Baseball is finally back after a long, grueling wait since Spring Training was cut short due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Marlins will start Spring Training 2.0 on July 1 and Opening Day will be on July 23 or 24. Before the pandemic shut down baseball operations, the Fish were one of the top teams in Spring Training with a 12-6 record.
They had a lot of production coming from their top prospects who are close to getting the call to the Show. The Marlins also had some of their newly acquired players produce at the plate and on the mound. While the Fish might not be contending for a World Series, there are still plenty of reasons to tune in and watch your Miami Marlins. Here are five:
1. Top prospects expected to make their MLB debuts
If you look at the Marlins’ top prospects, you’ll notice that most of their top guys are very close to making it to the majors. Prospects like Sixto Sánchez, Monte Harrison, Lewin Díaz and others could make their MLB debuts this season with the expanded rosters and taxi squad.
Harrison is a player that many believe is MLB-ready and played like it during Spring Training. In Spring Training 1.0, he played in 15 games and slashed .364/.481/.500 while adding six stolen bases.
Sánchez didn’t pitch in any Spring Training games, but he’s the closest pitcher in the Marlins farm system to getting called up. In 2019, he had an 8-6 record with a 2.76 ERA, 103 strikeouts, and just 21 walks in 114 innings pitched.
Díaz is another top prospect who performed at a high level in Spring Training with the Fish. He batted .304 with a home run, four RBIs and a .826 OPS. Diaz is also a very good defensive first baseman and could see some time in the big leagues this season. The Marlins are very high on him. Don Mattingly has compared him to Carlos Delgado.
Other prospects capable of earning call-ups this season are Jesús Sánchez, Nick Neidert, Jorge Guzman and Alex Vesia. Neidert and Vesia in particular will be working out alongside big leaguers at Marlins Park, implying that they could potentially sneak onto the Opening Day roster.
2. Watch the progression of their young players
The Marlins were a relatively young team last season, and a lot of those young guys are going to be counted on to contribute for the Fish in the future. Players like Brian Anderson, Sandy Alcantara, Jorge Alfaro and Isan Díaz are players that the organization has identified as guys they’d like to see on their roster for years to come.
Anderson has been very productive in his first two full seasons with the Fish. His bat and defensive versatility have made him an asset for the Marlins. If Anderson’s power continue to improve without sacrificing contact, he’ll be one of the most productive hitters in the Marlins lineup.
Sandy Alcantara was the Marlins lone All-Star in the 2019 season. It was also his first full season in the Major Leagues. The 24-year-old righty could be the team’s ace this season although he’ll have competition from Caleb Smith.
Jorge Alfaro had a solid 2019 season as well. He batted .262 with 18 home runs and 57 RBIs. One thing Alfaro needs to improve on is his strikeouts. He makes a lot of hard contact but doesn’t do it often enough.
Isan Díaz made his MLB debut with a bang as he homered off National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom in his game. After that game, Díaz didn’t do much else and also struggled defensively. He needs to show some type of improvement this season to show the Marlins front office and management that he belongs in the MLB. The talent is definitely there, but he needs to put it all together.
3. Quality veterans the Marlins signed in the offseason
The Marlins front office was a little more active in the offseason and picked up some quality veterans in free agency. The Fish brought in players like Jonathan Villar, Corey Dickerson, Jesús Aguilar and Brandon Kintzler.
The Marlins were able to acquire Villar from the Baltimore Orioles in a trade for minor league left-handed pitcher Easton Lucas. He had just been designated for assignment, and the Fish were quick to pick up the switch-hitting speedster. Last season, Villar batted .274 with 24 homers, 73 RBIs and swiped 40 bags. He is only under contract for one year with the Fish and will likely be their leadoff hitter in 2020.
Dickerson signed a two-year contract worth $17.5 million. In the 2019 season, he played 78 games and batted .304 with 12 home runs, 59 RBIs and a .906 OPS. Dickerson is projected to be the starting left fielder for the Fish in 2020.
Miami claimed Aguilar off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays. He was an All-Star just two seasons ago but really struggled last year. During the offseason, Aguilar wanted to get in better shape and did as he lost over 20 pounds. He should see plenty of playing time as the Marlins’ first baseman or DH.
Kintzler was a quiet but very good signing for the Marlins after having been one of the best relief pitchers out of the Cubs bullpen last season. He made 62 appearances, going 3-3 with a 2.68 ERA, a 1.02 WHIP and one save. The Fish signed Kintzler to a one-year deal worth $3.25 million. The deal includes a $4 million option for 2021 ($250,000 buyout). He’s a top candidate for the team’s closer role.
4. Every team has a shot of making the postseason
MLB announced last week that the 2020 season will only be a 60-game season. As such, the playoffs could look quite different than usual.
The MLB season is usually a 162-game marathon that has all of a sudden turned into a 60-game sprint. Teams that had little to no chance of making the postseason now see a window of opportunity for October baseball. While the Marlins are expected to have one of the toughest schedules in the league, there’s still a chance that the Fish can surprise a lot of people and at least make a run.
The front office has done a good job of adding quality veterans to mix in with their young players. If the Marlins fail to reach the postseason, they should at least be more competitive than in years past.
5. The DH is in the National League
For the 2020 season, the National League will adopt the DH. This is something the Fish Stripes staff—and baseball fans across the country—have been asking for. This gives teams the opportunity to have another big bat in the lineup instead of an automatic out.
The Marlins have some options to fill in that DH role. Jesús Aguilar and Matt Joyce might be the guys the Marlins choose most often against left-handers and right-handers, respectively. The spot can also provide a half-day of rest for hard-working regulars.
If the DH has a positive impact on the National League this season, the MLB might make the move permanent. In 2022, there will be a new collective bargaining agreement, and the universal DH may be here to stay.