Few battles loom for Marlins roster spots

Straily, Locke could compete for the final slot in the starting rotation

Few battles loom for Marlins roster spots

With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Marlins squad each day this week. Today's topic: Predicting the 25-man roster.

MIAMI -- The Marlins currently have 63 players invited to Spring Training, but there might not be much mystery when it comes to setting the Opening Day roster.

Barring injuries or something unexpected, most of the 25-man roster could already be settled. The front office has indicated it intends to carry plenty of pitching depth, which means manager Don Mattingly could have eight relievers at his disposal but just a four-man bench.

All of the core position players and most of the bench has returned, but there has been turnover in the pitching department.

Spring Training begins for the Marlins on Tuesday at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla.

Catcher (2): J.T. Realmuto, A.J. Ellis
After backup Jeff Mathis signed with the D-backs, the Marlins inked Ellis to back up Realmuto, a rising star behind the plate. Ellis previously played for Mattingly in Los Angeles.

First base (1): Justin Bour
An ankle injury caused Bour to miss more than two months in 2016, but the left-handed-hitting power threat is healthy and will get an opportunity to bat against southpaw starters. Realmuto, who has never played first base, will be given a shot to play some first as a right-handed-hitting complement.

Bour's three-run big fly

Second base (1): Dee Gordon
It was a rough 2016 for Gordon, who served an 80-game suspension after testing positive for use of performance-enhancing drugs. The two-time All-Star and 2015 National League batting champion looks to rebound and make things happen from the leadoff spot.

Third base (1): Martin Prado
The first significant offseason move the Marlins made was signing Prado to a three-year, $40 million extension in early October. Prado could have tested the free-agent market but instead opted to return, where he will anchor the hot corner for the third straight year.

Shortstop (1): Adeiny Hechavarria
In Hechavarria, the Marlins have a Gold Glove-caliber shortstop. He has already been an NL Gold Glove finalist, but he has yet to win the award. Hechavarria is seeking more consistency at the plate.

Utility (2): Miguel Rojas, Derek Dietrich
Rojas is a natural shortstop, but he is also a defensive replacement option at first base, as well as capable of playing the other three infield spots. Dietrich is a left-handed hitter with power, who will primarily back up second base and third, but can also play first base and left field.

Dietrich's two-run homer

Outfield (4): Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Ichiro Suzuki
The trio of Stanton, Yelich and Ozuna each topped 20 home runs in 2016. Stanton is looking to rebound after an injury-plagued season. Ozuna, who is switching to left field, had a rough time after the Midsummer Classic, but he was an All-Star based on a strong first half. Yelich has switched to center field, and he established career highs for home runs (21) and RBIs (98) last year. Ichiro, who became the 30th player in Major League history to reach 3,000 hits, is the primary backup.

Rotation (5): Wei-Yin Chen, Edinson Volquez, Adam Conley, Tom Koehler, Dan Straily
You're looking at six primary candidates for five spots. The one who doesn't make the rotation is expected to be carried in the bullpen. Volquez and Jeff Locke were free-agent additions, and Straily was acquired in a trade from the Reds. Chen was Miami's Opening Day starter in 2016, while Koehler paced the team in total starts. Conley, who missed time with a finger injury, could emerge as the best of the group. Straily could end up getting the nod for the fifth spot over Locke.

Bullpen (8): A.J. Ramos, Brad Ziegler, Kyle Barraclough, David Phelps, Junichi Tazawa, Dustin McGowan, Jose Urena, Locke
All signs point to the team carrying eight relievers, with two candidates who could be spot starters. Urena is out of options, and he has an inside edge to win one long relief spot. If he isn't in the rotation, Locke could wind up as the lone left-hander in the bullpen. Ramos, an All-Star in 2016, returns as closer. Ziegler and Tazawa were free-agent additions and will be in the setup mix. Barraclough could set up in the eighth or seventh, while Phelps can fill several roles, including pitching multiple innings. McGowan is another hard-thrower capable of going two or more innings.

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com 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.