lot to be desired on their way to a reduced role or unemployment.
Closing the books on our Spring Training coverage, we take an in-depth look at two winners and two losers from the past month.
Many may forget that Cooper was the 2018 Opening Day right fielder for the Fightin’ Fish. Can’t blame you, though—an early-season wrist injury derailed almost the entirety of his campaign. Not many expected Cooper to regain his position as a starter for 2019, with even my earlier prediction of him making the Opening Day roster—as a reserve—falling short of the eventual outcome.
Cooper had other plans. He put together one of the more impressive springs by a Marlin, with a .395/.438/.488 line and adequate defense in the corner outfield positions. He leapfrogged multiple teammates on the depth chart and forced the hands of team decision-makers with his production.
Fully expect to see Garrett Cooper announced as the Opening Day right fielder for your 2019 Miami Marlins, largely due to his Grapefruit League excellence.
SP Pablo López
“We saw the growth of Trevor Richards, Pablo Lopez, Sandy Alcantara [and Caleb Smith] & these guys came ready to make the team.”— Wells Dusenbury (@DuseReport) March 25, 2019
Mike Hill on #Marlins pitching competition & deciding the rotation. pic.twitter.com/LmpPI7kFs8
Very few pitchers—regardless of their status within the league—did more for their projections this spring than Pablo López.
Coming off of a 2018 campaign that saw him open eyes across AA, AAA, and the Major League level, Lopez added velocity to his pitches, and put forth a sub-1 ERA, while issuing only one walk in 20 innings pitched. López dominated spring, and did it with improved velocity, pinpoint command, and plus secondaries.
Yes, this is “only spring.” And yes, Miami needs to see López continue his improvement against consistent big league talent, but putting it bluntly, he authored one of the best performances in Marlins Spring Training history.
The fun part? You could give similar praise to other rotation candidates.
Marlins got some arms Trevor Richards, Pablo López, Caleb Smith and Zac Gallen combined in Spring Training:— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) March 24, 2019
2.19 ERA, 61.2 IP, 6 HR, 7 BB, 67 K
Fish Stripes is not the only outlet recognizing this significant staff talent, as Pitcher List ranks three Marlins in their 2019 Top 100 Starting Pitchers List.
Honorable Mentions: OF Lewis Brinson, SP Trevor Richards, SS Miguel Rojas, RP Adam Conley
There was a time during this offseason where O’Brien was seemingly a lock for an Opening Day roster spot. Whether at first base, or as later speculated, in a corner outfield position, the established belief was that the Miami-native would start 2019 Opening Day in front of his hometown crowd. Unfortunately, this belief became less established as Spring wore on.
O’Brien scuffled out of the gates; a start that did not lead to immediate concern. Mattingly repeatedly gave O’Brien a public vote of confidence, as one could see how one of the featured players in the #OurColores campaign was likely in the original plans for the season. But with Cooper putting together an incredible Spring, and with O’Brien struggling to make consistent contact against more advanced pitching, the writing was on the wall.
O’Brien was sent down to the minors during the last week of camp. The expectation is that O’Brien will make his way to Little Havana at some point throughout the season, but for a player that was consistently predicted as an Opening Day starter at both first base, and then as a corner outfielder, starting in the minors should be considered a loss.
SP Dan Straily
This is not necessarily due to his release. It’s possible that Straily latches on with a contender and ends up winning (literally) on his way to a fulfilling campaign. And it is not due to his own performance during spring, which while unimpressive, should not have forced the durable 30-year-old into temporary unemployment.
Sometimes in life, you lose because of things outside of your control. In the case of Straily, these external factors were the talented young arms in the rotation.
José Ureña, Pablo López, Trevor Richards, Sandy Alcántara, Caleb Smith, Zac Gallen and Nick Neidert, and the list goes on. The Marlins are stacked with major league-caliber starters, all of whom are under long-term control and much less expensive than Straily.
If López is placed on an innings limit, then Gallen or Yamamoto can come up. If a young arm gets injured, then Chen can take his place. Though Straily was highly regarded in the clubhouse, the Marlins determined over the course of Spring Training that he was non-essential considering how many of their pitchers are further along in their development than initially believed.
Here at Fish Stripes, we wish Straily all the best on his future endeavors. Thank you for your time with the Fish, and for your kindness throughout!
Honorable Mentions: OF Victor Victor Mesa (injury), SP Wei-Yin Chen, OF Monte Harrison
(Our own Alex Krutchik shares his perspective on the losers, as well)
The Marlins had their fair share of positive developments during 2019 camp. Some surprises who made their presence be known, others who reported with every reason to be confident about the upcoming campaign, only to take a step back in their expected outcomes. A competitive camp will always be a good thing for the organization as a whole, but never forget that with competition comes both winning and losing.
Who would you identify as your winners and losers?