It’s March again, and that means Marlins spring training 2016 has arrived. It’s that time of year when the team gathers at Jupiter, Florida and prepare for the upcoming season. Fans get a glimpse of their team for the first time since October, players battle it out for remaining roster spots, and we can all stop trying to get into hockey. It’s never going to happen. While the Marlins haven’t made as many moves as in years past, there’s still quite a bit to monitor in this month’s first games. With that said, here are 3 things to look out for in the Marlins spring training.
- Battle For the Fifth Rotation Spot– With the signing of Wei-Yin Chen, the Marlins rotation is mostly set in stone. Jose will be the opening day starter, Chen will slot in at second, with Jarred Cosart and Tom Koehler taking the third and fourth spots. Who lands that fifth spot though is anybody’s guess. The odds on favorite now has to be Adam Conley. After pitching 58 innings as a starter last year, Conley posted a solid 3.68 ERA, as well as encouraging strikeout and walk rates. At only 25 years old, he flashed upside as a lefty with a nice fastball and two solid secondary offerings. Newly signed pitcher Edwin Jackson, swingman David Phelps, and pitchers Kendrys Flores, Justin Nicolino, and Jose Urena also figure to give him a run for his money.
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- What Kind of Shape are Ozuna and Bour In, and How Will it Affect Their Play– Joe Frisaro reported that Marcell Ozuna and Justin Bour came into the offseason looking to trim down for 2016. For a little context, Bour weighed 290 lbs. last year, and Ozuna weighed 240 lbs. Both reportedly lost about 20 pounds in the offseason. This sounds encouraging, but only time will tell if the weight loss translates into improved performance. We often hear that a player has lost weight without really recognizing a difference in their play. Spring training will be a great chance to see if Bour and Ozuna come out playing a faster, more agile brand of baseball. Their success is critical. Together with Giancarlo Stanton, they form the heart of Miami’s lineup.
- The Health of Miami’s Two Stars– Look, the health of the whole team matters. Especially if the Marlins legitimately want to contend for a postseason spot. But the time missed by their two best players last year, Giancarlo Stanton and Jose Fernandez, showed us that without Stanton mashing long balls and Jose striking out the side, the Marlins cannot compete in the NL. After injuring his wrist in June last season, the Marlins lineup struggled to produce runs without Stanton. They finished 29th in runs scored after the All Star Break in July. Even with solid individual performances from players like Dee Gordon and Martin Prado, the Marlins lineup could not score in the second half, or the first really. Stanton is the engine that drives the offense. As for Jose, how much need be said? When he’s on the mound Miami is better. They are undefeated at home when Fernandez is on the hill, and his career 2.40 ERA is, well, it’s pretty good. The Marlins odds of winning every fifth game go up exponentially when Fernandez is starting. That’s 20-25 games on the season the Marlins will more than likely win. That is huge for a team like the Marlins that finished with only 71 wins in 2015.
We’ll all be watching to see how the Marlins look in March. If you get the chance to watch a Marlins game, check out the starting pitchers to see who looks sharp. Take note of Marcell Ozuna’s swing. And most importantly, get psyched for spring training. The lilies are in bloom, the weather’s not too cold or hot, and Marlins baseball is here again.