Eddy Alvarez Could Win Second Base for Marlins in Spring Training

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 15: Eduardo Alvarez of the United States skates during the Men's 1000m Quarterfinal Short Track Speed Skating on day 8 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Iceberg Skating Palace on February 15, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)
SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 15: Eduardo Alvarez of the United States skates during the Men's 1000m Quarterfinal Short Track Speed Skating on day 8 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at the Iceberg Skating Palace on February 15, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images) /
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Is Isan Diaz a dead-lock for second base – or are there other options?

With just one week remaining until pitchers and catchers report for 2020 Spring Training, the Miami Marlins are going to have to start reevaluating their on-field talent, one position at a time.

Isan Diaz joined the Miami Marlins two years ago in the infamous trade that also netted Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, and Jordan Yamamoto for then-future-National League Most Valuable Player Christian Yelich. So far it looks like the Brewers won this trade, but Diaz is looking to tilt the scales back, if only a little.

Diaz’ minor league pedigree is undeniable. A career slashline of .263/.360/.467 in 583 contests, with 88 round-trippers and 327 RBI along with 57 stolen bases. His glaring weakness, which is shared by trade-mates Harrison and Brinson, is his sky-high strikeout rate. He’s whiffed 24.9 percent of the time through his minor league career. With that kind of power though – it may be worth it.

Marlins
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 24: Isan Diaz #1 of the Miami Marlins. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /

Once promoted to the Marlins, Diaz hit five home runs through 49 appearances, but slashed just .173/.259/.307 and struck out 59 times in 201 plate appearances, a 29.3 percent clip. Defensively, he’s a solid if unspectacular second baseman. His near-two months at the major league level resulted in a -1.2 fWAR figure. Was that the best he could do? The Marlins seem interested to see if he’s got a little more.

Enter Eddy Alvarez

Although Eddy Alvarez is on the wrong side of 30 (he celebrated his birthday just last week), he’s proved capable of excelling at every level of baseball along the way. Remember, this is a guy who set his mind on speed skating, and eventually won a Silver Medal in the Olympics. Last season at the Triple-A level for the New Orleans Baby Cakes in the Pacific Coast League, he slashed a very healthy .323/.407/.570 with 12 homers and 43 RBI in only 66 games.

Defensively, Alvarez has played mostly at shortstop, second base, and third base, with his best metrics racked up at second in 1205 career innings, he’s put up a .967 fPct, compared to .966 for Diaz in over twice as many innings.

Where Alvarez may have a clear edge is in his willingness not to chase pitches. He has a career whiff-rate of just 18.1 percent, a clear upgrade over Diaz. Add to that Diaz may do well to stay in triple-A for just a little bit longer.

Although Alvarez may not have time on his side, he’s clearly a better candidate from a pure baseball standpoint than is Diaz. There’s precedent for Alvarez as well. Jon Berti spent his rookie status just last season at the age of 29, and despite playing in just under half of Miami’s games, ranked fifth on the club with a 1.4 WAR.

Marlins
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 24: Isan Diaz #1 of the Miami Marlins. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /

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Other Possibilities

Gosuke Katoh and Christian Lopes are two other non-roster invitees in camp for the Marlins, and both second basemen by trade. Other players on the 40-man roster who can play second are Berti, Miguel Rojas, and Jonathan Villar.

Only Berti from that group stands to see significant time at second, but he’s also likely to see significant time everywhere. Rojas is the defensive anchor at shortstop until further notice, and Villar is penciled in at third base or center field, depending on who you ask.

Diaz currently has the edge, but Alvarez is dedicated to getting to the major leagues. With a strong spring, he could make it difficult for the Marlins to deny him that dream.

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