Ball Four: Plenty of questions about the Marlins roster

MIAMI, FL - JULY 17: JT Riddle
MIAMI, FL - JULY 17: JT Riddle /

Spring Training is less than a month away for the Miami Marlins. Will this team be able to answer the questions about the infield before Opening Day?

It may be cool right now in the state of Florida, but things are about to heat up down in Jupiter as the Marlins are less than a month away from the opening of Spring Training. The team that won just 63 games last year (with 98 losses) has plenty of obstacles to worth through, especially in the infield.

Can Miami, a team without a true power hitter and suspect hitting throughout the batting order, find the answers manager Don Mattingly has questions about in a short amount of time? It’s going to take patience and time, but there are a few bright spots to build in from last season.

No, that is not a misprint.

The Marlins have to hope for more bright spots this coming season as them move into season two of this rebuilding project.

We here at Marlin Maniac take a look at four topics the Marlins must address in our new series Ball Four.

What happens to veteran Martin Prado? Where will he play this season? – It’s a great question to kick things off. Martin Prado may be the most respected player in the clubhouse and provides leadership on the field and on the bench for Miami’s youngsters.

Prado is the kind of player who will one day become a coach or manager in this league. As for his playing this season, the biggest concern is his health, where injuries have taken their toll. The third baseman could still be in the Opening Day lineup, pushing second-year star Brian Anderson to right field.

Prado could also see time at first base, as there is no clear cut favorite to win the position.

How long do the Marlins hold on to Starlin Castro? – The man who was the only veteran to be a part of the Giancarlo Stanton to the New York Yankees trade is a valuable player to this team, but his contract makes things a bit difficult.

Starlin Castro should start the season at second base, but how long he is there depends on his play and how soon the team wants to bring Isan Diaz up from Triple-A New Orleans. There is one thing certain – Castro is not part of the team’s long-term plans.

There will be plenty of talk about Castro at the trade deadline as teams in the playoff hunt look to find a solid veteran bat and an infielder who plays great defense.

Which surprise pitcher could make the Opening Day roster? – I thought about this one and came up with only one logical answer. Nick Neidert could shock us all and make the starting rotation out of Spring Training.

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Neidert posted a 12-7 record last season with a 3.24 ERA at Double-A Jacksonville. He was the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year. That kind of success means he will start the season at New Orleans, but don’t be surprised if he does enough to possibly crack the rotation out of Jupiter.

The Marlins did a great job of idenifying good minor league pitching last season. With questions anbout Caleb Smith’s return from injury and potentially concerns about Sandy Alcantara’s control, Neidert could supplant either one to start the season.

Does Don Mattingly get a contract extension? – That’s a coin flip right now. Don Mattingly has been a good soldier for this organization through all the changes with players and personnel. Will it mean the team retains him in 2020?

Mattingly is in the final year of his four-year deal with the team and was given a vote of confidence by CEO Derek Jeter after last season. But there was no talk of extending him beyond this season. As the team looks at another losing year, will this signal the end of another coaching era with the franchise?

I’d love to see Mattingly remain in Miami. He has preaced the company line about change for the better. It would be ashame to see him leave and this organization find success in two seasons.