At the dawn of the new calendar year, nobody feels as though the 2023 Miami Marlins have been fully assembled, but months of inquiries and negotiations have culminated in minimal acquisitions. It seems as though many familiar faces from last season will be retained. The team’s record was not indicative of their talent...allegedly.
There is no use predicting the Opening Day active roster so far in advance. This is merely a projection using players currently under the club’s control.
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 somebody makes the cut for me doesn’t mean I believe they would hold onto their spot throughout the season. For players on the fringe, production is key.
Please note that I am anticipating Anthony Bender, Max Meyer and Sixto Sánchez to begin the 2023 season on the 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, Jean Segura, 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.
In the previous projection, I listed Wendle as the primary starter at third base. Segura’s arrival relegates him to a less prominent yet still notable role.
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.
Garrett Cooper needs to have a backup at first base. Through the years, Don Mattingly would occasionally deploy Miguel Rojas as a late-game defensive replacement, but Rojas has rarely made starts there. I previously viewed this roster spot as a battle between Encarnación and Charles Leblanc. With the latter now out of the picture, it’s up to the Dominican slugger to prove to the Marlins that his winter ball rampage is transferrable to the big leagues.
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: Peyton Burdick, Braxton Garrett and Josh Simpson
NON-ROSTER WILDCARDS: Garrett Hampson, Brian Miller and Eury Pérez