The Miami Marlins have finished their summer camp training this week and are in Atlanta for a pair of exhibition games. The two contests versus the Braves will be the finial tune ups for the 60-game season sprint, which starts Friday. New Marlins players and roster holdovers alike are competing for spots on the roster.
The Marlins will travel with 41 players to Atlanta but will need to pare down to 30 for Opening Day. The unique nature of this season could see roster changes happening regularly. So even if a player doesn’t initially make the team, ala Jordan Yamamoto, they could play a role later in the season.
For Opening Day, the Marlins will be in Philadelphia. According to SportsBettingDime.com’s odds page, Miami enters the game as an underdog versus the Phillies. Sandy Alcantara will toe the rubber for the Marlins to start the year, but there’s still some uncertainty regarding the rest of the roster.
With that in mind, here’s a look at five under-the-radar Marlins players who could play a role in 2020.
Marlins Players to Know: Jordan Holloway
Jordan Holloway has been something of a surprise during summer camp. The 24-year-old right-hander comes in as the No. 20 prospect for the Marlins according to MLBPipeline. At 6-foot-6, Holloway stands as an imposing figure on the mound and has found success working at Marlins Park this summer.
“What he’s done in a couple of outings here has been pleasantly surprising and has put him kind of in the mix,” Marlins pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. said. “We have to stay open-minded. We’re going to be able to expand our roster, and there are going to be some guys that are given an opportunity that maybe in a regular season wouldn’t have been given that opportunity.”
Holloway boasts a fastball that touches triple-digits and sports an above-average curveball. Also, he’s fully healthy after a 2017 Tommy John surgery.
Stottlemyre said Holloway is “probably the nastiest guy we have in our bullpen.”
Holloway’s electric stuff and three-quarter delivery could make him a viable option in the bullpen, despite his starter pedigree. The major point of emphasis for him, though, will be command. Holloway walked 66 batters over 95 innings at Single-A Jupiter in 2019.
Marlins Player to Know: Alex Vesia
Another electric arm who could help in the ‘pen in 2020 is Alex Vesia. Listed as the No. 24 overall prospect for the Marlins by MLBPipeline, Vesia posted a 1.62 ERA with 138 strikeouts over 100 innings while advancing to Double-A over his last two seasons. He finished 2019 on a 35-inning scoreless streak and pitched six scoreless innings this spring. At 24-years-old, the lefty reliever has turned heads with his work this summer.
“Everywhere he went he had success,” Don Mattingly said of Vesia. Miami’s manager went on to say Vesia has “pitched with confidence” and “has some moxie about him,” noting “[h]e’s on the attack; he’s not afraid; he’s a strike thrower.”
Vesia’s fastball flies at 92-95 mph and touches 97. His deceptive delivery and high spin-rate gets on hitters quickly, helping those strikeout numbers.
The Marlins are limited with left-handed relievers and Vesia is the highest-rated lefty prospect in Miami’s system. If he can consistently throw strikes, the rookie could find himself pitching meaningful innings in 2020.
Marlins Player to Know: Nick Neidert
When the Marlins optioned Yamamoto to Jupiter, most assumed Elieser Hernandez had won the fifth starter competition. While that may ultimately prove to be true, one of the names still in the running is Nick Neidert.
The 23-year-old righty stands as the Marlins No. 10 overall prospect according to MLBPipeline. And throughout the summer, Mattingly hasn’t hesitated to throw Neidert into the mix for the 2020 roster. He said he’s in a “position to stay.”
In five minor league seasons, Neidert sports a 3.20 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and an 8.1 K/9 rate over 460.2 innings pitched. He features a 90-93 mph sinking fastball that pounds the bottom of the zone. His deceptive delivery can fool hitters and he was sharp in the Arizona Fall League.
Over six innings this spring, Neidert gave up just one earned run. He’s been up-and-down in recent intrasquad games and could ultimately slot in as a long reliever or piggyback option out of the bullpen.
Marlins Player to Know: Eddy Alvarez
The Marlins’ bench seems set, but local product Eddy Alvarez continues to make a late push for the 30-man roster. The 30-year-old Miami native and Columbus High graduate seeks to make his Major League debut in 2020, which would add to a resume that includes a 2014 Winter Olympics silver medal in speedskating.
Alvarez is a roster wildcard. He’s another player with positional versatility and he’s a switch hitter. At the Triple-A level in 2019, Alvarez hit .323 with 12 home runs and 43 RBI over 66 games.
“I like the kid,” Mattingly said of Alvarez. “I think he’s got a chance to help us depending on what happens during this this camp.”
Should Alvarez make the team, the Marlins would have to make a roster move, as he’s not currently on the 40-man roster.
“We’re pieces of the puzzle,” Alvarez said in March. “If I fit in a certain algorithm, then it’ll be time for me to go. It’s tough as a baseball player, it really is, not knowing much, but you just have to play.”
Marlins Players to Know: Magneuris Sierra
One of the decisions the Marlins must decide in the next few days is what to do with Magneuris Sierra. The big hitch in this question is the fact that Sierra is out of minor-league options. Should the team elect not to put Sierra on the Opening Day roster, he would have to pass through waivers before being reassigned within the organization.
Sierra’s best weapon is his speed. The 24-year-old should serve as Miami’s top pinch-running option this season after he stole 36 bases in 50 attempts in 2019. Working in his favor in the 60-game season are the expanded rosters and the new extra-innings rule.
“We think there is a role for a guy who can steal a bag on this club right now,” Mattingly said. “You’ll see teams in pennant races going down the stretch [looking for speed].”
For the 2020 season, MLB has implemented a new rule for extra innings: each half-inning will start with a runner on second base.
“That creates a different role, not just for him, but a few other guys as well,” Mattingly said of for Sierra, who can also be used as a defensive replacement.
Sierra, a left-handed hitter, also showed strides at the plate in limited action with the Marlins in 2019. He hit .350 over 40 at-bats. He has eight stolen bases (in 15 attempts) over his 91 MLB career games.