Important Spring Training Dates to Note for Marlins Fans

February 20th, 2015 will mark the beginning to a successful era of Miami Marlins Baseball. In less than 24-hours Marlins pitchers and catchers will report to Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida. The site that’s been the spring training home of the Marlins since 2003, after spending 10 years prior to that at Viera’s Space Coast Stadium in Viera, FL. Sharing their spring training digs with the ballyhooed franchise of the St. Louis Cardinals, the Miami Marlins will hope all the off-season transactions made to boost the roster on a team that finished 4th in the NL east last season and will hope to mirror the success of their training mates the Redbirds for the 2015 season.

Now let’s take a look at important dates for fans to mark on their calendars:

February 20th: Pitchers and Cather’s report to camp

February 21st: First workout for Pitcher and Catchers

February 21st: Players will be at Marlins Park to attend the Winter Warm-Up festivities

February 24th: Position Players report to camp

February 25th: First Full Team Workout

March 2nd: First exhibition game vs. Florida International University

March 3rd: Second exhibition game vs. University of Miami (FL)

March 5th: First Spring Training game at Roger Dean Stadium vs. St. Louis Cardinals

*Note: All Exhibition/Spring Training games listed have a scheduled start time of 1:05 pm EST

Don’t miss out on the opportunity to watch the young, new and today’s Miami Marlins stars from the beginning. Our march to the 2015 playoffs starts February 20th. See you there!

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David Phelps Takes The Loss At Arbitration Hearing

When David Phelps sat down with the Miami Marlins Front Office last month, he was asking for a 1 year deal that would pay him around $2 million for the season.

A deal of that magnitude was never considered by the Marlins organization, sending Phelps to his Arbitration Hearing, where again he came out a loser. Phelps requested $1.875 million from the arbiter hearing his case, but was quickly denied his number and forced to settle for a 1-year deal worth $1.4 million.

Time will tell if Phelps is actually worth the 1.875 million is was asking for, as he will start this season battling for the 5th spot in the Marlins opening day rotation. More than likely he will end up as a long reliever, with the occasional spot start here and there based on how he does coming out of the pen in 2015.

Marlins Park to host 2017 MLB All-Star Showcase

marlins.tumblr.comIt didn’t take long for the new commissioner Rob Manfred to make an impact in the Miami Marlins community.

Come July 2017, the phrase “Going to Miami” will no longer be linked to the 1998 Will Smith song “Miami”. Instead, that phrase will carry a new meaning as baseball fans travel from across the country to fill Marlins Park for the 2017 All-Star Showcase.

A long time coming for the Marlins franchise, Jeffrey Loria has finally got the approval from Rob Manfred to hold the 2017 All-Star Game at Marlins Park. A saga that will have two decades once the All-Star festivities commence at Marlins Park, in downtown Miami.

The saga began in 1997 when the formerly named Florida Marlins won the World Series and were chosen by Bud Selig as favorites to host the 1998 All-Star Showcase that next season. Only to have Marlins fans dreams shattered quicker by owner Jeffrey Loria, when he unloaded all the teams’ talent. Compelling Selig to turn on his words, and give the honor of hosting the 1998 All-Star showcase to the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.

Furthermore, Loria thought he was a shoe in to host the 2015 All-Star showcase based on his unveiling of the Miami Marlins new stadium, Marlins Park in 2012. A line of thinking that led him to getting shot down again by Selig as he watched the honor of hosting this year’s All-Star showcase go to the Cincinnati Reds to hold at Great American Ballpark.

Finally though, after two decades of All-Star host envy and a recent recognized commitment to his team’s future success shown in Loria this off-season, Rob Manfred and MLB has dubbed Marlins Park the host of the 2017 All-Star showcase.

2015 Prospect Outlook: Justin Nicolino

If everything evolves as predicted, the future for Justin Nicolino, one of the most decorated Minor League pitchers, looks bright. However, where does he fit in a talented Miami Marlins rotation that will feature a dominant Top 3 with the return of Jose Fernandez mid-season from Tommy John surgery to join Mat Latos and Henderson Alvarez?

Rated as the Miami Marlins organization’s  #2 prospect by Baseballamerica.com, there’s hope within the front office that we will see the Marlins most coveted left-handed pitching prospect wearing the vibrant big league uniforms in 2015. Having recently traded Andrew Heaney to the Angels and the 2012 Mega Deal’s Anthony DeSclafani to the Reds for Mat Latos, the organization has slotted Nicolino as “The Next Man Up” if in need of mid-season help. The likelihood that he breaks camp in the Marlins big league rotation is slim, even though the need for a left-handed starter in the rotation is strong. The Marlins are hoping Brad Hand can land that job coming out of spring training, even though the organization believes Nicolino is the better option. This suggests that he is more likely to debut after the Super 2 Deadline in July. Alternatively, the Marlins may wait to bring him up late in the season, hoping he will make a 2003 Dontrelle Willis like impact, after some further fine tuning at either Double-A Jacksonville or Triple-A New Orleans.

Labeled by scouts as a Command & Control style pitcher, he registered an impressive BB/9 rate of 1.06 in 2014. This is attributed to his tall frame, high baseball IQ and a deceptive overhand throwing motion that creates a downward plane on his pitches, allowing him to keep his strikes low in the zone, and generating weak contact. His .03% HR/FB ratio in 2014 is evidence of this. This type of pitchability allows his arsenal of pitches to play up at the next level. However, he carries a mediocre Fastball that clocks in around 89-92 MPHs and a below-average Curveball that has been labeled more of a Slurve at 77-80 MPHs. The one pitch in his arsenal that is already tailor-made for the big leagues is his change-up. It generates excellent late fade, and paired with his deceptive arm speed, it has become his go to swing and miss option when ahead in the count on hitters.

Despite being equipped with all these tools, there are concerns he may not reach his maximum potential. Seen by his dramatic regression in his K/BB rate from 24% in Single-A, to 11.8% after being promoted to Double-A Jacksonville in 2013. This appears to reflect his inability at this point to develop tighter spin on his Curveball. This is needed to improve its consistency and late break, adding that “whiff” factor needed for him to be successful not only at the next level, but at the Major League level. In addition, scouts are worried how his arm will hold up as he takes on more innings. The aggressive manner he throws across his body leads to a lot of arm side run and deception on his Fastball, but scouts are worried he could develop serious shoulder issues.

With growth and development we all hope he can astound at the Major League level like he has at the Minor League level. It will be difficult to surpass his current awards of being the 2014 Minor League Pitcher of the Year and finishing 2014 Ranked #1 as the Top-Control Starter in the Minor Leagues. There is little reason to think he couldn’t become a future Ace, or even a strong #2 in the rotation behind Jose Fernandez. For now though, don’t expect to see him on the opening day roster unless the Marlins suffer injuries during spring training, and without a consistent “whiff” factor present in his Curveball he projects to me, at best a #4 in the Marlins Rotation.

Have we underestimated Avery Romero Potential?

"Is he deserving as the Organizations #1 Prospect?"
“Is he deserving as the Organizations #1 Prospect?”

It’s clear baseballamerica.com and the Fish have dubbed their #1 prospect a giant right-handed high-school hurler. Who, on a consist basis cheeses up scouts radar guns to the tune of 100 MPH. Standing at 6’5’’/260 Ibs it’s easy to see why everyone is excited about the high-ceiling future of Tyler Kolek from Shepherd, TX. He possesses tools that are just un-teachable, and at the current age of 19 years-old he already has a progressive feel for two of his off-speed options, in his slider and curveball. Working to master his change-up, and gaining control of his arsenal in the strike zone so he doesn’t come out Rick Vaughn’ing the batter’s boxes like the plates got the plague. Only further seasoning will give us more insight into his future, but for the 2015 season is he the true number one?

Going against the theorist’s prospect ranking system, I have to put my stock in the player currently ranked as the organizations #3 prospect by baseballamerica.com:

Avery Romero, 2B, Miami Marlins

Age: 21  Ht: 5’8”  Wt: 190   2014 Level: Class A-Advanced

Drafted by the Marlins in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft, this scrappy-aggressive style player has been eating up pitchers early-contact fastballs through the minor league system achieving promotions all the way up the ranks to Class A-Advanced Jupiter Hammerheads. Romero doesn’t wait for the game to come to him; he brings his energy and excitement to the game – Proven by his aggressive Vladi G. approach at the plate, effortless arm strength from second and strong hands, which could translate into increased power numbers as he fills out.

With a majority of Avery’s homeruns coming in 2014, during which he hit 5 of his 11 minor league career homeruns – a high percentage of them to his pull side of the field. We are going to have to wait and assess how the power comes along and contributes to his future slash statistics. But the steady build up in maturity and earnest to improve his footwork in the infield, paired with the tremendous raise in production on the offense side of the ball, all make him a strong consideration for the Marlins #1 prospect rating.

Since joining the organization in 2012 Avery Romero has registered slashes of:

2012 (GCL/SS-A): .246/.331/.352 in 164 PA

2013 (GBO/BAT): .276/.341/.391 in 265 PA

2014 (GBO/JUP): .320/.367/.423 in 507 PA

Now humor me for a minute and compare Romero’s 2014 slashes with the likes of the “Lazer Show” Dustin Pedroia  at the age of 21 in the minors – (2005-.293/.385/.452) in 538 PA. Who  stands at the same scarlet lettered 5’8” frame and contains the same scrappy-aggressive like tools on both sides of the ball, with strong-hands driving the ball to the pull side of the field. Showing flashes of long-ball capabilities as he filled out in the minor league systems. Combine the already stated similarities with the additional mirror image that they both contained the same hustle induced speed and a rise of in patience at the plate:

Avery Romero (2014-Afull/Aadv.): 10 SBA/ 32 BB

Dustin Pedroia (2005-AA/AAA): 8 SBA/ 58 BB

With all these strange similarities, it’s hard to argue that the future doesn’t look bright for Avery Romero. Though, I may have leaped into the world of wild imagination and large skepticism, that’s the glory of ranking prospects. Who’s to say he can or can’t turn into the next Dustin Pedroia or the next greatest Marlin. With the current upgrades of Dee Gordon and Martin Prado, the grand idea that Romero could shift over to third base and Martin Prado could be that plug player. Should get us excited to think we could be seeing Romero in the Show very soon.

So, with these facts at hand, and regards to other top Marlin prospects like Justin Nicolino, Tyler Kolek and J.T Realmuto. I have to give my #1 prospect vote to Avery Romero.

Assessing Nathan Eovaldi: Pitchability vs. Flatability

"Will Nathan Eovaldi Be Missed?"
“Will Nathan Eovaldi Be Missed?”

Will Nathan Eovaldi be missed as a FISH? Or will he be one that is happily relinquished to another? This is a guy that stands at 6’2″ and 215 lbs. spitting straight fire from his right arm registering upwards of around 97-99. That’s enough to get anyone hyped up about buying a ticket on the Eovaldi express. However, after last season and playing the role of Ms. Cleo looking into the future, you won’t find me standing in line to join that ride. Despite his unbelievable arm strength and ability to throw with max effort for 6 innings (if he makes it that long) he lacks something big league analysts like to call “pitch ability”. You know, that one tool needed to not just make your pitches dominant, but unhittable.

Through 2014 we saw a lot of “flatability” in this guy. Meaning you saw a guy take the mound whipping up his best combination of velocity and movement, but ending up with pitches being put on a platter. Because without that tool called “pitchability” this is what we get. A guy, who even with an above average FIP rating of 3.37 in 2014 he had a jacked up BABIP that stood at .323, strung together with a K% that declined from 2013 from 17.3 to 16.6 in 2014. I know what you’re thinking, 97-99 MPH, hard off-speed and these are the numbers we are looking at? All of these numbers reflect the unwanted tool in a pitchers arsenal, “flatability”.

Those of us who watched Nathan pitch this season would be remiss if we called it anything else. Don’t get me wrong he was great through 3 innings and even on most occasions getting us through 6 strong , but you would be inattentive if you didn’t see how many times that upper 90’s fastball looked like a beach ball, even on a 6″ monitor, causing his HR/FB ratio to raise up to 6.6%. Add to it his slider that was hung like the Hit-A-Way tool to hitters and belted some 400 feet into orbit and he ends up with a disastrous WAR rating of 0.7 for the 2014 season. Showing continuous signs of a lack of “pitchability”, not being able to put hitters away.

Everything being equal, Nathan valiantly served a depleted Marlins rotation that started 13 different pitchers in the 2014 season. He was a guaranteed starter who totaled around 200 innings. Will he be missed? Yes, for his durability and pure fact that his roster replacement could end up being another gopher ball pitcher in Dan Haren, who carries in a HR/FB ratio of 11.9%.Leaving you to debate the real question. Are we happy to have him relinquished to another team? We will just have to wait and see what the 2015 seasons brings. But if Nathan toes the rubber strutting “pitchability” over “flatability” then it could be lights out for opponents in the AL East.