JUPITER -- It’s no secret that the Marlins don’t have a farm system brimming with top prospects. Baseball America ranks it 29th -- ahead of only the Angels -- in terms of organizational talent.
That doesn’t mean the cupboard is completely bare.
Based on conversations with talent evaluators, both within and outside of the Marlins’ organization, here are three players who could find their way onto the big-league roster at some point this season:
1) Dillon Peters -- The Marlins gambled on Peters in 2014 when they used their 10th-round pick on the Texas Longhorns right-hander despite the fact he had just undergone Tommy John surgery.
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Though he stands just 5-feet-9-inches, Peters has emerged as a potential rotation piece. Peters went 14-6 with a 2.36 ERA last season while splitting time between Single A Jupiter and Double A Jacksonville.
Earlier this week, Peters looked impressive in his first spring training start, holding the Nationals’ “A” lineup without a hit over three innings.
“He’s just showing some maturity as a pitcher that you like to see,” said manager Don Mattingly.
2) J.T. Riddle — The infielder has worked his way up the ladder after being taken out of the University of Kentucky in the 13th round of the 2013 draft.
While his bat is a question mark (.274 average with limited power over four minor-league seasons), Riddle can handle the glove. He’s played mostly shortstop, and that’s where the Marlins would prefer to keep him.
Mattingly said Riddle looks steadier this spring than he did last year.
“Last year he looked a little timid, not quite as aggressive,” Mattingly said. “This year he just seems really comfortable and that’s what I was hoping to see. It’s been courting to know that if something were to happen to one of our guys, that you’re going to be comfortable with (calling up) J.T.”
3) Drew Steckenrider — Like Peters and Riddle, Steckenrider in 2013 was a college pick for the Marlins out of the University of Tennessee. After missing all of 2014 due to Tommy John surgery, Steckenrider returned to become a power reliever with a 100 mph fastball while averaging more than a strikeout per inning.
He pitched well in the Arizona Fall League, though he was perhaps best known for giving up a game-winning hit to Tim Tebow.
The Marlins’ deepest area of strength is with their relievers, so Steckenrider won’t be first in line when they reach into the minors for bullpen help. But there is a good chance he’ll make it up to the big-league club at some point this season.
They didn’t participate in the “wave” or sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch. But a few Marlins players became fans Friday at Marlins Park when Team USA took on Colombia in the World Baseball Classic.
“It was pretty cool,” said first baseman Justin Bour, who made the drive from Jupiter to Miami with reliever Kyle Barraclough to cheer on Christian Yelich and Giancarlo Stanton, teammates and members of the U.S. team.
Bour said that when he and Barraclough rode up the ballpark elevator, they blended in with the rest of the crowd. Nobody recognized them.
“Barraclough and I were laughing about it because we got on the elevator and there was a whole bunch of people wearing Marlins gear,” Bour said. “They had no idea.”
Yelich scored the winning run in Team USA’s 3-2 win over Colombia in 10 innings.
-- The Marlins are giving Realmuto a raise, bumping his salary to $562,500 in what will be his final season before beginning the arbitration process. Realmuto made $532,500 last season.
Other pre-arbitration players whose contracts have been renewed by the Marlins include starting pitcher Adam Conley ($537,500) and pitcher Jose Urena, who will receive the league minimum ($535,000).
Sunday — Marlins RHP Tom Koehler vs. St. Louis Cardinals RHP Adam Wainwright, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter.
Monday — Marlins (to be announced) at New York Mets RHP Noah Syndergaard, 1:10 p.m., Port St. Lucie.