The first four Marlins Spring Training games have served as a solid preview of the 2020 team. Not the “We’re gonna go undefeated!” part, just in terms of showcasing all of the faces who could have an impact during the upcoming season. Of the 65 players participating in camp—including major league veterans, top prospects and vagabond non-roster invitees—we’ve seen 54 of them used in Grapefruit League competition. So who’s missing?
The following article provides some status updates on the other 11 and explains what’s at stake for them over the next month.
- RHP Jeff Brigham—Best-case scenario, Brigham could emerge as the Marlins’ relief ace. But first, he must actually lock up a spot on the Opening Day roster. That means demonstrating the same high-90s fastball velocity he had a year ago and throwing more first-pitch strikes (the results themselves are far less important). The 28-year-old has a pair of minor league options remaining.
- RHP Pablo López—The Venezuelan right-hander gets the start Wednesday afternoon vs. the Cardinals. Expect him to be on the mound for two innings of work. In the equivalent of one full MLB campaign (31 starts), López has performed at approximately a league average level for the Fish: 4.76 ERA/4.35 FIP/4.30 xFIP, 2.0 fWAR. And he still has the upside to get better. Health permitting, he’s in the 2020 starting rotation.
- LHP Caleb Smith—Judging by his MLB Network interview on Monday, Dr. K is in good spirits! Similar to López in that his role on the club is already determined yet he’s motivated to shake off concerns about his lack of durability and consistency. Still awaiting details about his Grapefruit League debut. It is possible that Smith begins building up his stamina on the backfields in simulated games instead.
- RHP Drew Steckenrider—More than six months removed from arthroscopic right elbow surgery, Steckenrider has thrown bullpen sessions at Marlins camp. He should be appearing in organized contests in the immediate future. Coming off a miserable 2019, his chances at an Opening Day relief job are a coin flip.
- RHP Edward Cabrera—Combining the rankings of a half-dozen renowned talent evaluators, Cabrera is the No. 70 overall prospect in Major League Baseball. Statistically dominant during his age-21 season and just as exceptional in live looks, he has the ceiling to not only crack the Marlins rotation someday but lead it. However, given his lack of significant high minors experience and modest personal best of 100 1⁄3 innings pitched, putting him in official games isn’t the top priority this spring.
- C Santiago Chávez—Chávez is your prototypical defensive-minded, light-hitting catcher. He’s building camaraderie with the Double-A/Triple-A arms on the backfields considering that where he will be deployed this season. Lifetime 47.5% caught stealing rate!
- LHP Braxton Garrett—The developmental plan for the former first-round draft pick is very straightforward: he’ll head out to Jacksonville at the end of March. In the meantime, aside from training to defend his ping pong champion crown, Garrett recognizes his path to a long big league career is refining his changeup to complement the rest of his repertoire. Pay close attention to his attack plan against right-handed batters when he gets his feet wet in the Grapefruit League.
- RHP Humberto Mejía—The Marlins felt compelled to protect Mejía on the 40-man roster, releasing Wei-Yin Chen in November to make room. That does not mean he’s on the verge of making it to Miami, though. The soon-to-be 23-year-old is slated to lead the Jupiter Hammerheads staff and prove that his knack for generating weak contact is sustainable.
- OF Jesús Sánchez—Craig Mish of Swings and Mishes reports that Sánchez is on the verge of finally taking the field in 2020. He was not fully healthy over the offseason, which may have affected his readiness for game action.
- RHP Sixto Sánchez—Those composite prospect rankings cited earlier peg Sixto as baseball’s 32nd-best young talent. The J.T. Realmuto trade centerpiece was exactly as advertised during his first season with the organization (2.76 ERA/2.81 FIP/2.96 xFIP in 114.0 IP). “Since it worked before, the Marlins will once again build Sanchez up slowly for the regular season,” in the words of MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro.
- RHP Ryan Cook—A real injury concern with real ramifications! Don Mattingly says that Cook (bruised right toe) will be spending one week in a walking boot (h/t Joe Frisaro). The non-roster invitee who has returned stateside after a season in Japan probably won’t have enough time to make his case for belonging on the Opening Day roster.