Marlins pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on Feb. 19 at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla. Full-squad workouts get underway on Feb. 24. As the workout dates approach, MLB.com takes a position-by-position look at the 2016 Marlins. The latest installment: First base.
MIAMI -- When the Marlins signed Michael Morse to a two-year contract prior to the 2015 season, Justin Bour had a pretty good idea he would open last year at Triple-A New Orleans. That's how it played out initially, but by midseason, roles had changed.
Morse dealt with an finger injury, and Bour filled in at first base. The left-handed hitter never relinquished the job. By late July, Morse was dealt to the Dodgers, and Bour went on to lead the Marlins in RBIs (73). He also finished with 23 homers, second only to Giancarlo Stanton (27).
Bour will enter Spring Training as the front-runner to be the Opening Day starter, or at least the regular against right-handed pitching.
As much as the job is his for the taking, Bour still must show he can be a regular. Defensively, there are questions, as he was minus-7 in defensive runs saved last year. And he is untested against left-handed pitching, which likely means he will be a platoon candidate with Chris Johnson, a free-agent acquisition. There was also an issue with Bour's conditioning, as the team requested he drop about 20 pounds in the offseason.
Still, there is plenty of upside for Bour, who is popular with his teammates and is a left-handed power threat. In 129 games, he batted .262/.321/.479 with 20 doubles. Bour is also patient at the plate, drawing 34 walks. Most of his production was against right-handed pitching, where his slash line was .270/.326/.519 with 23 homers and 64 RBIs. Bour had just 68 at-bats against lefties, hitting .221/.293/.279 with nine RBIs.
Johnson, meanwhile, is a career .314/.350/.436 against lefties, compared to .268/.304/.402 while facing right-handers.
Overcoming long odds isn't anything new for Bour, a 25th-round choice out of George Mason University by the Cubs in 2009. Miami acquired him in the Triple-A Phase of the 2013 Rule 5 Draft.
The Marlins are high on the 27-year-old because he can change a game with one swing. Bour is a definite threat. According to Statcast™, his average exit velocity in 2015 was 93.1 mph, the same as Miami outfielder Marcell Ozuna. By comparison, All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt's average exit velocity was 93.3 mph last year.
Behind Bour and Johnson, the Marlins also plan on giving work to Derek Dietrich at first base. He will be moved around to a number of positions in Spring Training, including second base, third and left field. Dietrich appeared in two games and played 2 1/3 innings at first base for Miami last year.
Another left-handed threat, Dietrich belted 10 home runs, 14 doubles and three triples in 250 at-bats. If Bour doesn't solidify the job, Dietrich could play himself into the role.
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.