Pitchers and Catchers Report; Spring Training Underway

Today pitchers and catchers embark to start the 2014 campaign for the Marlins, their 21st in franchise history. With 69 players on the roster for spring training, the number one goal is to acclimate new players with established players and see how things progress on the field.

Most obvious, at this stage, is integrating Jarrod Saltalamacchia into the program and getting him familiar with the various young arms that the Marlins have stockpiled. Signing a three year, $21M deal with the Marlins means that Saltalamacchia has gone from last place in 2012 to World Series champ in 2013 to helping to build a strong rotation with the Fish in 2014. How successful his new team can be has yet to be determined, but the pieces are coming together. Joe Frisaro over at MLB.com wrote about Saltalamacchia’s insight into what made the Red Sox so successful last season:

“You always hear about [chemistry],” Saltalamacchia said. “Just going through it last year, I honestly believe that’s one of the biggest things you have to have to be on a World Series team. You see St. Louis, what they’ve had the past few years, that’s chemistry. What we had last year, nobody can beat it. With the young group of guys we have this year, we very easily could have that chemistry.”

Can the Marlins develop an unselfish attitude with a close-knit locker room? If they can, they not only may be able to turn this around, but they may take a step in the right direction towards signing Giancarlo Stanton to an extension. There has been much discussion about a cultural change in the clubhouse, one of the reasons why Logan Morrison was dealt was not because of his talent but because the Marlins needed consistent production on the field. Morrison Twitter rants may have also had something to do with it, too, as his focus seemed to be more on developing a celebrity profile than actually playing baseball.

So pitchers and catchers will get things rolling. Jose Fernandez is one of the faces of this franchise and developing a battery between him and Saltalamacchia will be one of the things Mike Redmond, a former catcher himself, will be looking forward to. Nathan Eovaldi, Jacob Turner, Henderson Alvarez will look to solidify a young and stellar rotation. There is talk about whether or not Andrew Heaney will get a look to break the year with the big club, but don’t bet on it. The Marlins are in no rush to do so and Fernandez was only called up out of desperation. The other factor is that Fernandez will most likely become a Super 2 candidate and the Fish have no desire to see that happen to Heaney as well right off the bat. The future is bright for the starters with Justin Nicolino and Brian Flynn also factoring into the depth at some point. The 5th starter spot will be up for grabs and it could come down to Tom Koehler, Brad Hand, or even Kevin Slowey winning that spot.

The pen will be locked down by Steve Cishek. After him, though, there are many new – but interesting – faces. Carlos Marmol will try to show his control has returned and if so, will make for a very dominating setup man for the 8th inning. Arquimedes Caminero, an international signee by the Fish at age 16, has shown flashes of dominance and looks to embark the season with the big club. Henry Rodriguez, like Marmol, provides some upside but it does come with some question marks about control. If he can put it together, the Marlins backend has a lot of potential. Prospect Chris Hatcher has cleared waivers and will try to make it as a long shot. Carter Capps is another big-armed reliever, who came over in the Morrison deal from Seattle, that will look to establish his role in the pen. AJ Ramos returns and should provide solid depth. Keep an eye on Sam Dyson – this guy had probably the best stuff of any prospect in the Blue Jays system and was slated to be a reliever, but has been reshaped into a starter. If he can put things together, he just may surprise coming out of Spring Training.

And finally, another surprise – can Rob Brantly reclaim his spot on this roster for the future? Once seen as the backstop for the future, the signing of Saltalamacchia has put that on hold for a few more seasons. Yet, if Brantly can show some life in his bat – like he did in his debut season with the Marlins – and put together a strong defensive showing, he just might get back on the roster in a reserve role. That said, that will be a tall order considering the rave reviews Jeff Mathis put together helping the young staff last season.