The first weekend of the season is in the books, and there is plenty to be optimistic about. The big league team had a tough series out in San Francisco, with one win in three one-run games. The rest of the system saw many close games as well, highlighted by some impressive performances.
Kahlil Watson, SS, Jupiter
This Week’s Stats: 4-10, 2 HR, 5 RBI, .400/.455/1.200
Watson is the best position player prospect in the Marlins system, and has done nothing but provide evidence for that statement since his professional debut last season. After hitting .394/.524/.606 in forty two plate appearances in 2021, Watson has followed that up with a great weekend to begin 2022 with Jupiter.
Watson’s athleticism was constantly emphasized when coming out of last year’s amateur draft. While many thought that Watson had the talent of a top five pick, he fell to the Marlins at fifteen due to signability concerns. The Marlins saw how talented Watson was, and were able to secure him by handing out their largest draft bonus ever to a high school player. Watson turns nineteen this Saturday, but he has looked exceptionally comfortable so far in game action for a player of his age. Given the label of a “five-tool” player, there really is no aspect of the game where Watson is weak. He simply possesses that exciting combination of athleticism and baseball tools.
Two home runs, while getting on base in nearly half of his plate appearances, made up the perfect Opening Weekend for Watson. His swing is well built to tap into plus raw power, with impressive bat speed to boot. There is not too much upper cut in his swing, as making contact is still a priority. Watson struck out five times this weekend, but making contact has not been a concern in the past and will probably just be a developmental hiccup. He uses his legs exceptionally well to appear balanced and comfortable at the plate. Everything about Watson at the plate right now just strikes me as well-developed and advanced for his age. With the advantage of Statcast data available for Jupiter home games, due to the Hammerheads using the big league spring training field at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, we were also able to see Watson post some impressive exit velocities. Both of his home runs came off the bat at over 100 mph. That figure should continue to improve as Watson gets bigger and stronger during this development stage.
Charles Leblanc, 3B, Jacksonville
This Week’s Stats: 7-13, 2 HR, 3 RBI, .538/.625/1.154
Claimed off of waivers by the Marlins back in December, Leblanc had a promising career stalled a bit in the Texas Rangers system. A high school draft back by Texas back in 2016, Leblanc features plus raw power with a decent ability to make contact. Unfortunately, he has not consistently got on base enough to be a productive in-game hitter to this point. Leblanc’s seventeen home runs and .455 slugging percentage last season seem strong on the surface, but in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League this comprised a well-below average line. Still, as a former fourth round pick, and just 25 years old, the Marlins saw some use in Leblanc as upper minor league depth.
This weekend, Leblanc showed signs of rewarding that faith from Miami by crushing Worcester pitching. In a high scoring slate of weekend games, Leblanc was easily the best hitter in the Jumbo Shrimp lineup. Leblanc stands fairly upright at the plate, with a high load depth. Many hitters who place their hands higher tend to chop down in the ball, resulting in an abundance of ground balls, but that has not been the case in Leblanc’s professional career. He also has a short swing, so has some natural strength to be getting to that power. Four extra base hits this weekend were a result of several line drives, which is the best way for a hitter to consistently hit the ball hard and get on base. The Jumbo Shrimp may have dropped five of six to Worcester, but it was a fairly competitive series an the losses were no fault of the productive Leblanc. He may not be not on the 40-man roster, Leblanc should still be monitored as potential depth later this season if he can be productive at the plate.
Sandro Bargallo, SP, Jupiter
This Week’s Stats: 5.0 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 8 K, 1 BB
Bargallo, signed out of Cuba in 2019 as a seventeen year old, is a guy worth following this season. After being used primarily as a relief pitcher in his first two professional seasons with Miami, Bargallo is transitioning to a starter role with the Hammerheads. While not a highly touted prospect, Bargallo has shown impressive swing and miss ability out of the bullpen with a fastball that was getting up to 96 mph. For a pitcher so young, there is still room for development, so Bargallo at least had an intriguing arm.
On Sunday, starting against the Cardinals Single-A affiliate, Bargallo was dominant. Featuring three pitches (a fastball and curveball to go along with the fastball), he paced himself well and seemed comfortable in the starter’s role. The velocity was down a bit, as Bargallo sat in the low nineties. That is perfectly acceptable, though, as he has to pace himself now while throwing multiple innings. Most importantly, the lefty showed none of the control issues that have thus far plagued his in game performance. Bargallo walked over a batter an inning last season, which is not atypical for such a young pitcher but needs to be sorted out quickly. Not only did Bargallo show plus control on Sunday, he also showed good feel for both breaking pitches and was able to execute many backdoor pitches. At 6’1, and just 180 lbs., Bargallo could still put more on his frame and potentially improve his velocity. His development will be worth watching this season.
Paul McIntosh, C, Pensacola
This Week’s Stats: 5-8, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 1 SB, .625/.667/1.500
It is impossible to not root for Paul McIntosh, who is a rising star in the Marlins system. Originally drafted by the Angles back in 2018, McIntosh chose not to sign and instead attended the University of West Virginia. While hitting well in college, McIntosh did not garner enough attention to be drafted in last summer’s amateur draft. The Marlins pounced on him as an undrafted free agent, and McIntosh has done nothing but rake since then. Since signing with the Marlins last summer, he has already moved through three levels and is now hitting in the middle of the Blue Wahoo’s lineup.
Batting cleanup on Sunday, McIntosh hit his second homer of the young season in a narrow defeat to Biloxi. Pensacola manager Kevin “Smoke” Randel said that McIntosh would be behind the plate for most of the games at AA, due to his status as a rising prospect, but few could have seen him emerging as an impact bat in this lineup so quickly. McIntosh has a wide stance, with the hands held high and a pretty long swing. That can work against some hitters, but so far McIntosh has made an adequate amount of contact while getting a lot of balls into the air. Ultimately, whatever he is doing right now is working and resulting in a ton of hard hit balls. McIntosh’s strength and athleticism are both standout tools, and seem to be helping him both in the batters box and behind it. As a catcher, he features a strong arm and rates well defensively overall. McIntosh works well with pitchers, as evidenced by his catching many of the Marlins top pitching prospects this spring. That should give Randel plenty of confidence in writing his name into the lineup everyday. At this rate, he may not be able to do that for much longer, however, as McIntosh continues to hit and move quickly through the minor league levels.
Grant Dayton, RP, Jacksonville
This Week’s Stats: 3.0 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 7 K, 1 BB
If Grant Dayton’s name sounds familiar, that is probably because you have watched the lefty reliever pitch several times in the big leagues. Over five major league seasons with the Dodgers and Braves, Dayton proved to be an exceptional lefty specialist. He put up a 3.43 ERA in over one hundred MLB innings, while lefties hit just .169/.256/.331 against him in that time period. The Marlins signed Dayton after the Braves released him following the World Series, and he stuck with Jacksonville following Spring Training with the hopes of eventually getting a callup.
Miami has several lefty relievers already on the Major League squad, but it will be hard to keep Dayton off the team if he keeps pitching as well as he did this weekend. In Jacksonville’s lone win last week, on Thursday against Worcester, Dayton threw two perfect innings to help get the job done. Throwing from his typical slightly low release angle, Dayton has an effortless fastball that seems to explode on hitters a bit and is used well at the top of the zone. Dayton does not throw particularly hard, with the fastball still sitting in the low nineties, but that level of deception makes it his primary pitch. Dayton’s other pitch, a curveball, is used about a third of the time and also generates some swings and misses. His fastball command appeared to farther along this weekend than that of his curveball. Dayton hung a curveball to Worcester’s dangerous Triston Casas, one of the top prospects in baseball. A leaping grab at the wall by JJ Bleday in right field prevented extra bases, and other than that hitters struggled to make any contact against Dayton.
Up Next (4/12-4/17)
- AAA Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp @ Durham
- AA Pensacola Blue Wahoos @ Rocket City
- A+ Beloit Sky Carp vs Wisconsin
- A Jupiter Hammerheads @ Ft. Myers
- The Beloit Sky Carp, who celebrate their 2022 home opener (the first at the new ABC Supply Stadium) tomorrow night, are taking fan submissions for their new mascot’s name.
- Just Baseball‘s Ethan Budowsky recapped the first series of the season for Miami and highlighted why the club still has things to address.
- Baseball America confirmed Eury Perez is just the second 18-year-old to make a AA Opening Day roster since 2010.
- Fish Stripes‘ Nicole Cahill previews the big league club’s two-game series in Los Angeles against the Angels, beginning tonight.
- The Marlins‘ Twitter account posted a video depicting two-time World Series Champion Jeff Conine hanging a banner honoring both 1997 and 2003 that will over loanDepot park beginning this season.