Speculating on final roster

For weeks, Marlins coaches and officials have been evaluating. Now, the time is getting close to make the tough final decisions and set the 25-man roster.

Opening Day is a week away (April 5 at the Mets), and there are still some unanswered questions.

On Monday, the Marlins did settle who will be the starting first baseman. As expected, Gaby Sanchez was given the nod when Logan Morrison was reassigned to Minor League camp. Morrison will start off at Triple-A New Orleans. Don’t discount the 22-year-old making an impact at some point during the season. A year ago, Chris Coghlan was in Triple-A until May, and he went on to become the N.L. Rookie of the Year.

The rotation also has come together, with Clay Hensley securing the fifth spot.

Still to be resolved are at least one bench player, as well as a bullpen spot.

Over the past few days, Marlins personnel evaluators have been in Jupiter, consulting and meeting. Final moves can happen any day now.

While nothing has been officially announced, for recreational purposes, here is a look at how the 25-man roster may shake down. There are a few factors that will come into play, like how players fit into the 40-man roster. Currently, nine non-roster invitees are still in camp.

Again, this is for conversational purposes only, and not an officially announced 25-man squad.

Catchers: John Baker, Ronny Paulino

Infielders: Gaby Sanchez, Dan Uggla, Hanley Ramirez, Jorge Cantu, Wes Helms, Brian Barden, Mike Lamb

Outfielders: Chris Coghlan, Cameron Maybin, Cody Ross, Emilio Bonifacio

Starting pitchers: Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, Chris Volstad, Clay Hensley

Bullpen: Leo Nunez (closer), Brian Sanchez, Jose Veras, Burke Badenhop, Tim Wood, Renyel Pinto, Dan Meyer

On this projected roster, there are four non-roster invitees who will have to be added to the 40-man roster — Hensley, Lamb, Barden and Veras. Currently, there are 37 on the 40-man. So that means, if they all make it, one current 40-man player would be removed.

The Marlins did clear a 40-man spot when pitcher Hayden Penn was claimed off waivers by the Pirates on Monday.

Barden, Donnie Murphy and Hector Luna are are vying for a utility position. All three are non-roster invitees. Murphy has impressed several other teams who have been watching him in camp. But Barden may secure the job. Working in Barden’s favor is his ability to play shortstop defensively at a high level. Of all the players in camp, Barden appears to be the best insurance policy to Ramirez. Barden also can play left field.

Bonifacio, of course, is a natural middle infielder. For now, it looks like he will be used in a super utility role previously held by Alfredo Amezaga.

The Marlins appear to be leaning toward not carrying a primary backup outfielder. Bryan Petersen, a highly regarded prospect, has impressed. But he likely will be in Triple-A.

The Marlins don’t have the need for a regular outfield backup because the starters — Coghlan, Maybin and Ross — won’t be replaced for defensive purposes. Now, if there is an injury situation, the team would likely make a move to call up an outfielder. Brett Carroll, who will open the season on the disabled list with a strained left oblique, is an option once he is healthy. Jai Miller, Scott Cousins and Petersen (if he doesn’t make the team) are other choices.

Barden also gives some flexibility if the Marlins slide Cantu over to first base in the late innings. The Marlins could go with Barden or Helms at third, or use them as pinch-hitters. Lamb is expected to be the lefty bat off the bench.

Gaby Sanchez adds value in the fact he could be the emergency third catcher. This is important because it means either Baker or Paulino — the catcher who doesn’t start — could be used as a pinch-hitter.

The bullpen battles have been tightly contested all spring. Seth McClung, a non-roster invitee, has more big league experience than Wood. McClung alsohas a clause that allows him to opt out of his contract on April 1. Not being on the 40-man roster may work against McClung and for Wood.

If Wood makes the team, he would be a middle relief candidate. The hard-throwing right-hander has been impressive in camp, and his slider has improved.

Badenhop is a long relief, and spot starter candidate. He’s had a solid spring. Veras has been throwing 95 mph all spring, and he has big league experience in a setup role.

Much can still change in the next few days. But the picture of how the team may look is becoming a bit more clear.

– Joe Frisaro
 

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