The Marlins were impressed by Jonathan Villar’s work in center field prior to last week’s abrupt shutdown of Spring Training, writes Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald. President of baseball operations Michael Hill tells McPherson that Villar looked “pretty natural” in the outfield, praising the speedster’s reads and his “natural glide to the ball.” The Marlins have “no reservations” about installing Villar as their primary center fielder whenever the season does get underway — a move that’d allow them to slot Brian Anderson in at third base, Miguel Rojas at shortstop and Isan Diaz at second base. Barring an extension, Villar is a short-term addition for the Miami organization. He’ll reach free agency next winter, and a year of even average glovework in center field would substantially bolster his stock, as would an approximation of 2019’s strong .274/.339/.453 slash (with 24 homers and 40 steals).
More notes out of Miami…
- Jose Urena went from 2019 Opening Day starter to trade candidate to non-tender candidate over the course of a year, but Miami opted to keep him and seems happy to have done so. Craig Mish of SportsGrid tweets that the Marlins were “itching” to see more of the 28-year-old, who revamped his delivery and his slider in the offseason. Urena yielded just two runs on 13 hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in 14 spring frames before exhibition play was halted. If he’s able to carry some of that success into the regular season, he’ll quickly emerge as a trade commodity. The Marlins only control Urena through the 2021 season, so their window to move him is narrowing. And his $3.75MM salary makes him affordable for just about any club that has a need to add to the starting staff. Urena missed nearly three months with a back strain in 2019, posted a 5.21 ERA in 82 1/3 innings when on the active roster and at one point lost his rotation spot. But in the two prior seasons, the righty notched a solid 3.90 ERA with 6.4 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 343 2/3 innings.
- MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro runs through a number of the position battles that were taking shape in Marlins camp prior to the stoppage of play. Notably, Frisaro writes that veteran outfielder Matt Joyce is in line to start about three times a week in right field, with one of Harold Ramirez, Lewis Brinson, Garrett Cooper or Monte Harrison possibly getting the nod on the other side of a timeshare. Veteran Matt Kemp, in camp on a non-roster deal, is viewed more as a potential bench bat. In the bullpen, Frisaro notes that veteran Brad Boxberger (also on a minor league pact) was “tracking toward” a spot on the roster. Mish heard similar things, tweeting last week that Boxberger was “close to a lock” to make the roster as a setup man to expected closer Brandon Kintzler.