The Marlins have plenty of work to do this spring, but there is plenty to be excited about for the upcoming season in South Florida.
What is it going to take to make the Miami Marlins a threat to the National League East? Better pitching? Better hitting? Better defense? How about all of the above, and then some. These Marlins won’t be an easy out as they have been the previous two seasons, but they will remain a bottom feeder at least one more year.
But expect the possibility of 75 wins this coming season. There is plenty of things to get excited about in South Florida. And for the front office and Don Mattingly, the road to mediocrity has gotten better.
I am once again taking a stab at bold predictions for the Marlins as they approach Spring Training. This is a team other organizations are talking about. The minor league system is improved. The pitching staff is better. The lineup should be more explosive.
Here are three things to look for as the Marlins begin Spring Training in Jupiter, Florida.
Lewis Brinson starts the season in Triple-A
Lewis Brinson continues to be an enigma with the Marlins organization. The decision to send him to Triple-A Wichita to start the season also means this is his last chance to make a lasting impression. Brinson, 25, doesn’t have any more options left
Can Brinson put it together? He looks like a good minor league player, but the move to the Bigs has not been steady and he has lost focus at the plate.
"“In 75 big league games in 2019, the Coral Springs, Fla., native slashed .173/.236/.221 with no home runs and 15 RBIs,” Joe Frisaro of MLB.com writes. “Brinson split the season with the Marlins and at Triple-A New Orleans, where he put up solid numbers — .270/.361/.510 with 16 home runs and 56 RBIs.”"
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The Marlins did the right thing by adding veteran talent in the outfield this offseason, but that means there is a tighter race to win a job on the Major League roster. Brinson may be the odd man out based on numbers alone.
Edward Cabrera Wins the Fifth Starter Spot
I have been preaching this for a while. I believe the reason the Marlins were so willing to part with Zac Gallen at the MLB Deadline last season was they thought Edward Cabrera was as closer to being a starter in the Majors than first anticipated.
Also, he may be closer to Sixto Sanchez as a dominant pitcher than anticipated as well.
There are three pitchers the Marlins must concentrate on this Spring – Cabrera, Sanchez and Nick Neidert. All three could be better than the top three starters in Miami’s rotation in three seasons. Cabrera made big strides from Jupiter to Jacksonville and figures to be part of the mix of arms vying for the fifth spot in the rotation.
Personally, I like his chances. The No. 6 prospect in the organization and the No. 2 pitching prospect may leapfrog Neidert as the arm to surprise everyone in camp.
Four starters are guaranteed spots on the roster. After that, Five or six arms are fighting for one position. Cabrera has as good a chance as anyone to win a role in the rotation.
Jonathan Villar Wins the Centerfield Job
This is something that has recently been discussed, but it is starting to gain some traction. Could Jonathan Villar, who was acquired in a trade from Baltimore this offseason, open 2002 in centerfield?
It looks like a possibility.
"“It’s not too easy to play there,” he said of center field. “My whole life I am playing in the middle of the infield, short and second,” Villar said via the Miami Herald. “If they put me in center field, I need to adjust. My real position is short and second. Whatever they ask [I will do].”"
With Brian Anderson able to play right field and third base and Corey Dickerson in left field, the Marlins could have a 30-30-30 outfield with the right swings of the bat. It also means the Marlins would have some major decisions to make with outfielders on the roster and non-roster players invited to camp.
I still believe Villar plays at third base and Anderson becomes the every-day right fielder. Someone else starts in centerfield and the team approaches 200 home runs for the season.