Around the Horn: Infield

Miami has strong defensive unit with Prado, Bour, Gordon, Hechavarria returning

Around the Horn: Infield

Spring Training for the Marlins gets underway with pitchers' and catchers' workouts beginning on Feb. 14 at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla. As the countdown continues, is taking a position-by-position look at how Miami's 2017 squad is shaping up. This is the fourth story in a multipart Around the Horn series that runs periodically until camp starts. Today's focus: Infield.

MIAMI -- For all the offseason moves the Marlins made to bolster the bullpen and deepen the rotation, perhaps the most significant signing the club made came just a few days after the 2016 season ended.

The highest priority the organization had was to retain third baseman Martin Prado, a pending free agent who could have tested the market. Instead, Miami locked up its team leader to a three-year, $40 million contract in early October.

In the aftermath of Jose Fernandez's death, the Marlins felt it was important to keep Prado, not only for his production on the field, but for his influence off of it.

"Martin showed his leadership, as far as being the glue in that clubhouse," manager Don Mattingly said. "With everything that happened at the end of the season, we obviously saw Martin's leadership. I think it's a huge step for us, as we continue moving forward, to be able to re-sign Martin."

Keeping Prado also kept continuity in the infield, one of the strengths of the club.

Hechavarria's tremendous grab

Defensively, the Marlins boast one of the top infields in the National League. The unit returns Justin Bour at first, Dee Gordon at second, Adeiny Hechavarria at shortstop and Prado at third.

In 2016, Miami's infield committed just 43 errors, and that was with Gordon, the NL Gold Glove Award-winning second baseman in 2015, missing 80 games due to a suspension.

In the first half of 2016, the Marlins established an MLB record by going 28 straight games without an infielder committing an error. The streak ran from May 29 to June 29. According to STATS LLC, that's the longest such streak in MLB's modern era, with STATS' information dating back to 1913.

At the plate, Prado also was among the Marlins' most consistent players, and he was one of the best at his position in the NL.

Prado paced all qualified NL third basemen in batting average (.305) and hits (183). He also struck out the fewest times (69). The veteran added eight home runs and drove in 75.

Must C: Gordon's leadoff HR

In 2017, Miami will be looking for a bounce-back season from Gordon, who lost time a year ago due to his suspension for violating MLB's substance abuse policy.

Gordon, who won the 2015 NL batting title while hitting .333, saw his average drop to .268 with a .305 on-base percentage in 2016. He stole 30 bases, but scored just 47 runs, after scoring 88 runs in '15.

Gordon also delivered one of the most memorable individual moments in club history, belting a leadoff home run off Bartolo Colon, then with the Mets, the night after Fernandez's death.

If Gordon can return to his All-Star form, he would be impactful at the plate and in the field.

The Marlins also are counting on Bour to further establish himself. The left-handed-hitting first baseman was limited to 90 games due to a right ankle sprain.

Bour aims to hit against lefties

Prior to the injury in early July, Bour had 15 home runs and 46 RBIs in 68 games.

The Marlins also are considering using Bour more against left-handed pitching. In limited chances against southpaws, he hit .233 with two RBIs.

At this point, Miami doesn't have a right-handed platoon option at first, but the club is considering giving catcher J.T. Realmuto some time there. And Miguel Rojas is a defensive replacement candidate at first.

At shortstop, Hechavarria is one of the top defenders at his position in the NL. But last year, he struggled at the plate, batting .236/.283/.311 with three homers and 38 RBIs. In 2015, he showed more promise, with a slash line of .281/.315/.374.

If Hechavarria hits closer to those numbers, the Marlins should be in good shape.

Derek Dietrich provides depth at three infield spots -- second, third and first. When Gordon was suspended, the left-handed-hitting utility player provided a big boost. He finished with seven home runs and 42 RBIs. And Rojas is valuable because he can play plus defense anywhere on the diamond.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for since 2002. 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.