Top Prospects: Colin Moran, 3B, Marlins

JUPITER, Fla. -- In his first Spring Training exhibition on Wednesday afternoon, Colin Moran faced a familiar opponent in the Miami Hurricanes.

Moran, taken sixth overall in last year's First-Year Player Draft, played his college ball at the University of North Carolina. Three times a year the third baseman went up against the Hurricanes, and there was a chance for more matchups in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.

Regarded as one of the best third baseman in the country last year, Moran did more damage against UM in his spring debut for the Marlins. The club's fourth-ranked prospect had a hit and a walk, scored a run and drove in another in the Marlins' 5-2 victory at Roger Dean Stadium.

Defensively, Moran recorded the final out of the game, leaving the bases loaded for the Hurricanes. Jacob Heyward lifted a soft liner that was headed into short left field, but Moran made an over-the-shoulder, backhanded grab, securing the ball and an exhibition victory.

"When I landed, I was making sure it was in my glove and the game was over," Moran said.

Manager Mike Redmond saw Moran play in the Arizona Fall League. Spring Training gives him a chance to get even a closer look at the 21-year-old.

"I like to get these guys right into the fire and get them at-bats at the big league level as soon as possible and see what they can do," Redmond said. "This is a great opportunity for a lot of our young guys, and Moran, obviously, is our No. 1 pick. He did a nice job. He made a great play at the end, really to save the game."

In camp as a non-roster invitee, Moran is expected to open the season at either Class A Advanced Jupiter or Double-A Jacksonville. But he is regarded as the third baseman of the future.

The Marlins brought in Casey McGehee to start at third base this season. Jeff Baker offers depth at the position.

"I'm just approaching it like anything else," Moran said. "I'm trying to do my job and learn from the other guys and just get better."

Aside from some pregame jitters, Moran had some familiarity with a number of UM players. His hit, a single to left, was off Javi Salas, a right-hander Moran previously faced while at North Carolina.

"This really is just an opportunity for him to go out there, get comfortable, and get relaxed," Redmond said. "I like the fact that he came out today and took advantage of his opportunity."

Infection delays Alvarez's Grapefruit League debut

Outlook: Alvarez offers solid sleeper potential

JUPITER, Fla. -- Marlins right-hander Henderson Alvarez, initially scheduled to start on Sunday, will miss several days due to a right shin infection.

The infection had been bothering Alvarez for a couple of days, and when he wasn't seeing improvement, he went to the hospital to have it treated and drained.

"He's obviously down for a few days," manager Mike Redmond said. "He had to have it cleaned out. We're expecting him to be fine in a couple of days. He's probably out at least for three or four days."

Alvarez pitched live batting practice on Saturday. He wasn't in camp Sunday because he was feeling under the weather due to the infection.

Projected as the Marlins' third starter, Alvarez was scheduled to make his Grapefrut League debut Sunday against the Nationals in Viera, Fla. Lefty Brad Hand will now make that start.

Of the pitchers in camp, Alvarez entered Spring Training having already logged some innings while playing Winter Ball in Venezuela. He threw 23 innings in the offseason, which gave him a headstart on some other pitchers in terms of building up arm strength.

Last year, Alvarez's first with the Marlins, he opened the season on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. He made 17 starts, posted a 3.59 ERA and capped an otherwise rough year for the Marlins by tossing a no-hitter against the Tigers in the season finale.

With the infection being treated so early in camp, the Marlins are confident Alvarez will have plenty of time to get ready for the season.

"It shouldn't affect him," Redmond said. "He obviously won't make that start on Sunday, but he's pitched quite a bit. It shouldn't affect him as far as how much time it will take him to bounce back. He will get his pitches in and get him ramped up for Opening Day."

Hill has Marlins focused on finer points of fielding

Outlook: Jones struggles mightily against southpaws

JUPITER, Fla. -- Not much goes unnoticed when Perry Hill is conducting infield drills at Marlins camp.

Regarded as a fielding "guru," Hill seemingly has eyes everywhere, checking for proper footwork and if the infielders are funneling the ball into their gloves.

Each impressive play is met with a loud scream of, "Stop it!"

"Stop it!" coming from Hill is a good thing.

"You hear that voice just yelling, 'Stop it!' after every good play," first baseman Garrett Jones said. "He's loving it when you make a good play and the throw is on the money."

Jones, the Marlins' new first baseman, is already quite familiar with Hill. They were together in Pittsburgh in 2009. In Hill's lone season with the Pirates, Jones led the Majors with a .988 fielding percentage -- a bright spot for a club that lost 99 games.

"Just his intensity and his passion about defense, it rubs off on you as a player," Jones said. "Every time he shows you a drill or shows you what he wants to do, it's with a lot of energy. It resonates. He gets you thinking defense, defense, defense, and how important it is to winning ballgames."

Pitching and defense are two key components for the Marlins.

Under Hill's guidance, the club feels their infield is in good hands.

"We've got one of the best infield instructors right here," Rafael Furcal said. "He has us working every day hard. He is showing me a lot of little tricks."

Furcal, 36, is one of the oldest players on the team. He's also making a switch from shortstop to second base.

The industry recognizes the impact Hill, the club's first-base coach, has defensively.

Before Spring Training, the Boston Globe ran a story ranking the best big league coaches. Input was taken from general managers, players, writers and other coaches. Hill, nicknamed Bone, was recognized as the best infield coach in the game.

Ed Lucas credits Hill for helping him adapt to all four infield positions.

"He breaks it down right down to the very basics," Lucas said. "When I got called up last year and they told me I would be playing a lot of different positions, we went around the infield early every day.

"With Bone, you don't just jump into taking ground balls. You're going to sit down, and he's going to tell you what he wants from the very beginning of every single stage to taking a ground ball, beginning with your stance. There is no detail that goes unnoticed or untalked about with him."

Worth noting

Justin Nicolino will get the start at 1:05 p.m. ET on Thursday against Florida International University. The Marlins are expected to play regulars Giancarlo Stanton or Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Jose Fernandez will start the first Grapefruit League game Friday at 1:05 p.m. against the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium, where the Marlins will be the visiting team at the ballpark they share with St. Louis.

On Saturday, the Marlins have a split squad. Nathan Eovaldi will start in Jupiter against the Cardinals at 1:05 p.m. Kevin Slowey will get the nod five minutes later, on the road against the Mets in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

Brad Hand will start Sunday at 1:05 p.m. against the Nationals in Viera, Fla.