With the Marlins off Monday, a look at where starting and roster battles stand with two weeks remaining in spring training:
▪ Starting outfield jobs: Lewis Brinson’s strong spring (.423, five homers, five RBI) has cemented his starting job.
For one of the other two starting spots, the Marlins could go with a platoon of Curtis Granderson and perhaps Austin Dean.
Dean hit .221 in 113 at-bats for the Marlins after his August call-up last season and is batting .273 with three RBI in 23 at-bats this spring. The left-handed hitting Granderson, a non-roster invitee, is only 1 for 11 this spring, but the Marlins believe he’s still a capable hitter against right-handers.
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“We know he’s going to be a platoon guy if he makes our club,” manager Don Mattingly said of Granderson.
Right field remains a question, but Peter O’Brien improved his chances with a 2-for-3, five-RBI day Sunday, including a grand slam. The Marlins remain high on O’Brien even though he entered Sunday with just two hits in 23 at-bats and 14 strikeouts.
Garrett Cooper (.318, one RBI in 22 at-bats) also remains very much in the mix in right field. Cooper is clearly a better contact hitter than O’Brien.
One appealing aspect of O’Brien, Mattingly said, is “having a guy who can take one swing and get you two or three runs is something nice if we can get that. As long as he’s putting the ball in play at an acceptable rate, we’re going to have success. He’s going to hit it hard, and we’ll be OK with that. If we don’t get to that acceptable rate, then it’s just too much the other way.”
Rosell Herrera (just 4 for 24 this spring) remains a candidate for a potential fifth outfield job. Isaac Galloway had had a nice spring (.318) and could be on the roster at some point this season if there are injuries.
▪ First base: Neil Walker, a switch-hitter, is expected to see the bulk of the work against right-handers. Walker is hitting .238 with two RBI in 21 at-bats this spring, but he was going to be the primary first baseman regardless of how he played this spring.
Also at first base, Martin Prado (who will back up Brian Anderson at third base) and either Cooper or O’Brien – whoever doesn’t play the outfield primarily — should get at-bats against left-handers.
Pedro Alvarez, the former Orioles and Pirates slugger, hasn’t been bad this spring (.273 in 22 at bats, no homers, two RBI), but it’s difficult to see him sticking barring multiple position players starting the year on the disabled list.
▪ Starting rotation: Because Wei-Yin Chen has been awful in two spring starts, it appears Pablo Lopez, Sandy Alcantara, Trevor Richards and Caleb Smith are battling for three rotation spots behind Jose Urena and Dan Straily.
Lopez has made a strong case, allowing one run with eight strikeouts in nine spring innings.
Alcantara allowed two hits and two walks in 4 1/3 scoreless innings on Sunday against Atlanta, but Mattingly wants him to be more “aggressive” early in games.
Alcantara has allowed only two runs and struck out 14 in 12 spring innings but has walked 10. Richards has yielded four runs in 8 1/3 innings but has eight strikeouts. Smith is healthy after July lat surgery but has pitched in only simulated games this spring.
Chen has a 11.05 ERA in 7 1/3 innings even after throwing four scoreless innings in relief on Saturday.
▪ Starting shortstop: Miguel Rojas (.450, 9 for 20, three RBI) has clearly outplayed J.T. Riddle (.111, 3 for 27, three RBI). Both have one error this spring. Whoever doesn’t start figures to be the backup middle infielder.
▪ Bullpen: Sergio Romo, Drew Steckenrider, Adam Conley, Tayron Guerrero and likely Austin Brice account for five of the jobs.
Rule 5 draft pick Riley Ferrell (batters hitting. 200 off him in 4 1/3 spring innings) and Jarlin Garcia (.211 in five innings) might be the best options for the other two spots, with Jeff Brigham (.154 in four innings) among others in the mix.
▪ Backup catcher: The Marlins expect starter Jorge Alfaro to be back from a bruised right knee by the start of the season. In the meantime, Chad Wallace and Bryan Holaday compete for the backup job.
Wallach, who’s on the 40-man roster, caught five innings on Sunday, his first action since a quadriceps injury on Feb. 26. Holaday — a non roster invitee — is hitting .438 (7 for 16) this spring.