At the end of the MLB Winter Meetings, nobody was satisfied with the state of the Miami Marlins. Not even general manager Kim Ng, who guaranteed that there will be personnel changes completed by Opening Day. On Friday, the Marlins inked C.J. Hinojosa to a minor league deal, but with all due respect to the journeyman infielder, I assume more substantial transactions are still to come.
With the information available right now, it’d be foolish to attempt to predict who will crack the initial 2023 Marlins active roster. I am merely projecting how Miami would go about patching together their 26-man group using players currently under the club’s control. The purpose of presenting it in this format is to make it easier to identify what their weaknesses are and come up with specific suggestions to address them via trade and/or free agency while they still have several months to do so.
The Opening Day roster is not comprised of an organization’s best 26 players. It is never that simple. I’ll touch on some of the factors that influence those decisions below. Also, just because a player makes the cut for me doesn’t mean I believe they’ll hold onto their spot throughout the season. For the fringy guys, production is everything.
Please note that I am projecting Anthony Bender, Max Meyer and Sixto Sánchez to begin the 2023 season on the major league injured list as they rehab from their respective surgeries.
VETERANS/DESERVING LOCKS: Sandy Alcantara, Jon Berti, Richard Bleier, JT Chargois, Jazz Chisholm Jr., Garrett Cooper, Dylan Floro, Nick Fortes, Avisaíl García, Pablo López, Jesús Luzardo, Steven Okert, Miguel Rojas, Tanner Scott, Jorge Soler, Jacob Stallings and Joey Wendle
There’s no elaboration needed for the majority of these names. They performed substantially above replacement level in 2022 and did so in a way that doesn’t seem “fluky.”
Although Scott trended in the wrong direction as last season progressed, he has the appropriate demeanor to close out games when necessary. He’s also owed a multi-million-dollar salary in 2023. The Marlins would have non-tendered him if they had any doubts about him being major league-caliber moving forward.
The disappointing Stallings played much closer to expectations in the second half of the season (117 wRC+) and the Marlins greatly value his intangibles.
With $41 million still owed to García, the Marlins won’t do anything drastic right now. They’ll hope that his renewed commitment to conditioning sticks and that his career trend of every-other-year effectiveness continues.
Cabrera, Castano and Sánchez have extinguished their minor league option years. If healthy, they must be on the team or on the waiver wire. It is an easy call to award spots to Cabrera and Sánchez despite concerns about the former’s control and the latter’s plate approach—they both flashed awesome upside in 2022. As for Castano, the Marlins’ early-season schedule facilitates his fit. A conventional “long man” will be relied upon during their March/April stretch of 29 games in 32 days.
The Marlins went the safe route with their Rule 5 Draft pick. Enright posted a 2.78 FIP during his tenure in the Guardians farm system. There’s a low-leverage bullpen role reserved for him.
FIFTH ROTATION SPOT: Trevor Rogers
It would be easier to pencil in Rogers if he had made his final few scheduled starts of 2022. A left lat strain got in the way of him salvaging good vibes from a miserable individual campaign. Barring trades, the former All-Star has fierce internal competition for a starting job, but I think he’ll show enough during spring training to clinch it.
Perhaps De La Cruz ought to be a “deserving lock” for Opening Day considering his fantastic finish to the regular season and the lack of competent left/center field alternatives on the Marlins at the moment. It’s semantics. He has the inside track to the 26-man.
Miguel Rojas has the skills to serve as Garrett Cooper’s backup first baseman, but he will be a bit preoccupied with starting shortstop duties. That’s where Encarnación comes in. It is sink-or-swim time for the Dominican slugger, who is in the midst of a winter ball rampage.
Groshans can split time with Joey Wendle at third base.
LAST MAN IN THE ‘PEN: Tommy Nance
Nance quietly tinkered with his breaking ball usage after a midseason slump and the results were encouraging. Filling out the bullpen is an exercise in splitting hairs, and Nance in particular—entering his age-32 season—will be on a short lease. Nasty yet inexperienced homegrown relievers are breathing down his neck.
TOUGHEST OMISSIONS: Huascar Brazoban, Braxton Garrett, Charles Leblanc and Josh Simpson
NON-ROSTER WILDCARDS: Jake Mangum, Brian Miller and Eury Pérez
More than two-thirds of my selections—18 of 26—were part of the Opening Day roster last season. That isn’t the kind of continuity you want to see for team that scuffled to 93 losses.
The Marlins have 110 days left to acquire more talented and complementary players.