The Miami Marlins have loaded up their roster with talented players and prospects, each vying for a spot on the 2020 roster.
While some of those players enter spring training knowing their role, there are several positions up-for-grabs. Amongst those is first base. The Marlins will have a crowded clubhouse in February, which has led some to wonder: Will there be a trade or two in Jupiter?
In 2019, the Marlins used six different players at first base. Garrett Cooper made 66 starts there to lead the team. Neil Walker followed with 59 starts, and Martin Prado had 30 starts there. Yadiel Rivera made two starts at first and Miguel Rojas started there once.
For 2020, the Marlins have a number of different options to start at first base. Here’s a look at who will vie for the spot during spring training.
The Marlins claimed Jesus Aguilar off waivers from the Tampa Bay Rays. The 6’3″, 250-pound right-handed power hitter is a six-year MLB veteran. In 37 games with Tampa Bay in 2019, Aguilar slashed .261/.336/.424 with four home runs and 16 RBI.
Aguilar earned a spot at the 2018 MLB All-Star game as part of the Milwaukee Brewers. That year, Aguilar slashed .274/.352/.539 with 35 homers and 108 RBI. As a first baseman, Aguilar posted a .993 fielding percentage in 2019, with just four errors.
The Marlins acquisition of Aguilar is a low-risk move for the club. If he can find his 2018 form during Spring Training, Aguilar will bring some needed pop to the club. In 2019, the Marlins were last in the MLB with 146 homers.
Garrett Cooper played more at first base for the Marlins than anyone else. His 66 starts there led the team, and he posted a .994 fielding percentage with just three errors.
Acquired in November 2017 with Caleb Smith from the New York Yankees, Cooper made his Marlins debut in 2018. He became a full-time major leaguer in 2019, and played 107 games total for the Fish. He slashed .281/.344/.446 with 15 home runs and 50 RBI on the season. In addition to first base, Cooper spent 31 games in right field.
Cooper’s biggest hurdle in 2020 might be his health. Injuries plagued his first two years with Miami and there are concerns he might not be an everyday player. If he struggles in the spring, Coop might be a utility player coming off the bench for Marlins manager Don Mattingly.
The Marlins have a pair of prospects who are long shots for first base in 2020.
Lewin Diaz ranks as the No. 6 first base prospect according to MLB Pipeline. Acquired as part of the Sergio Romo trade in July of 2019, Diaz played 121 games between Single-A and Double-A last year. He slashed .270/.321/.530 with 27 home runs and 76 RBI. At 23-years-old, Diaz could use a little more seasoning in the Minors, likely at Triple-A.
Diaz is ready to step up, but he’s a long shot for the 2020 club. A big time spring might accelerate his clock.
Lazaro Alonso is another minor league first base prospect in the Marlins system. The 25-year-old from Cuba signed to a minor league contract back in September of 2016. He’s played exclusively at first for the Fish over the last few seasons.
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In 2019, Alonso slashed .294/.393/.434 with 11 homers and 57 RBI at the High-A level. He struggled in 13 games at Double-A, hitting only .147 with one home run and two RBI.
At 6’3″, 220-lbs, the lefty does have power-hitter potential. If he can flash that power in the spring, he might get an extended look.
While we’re all on the outside looking in and making our best guesses about the future, Miami still has a few moves to make to accommodate recently acquired OF Matt Joyce and RP Brandon Kintzler. We’ll keep you posted and give you our best read of the situation as it becomes public. Thanks for reading.