Hope springs eternal as the Miami Marlins report to 2019 Spring Training.
In addition to everyone on the 40-man roster, the Miami Marlins are also inviting 26 players as “non-roster invitees.” These players are a combination of near-misses, raw rookies, and guys looking for one more go. There are a few who could surprise us by making the club with a solid spring.
It was only a small sample size for Tommy Eveld after he joined the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp after coming to the Marlins for Brad Ziegler. He made the most of it, with 14 strikeouts in only 9 1/3 innings of work.
There are a few who think that the 6’5″ right-hander is in line to be the next Miami Marlins closer, sooner rather than later. Here he is in the Arizona Fall League (AZL) with the Salt River Rafters, courtesy of 2080 Baseball.
“It’s definitely unique, that’s for sure. There’s no telling. It’s a new organization and, based on what I’ve been hearing, they want to see us all compete. – Eveld, regarding his possible path to major league baseball as quoted by Clark Spencer for the Miami Herald.
Eveld’s future is wide-open, but he’s probably most likely to begin the 2019 season with the Marlins triple-A team in the Pacific Coast League, the New Orleans Baby Cakes.
Starting his 10th season in the Miami Marlins system, Rodrigo Vigil has never had a better chance to make the Opening Day roster. Jorge Alfaro is the starter behind the plate, and only light hitting Chad Wallach is listed on the depth chart behind him as a backup.
Santiago Chavez, Bryan Holaday, B.J. Lopez and Sharif Othman are also in camp with Vigil as non-roster invitees who could supplant Wallach as the backup with a strong Spring Training. Here he is in the AZL with the Rafters in 2017. Video provided by Baseball Census.
Last season for the Jumbo Shrimp, Vigil hit .245 in 83 contests, and threw out 37.9 percent of baserunners trying to steal on him. He brings that expertise to the top level with the Marlins, and would like nothing better than to join the team on Opening Day.
Jon Berti‘s major league career consists of a four-for-15 line at the plate, in four games last September for the Toronto Blue Jays. A second baseman by trade, Berti could be the depth piece in a crowded utility-infielder picture. A slot that was filled in last season with a combination of Derek Dietrich, Miguel Rojas, and Yadiel Rivera.
Berti is not expected to be competitive to make the Opening Day roster, but it really is quite wide-open. The Miami Marlins are expected to carry 13 pitchers, two catchers, and 10 infielder/outfielders, probably five of each. Guaranteed spots for the infield are Starlin Castro, Martin Prado, Rojas, J.T. Riddle, and Brian Anderson. That’s not even taking into consideration Isan Diaz, Peter O’Brien, or Neil Walker.
Berti is no slouch at the plate either. Last season between three different minor league affiliates he racked up a .296/.384/.446 slash line, with eight homers and 29 stolen bases in 101 contests. Defensively, Berti has a .974 fielding percentage at second base, his most prolific position.
Brian Miller is well ahead of the curve right now. Widely expected to compete for a 40-man roster spot prior to the 2020 season, he’s instead ready to make his play right now.
Miller is a speedy center fielder, and a far-and-away better overall player than Magneuris Sierra. The 2017 competitive-balance round pick for the Marlins, Miller has 70 stolen bases in 209 career professional contests, and has hit .301 at the plate.
Miller has more outfield assists (nine) than errors (six) through his professional career, and a .986 fielding percentage in the outfield for his efforts. As to his optics, think Brett Butler in his prime with the San Francisco Giants. Here’s Miller with the Rafters four months ago, courtesy of Baseball Census.
Currently, Miller is the number 13 prospect in the Miami Marlins system, according to the MLB Pipeline:
"Miller’s ceiling is that of a top-of-the-order tablesetter in a big league lineup. He has a quick left-handed bat, an eye for drawing walks and a mature approach at the plate. He concentrates on making line-drive contact during games, and while there are some concerns about how much impact he’ll make with his bat, he flashes some raw power in batting practice, especially to his pull side."
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Miller is certainly an upgrade over Sierra, even at this early stage of his development. The only outfielder who is really guaranteed a spot on the Opening Day roster is said to be Lewis Brinson, and I’m not even sure about that one. If it’s true that the best players will make the squad out of Spring Training, then Miller could begin his major league career very soon.
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