Mar­lins will spend spring sort­ing out young ros­ter

Dayton Daily News - - MLB PREVIEW - By Steven Wine

Dur­ing the off­sea­son MI­AMI — the Mi­ami Mar­lins an­nounced the ad­di­tion of new con­ces­sion menu items, in­clud­ing mush­room tacos, fries with mole sauce and bot­tom­less pop­corn and soda.

So much for the team’s 2019 up­grades. Mar­lins fans hun­gry for a win­ner will have to wait.

The woe­be­gone fran­chise’s big­gest off­sea­son move came Thurs­day, when the Mar­lins traded All-Star catcher J.T. Real­muto to the Philadel­phia Phillies for catcher Jorge Al­faro, two pitch­ing prospects and in­ter­na­tional sign­ing bonus pool money. The deal was the lat­est move in CEO Derek Jeter’s re­build­ing ef­fort, which be­gan soon af­ter he took over in late 2017 and could even­tu­ally trans­form the Mar­lins into con­tenders.

Not this year. Spring train­ing will be de­voted to sort­ing out a ros­ter dom­i­nated by young play­ers, in­clud­ing sev­eral who emerged last sea­son and could pro­vide a foun­da­tion for the fu­ture. That in­cludes pitch­ers Pablo Lopez, Sandy Al­can­tara, Caleb Smith and Trevor Richards, and third base­man-right fielder Brian An­der­son.

“They’re go­ing to be the core of our cham­pi­onships here,” pres­i­dent of base­ball op­er­a­tions Michael Hill said dur­ing a Mar­lins show on their flag­ship ra­dio sta­tion, WINZ. “The young tal­ent and what they were able to demon­strate last sea­son is what makes us ex­cited to get go­ing.”

Some other things to know be­fore pitch­ers and catch­ers hold their first work­out Wed­nes­day in Jupiter, Florida:

They’re set

The Mar­lins are cer­tain about their ace, catcher and sec­ond base­man. Ev­ery­thing else is up for grabs.

Right-han­der Jose Urena is ex­pected to get the open­ing day nod for the sec­ond year in a row. In 2018 he re­bounded from an 0-7 start and over­came poor run sup­port to fin­ish 9-12 with a 3.98 ERA. He’s 23-19 over the past two sea­sons, while in other games over the stretch the Mar­lins have gone 117-164.

Al­faro, who will re­place Real­muto be­hind the plate, hit .262 with 10 homers in his first full ma­jor league sea­son last year. Sec­ond base­man Star­lin Cas­tro hit .278 in 154 games in his first sea­son with Mi­ami.

They’re not set

There will be a mad spring train­ing scram­ble for other jobs in the ro­ta­tion and lineup. An­der­son will start at ei­ther third base or right field af­ter bat­ting .273 with 65 RBIs as a rookie last year. Lewis Brin­son will get an­other chance in cen­ter field af­ter bat­ting .199 with 120 strike­outs in 109 games as a rookie. Vet­eran righthander Dan Straily will be in the ro­ta­tion un­less he’s traded, and in­jury-plagued left-han­der Wei-Yin Chen will be in the ro­ta­tion if he’s healthy.

In­jury re­port

The Mar­lins head into spring train­ing fully healthy. Among the play­ers who re­cov­ered from in­juries in the off­sea­son are third base­man Martin Prado, first base­man Gar­rett Cooper, right-han­der Lopez and left­hander Smith.

On deck

Spring train­ing will pro­vide a chance to see how much the farm sys­tem has im­proved since Jeter took over. The Mar­lins be­lieve it’s a lot.

The trades that sent All­Stars Gian­carlo Stan­ton, Chris­tian Yelich, Mar­cell Ozuna and Dee Gor­don else­where net­ted a pas­sel of prospects that dra­mat­i­cally im­proved the fran­chise’s long-term out­look, and that was the goal.

“We needed to layer tal­ent from top to bot­tom,” Hill said. “That has been our fo­cus over the last 18 months.”

The Mar­lins’ top six prospects were all ac­quired af­ter Jeter’s group bought the team. All will get a look in spring train­ing, and that in­cludes 22-year-old Cuban out­fielder Vic­tor Vic­tor Mesa, rated base­ball’s top in­ter­na­tional prospect when he re­ceived a $5.25 mil­lion sign­ing bonus from Mi­ami in Oc­to­ber.

New look

An off­sea­son re­brand­ing in­cluded a new logo and new col­ors, part of Jeter’s ef­fort to dis­tance the fran­chise from the pre­vi­ous owner, Jef­frey Lo­ria. Los­ing teams, fre­quent pay­roll purges and a fa­vor­able sta­dium deal for Lo­ria made him wildly un­pop­u­lar.

“We have to show our com­mu­nity this is a new day,” pres­i­dent of busi­ness op­er­a­tions Chip Bow­ers said on WINZ. “Our fans feel like scorned lovers. They’ve felt burned time and time again. We un­der­stand that and can ap­pre­ci­ate that. We’re go­ing to work dili­gently to earn that trust back and make them un­der­stand we’re the guy or girl they al­ways wanted to love.”

RICK SCUTERI / AP 2018

Catcher Jorge Al­faro was traded by the Phillies to the Mar­lins along with two mi­nor lea­guers for catcher J.T. Real­muto.

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