Marlins Spring Training Competition: Hand, Koheler Locked in Intense Race


Mar 6, 2014; Jupiter, FL, USA; Miami Marlins starting pitcher Brad Hand (52) throws against the Boston Red Sox at Roger Dean Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Just two weeks are left before the Miami Marlins finally kick their season off against the Colordo Rockies on March 31st. That means Marlins players on the bubble have just two weeks left to prove their standing on the team for the upcoming season.

The Marlins are still not clear on how their last two position battles are going to turn out, both for very different reasons. The center field battle is looking like it won’t be a battle at all, as both Marcell Ozuna and Jake Marisnick seemed destined to start the season at Triple-A New Orleans.

On the other hand, Tom Koehler and Brad Hand continue to pitch toe-to-toe, trying to top the other, in trying to win the last rotation spot.

A possible second base situation has popped up, with Rafael Furcal continuing to deal with injuries.

Center Field Battle:

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Ozuna has continued to struggle at the plate and his struggles at the plate may have caught up to him on the field. On Sunday, Ozuna misplayed a ball in center field that led to a triple for Oswaldo Arcia and eventually the Twins first run of the game.

Marisnick is enjoying himself a nice spring training, hitting the ball well. Despite the stats, it’s been pretty obvious when seeing Marisnick swing that he still has some work to do in the minors. Marisnick’s swing still tends to be too long and if he doesn’t work on that, his spring training success won’t translate in the regular season.

Due to the struggles of Ozuna and the Marlins not feeling Marisnick is ready quite yet, it seems the Marlins plan B might be to move Christian Yelich to center field and let Jeff Baker, Brian Bogusevic, and Reed Johnson duke it out for the left field role.

Baker and Bogusevic are basically locks to make the team. Baker signed a two-year deal with the Marlins and Bogusevic is out of minor league options. That means Johnson has the most to gain from Ozuna’s struggles.

I’d say Johnson is the favorite to land the role and platoon with Bogusevic, with Baker making spot starts in left here and there. Johnson’s chances of making the team are helped due to the on-going situation at second base.

Second Base Battle?

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Furcal has racked up just 18 at bats during the spring, due to his hamstring issues. According to Joe Frisaro, the Marlins are unsure if Furcal is going to be ready for opening day. Dietrich is having himself a nice spring and may have positioned himself well if Furcal has to miss time.

One thing that Dietrich struggled with during his time in the minors and so far this spring are strikeouts. Dietrich has struck out in 30% of his at bats so far in the spring and struggled with plate discipline during his tenure in the majors last season.

Donovan Solano and Ed Lucas have competed for the last bench role on the Marlins, but Lucas missed time recently due to injury woes of his own. Baker will be a super utility player for the Marlins, until they realize he needs to be platooning with Garrett Jones at first.

Without more information on the extent of Furcal’s injury, the second base situation is going to be one we’ll have to keep an eye on. His injury has put Dietrich back on the map for landing an opening day gig with the Marlins.

Fifth Starter Battle:

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Tom Koehler continues to impress in March for the Marlins, posting just a 0.75 ERA in his 12 innings of work. Koehler has allowed just two walks and seven hits, which has been a major reason for his success. Koehler is obviously pitching over his head now, but he was a decent number 5 option for the Fish last season.

Hand started the no-hit bid for the Marlins against the Yankees in Panama on Saturday evening. Hand struck out six in his five innings of work. He may have an edge on Koehler for the last rotation spot, due to him being out of options. Hand could also be the Marlins second left-hander out of the bullpen, with no other real candidate emerging there.

Slowey has pitched well again this spring for the Marlins, but I see him making the club as a long shot. He is not on the Marlins 40-man roster and would require Marlins possibly cutting another player that could be useful down the road for the team.

Andrew Heaney has pitched pretty well in his first extended spring training action. The Marlins are not likely to rush Heaney, given their rotation depth and issues with players out of options. Heaney is expected to open the season in Double-A and could force a promotion with stellar pitching.