Both Garrett Cooper and Peter O’Brien are part of the open competition to win the Miami Marlins first base job in Spring Training this February.
It’s the one glaring weakness in the Marlins infield and the biggest lingering question to be answered in the team’s lineup. Who is going to be the team’s starting first baseman on Opening Day?
Two “contenders” for the role, Garrett Cooper and Peter O’Brien got a jump start this week when they were invited to “mini camp” with Marlins prospects at their Spring Training facility in Jupiter, FL.
While the front office was on hand to see the future of the franchise, both veterans were in attendance on their hitting before the team begins full Spring Training activities, which starts with pitchers and catchers reporting Feb. 13.
"“For O’Brien and Cooper, especially, getting a head start on Spring Training is important,” writes Joe Frisaro of MLB.com. “The two are in the mix for the starting first-base job, and both can play corner outfield. O’Brien has caught in his pro career, as well, and could fill in as an emergency catcher.”"
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Garrett was the team’s starting right fielder on Opening Day last season before hit was hit on the right wrist by a pitch in the first series of the season and missed almost all of 2018. O’Brien was impressive at the team’s Double-A affiliate in Jacksonville before moving on to Triple-A New Orleans and was a late-season addition to the team’s parent club in September.
There could be others currently on the Marlins 40-man roster who could compete for playing time at first base. Martin Prado could spend time on the other corner. Miguel Rojas, who also made an appearance, could also see time there in a pinch as a utility player.
Catcher J.T. Realmuto has spent time there, playing in place of Justin Bour over the course of the past two seasons. There are options for the Marlins coaching staff, but as it has been discussed over the offseason and during the Baseball Winter Meetings in Las Vegas, a veteran could be brought in through free agency to add to the mix.
The Marlins have some heavy lifting to do with a trade involving Realmuto before they can add salary to their payroll. At some point, the team will have to examine which players on the free agent market best suit their needs.
Cooper is a player the team’s vice president of player development and scouting Gary Denbo watched with great interest last week. Not only was Cooper working on his timing in the batting cage, he has been working on getting back in playing shape.
"“It’s great to have those guys out here with those younger players around them,” Denbo said. “Those guys are here voluntarily. They’re going to be coming out three days a week. They’re going to be around our younger players.”"