Marlins prospect Sandy Alcantara gearing up for first major-league start
Some notable Marlins developments nearly a week into spring games, with the important caveat that we’re in the very early stages and all of the competitive battles remain very much undecided:
▪ Position players: At least eight are realistically competing for three starting outfield spots, and Lewis Brinson (four hits, three homers in nine at bats) and Austin Dean (4 for his first 9, three RBI) are off to good starts.
Brinson is a very likely starter if he hits well this spring. Dean hit .221 with four homers and 14 RBI in 122 at bats after the Marlins promoted him last August.
Also competing: Curtis Granderson (expected to make his spring debut on Saturday), former Indians/Pirates outfielder Rosell Herrera (started in center field against Houston on Thursday and 1 for 9 this spring), Peter O’Brien (the first baseman has been getting time in right field but is 0 for 11 with seven strikeouts this spring), Garrett Cooper (the first baseman can play the corner outfield positions and is 3 for 7 this spring), Harold Ramirez (2 for 7) and Magneuris Sierra (1 for his first 10 this spring).
Ramirez, 24, was one of the more intriguing signings this past offseason; he hit .320 with 11 homers and 70 RBI in 120 games in Double A, winning the Eastern League’s batting title.
Isaac Galloway (3 for 7 this spring), Brian Miller (1 for 7) and Monte Harrison (2 for 7) also are getting at-bats in the early stages of spring games. Harrison, third on the mlb.com’s Marlins prospects list, and Miller (13th) are expected to begin the year in the minors.
Galloway, a career minor leaguer, hit .203 in 64 at bats for the Marlins in his major league debut last summer.
In the infield, Neil Walker (1 for 7 this spring) will get a lot of work at first, with O’Brien, Cooper and Martin Prado also in the mix for playing time and Pedro Alvarez — the former Pirates and Orioles slugger — off to a 1 for 5 start in his bid for a roster spot. Prado is expected to make his spring debut Saturday.
Miguel Rojas, competing with J.T. Riddle for the starting shortstop job, is off to a 3-for-6 start. Riddle is 0 for 8.
Brian Anderson, back at third base, has four RBI and three hits in nine spring at bats.
“He’s looking pretty good,” manager Don Mattingly said Thursday. “He had a couple walks in there, looks like he’s seeing the ball pretty good. He’s looked good at third. He’s made some really nice plays over there, so just individually we’re getting some pockets of good things happening.”
Anderson hit 11 home runs last season and Mattingly said “I think [the power] will come.”
Starting second baseman Starlin Castro is off to an 0 for 7 start. This spring will offer some insight on the progress of Isan Diaz, who could replace Castro — who’s in the final year of his contract — in 2020. Diaz has opened spring 1 for 11 with five strikeouts.
▪ Pitchers: Of the seven top contenders for five rotation spots, Jose Urena (already named the opening day starter) and Dan Straily, Trevor Richards and Wei Yin Chen have each made one start and Sandy Alcantara two.
Pablo Lopez has made a bullpen appearance and Caleb Smith, recovered from lat surgery last July, threw a two inning simulated game on Tuesday and will pitch three innings in a simulated game next week. It’s undetermined when he will make his first spring appearance.
The Marlins believe Smith would be an asset in the bullpen if it works out that way, though they view him as a starter.
Alcantara was strong in his first start (two innings, one hit, one run, three strikeouts) but less effective in his start Thursday against Houston (two innings, two runs, two hits, three walks, three strikeouts).
“I felt really uncomfortable on the mound today,” he said. “I tried to find a way to throw the ball.”
Mattingly’s take on Alcantara: “Today he got himself into some counts, gets behind, walks a couple guys, and puts himself in bad spots. Obviously he doesn’t want to. With his stuff, we want to attack the strike zone.”
Straily threw two scoreless innings in his first start, but Richards and Chen struggled in their first starts, Richards allowing two runs in two innings and Chen five runs in 1 1/3 innings….
Former Tampa closer Sergio Romo struck out all three batters he faced in his Marlins debut on Wednesday.
Fox Sports Florida added JP Arencibia as a pre-game and postgame studio analyst.
Arencibia spent the last year as host of the “Digging in with J.P. Arencibia” Toronto Blue Jays podcast on Yahoo! Sports. He also served as color analyst last season for MLB’s Facebook Game of the Week between the Blue Jays and Braves.
He hit .212 in six major league seasons through 2015.
The network said it will use four Marlins studio analysts this season: Arencibia, Tommy Hutton, Joe Nelson and Gaby Sanchez.
Paul Severino and Todd Hollandsworth return in the booth.
Miami Herald sportswriter Jordan McPherson contributed to this report.