We are now two days away from the start of a new season to America's favorite past time. Major League teams are wrapping up their spring and putting the finishing touches on their rosters.
Official 25-man rosters are not due until April 4th, but the Marlins have all but set theirs.
As expected, Rookie Gaby Sanchez won the starting job at first base. Sanchez hit a whopping .364 this Spring with a .420 OBP. Spring numbers typically do not mean much, but if it's a preview of what's to come, then the back end of the Marlins batting order is looking good. Dan Uggla, 2009 NL Batting Champion Hanley Ramirez and Jorge Cantu round out the infield. Uggla struggled at the plate this Spring, batting .197 and striking out 31% of the time.
The 2009 National League Rookie of the Year, left fielder Chris Coghlan, will be joined by Cameron Maybin (who started at center at the beginning of the '09 season before being sent to the minors) and Cody Ross (who will move back to right field after playing center last season). Maybin will bat second in the order between Coghlan and Ramirez, where he flourished this Spring. It is up to him to take advantage of the good looks he will be receiving. Ross is day-to-day with a calf strain and might start the season on the disabled list.
Ronny Paulino will back-up starting catcher John Baker. Veteran Wes Helm will be joined by Emilio Bonifacio, Mike Lamb and Brian Barden on the utility squad. Barden plays both infield and outfield and is most likely to get the starting nod at right field if Ross is placed on the DL. Barden's flexibility on the field is one of the main reasons Mike Stanton didn't make the squad.
Josh Johnson will take the helm as the Ace of the starting rotation. Johnson signed a four-year contract worth $39 million in the off season, securing his future with the Fish. Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad will be the two, three and four starting pitchers, respectively. Newly acquired Nate Robertson will anchor the rotation. Robertson adds a much needed lefty to a rotation that was in flux last season. If Nolasco picks up where he left off after a stint in the minors last year and Volstad keeps his control, well, under control, then the Marlins will definitely spark some excitement in the NL.
Clay Hensley was making a strong case to become the 5th starter. Instead he will join Burke Badenhop as the clubs long relievers. Brian Sanches and Jose Veras will take turns setting up closer Leo Nunez. Nunez's struggles continued this Spring giving up 8 runs in 9.2 innings of work. Florida made no attempts to find a new closer in the offseason and have backed Nunez since the start of camp. With Owner Jeffrey Loria's demand for a winning club, I expect Nunez to be on a short leash. Reynel Pinto and Dan Meyer account for the rest of the bullpen.
In what is a somewhat familiar roster from '09 with no major overhauls, the Marlins should have some success once again. If they were capable of mustering 87 wins last season, then this season, barring no major injuries, should add to that count. The NL East will be a test of it's own for the Fish, with the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves presenting the biggest threats. Nevertheless, Florida always finds a way to compete on a low budget. Perhaps this season could be one where the Marlins can compete into October and beyond. This team's potential should never be underestimated.