The Miami Marlins will be entering the second season of an organizational rebuild in 2019.
As is the case with all rebuilds, Miami experienced a healthy dose of inconsistency in the first year of work. The 2018 Marlins finished with 98 losses and they were owners of the worst record in the entire National League. The 2019 squad will likely see struggles along the way, but may improve on that record.
Miami traded away All-Star J.T. Realmuto this off-season and could struggle to score runs at times. While the offense could be an issue, Miami's pitching gives the team a reason for hope. The Marlins had one of the best pitching staffs this spring and will hope for some of that success to carry over into the regular season.
Don Mattingly is entering his fourth season as Miami's manager and 2019 is also the last year of his contract. Showing improvement from 2018 could go a long way to getting Mattingly a new deal in 2020. If the Marlins play at the same level or take a step back, the team may be in the market for a new skipper after the season.
Miami's starting lineup will feature some new names, along with a few players from last season. With Realmuto gone, Miami's new main offensive weapon could be third baseman Brian Anderson. After playing the outfield for much of 2018, Anderson will be moving back to third base to begin the 2019 season. Anderson performed admirably in the outfield, but Miami feels he could provide more value to the team at the hot corner.
Lewis Brinson is arguably the most important player for Miami to see success from this season. Brinson struggled for much of 2018, after coming over the Christian Yelich trade. The former top prospect will need to show more this season or the Marlins could begin looking elsewhere for help in the outfield. Brinson is full of talent and promise, but has yet to put it together at the big-league level.
Jorge Alfaro will be Miami's new starting catcher, following his acquisition in the Realmuto deal. Alfaro may not post the numbers Realmuto is capable of, but the catcher brings plenty of talent to his new team. Alfaro missed much of spring training due to a banged-up knee, but is expected to be completely ready for regular action. Alfaro played in Miami's final two spring games and showed no lingering effects of his knee injury.
Starlin Castro will be back at second base for the Marlins in his second season with the team. Castro is a candidate to be traded in July and is in the final guaranteed season of his contract. Castro's contract includes a team option for the 2020 season, which could enhance his trade value. Miami is unlikely to pick that option up, as Castro is due $16 million in the 2020 season. Castro will once again bring some veteran leadership to a young infield.
Martin Prado has lost his job at third base on a regular basis, but he should still see plenty of at-bats. The veteran could spend a good amount of time at first base, while also possibly seeing play at other spots around the field. Prado gives Mattingly plenty of options due to his versatility and dependability. Like Castro, the 35-year old could be a trade candidate in July. Many contending teams would likely love to have a player such as Prado down the stretch of the season.
Neil Walker signed with Miami in January and will bring a veteran presence to Miami's roster. Walker is coming off a down year with the New York Yankees, but he had some success as recently as 2017. Walker played all over the field for the Yankees last year and he could serve in a similar role for the Marlins. The 33-year old could be dealt at the trade deadline, if he has a big first half for the Marlins.
Curtis Granderson will be in Miami's outfield on Opening Day and will be a regular in the daily lineup. Granderson had a down year in 2018 and will be looking to turn his career back around this season. If Granderson has a solid first half, he is yet another player the Marlins could look to trade before the July deadline. Granderson's spot in the lineup has not been announced, but it is possible he spends time in the lead-off slot.
Garrett Cooper won a starting job with an exceptional spring and could be in the middle of Miami's lineup. Cooper was competing with a number of players including Peter O'Brien for a roster spot this spring. O'Brien was optioned to AAA towards the end of the Grapefruit League, due in part to Cooper's fine work in Jupiter. Cooper can help Miami in the outfield and at first base, while also being an option off the bench on some days.
The Marlins released veteran pitcher Dan Straily at the conclusion of their spring schedule, which opened the door to another young arm. With Straily out of town, Miami's rotation will feature Jose Urena, Pablo Lopez, Trevor Richards, Caleb Smith and Sandy Alcantara. The Marlins moved Wei-Yin Chen into the bullpen, following a rough spring for the veteran pitcher.
Urena is being handed on the ball on Opening Day and he will look for better results than he had a year ago. Urena allowed a home run on the first pitch of the 2018 season and ended up taking the loss. Urena ended up not winning a game until June, when he was the owner of a rough 0-7 record. As Miami's de facto ace, Urena will need to be more consistent this season. The right-hander won all five of his September starts to end the 2018 season, which should give Miami some confidence heading into this one.
Lopez allowed two runs in his 20 spring innings, while striking out 16. The 23-year old only walked one player all spring and will be looking to build on a decent 2018 campaign. When the spring began, Lopez was a question mark to even be on the staff. After his fine Grapefruit League work, Lopez could potentially be Miami's second pitcher in the starting rotation.
Smith got a late start to his spring, but he did enough to win a job in the starting rotation. The left-hander has been a strikeout machine at times in the past and he continued that with 19 punch outs in the spring. Smith is Miami's only lefty starter, with Chen's transfer to the pen. With four right-handers around him, Smith may end up being in the center of Miami's five-man rotation.
Alcantara is a project in the works and his progression should continue in 2019. After coming over in the Marcell Ozuna trade, Alcantara spent time in both the minors and big leagues last season. The results were mixed, but the potential for greatness was clear. Alcantara needs to improve on his efficiency, but he has the talent to be at the top of the rotation for years to come. The right-hander begins this year in the MLB starting rotation, but he will need to produce to stay there.
Richards is one of the better stories in baseball, he went undrafted and pitched in the independent league before Miami scooped him up. After a solid 2018 season, Richards will be back in the rotation to begin this campaign. The 25-year old came out of nowhere to join the organization's depth chart and now sits near the top of it. If Richards can build on his success from 2018 and from spring training, Miami could have one of the more solid rotations in the league.
The Marlins will begin the season without an official closer, but that could end up changing. Sergio Romo joined the Marlins this off-season and could eventually become the team's closer. In the meantime, Romo will be one of several options for Mattingly to turn to at the end of games. Drew Steckenrider and Adam Conley could also pick up saves in the early portion of the season.
Miami's bench is promising, though it could lack power in the early going. Miguel Rojas and JT Riddle figure to share time at shortstop. Both will likely pick up a considerable amount of pinch-hitting opportunities. Chad Wallach will be Miami's backup catcher and is on the team more for his work behind the plate. Rounding out Miami's bench will be Rosell Herrera, who won a job during the spring. Herrera swiped four bags in the Grapefruit League and will likely see some pinch-running opportunities. Herrera could also be a defensive replacement for Miami at times.
The National League East is one of the toughest divisions in baseball, but it could be just the kind of challenge this young club needs. Taking on some of the best talent in all of baseball on a regular basis, could potentially speed up the development of some of Miami's young roster. This season should also give the front office a better idea of what it needs to add to the roster going forward.
Miami's 2019 season will get underway with a game against the Colorado Rockies on Thursday at Marlins Park.