Will the Marlins new centerfielder Jonathan Villar become the player his teammates rally around this coming season?
Did you really think the Miami Marlins would be 7-2 in the Grapefruit League and looking to add more wins to their record this early in the season?
The future is bright in South Florida.
Now that manager Don Mattingly and the front office are seeing the fruits of their labor over the past two seasons, it has become clear the other teams in the National League should take notice. While the East division is stacked with talented ball clubs, these Marlins WILL NOT be the pushovers national media have predicted in some areas of the country.
And with the impact Jonathan Villar made on Sunday in the win over the Mets, it shows the moves to bring in veteran hitters are beginning to pay off as well.
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"“He’s a guy who does a little bit of everything,” Mattingly said when he met with the media. “He steals bags. He hits for average. He’s got some power.”"
Those are the kinds of things that the Marlins needed last season, but they were scarce. Prospects are also showing their “pop” at the plate, leaving lasting reminders that decided on the 26 players to fill out this roster will be a much tougher decision at the end of this month.
Villar is going to be the player that sets the table for this lineup. Now, as he makes the switch to playing in centerfield, there is more being asked of the 28-year-old who came over in a trade from the Baltimore Orioles this offseason. Miami needs a catalyst to replace Starlin Castro at the plate. Mattingly hopes to count on his new outfielder.
"“His swing has gotten better as camp has gone on,” Mattingly said. “He wasn’t playing a lot early. But as camp has gone on, you see the swing coming. To me, he’s one of the veteran guys that you know knows how to get ready. You’re not worried exactly about the result.”"
The move to centerfield is a significant one in that Villar is not a natural outfielder and has only played a handful of innings outside second base, shortstop or third base. While he gets adjusted to his new location, the Marlins hope it means other players can step in and shine around the diamond.