WASHINGTON -- With great anticipation, the Marlins' Double-A Jacksonville affiliate opens its season on Thursday night.
But like the big league club, the Suns are going to be without several of their top players. All three of Jacksonville's expected starting outfielders will open the season on the Minor League seven-day disabled list.
Headlining the trio is left fielder Christian Yelich, who is dealing with a "stone bruise" on his left heel. Center fielder Jake Marisnick is recovering from a broken left hand, and right fielder Marcell Ozuna has a fractured left wrist. So when the Suns take on Jackson, there will be a revamped outfield, which will include Kyle Jensen in left field.
Because of the marquee Minor Leaguers on the team, Jacksonville promises to be one of the most closely watched affiliates in all of baseball.
Yelich is ranked 13th on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospect List, and the 21-year-old hitting sensation is Miami's No. 2-ranked prospect. Marisnick is the organization's No. 3 prospect, and Ozuna rates seventh.
Jacksonville also was to feature Miami's top prospect, right-hander Jose Fernandez, picked seventh overall by MLB.com. But Fernandez won't be throwing his 95-mph fastball for the Suns, because on Sunday he was promoted to the big leagues.
The Marlins on Sunday selected Fernandez's contract and named the 20-year-old their No. 5 starter after placing Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez on the 15-day disabled list. Both are dealing with right shoulder inflammation.
"Going into Spring Training, we were calling it the Dream Team just because of the number of prospects that were there," said Marty Scott, the Marlins' vice president of player development. "Yelich is probably closer [to returning] than any of the three. He's coming along. He has a stone bruise on his heel. He's starting to swing the bat now. It probably won't be long for him. Marisnick is probably second in line."
Yelich was one of the Marlins' top stories of Spring Training. A first-round pick in 2010, the left-handed-hitting outfielder batted .364, and he led the Marlins in home runs (five) and RBIs (14) in Grapefruit League action.
While Yelich was building a case to make the club, the organization also was being careful with him because he hasn't played above Class A. On March 15, Yelich initially bruised his heel during a rundown against the Yankees in Tampa, Fla. He aggravated the same foot, jamming it on a base during a Minor League game after he was sent down.
Although he is starting on the disabled list, Yelich likely won't miss too much time. Extended spring games get under way on Thursday, and the hope is for him to be playing in games in Jupiter, Fla., this weekend.
Marisnick suffered a fracture to his left hand after he was struck by a pitch in a Grapefruit League game against the Cardinals on March 6. The speedster could be back in about two weeks.
Ozuna, a power-hitting right fielder, sustained his injury after crashing into the fence in the outfield in a Minor League game. He may be out three more weeks.
"It's created a situation where some guys made the [Jacksonville] club who probably wouldn't have made it," Scott said. "We needed to have enough bodies there to fill out the roster. Some players are getting second chances, and they are getting a few weeks to show what they can do."