March 17, 2012; Jupiter, FL, USA; Miami Marlins left fielder Austin Kearns (26) records an out in the fourth inning against the Minnesota Twins during a spring training game at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

Miami Marlins: Spring Training Competition Updates

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We took a look at some spring training updates last week, it is time to look at some more today. The Miami Marlins have dealt with quite a few injuries thus far and have a couple of position competitions going on right now. Today we are going to take a look at some Spring Training competitions that seem to be heating up with the season nearing.

March 19, 2012; Jupiter FL, USA; Miami Marlins starting pitcher

Bullpen:

Last competition update I had, I said that Wade LeBlanc had all but locked up the final spot in the Marlins bullpen. Turns out, even with his strong Spring, LeBlanc could start the season in the minors due to the option that he has remaining. With an option left, the Marlins would have the luxury of calling up LeBlanc in case he were needed to make a spot start. This way LeBlanc would be starting in the minors and would be stretched out to go longer then just a 4 or 5 inning start.

There is also the chance that the team feels it does not need a true long reliever because of early-season off-days. The Marlins are off on April 6, 10 and 16. Plenty of off days early would mean the Marlins would have a well rested pen early on.

Other then Chad Gaudin, there are not any other notable pitchers that are vying for a bullpen role. The bullpen should look like this when the season opens:

While there is the chance that LeBlanc does not make the opening day roster, I see that as a long shot. He has more then likely earned his early role on the Marlins.

March 19, 2012; Jupiter FL, USA; Miami Marlins starting pitcher Wade LeBlanc (23) in the third inning against the Houston Astros during a spring training game at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

The interesting aspect will actually be who gets send down when and if Juan Oviedo is cleared to return to the United States.

 

Infield:

Last time, I assured you guys that the Marlins utility infielder in all likelihood would be Donnie Murphy. It looks as if I assumed the wrong thing as a sleeper candidate has popped up.

Donovan Solano has made quite an impression on the Marlins early on in the spring. Solano is just 24-years old and was in the St. Louis Cardinals organization since he was just 17. He has never made the big leagues, but is vying for a chance now.

Mar 10, 2012; Jupiter, FL. USA; Miami Marlins second baseman Donovan Solano (73) prepares to tag out St. Louis Cardinals second baseman

Solano is a non-roster invitee that is in contention with Donnie Murphy, who is under contract and on the 40-man roster, and Nick Green, a non-roster invitee with big league experience.

“He’s in the mix,” Guillen said of Solano. “He’s playing very, very well. He’s doing everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s been great on the field and hitting. He’s opening a lot of people’s eyes here, especially mine, and my coaching staff. We’re going to put him in the mix, and see what happens.”

Ironically, Solano signed with the Marlins due to an opening in the organization that was caused by the Marlins acquiring the services of Ozzie Guillen as their manager.

To complete the Guillen trade, the Marlins sent prospects Ozzie Martinez and Jhan Marinez to the Chicago White Sox as compensation. Ozzie Martinez was a infield prospect for the Marlins. Martinez’s departure opened the door for Solano to have sign with the Marlins.

Solano has taken full advantage of his oppurtunity going 10-for-28 (.357) in 15 Grapefruit League games. Murphy has struggled going just 6-for-28 (.214) and Green is 3-for-18 (.167).

The infield utility role should be an interesting one to watch the rest of the way. With Greg Dobbs (hamstring) struggling to find the field so far, the chances of more then one of these guys making the team is still likely.

Dobbs for now has been given the green light to resume baseball activities. He is against a race against time to get ready for opening day. My gut feeling says that Dobbs will be ready.

 

Outfield:

In my last update, there were 5 players vying for 2 positions. The number of positions has not gone down, but the number of players vying for a position has. Scott Cousins was sent down yesterday to Triple-A and he will begin the season there.

This leaves us with Chris Coghlan, Aaron Rowand, Bryan Petersen, and Austin Kearns competing for the final two spots. Essentially, this competition will boil down to two smaller competitions.

The Marlins are likely going to carry only one more left handed hitter off of their bench. That means only one of Coghlan and Petersen will make the team. As of all games played up until yesterday, Petersen may hold a slight advantage in this battle.

Bryan Petersen has a whopping on base percentage of .350 in 40 at-bats. He has a pedestrian .235 average, but that on base percentage holds a lot more weight. Meanwhile, Coghlan has gone 7-for-25 so far. Advantage Petersen.

Feb 27 2012, Jupiter, FL, USA: Miami Marlins outfielder Bryan Petersen (11) during photo day at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Photo by Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE.

Another advantage Petersen has on Coghlan is that he is a better defender in the outfield then Coghlan. Petersen has the ability to play all three outfield positions above average. Coghlan in his career has been well below average in both left and center, and has not played a major league game in right.

Coghlan may have the higher ceiling between the two going forward, but Petersen seems to be the better option as the Marlins fourth outfielder to begin the season. Plus, you cannot separate Petey and LoMo, that would not be cool and detrimental to their show!

The second part of the competition is between Aaron Rowand and Austin Kearns. Rowand is the superior defensive player in center field, but if Petersen makes the team, Rowand would be a fine option for the corners.

Kearns also has more power then any of the other outfielders competing for a spot. Raw power off of the bench is always a plus.

Ozzie Guillen said earlier that the competition would not be based off of any players track records, likely killing any advantage that Rowand had, even though he played on Ozzie’s 2005 World Series Championship White Sox.

Just going by their spring numbers, Kearns should be a lock to make the team over Rowand. Rowand has had an abysmal spring, going 4-for-37 in 11 Grapefruit league games. Kearns on the other hand has gone 8-for-22 with 2 home runs (1 that actually left the park).

 

As we reach the final week of spring training and pitchers and hitters are more prepared for the season, it will be very interesting to see now how each of these players do. No competition at this point should be deemed over.

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Tags: Austin Kearns Bryan Petersen Chad Gaudin Chicago White Sox Chris Coghlan Donnie Murphy Donovan Solano Edward Mujica Heath Bell Jhan Martinez Miami Marlins Mike Dunn Nick Green Ozzie Martinez Randy Choate Ryan Webb Scott Cousins St. Louis Cardinals Steve Cishek Wade LeBlanc

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