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5 most intriguing non-roster invitees to Marlins spring training

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Several former early-round draft picks and a newly signed reliever with swing-and-miss potential stand out to me.

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With barely a week to spare until pitchers and catchers report, the Marlins’ 2021 spring training squad is coming into focus. Joining the players who are on the 40-man roster, we also have the following 25 non-roster invitees to look forward to monitoring in Jupiter: INF Eddy Alvarez, C Will Banfield, RHP Anthony Bender, OF JJ Bleday, OF Peyton Burdick, INF Joe Dunand, RHP Tommy Eveld, LHP Jake Fishman, C Nick Fortes, RHP Alexander Guillen, LHP Dylan Lee, C Sandy León, RHP Luís Madero, INF Luis Marté, RHP Zach McCambley, RHP Max Meyer, OF Brian Miller, OF Kameron Misner, C Brian Navarreto, RHP Kyle Nicolas, SS Nasim Nuñez, RHP Josh Roberson, OF Connor Scott, LHP Will Stewart and RHP Zach Thompson.

That gives the Fish 65 players, a comparable total to what we’ve seen from them in recent springs.

This article will focus on the NRIs. Feel free to study and root for any of the 25, but these several in particular have my attention.

Honorable Mention: Peyton Burdick

Burdick was one of the most-talked-about players when we posted the full list of NRIs to Twitter. That was to be expected: he is adored within the Marlins organization and team executives have repeatedly praised him through the media. Admittedly, I enjoyed watching him dominate with Low-A Clinton in 2019. His strength and effort leap off the screen.

However, Burdick is an extreme long shot to reach the majors in 2021. The soon-to-be 24-year-old has taken advantage of mostly younger competition during his professional career thus far, so any comparisons between him and Mike f****** Trout are completely in jest.

Personally, I won’t be buying into the hype until seeing how he fares against Double-A opponents.

5) Alexander Guillen

According to the Miami Herald’s Craig Mish and general manager Kim Ng herself, the Marlins continue to pursue another established reliever. The hold-up is, they greatly prefer to get said reliever on a minor league deal because barring injury, their eight-man Opening Day bullpen is essentially set. Dozens of notables are still available in free agency so stay tuned.

In the meantime, Guillen cracks my top five. He owns a 27.9% career strikeout rate that has been steadily trending upward.

  • 2016, Low-A—26.9 K% in 39.2 IP
  • 2017, High-A—27.7 K% in 54.2 IP
  • 2018, High-A—29.5 K% in 65.0 IP
  • 2019, Double-A—30.3 K% in 76.2 IP
  • 2019, Arizona Fall League—36.1 K% in 10.0 IP

Guillen spent most of this past summer at the Rockies alternate training site. They apparently didn’t see enough promise from the Dominican right-hander to call him up to The Show or make a strong push to re-sign him as a minor league free agent. Then again, that franchise has had (to put it gently) a checkered history when it comes to identifying effective relievers.

Don’t blink or you might miss Guillen’s ascension from no-name to nasty setup man.

4) Joe Dunand

Dunand’s winter ball excellence was chronicled in Offseason Fish. That experience went about as perfectly as he could’ve hoped for, and this invite is an acknowledgement of that after the Marlins declined to make him an NRI for major league camp in 2020.

In the event of a significant Brian Anderson injury this season, who would take over third base duties? Probably Jon Berti, but Dunand ought to be next in line. He earned a Gold Glove in the Dominican Republic at the position and showed plenty of pop in what’s generally a home run-suppressing league.

Like Guillen, Dunand won’t be able to force himself onto the Opening Day roster. However, he can ingratiate himself with the front office decision-makers and coaches enough to start regularly at Triple-A Jacksonville until a call-up opportunity presents itself.

3) Kameron Misner

While both Burdick and my No. 2 NRI have garnered effusive praise over the past year-and-a-half, Misner has seemingly fallen below the radar. I find that very intriguing! After all, he was a collegiate outfielder selected early in the 2019 MLB Draft just like they were, plus he’s the youngest of the trio and has the best chance of sticking in center field.

Misner has as much raw power as many Marlins prospect. To unleash it in games, though, he needed to make some adjustments to his swing. That was on his agenda during quarantine.

“Without a doubt,” Misner told Beyond the Bases, “I’m better than I was last year and I’m ready to show it.”

Gotta love the confidence.

2) JJ Bleday

Fish Stripes original GIF

1) Max Meyer

Not much explanation needed for these two, right?

The Marlins believed so much in Bleday’s polish coming out of Vanderbilt University that they sent him straight to High-A Jupiter after he signed with them. He already experienced big league spring training last year and figures to get a higher volume of Grapefruit League reps this time around. Amateur scouting director DJ Svihlik and others touted Meyer as potentially being quick to the majors, teasing us with the bold possibility of utilizing him out of the Fish bullpen at some point in 2020. That didn’t happen, but the Minnesota right-hander has made the team complex in Jupiter his second home, trying to expedite his development even in the absence of official games. I’m excited to see how that work translates on the mound.

Historically, the Marlins have been too conscious of MLB service time to permit elite prospects onto the Opening Day roster for their debuts (José Fernández in 2013 was a rare exception). Although I doubt Bleday or Meyer crash the party on Apr. 1, they can definitely help Miami “flip the M” in 2021. Spring training will give us a preview of what’s to come.