Marlins bring revamped roster full of raw talent
A new-look, young squad has those in Miami eyeing progress in 2013
JUPITER, Fla. -- With so many new faces, the Marlins are embarking on a new beginning and establishing a fresh identity.
From what the organization has seen in six weeks of Spring Training, there is plenty to be excited about. The future looks bright with high-end prospects like Christian Yelich, Jose Fernandez and Jake Marisnick so close to being big league ready.
Those are some of the projected stars of tomorrow. Right now, however, the Marlins must deal with today.
W: Strasburg L: Nolasco S: Soriano
Opening Day is set for Monday at Washington, and the organization recognizes the cold reality that is ahead. Simply put, development takes time. And asking for time requires patience, which has worn thin in South Florida.
"I think that's always a challenge," new manager Mike Redmond said. "I think for any manager, that's a challenge. There is so much pressure, and so much focus on winning.
"For me, too, I'm a competitor. I want to win every game. We wouldn't be here if we weren't like that."
Coming off a disheartening 69-93 season in 2012, the Marlins dismissed first-year manager Ozzie Guillen, and the team traded off its highest-paid players, including Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson and Mark Buehrle.
The revamped roster does feature plenty of raw talent, including new shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, who is terrific defensively. How he progresses at the plate will be key.
The face of the franchise is Giancarlo Stanton, the All-Star right fielder who belted 37 home runs a year ago. As imposing as Stanton is, he also isn't loaded with big league experience. The power-hitting right fielder is just 23.
"I think you realize when you have a lot of young guys, there can be a lot of learning experiences out there over the course of a game," Redmond said. "As long as we don't get too emotionally wrapped up, we can hopefully learn from our mistakes. For sure, we're going to make some. But if we step back and look at it, as long as we don't continue to make the same mistakes, I'll be happy."
The dreamers in those around the franchise hope the Marlins become loveable underdogs who prove everyone wrong. Indeed, the team may surprise, and win more than expected, and emerge into improbable contenders.
To go down that path, the team must believe in Redmond's message, stay healthy and get better each day individually and collectively.
"We've got guys who are so willing to listen and to learn," veteran left fielder Juan Pierre said. "I've been on teams where the young guys think they know it all. You've got some of them sprinkled around here. But it's a good mix of guy who are saying, 'What do I need to do to get better?' "
Those on the outside may doubt, but internally, the team is tightly together.
"We've got the coaching staff and guys willing to learn," Pierre said. "We'll take our lumps, and learn from them. But, overall, we're going to be a lot better than people think."
How much better just may boil down to pitching.
The rotation, anchored by Ricky Nolasco, features two promising right-handers -- Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez. Eovaldi, who throws in the mid-to-upper 90s, provides a power arm. Alvarez, who played for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, was acquired from Toronto as part of the blockbuster, 12-player trade.
At the back of the bullpen, the Marlins are strong with Steve Cishek closing. Yet, there are questions in the setup roles.
There are many unanswered questions, and most likely there will be a number of moving parts throughout the season. The team taking the field on Monday at Washington may drastically change in the months ahead.
For instance, first baseman Logan Morrison (right knee surgery) and backup catcher Jeff Mathis (fractured right collarbone) will open the season on the disabled list. Both could be back in May.
Around midseason, Yelich and Fernandez could be promoted from Double-A Jacksonville.
How Redmond, three years removed from his days as a backup catcher, holds the team together will be important. One reason he was hired was his proximity in age and his ability to relate to young players. At 41, Redmond is the youngest manager in the National League. Only Houston's Bo Porter (40) is younger.
"These guys are so young they think Red is old," Pierre said.
The 35-year-old Pierre is in his second stint with the Marlins, and he is a familiar face from the organization's 2003 World Series title team.
"These guys are that young, in '03, half of them were in junior high," Pierre said. "I think they are going to respond to Red. He has that funny side, but he has that side where he draws the line. He will get on you and kick you into gear. I think they will respect that.
"We were all 24-26 when the team won the World Series. When I was here, we won every year, and we were in it until the last week or two weeks at the end of the season. I think they've got that brewing right here. It's definitely better days ahead. We can start it now."