Projecting how roster is shaping up
MIAMI — For players on the bubble to earn an Opening Day roster spot, the time is now to step up.
If the early part of Spring Training was to get in shape, these next few weeks are to show you belong.
Jobs are up for grabs, and Marlins’ management is looking.
As tough decisions are about to be made, one thing is clear — being on the 40-man roster helps.
That’s why I believe Kyle Skipworth will be the backup catcher to Rob Brantly. Skipworth already is on the 40-man roster, making it easier on the organization to find a fill-in until Jeff Mathis’ broken right collarbone heals.
In my opinion, right now I consider 20 players on the 40-man roster as either locks or they have a clear advantage to make the team. Ten of them are pitchers.
For the sake of discussion, let’s assume I’m right. That means as many as five non-roster invitees can make the team. This is where those already on the 40-man have a big advantage.
The Marlins like a number of those players who recently were sent to the Minor Leagues. For example, Brad Hand, who has had his struggles throwing strikes, is a promising talent. He’s a left-hander who throws in the 91-94 mph range. He’s young, has upside and he’s on the 40-man.
If the Marlins were to make him a trade chip, a number of clubs would be interested. Plus, Miami doesn’t have much left-handed starting pitching depth. So his 40-man spot is pretty much safe, especially with him having options.
Miami already is at its 40-man limit.
One possibility to free up roster space is to place outfielder Alfredo Silverio (right elbow) on the 60-day disabled list. That likely will happen.
These are a big few weeks for lefty reliever Braulio Lara, a Rule 5 claim in December. He has to make the team or be offered back to Tampa Bay, if he isn’t in Miami’s plans. So that could be a second spot.
Kevin Slowey, John Maine, Mitch Talbot and Chad Qualls are non-roster invitees in the mix for either the fifth starter spot or a reliever position. Most likely, two of them will make it.
Casey Kotchman, who is batting .407, is a non-roster invitee who appears to have the inside track to being the Opening Day first baseman. Joe Mahoney, also competing at first base, is on the 40-man. If he doesn’t win the job, he could go down to Triple-A New Orleans.
One question there could be, how long will Logan Morrison be out? LoMo is expected to start the season on the disabled list. If he is to miss around two weeks, a short-term solution could be used at first base. Maybe Mahoney? If he is out much longer, then Kotchman is a very strong choice to stay.
For the rest of the infield, Donovan Solano, Adeiny Hechavarria, Placido Polanco and Greg Dobbs are all on the team. Dobbs and Polanco have missed time in Spring Training with injuries. In their cases, it’s a matter of if they will start the season healthy or on the DL.
Say they are healthy, that means non-roster invitees, Austin Kearns, Nick Green, Matt Downs, Chone Figgins, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Chris Valaika are in the mix for two or three spots.
Of that group, Green and Figgins are the best defensive shortstops, which puts one of the two in a favorable spot. Downs and Valaika play short, but not as well.
There is a need for a right-handed pinch-hit bat with power potential. Kearns had that spot for Miami in 2012. But he’s had a rough camp so far. Kouzmanoff and Downs are in contention for that spot, too.
The outfield also gets tricky. Juan Pierre is set in left, and Giancarlo Stanton is in right field. Chris Coghlan has had a good camp. He and Justin Ruggiano have been regarded as the frontrunners for weeks. But Ruggiano missed most of camp with a back strain, and in recent days he started playing. Both pretty much are going to make the club. The question is, who starts?
That answer may become the surprise of camp.
Christian Yelich, one of the top prospects in the game, hasn’t played above Class A ball, but he’s arguably been the best player in camp.
One scout covering the World Baseball Classic told me he ranked Yelich as the best player in the Arizona Fall League.
If Yelich makes the team it would be as the starting center fielder. But right now, he’s also not on the 40-man roster. So the club would have to create room for him, too.
Gorkys Hernandez is on the 40-man. The book on him is, great glove, weak bat. It’s been pretty much the same in Spring Training.
Bryan Petersen has big league experience, but he also is a non-roster invitee.
The roster picture is becoming more clear. In these final few weeks, performancne likely will decide.
– Joe Frisaro