After 3 long months of waiting, MLB and the MLBPA finally came to an agreement on beginning the 2020 regular season. In a couple days, teams will start a mid-summer version of spring training—aka “Summer Camp”—and then begin the season on July 23-24.
With every spring training comes roster battles, but this summer will have a bit of a twist. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, teams will initially be afforded some additional flexibility with their rosters. On Sunday, teams submitted their initial 60-man pools. Players from these pools can be added to the major league roster at any time during the season as long as they’re also placed on the 40-man roster.
Teams will open the regular season with 30-man active rosters. Two weeks into the season, the rosters will be reduced to 28 players. The same occurs two weeks after that, reducing the roster size to 26 players. Teams will also have a three-man “taxi squad” that will travel with the team in case there is a sudden roster spot to fill.
Levi Weaver of The Athletic provides a breakdown of all these unique rules/procedures here.
With just 60 games to play, lower-tier teams like the Marlins will have increased opportunity to surprise the league and steal a playoff spot. This does not discount the Marlins from facing the strongest schedule in the league but the increased uncertainty of a small sample plus a team with young talented pitchers and new solid veteran bats can give Marlins fans some hope.
Here is our projection of the Opening Day 30-man roster.
Jorge Alfaro C, Francisco Cervelli C
These were easy calls. Alfaro should receive the bulk of the work behind the plate. Cervelli will serve as the primary backup. Chad Wallach would be a third option should one of them go on the injured list.
Brian Anderson 3B, Jesús Aguilar 1B/DH, Jon Berti INF/OF, Isan Díaz 2B, Miguel Rojas SS
With the addition of the DH to the National League, the Marlins first base decision has been made much easier. Aguilar should slot in at first, allowing Garrett Cooper to hit regularly as a DH while getting some time in the outfield. Brian Anderson, Isan Díaz, and Miguel Rojas should all start at their natural positions. Jon Berti can serve in the utility role.
Lewis Brinson OF, Garrett Cooper OF/1B/DH, Corey Dickerson OF, Matt Joyce OF, Harold Ramirez OF, Magneuris Sierra OF, Jonathan Villar OF/INF
When speaking to media on Monday, Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill mentioned that Jonathan Villar would continue to play in center field. He has played all over the infield in his major league career so he would provide plenty of flexibility. Dickerson should be a lock in left field after signing as a free agent this offseason. Lewis Brinson showed, once again, a bit of what he CAN be this spring. If he continues to progress under the tutelage of bench coach James Rowson and hitting coach Eric Duncan, expect him to get significant playing time whether in the right or center field. Matt Joyce and Harold Ramirez would round out the rest of the outfield group, expect them to get spot starts in the corner outfield positions, opportunities off the bench, and occasional at-bats in the DH spot. Magneuris Sierra’s past performances don’t warrant much playing time but if he makes the roster, he would be a good fit in pinch-running situations, specifically coming off the bench to take advantage of the new extra innings rule that places a leadoff runner at second base at the start of every frame.
Monte Harrison, one of the Marlins top prospects, is someone who could certainly perform his way onto the roster. He had a strong spring training, hitting .364/.481/.500 in 22 AB. Service time and a lack of available at-bats might serve as reasons to keep him off the roster initially.
Sandy Alcantara RHP/SP, Pablo Lopez RHP/SP, Caleb Smith LHP/SP, Jose Urena RHP/SP, Jordan Yamamoto RHP/SP, Brad Boxberger RHP/RP, Adam Conley LHP/RP, Yimi Garcia RHP/RP, Elieser Hernandez RHP/RP, Brandon Kintzler RHP/RP, Aaron Northcraft RHP/RP, Sterling Sharp RHP/RP, Ryne Stanek RHP/RP, Drew Steckenrider RHP/RP, Stephen Tarpley LHP/RP, Alex Vesia LHP/RP
The starting rotation figures to be headlined by Sandy Alcantara who threw 197 1⁄3 innings with a 3.88 ERA and made his first all-star appearance in 2019. Caleb Smith, Pablo López, and José Ureña all should be reliable starters behind Alcantara. Elieser Hernandez and Jordan Yamamoto will battle it out for the 5th spot in the rotation. It’s important to note, in a shortened season, the Marlins young staff has the advantage that they won’t be throwing 20+ starts. If they can get hot early, this rotation can serve as the x-factor that lets the Marlins take the league by surprise.
With expanded rosters early on, the Marlins will benefit from getting a feel of their bullpen options. RHPs Brad Boxberger and Aaron Northcraft are two non-roster additions who showed out in spring training. Yimi Garcia and Brandon Kintzler, both free agent signings, should get the bulk of the late inning work. LHP Alex Vesia is not on the 40-man roster as of now, but he has been one of the most impressive relief pitchers in all of minor league baseball with a 1.76 ERA and 100 Ks in 66 2⁄3 innings in 2019 between Class-A and Double-A. He also pitched 10 scoreless innings in the Arizona Fall League.
RHP Jeff Brigham has the stuff to make the bullpen, but he’s been nursing an right biceps injury. If he is healthy in time for opening day, he could be a key part of the bullpen.
Thank you for reading, until next time!