After only selecting a total of three players in both 2018 and 2019 combined, the Marlins, including new GM Kim Ng were very active at the Rule 5 Draft this year, making a total of four selections and making a trade for a fifth. Who are they and what do they bring? We examine below.
In her second presser as Marlins GM, Ng stated the bullpen would be a priority this offseason. She wasn’t kidding. Kim got started on restructuring the bullpen with the first chance she got, the Rule 5. Four of the five players the Marlins acquired at the winter meetings were arms, including two whom will join the 40 man roster.
RHP Paul Campbell
2019 (AA-AAA): 144.2 IP, 3.67 ERA, 112 K/37 BB, 1.13 WHIP
It’s been a mixed bag for the Marlins when it comes to players acquired directly their in-state rival. On one side, there is Ryne Stanek, Ethan Clark, Braxton Lee and Matt Ramsey but on the other there is Jesus Sanchez, Jesus Aguilar and Derek Dietrich. Ng and the Fish are hoping that Campbell ends up on the right side of that equation. By all intents and purposes and judging by Campbell’s recent history including his breakout 2019 season, he has a very good chance of doing so.
Campbell, a Massachusetts native, is a 6’, 210 pound righty out of Clemson University. His stats as a Tigers’ long reliever were subpar but he did get in a good showing in the wood bat New England Collegiate League in the summer of 2016 and caught the eyes of scouts with his advanced mix of velo and spin. After joining the Rays, he finished 2017 pitched to a 2.29 ERA with a 19/6 K/BB and 1.12 WHIP in 19.2 GCL innings.
Campbell began 2018 in short season Hudson Valley tossing to a 1.67 ERA via a 0.87 WHIP and 35/5 K/BB in 32.1 IP before receiving his first full season assignment with Bowling Green. He began garnering national attention for his quick rise through the MiLB ranks after he finished the season by holding down a 2.70 ERA via a 22/12 K/BB and 1.17 WHIP in 36.2 IP with the Hot Rods.
In 2019, Campbell really popped, solidifying himself as an organizational top 25 prospect in a system known for developing quality arms. In his first full season’s worth of work between A+ and AA, Paul managed a 3.67 ERA by way of a 1.13 WHIP and 112/37 K/BB in 144.2 IP. From May 18 through June 22, Campbell had a run of six straight quality outings. From July 13 until August 18, he held down a 2.25 ERA in 40 IP. If not for a rare rough outing late in the season, his AA ERA would be well under 3. He will join the Marlins’ pen in as a multiple inning reliever and possible long relief option in 2021.
The Campbell arsenal consists of a 93-95 MPH heater, a high 80s-mid 90s change and a 76-79 MPH power curve. The change and fastball are both presently plus pitches which Campbell masks with the same arm speed. The curve shows flashes but, unlike the other two offerings, it lacks downward action. Also, Campbell slows down his arm action on the pitch making it easier for hitters to pick up and spit on. The good news is he has some time to put some polish on it while living mostly off the other two pitches during in-game action. While Campbell doesn’t have blow-it-by-you stuff and while he won’t rack up strikeouts, he is an innings eater who just gets outs by commanding the lower half and inducing weak contact. Although he lowered his walk rate to a career low 5.8% last year while making the AA jump, his ground ball rate fell a bit to 34%, another career low. In addition to polishing the curveball, that number needs to come back up if Campbell is going to be successful against big league bats but that should work itself out as he gains more experience against them.
With a plus reliever profile and the ability to get even better if he puts the aforementioned polish on his third pitch curveball, Campbell will be a quality multiple inning reliever. He and his pretty high floor should start the season in middle relief. Campbell should be placed among the Marlins top 40 prospects.
RHP Zach Pop
2019 (AA): 10.2 IP, 0.84 ERA, 11/4 K/BB, 1.03 WHIP
This must be… Pop!
Zach Pop is a 24-year-old righty out of the University of Kentucky. He decided to attend Kentucky despite being drafted out of his Canadian secondary school where he also played volleyball, hockey and golf. At Kentucky, he was teammates with his fellow countryman and eventual Marlins draft pick, Tristan Pompey. Pop now re-joins Pompey as his teammate in pro ball with the Fish.
After being named a top 100 collegiate prospect in each his sophomore and junior seasons, Pop was selected by the Dodgers in the seventh round of the 2017 Draft, jumping up the board 16 rounds from three years previous and earning himself a $147,500 payday.
Pop lived out the rest of his draft year by throwing five shutout innings in five relief appearances in the short season Arizona League before jumping up to full season ball in 2018. Pop was pushed hard that year and responded extremely well in terms of results, posting a 1.53 ERA in 64.2 IP at three different levels. This included a 27 IP, 0.33 ERA 23/6 K/BB, 0.70 WHIP performance at A+ Rancho Cucamonga and a 21.1 IP, 2.53 ERA, 17/6 K/BB, 0.94 WHIP at the AA level with the Orioles whom he joined as part of the Manny Machado trade.
The hitch in Pop’s development hit the next spring. After entering camp with his fastball velo down by 10 MPH, a week into the season, it was revealed he had a shoulder issue which required Tommy John. He missed the rest of the year and hasn’t thrown since. Before the surgery, Pop’s 70 grade fastball approached 100 MPH with good movement and plus plus command, his 60-grade change came in at 88-90 with good masked arm speed and two plane fading break and his 84-87 MPH power slider which was a third pitch for him but which he was beginning to gain a better feel for, garnering swings and misses both in and out of the zone. In addition to his solid three pitch arsenal, Pop promoted deception in his delivery by winding slowly then exploding forward on his downhill before releasing from a low 3/4 slot, really messing with hitter’s timing.
We cannot imagine how Zach Pop (@pop_zach)’s day went having been a member of three different organizations in less than a nine hour span, but we are glad he landed in Miami. 🌴— Fish On The Farm (@marlinsminors) December 11, 2020
Here’s a taste of Zach changing speeds with both his stuff and wind/release, fooling bats:#Marlins pic.twitter.com/ahSQjq6EcW
The question will be can Pop come back as the same guy following the surgery and more than a full year off the field? The Orioles were doubtful and left him unprotected. The Diamondbacks thought so and drafted him in the Rule 5 draft only to trade him just hours later.
What a roller coaster of a day with a lot of emotions. First, I’d like to thank the @Orioles for all their support especially during the rehab process. Thank you to @Marlins for giving me this opportunity to contribute to the team. Excited for what the future holds.— Zach Pop (@pop_zach) December 11, 2020
After a psychologically exhausting day which saw him as a member of three different organizations in less than nine hours, Pop lands in Miami who are also confident he can return to form as a mid-late inning reliever and setup man. As he gets his feet back under him, he will likely begin his big league career in middle relief.
LHP Jake Fishman
2019 (AA): 62.2 IP, 3.45 ERA, 1.261 WHIP, 74/18 K/BB
Fish(man) on the farm.
A native of Newton, Massachusetts, Fishman is a 6’3”, 195 pound lefty and alumni of Union College in upstate New York. In 66 IP in his senior year, Fishman led all of college baseball with a lowly 0.41 ERA and ranked eighth in D3 ball in both K/9 (11.59) and WHIP (0.89), paving his path to some pretty impressive league accolades including Liberty League Pitcher of the Year and tournament MVP. Fishman was also on the roster for Team Israel in the 2017 World
The Toronto Blue Jays recognized Fishman’s exports at the end of the 206 Draft, selecting him in the 30th round, 912th overall. The four-year D3 hurler had a bit of a slow rise through the minors, but he finally reached AA last year at age 24 (save one start at AAA in 2018). Fishman comes to the Marlins in the AAA phase of the Rule 5 and will be spotlighted in Jacksonville this coming season. With success, his MLB debut will be considered.
Athletically built, Fishman is a soft tossing southpaw with three pitches. His heat will rarely go above 90 and his two breakers, a slider and changeup sit between 80-83. What sets him apart is his funky stretch, wind and release in which he steps toward the first base side and goes from a high to low sidearm slot before throwing across his body and ending up almost completely off the mound upon landing. The unorthodox look keeps hitters far off balance and allows Fishman to generate both whiffs and weak contact ground ball outs. In his first two full minor league seasons, Fishman posted combined K/9 over 9 and ground ball rates of over 50% including 50.9 in AA last season. The unique mechanics of this 25-year-old and his ability to baffle barrels plays up to middle relief at the big league level. Fishman could possibly win that role out of spring training in 2021.
RHP Dylan Bice
2019 (A): 20.2 IP, 1.31 ERA, 1.065 WHIP, 29/8 K/BB
Bice, a Georgia native and athletic 6’4” 220 pound specimens, was a three sport athlete in his high school tenure juggling pitching with running back and basketball center duties for the Heritage Generals of Ringgold. With a career 2.46 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 85 innings in his prep career including a 1.93 ERA and 47 Ks in 50 innings in his senior year, Dylan was ranked the state of Georgia’s eighth best high school starter and 132nd best pitcher in the country. The Rangers selected and successfully signed Bice out of the 22nd round of the 2016 Draft, taking him away from his collegiate commitment to ETSU.
The Rangers used Bice’s first two pro seasons attempting to condition and build up his arm before pushing him harder this past season. After extended spring training, Bice was tasked with full season ball for the first time in his career. However, after just seven appearances, Bice was shut down with an injury in mid May. He didn’t resume throwing until early August. He lived out the rest of 2019 on rehab first in the AZL then in short season Spokane.
At 100% health, Bice brings 94-96 mph velo with a second pitch power slider. He throws with natural downward arc from a high and over the top arm slot and long stride downhill. The mechanics are smooth and his control is above average. If the health can maintain, Bice has the ceiling of a mid-late inning reliever. At 23 and after almost two full missed seasons though, the jury is out on if Bice can approach that apex. Having never pitched above A ball, he has a tall task ahead of him in Jacksonville this coming season. We will see how he responds.
INF Marcus Chiu
2019 (A+): .215/.341/.383, 14 HR, 44 RBI, 167/53 K/BB
Chiu is a 23-year-old infielder drafted out of a Northern California community college by the Dodgers in 2017. Chiu lives on as a Marin Mariners legend having only spent two years there. He hit an overall .349 with 16 homers, including 13 (a school record) in his sophomore season, a year in which he was also named a Second Team All-American and All-Conference Player of the Year. Before that, he hit .397 with a .551 OBP as a high schooler and earned his conference’s Player of the Year award as a senior.
Upon being selected by LA in the 15th round, Chiu enjoyed steady growth through the Dodgers system, making it to A+ in 2019 where for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, he hit .215/.341/.383 with a team leading 14 bombs. Chiu was also third in the California League though with 167 Ks.
A stocky 6’2”, 208 pounder, Chiu owns plus plus power and has the ability to play all over the infield. However due to just average speed and taking an injury to his throwing hand in 2018 into account, Chiu probably best profiles as a future first baseman. The Marlins will definitely take that though as it is a position of major need and one of the thinnest spots in the organization right now with not much past Lewin Diaz, Evan Edwards and Nic Ready.
Chiu owns unquestionable raw power that grades out at the 60 scale. However it takes a little bit of a dip at the game power level due to his mechanics which also lend themselves to his heightened K rate. On approach, Chiu uses a front heel to back toe tap trigger before executing an absolutely explosive swing. The swing itself is beautiful but he is susceptible to getting out in front for whiffs due to an inactive lower half and little hip action. The extreme pull hitter is also prone to weak contact on outside pitches due to not backloading his swing and not stepping towards the ball. This has severely limited his batting average. When Chiu does barrel though especially on inside pitches, the results are absolutely mesmerizing. Despite the big K%, Chiu is also pretty selective with his swings. In his longest look last year, he posted a BB% near 12%.
If Chiu can work out his lower half mechanics, find more wood and cover the field a bit better to bring his average up and the K numbers down, he has the ceiling of a CJ Cron-esque every day first baseman and a guy who could be a perennial 20-20 threat. At the very least, he profiles as a high floor slugger who can contribute at multiple positions or as a DH (if the NL adopts it full time).
“I am excited for this new start. I learned a lot from my time with the Dodgers, but I am excited to bring what I learned there to the Marlins organization,” Chiu said recently. “I am always excited to keep learning and it is a good feeling to feel wanted by an organization.”
Welcome to the Chiu Chiu train. Next stop: Miami.