Spring Training began for the Marlins this week with pitchers and catchers reporting for workouts on Wednesday. There would be no easing into things, however, as the players were told right away that jobs are on the line and roster spots must be earned, regardless of past performances or experience. Pitchers always arrive early, but it was particularly fitting this year as that is the area that needs the most work heading into the 2020 season. The bullpen was consistently poor last season and will almost be completely made up of new faces on Opening Day regardless of what happens during the course of Grapefruit League play. The rotation saw good production early in 2019, but then wore down as the season went on. Sandy Alcántara, Caleb Smith, and Pablo López look like locks to retain their roles from a year ago; there are numerous names battling it out for the last two spots, including some top prospects that cannot be ruled out at this stage.
Switching it Up
When the Marlins signed Pat Venditte to a minor league deal last month it made few headlines, but the 34-year-old has a unique story and perhaps a better chance than most to make the Opening Day roster. Over 68 career MLB innings, Venditte owns an unimpressive 5.03 ERA, but he does have one trick up his sleeve than no other Marlin has: the ability to switch-pitch. With the new rule that relief pitchers must either face three batters or finish an inning, the potential to favorably match-up against every hitter could play into Miami's hands and help strengthen a bullpen that struggled last season.
To make the cut, Venditte will have to beat the likes of Brad Boxberger, who the Marlins signed to a similar deal earlier this week. The right-hander recorded a 5.40 ERA over 29 games for the Royals last season, but does have 77 career saves to his name.
El Oso Pequeño
Catcher Jorge Alfaro is ready for the new season to start after working hard on his conditioning throughout the winter. Roughly 15 pounds lighter than a year ago, the 26-year-old is aiming to demonstrate more durability than he did in 2019, when he appeared in 130 games and hit .262 with 18 homers and 57 RBIs. The decrease in weight should reduce the strain on his knees while catching and result in less time on the bench. It could also help increase an average Spring Speed that already led all backstops last season. However, the top priority for Alfaro ought to be improving his discipline in the batter’s box after striking out in one of every three plate appearances and posting a below-average on-base percentage in his Marlins debut.
Nobody is predicting the Marlins to win the World Series this season, but almost everyone—the front office and ownership group included—are expecting to see tangible progress and improvement as the rebuild enters its third season. At 57-105 last season, Miami posted the second-worst mark in franchise history as rookies and journeymen veterans filled the lineup card. Both Luis Davila of Swings and Mishes and Joe Williams of USA Today believe that the team if a safe bet to win 65 games or more in 2020—possibly even 70—while proving to be a pain in the side of contending teams down the stretch.
Thanks for the Memories
Martín Prado has officially called time on his career after 14 years in the big leagues. The Venezuelan retires as a career .287 hitter to go along with exactly 100 home runs, the last of which came in what ended up being his last ever game. Over the past five years in Miami, Prado became a well respected leader among his teammates and the entire organization, and he will go down as one of the most popular players to ever represent the Marlins. Best of luck in the next chapter of your life, Martín!