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Updated: 2018-02-23T22:01:50-05:00


Old Friends and New Faces: Marlins 6, Cardinals 4


Miami opened spring training with a come from behind win over the St. Louis Cardinals on the strength of a 2-homer performance from non-roster invitee Scott Van Slyke. Some thoughts from Miami’s first spring training game. Ok, it’s every thought I had during the game. Sue me. I missed baseball too. Here’s the box score. Van Slyke was a nice surprise. As a non-roster invitee, the odds are long in every case. This guy, however, is going to try to make it impossible for the Marlins to ignore him. Peters was shaky, but mostly good, and he did keep the Redbirds off the board. Brinson got to show off two of his five tools, with a double and a good catch. Diaz was nearly nonchalant in his effort to field the easy ninth-inning looper, taking his eye off the ball at exactly the wrong moment. Yes, Wong stole third off of Realmuto, but J.T. had the throw right on the money and looks to have that arm already in mid-season form. He also went 1-for-2 from the dish. Marlins’ pitching combined for 11 strikeouts, a 2.00 ERA, and a 1.667 WHIP. They also collected three double plays, to none for St. Louis. Like Van Slyke, Shuck also went 2-for-2 in relief, and that outfield assist was eye-opening. Miami’s starting nine were just 3-for-18 (.167) at the plate, while their replacements were 7-for-15 (.467). Hernandez gave up all of Miami’s earned runs in the fifth, but he settled down to pitch a pretty good sixth inning. What follows is an in-depth recount of each inning, which is why I started with these bullets (in case it’s tl;dr for you). If brevity is your enemy, then by all means, read on. If not, then check out the highlights and we’ll see you in tomorrow’s game thread. Top 1 Kolten Wong drilled the first Dillon Peters offering to deep left field, over Derek Dietrich’s head for a standup double. Not a promising start to the start. Harrison Bader then worked Peters to a 2-2 count before swinging at strike three for the first out of the game. Yadier Molina, a career .284 hitter and eight-time all star still catching in his 15th big league season, distracted Peters long enough for Wong to steal third base on the ninth pitch of the at bat, then struck out swinging on a full count for out number two. That’s when St. Louis’ brand new #23 strolled up to the plate. Marcell Ozuna proceeded to then hit a harmless one-hop grounder directly at new Marlins’ second baseman Starlin Castro, who flipped it over to first bagger Eric Campbell to keep the Cards off the board. Bottom 1 Marlins’ fans got an early first-look at new Marlin (and recent St. Louis Cardinal) Magneuris Sierra, who led off the bottom of the frame for Miami. He took a ball then skied it to shortstop Greg Garcia for out number one. J.T. Realmuto, still hanging around the Marlins for some reason, batted second opposite Cards right-handed starter John Flaherty, then struck out swinging at a 2-2 pitch out of the zone. Castro followed that by grounding to Patrick Wisdom at third base, who tossed it easily to Luke Voit, starting at first for St. Louis to keep Miami scoreless. Top 2 Voit, a native of St. Louis, led off the second inning for the Cardinals by calmly barking a 1-2 curveball to right field for a base hit. St. Louis left fielder Tyler O’Neill, who whiffed 151 times in triple-A ball last season, waved over a tricky looking slider on a 2-2 pitch for the first out, and Peters’ second whiff. Garcia lined a 3-1 offering over Castro’s head into right center field for the Cards’ third hit of the ballgame. The single moved Voit over to third base, and there were runners on the corners and one out for Peters. Wisdom then grounded into a Castro-to-Miguel Rojas-to-Campbell double play to end the threat. It would be the last of Peters, who ended the night with a scoreless line and three strikeouts over two innings. Bottom 2 Justin Bour led off the second inning for the Marlins by getting caught flatfooted on a 2-2 fastball from Flaherty. Campbell grounded to Garcia at short on the very next pitch for out #2, and Dietrich ground[...]

2018 Positional Preview: Middle Infielders


From a position of security to a period of transition This time last year, the speedy Dee Gordon and slick-fielding Adeiny Hechavarria formed a solid middle infield which would presumably roam the middle of the diamond for several years to come. As we all know now, that’s not going to happen. In fact, it is very possible that one or more of the current Marlins middle infielders will not be on the team by the time the trade deadline arrives, if not sooner. That said, let’s look at the prime candidates to man the middle for the Fish this season. SECOND BASE Starlin Castro, acquired from the Yankees in the Stanton trade, is the most obvious candidate to be dealt before season’s end. So why isn’t he gone already? There’s not a huge demand among contenders for second basemen, particularly for ones that aren’t cheap. Castro is owed $10M this year and $11 next year, with a team option for the 2020 season. src="" style="border: 0; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute;" allowfullscreen="" scrolling="no"> But isn’t Castro worth it? Just look at the fan tribute video above. He was an All-Star reserve in 2017 (his fourth All-Star selection), he is only 27, and he has proven to be comfortable in big markets and in playoff situations. He hit .300 with 16 homers as a right-handed infielder in Yankee Stadium. So why the skepticism? Well, Castro’s defense for one. His UZR/150 rating, a defensive metric that consolidates (per 150 chances) ratings for range, ability to turn two, and errors and compares this rating to an average player. His numbers have declined steadily over the past three years: -4.1, -7.7, and (gulp) -13.2 last season. Several Yankees fans I know will vouch for his fielding limitations. Fortunately, hitting has been more sterling for Starlin. Over the past three seasons, Castro has averaged 16 homers and 67 RBI with a slash of .277/.310/.419. His 2017 offensive numbers were even better, buoying his 2.6 fWAR despite poor defensive numbers. Meanwhile his batting average was .300, his best since 2011, and his OPS+ of 115 was the best of his career. Additionally, it seems that after being initially sour on his trade to Miami, he is now embracing his new home. SHORTSTOPS “Marlins manager Don Mattingly said Saturday that Rojas would receive the chance to compete with J.T. Riddle for the starting shortstop role during spring training, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. “I think we look at Riddle and [Miguel] Rojas both as shortstops,” Mattingly said when asked about potential starters.” (Source: FanGraphs, 2/12/18) JT Riddle certainly came off as a likable young man with a healthy attitude, winning smile and supportive family. You just couldn’t help but root for him, particularly after his first career home run—a walk-off shot against the Mets—which still stands as one of last season’s best moments. src="" style="border: 0; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; position: absolute;" allowfullscreen="" scrolling="no"> During 2017, Riddle was the quintessential replacement-level MLB player. Yes, he had an fWAR of 0.0. In 228 at-bats, Riddle hit 3 homers, 20 RBIs and had a slash line of .250/.282/.355. He had solid defensive numbers, though he could best be described as developing on offense. His rookie season was cut short due to a left shoulder injury. Riddle projects mostly as a backup infielder, as does the third middle infielder we will talk about, Miguel Rojas. Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports Rojas, a Venezuela native, turns 29 next month has remarkably similar defensive numbers to Riddle. His offensive stats were slightly better. He hit a career high .290, with an OBP of .361 and SLG of .375 in 2017. Having entered the big leagues in 2014, he is more seasoned offensively, but with only 1 homer and 26 RBI last season in 272 at bats, and an OPS+ of a thoroughly average 100, he loo[...]