One of the things the Miami Marlins are looking for this Spring Training is how their future major league stars are progressing. Austin Nola has made a solid first impression so far down in Jupiter, Florida, where he has spent time behind the plate.
“It's perhaps not the position he'll play for the rest of his career, but for this year, anyway, the Marlins' experiment with Austin Nola behind the plate continues,” writes Glenn Sattell of MLB.com.
“Nola worked four innings as catcher in Thursday's 2-2 tie with the Nationals at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. He continues to impress with his natural skills and his interest in adding the position to his repertoire.”
Taken in the fifth round of the 2012 Draft by the Marlins, Nola finished up the '16 season -- his fifth in the Minor Leagues -- with Triple-A New Orleans. He played second base, shortstop and third, and he finished with a slash line of .261/.308/.376.
Miami has also been experimenting with JT Realmuto, the team’s everyday catcher, at first base. The idea is to give starter Justin Bour a rest from time to time and Realmuto, who was a position player in high school, could see time standing up. The Marlins also signed veteran catcher AJ Ellis in the offseason to replace Jeff Mathis who was Realmuto’s primary backup last season.
The work Nola is putting in is certainly drawing rave reviews.
"He's been good," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "[We've got] good reviews for him from the pitchers. Actually, the umpire came over and said he was good to work behind, gives a good look at the ball and things like that."
Nola’s efforts could find him on the main roster at some point this season because of injuries. Also, Ellis is dealing with a hamstring injury that kept him out of the World Baseball Classic. The team is monitoring his progress so he will be ready for the season opener.
Nola, like Realmuto, has experience playing in the field as well as being a backstop. Mattingly knows it’s a good situation to have, with two of the organization’s catchers proving to be so versatile.
"We'll keep him behind the plate for probably most of this season, knowing that he's got the other side of him, too," Mattingly said. "And that's not going to go away.
"We want to give him a really good chance to pick up that position," Mattingly said.