The Marlins spring is really getting some notice around baseball. This is a team that has purged payroll, yet again, and has reverted back to a youth movement. Although this has netted much criticism from fans, it does seem to have promise for the immediate future. The Marlins are winning games and playing highly competitive baseball at all positions.
They are getting solid pitching performances from their arms, they are getting lots of contact and already improvements in situational hitting seem to be emerging.
Yet, there are still several key battles for roster spots taking shape. Right now, the starting CF spot is up for grabs. Justin Ruggiano, the apparent shoe-in at the start of spring, has been suffering from a bad back and is now looking over his shoulder at former 2009 ROY Chris Coghlan. Coghlan has been impressing coaches with his ability to slice the ball to all parts of the field and make contact. He only has 3 strike outs in 24 ABs and also has amassed 6 hits (not including the 4-4 performance against Venezuela the other night). Coghlan may have played himself right back into the extra OF spot, if not into a possible starting role as the season gets underway in the next month. Ruggiano will make his spring debut Saturday.
Another key position that is in the thick of battle is the fight for the right to start every fifth day out for the Fish. The front runner was supposed to be Wade LeBlanc, a lefty who impressed last season, but other starters have been brought in to offer a little more competition for the spot. John Maine has been very solid all spring and Alex Sanabia also looks ready to go. LeBlanc has a 0.00 ERA with 6Ks in 5IP thus far. Maine has put together some great numbers, too holding a 1.80 ERA in 5IP and hitters are hitting .118 off of him right now. And then there is Alex Sanabia, who has pitched 4.1 IP but also has a 0.00 ERA with 4 Ks and hitters are hitting .067 against him. Sanabia may be the most intriguing of the bunch given his age and how consistent his stats have been. These seem to be the final three in contention for that final rotation spot but don’t be surprised if all three make the roster and give more options to the coaching staff as they move through a long season and will need help to protect against possible injury.
Then there is the search for extra infielders. Right now the Marlins are looking at Nick Green, Matt Downs, and Chone Figgins. Green has been steady in the field and does offer some flexibility, but his bat is not overly impressive at this point in the spring. Matt Downs offers some pop but also hasn’t really put together enough strong ABs but does have 1HR and only 4 Ks in 21 ABs. His big league resume has a bit more weight than Nick Green’s. But if it was all about the resume, then Chone Figgins would be locked up by a team right now, instead he is still in search of that final roster spot. That said, this is why he will win out – he is friends with Juan Pierre and can provide a replacement for Emilio Bonifacio as he is looking to reclaim his career. Both Downs and Figgins can play 3B, which may be a realistic option considering Placido Polanco’s back ails. In fact, Downs made a nice play at 3B today against the Yankees, further pushing himself into position to stick with the team. Figgins, however, can play middle infield and OF if necessary.
There are more notable players that still need to be examined more closely – Kevin Kouzmanoff, Joe Mahoney, and Casey Kotchman are all trying to get prime time at 1B with Logan Morrison still out and not getting back into full baseball mode quite yet.