Can you smell it? Flowers coming into bloom. Hot Dogs roasting over an open flame. The sound of Paul Bunyon chopping wood and four gumpy old men arguing foul, fair, ball, strike.
Yes, you guessed it. My favorite time of the year, Baseball Season - America's favorite pastime (regardless of all the steroids talk).
The Florida Marlins entered Spring Training last week looking to improve after a strong year. Even though the club traded away some solid pieces, they received players that contain the fundamentals that were key to our 2 world series wins - Speed and Defense.
I want to take a look at some of the position battles that are going to be taking place this spring. Who's in, and who's out. We are going to start with those that are cemented in their positions and the team.
SS - Hanley Ramirez
2B - Dan Uggla
C - John Baker
Utl - Alfredo Almezaga
Utl - Wes Helms
Utl - Mike Rabelo
Next, lets take a look at two players that will be in the starting line-up but their position could change before opening day.
RF- Cody Ross
3B - Jorge Cantu
This takes us to the players with nothing to gain and everything to lose.
CF - Cameron Maybin
LF - Jeremy Hermida
1B - Gaby Sanchez
Position Battle Number 1 - 3rd Base (Jorge Cantu, Emilio Bonifacio)
As of right now Jorge Cantu will be in the starting line-up in this position. It got a little tricky with the acquisition of 2B Emilio Bonifacio in the trade that sent Scott Olsen and Josh Willingham to Washington. The Marlins are trying Bonifacio out at third base this spring. He is considered the fastest guy on the team and has great defensive skills from the left side of the diamond. His only draw back is making contact. Emilio is a switch hitter, but he struggles from the right side. He will have plenty of time at the plate this spring with Jorge Cantu, Alfredo Almezaga and Hanley Ramirez participating in the World Baseball Classic. If he can hit around .280 this spring, consider the job his.
Position Battle Number 2 - 1st Base (Gaby Sanchez, Jorge Cantu)
This is a tough spot to be in for Gaby Sanchez. Unfortuanley, his performance may not factor in the decision to keep him on the team. With Jorge Cantu's ability to play both corners of the diamond, Sanchez's chances are slim. Gaby is going to have to hope that Bonifacio does not perform well at the plate this spring. As of right now, he is the starter. I believe that a solid defensive infield will trump his hitting abilities. Cantu has a one year contract and knowing the Marlins, he won't be around longer than that. If Sanchez doesn't make the team this year, a least he knows he is a lock for next year.
Position Battle Number 3 - LF (Jeremy Hermida, John Raynor)
Jeremy is on a thin line. He has been sent to the minors a couple of times for his lack of production. The fact that he is a left handed batter is what's keeping him on this team, but it might not be enough to keep him here this year especially with Raynor in the wings. Lets compare last years stats:
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB OBP AVG
Hermida - 142 502 74 135 22 3 17 61 6 323 249
Raynor - 126 452 104 141 29 6 13 51 48 402 312
Regardless of Raynor playing in AA Carolina last year, his stats are impeccable. His ability to make contact and get on base will give the Marlins a scoring threat up and down the line-up.
Position Battle Number 4 - CF (Cameron Maybin, Cody Ross, Alejandro De Aza, Jay Gibbons)
Maybin has already been named the starting center fielder and will batting lead-off. Only an injury or horrible play will sink Cameron. But, in the event that he does, this is how it will lay out. If it wasn't an injury of his own, De Aza would of been the starting center fielder the past year and a half. The Marlins always have the option of switching Ross back to the center spot. That's where Gibbons plays a factor. If Gibbons returns to form, he can become the front runner for right fielder. This is the least likely sanerio, but it's interesting none the less.
This takes us to Miami Sports Generation's Roster Prediction
1B Jorge Cantu
2B Dan Uggla
3B Emilio Bonifacio
SS Hanley Ramirez
RF Cody Ross
CF Cameron Maybin
LF Jeremy Hermida (at least for a month)
C John Baker
Utl Alfredo Almezaga
Utl Wes Helms
Utl Mike Rabelo
Utl John Raynor