The Marlins will finalize their 25-man roster on Thursday of this week but have already made a number of surprising moves which, while they may not have been fully expected, should show fans that the team is actually making smart baseball decisions. The new ownership got off to a rocky start with its South Florida base as the team almost immediately traded away its core outfield trio of Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna and accompanied those deals with a number of other unpopular moves on and off the field, but after a shaky beginning, the front office put together an outstanding 2018-2019 offseason that should give fans confidence in #theProcess moving forward.
The news this week that Wei-Yin Chen would pitch in relief and Dan Straily had been released meant that the Marlins were giving each of their promising arms from 2018 the chance to continue their development at the big-league level. Trevor Richards, Caleb Smith, Pablo López and Sandy Alcántara each made the rotation after having big springs. They’ll be joined by stalwart José Ureña.
The Marlins reported to Spring Training this year with competition at virtually every position. We focus on players at both ends of the spectrum: those who stepped up and others who couldn't take advantage https://t.co/hjaBvepvP3— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) March 26, 2019
Before you start screaming “spring training fluke!” at your device, each of the first three of the above-mentioned hurlers in particular saw mechanical, skills or health changes that could account for their nice preseason stats and big steps forward for the whole trio during the regular season too. Richards swapped his slider for a curve and also added a cutter. López added velocity to his exceptional control on the way to a 16:1 K/BB ratio in Grapefruit League play, and Smith recovered faster than expected from lat surgery to top Pablo with a 19:1 K/BB in just 13.1 spring innings.
Alcántara has always had the best stuff of the bunch and needs to find out if he has enough control and a consistent third pitch necessary in order to become that next Marlins ace. With Sixto Sánchez, Jordan Yamamoto and Zac Gallen on the way, it is good to see the organization giving as much opportunity as possible to young players who may actually contribute to the team’s next competitive window.
Garrett Cooper has made the Marlins opening day roster. Cooper hit .395 this spring and earned his way on. Although the club won’t confirm or make official yet, he is expected to start in RF on Thursday.— Craig Mish (@CraigMish) March 24, 2019
That idea extended to the offensive side of the ball too, as Garrett Cooper beat out Peter O’Brien for a spot in right field. Cooper won an opening day starting job off a strong spring in 2018 only to see the year wasted due to a wrist injury. But he battled back, batted nearly .400 in another strong preseason showing, and created space on the roster for himself while O’Brien continued to struggle placing bat on ball. That the team recognized Cooper’s potential over the perhaps easier, more emotional choice in the homegrown and offseason face of the franchise O’Brien shows that it is doing its best to field the next competitive Marlins team as soon as possible.
Don’t forget that all this comes after an offseason that saw the Fish sign the top international free agent (Víctor Víctor Mesa) while also acquiring a new, controllable starting catcher (Jorge Alfaro) for the big-league team along with yet another No. 1 overall prospect (Sánchez) in the J.T. Realmuto deal. The team also spent a little money to bring in Curtis Granderson, Neil Walker, and Sergio Romo to mentor the younger players at the pro level. This team is almost certainly not going to make a playoff push in 2019, but management is giving the public something to watch and be excited about while also accelerating the team’s competitive timetable.