The Major League Marlins have had a rocky first few months of the season. Their minor league affiliates have had similar ups and downs, but things are certainly looking more up at the moment. Three of their four affiliates are over .500, while Beloit is playing much better baseball after a slow start. The theme of this week was some excellent pitching performances resulting in wins.
LHP Zach King, A+
This Week’s Stats: 6.0 IP, 0 R, 5 H, 9/1 K/BB
The Beloit Sky Carp have managed to rebound from what was an ugly start to the season, and are now near the .500 mark. The offense has heated up as the warmer has gotten warmer, while a few pitchers have also stood out. MD Johnson, featured on the Weekly Roundup a few weeks ago, has been one of those guys. King has nearly been as good, with far more walks but also more strikeouts. Ultimately, his ERA sits at an impressive 3.10 for the season.
It is not surprising that King is difficult for batters to make contact against when examining his background. He was a relief pitcher at Vanderbilt for three seasons, and was drafted following their 2019 College World Series Championship. King has mostly been used as a starter since being drafted though, with three plus pitches being shown at times. The tall left hander does not get above the low-mid nineties with his fastball, but it has tailing action that results in a decent amount of groundball. The slider and changeup have been especially effective when it comes to getting strikeouts. Righties are batting just .208 against King this season, with fifty seven strikeouts in forty two innings. The changeup clearly seems to be succeeding against opposite-handed hitters.
King does still have room for improvement when it comes to control. The 11% walk rate that he is currently working with is doable for a relief pitcher with filthy stuff, but not for a long-term starter who needs to be a little bit craftier to get outs. Still King has certainly taken a step in the right direction this season. Due to graduations, he was recently moved into the MLB Pipeline Marlins Top 30 Prospects list.
OF Griffin Conine, AA
This Week’s Stats: 5-18, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 8/6 K/BB
It would be fair to say that Griffin Conine has figured out how to hit in Double-A. His 2021 Pensacola debut featured plenty of power, but way too many strikeouts and an overly aggressive approach. Conine’s success this season has largely stemmed from a change to that approach; he is swinging at pitches that can be barreled up far more easily. While the strikeout totals remain high, the Blue Wahoos are more than happy to live with it if it results in optimal contact so often. While narrowing in on pitches he can hammer, Conine has also managed to lay off more pitches out of the zone. This has helped him achieve far more success at the plate, with an impressive .269/.380/.497 batting line at the moment.
As you can see, that approach has been refined as the season has worn on. The strikeout rate remains high; anything above 30% at the minor league often is often deemed to be dangerous. After all, if a player swings and misses this much against minor league pitching, how can he possibly make more contact against big leaguers? While this point is certainly true to an extent, Conine must be rewarded for the changes he has made to cut down on the K’s. As this season has gone on, he is walking far more and striking out less. This past week demonstrated everything that Conine can be; he hit a few homers, got on base, and had some swings and misses. Still, he was a productive hitter. At this point, Conine has had success at every level once he gets acclimated to it. It should not be long before Conine is brought up to Jacksonville, and while there may be growing pains, he is clearly not a guy to bet against.
RHP Colton Hock, AA
This Week’s Stats: 4.0 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 4/0 K/BB
Colton Hock has once again been among the most reliable relievers in the Marlins system this season. In 2021, he settled into a role as the Wahoos closer. Hock tallied nineteen saves in thirty-six appearances, while striking out over a batter per inning. That performance was more than deserving of a late-season call up to Jacksonville. Hock seems to be well on his way to another promotion, as he has shown himself capable of getting Double-A hitters out. That was certainly true last week, where Hock faced the minimum of twelve batters in four perfect innings. His performance as a dominant reliever has been impressive to watch, and it is something that Hock has been for a while now.
The Marlins briefly used him as a starter back in 2018, but he seems to have settled back into the reliever role that he dominated in at Stanford. The Marlins may have been hoping to transition Hock into a starter based on their college scouting report of him. The tall-right hander has a fastball that sits in the mid-nineties with elite spin. He is able to manipulate his breaking pitches to give hitters different looks. All of this may have contributed to Hock being a fourth round pick in 2017, which is usually when the top relievers are picked.
The biggest difference in Hock’s success this season is how he has been getting outs. His strikeout numbers are down from last season, with a K% hovering around an unimpressive 20%. However, Hock possesses exceptional control, and has a WHIP below 1.00 for the season. Finally, his groundball rate is way up at over 50%. Hock is clearly in command of his arsenal right now, and manipulating his pitches to get the kind of contact he wants. The Marlins should be satisfied with what Hock has given them, but at 26 years old, it may be about time to see what he can do at the highest level.
LHP Luis Palacios, A
This Week’s Stats: 7.0 IP, 3 R, 5 H, 6/1 K/BB
This is probably the third or fourth week in a row that Luis Palacios could have been included in the weekly roundup. It did not feel right to go another week without including him. Palacios has consistently gone deep into games, with all of his starts this season being over five innings long. Seven of his ten starts have been six innings or longer. That is impressive for a pitcher at any level, nevermind a twenty-one year old at the lower levels of the system.
One of the reasons that Palacios has flown under the radar is he does not possess a big fastball or a nasty repertoire. Instead, he has succeeded with deception, quality off-speed stuff, and insane command. Palacios has walked just four batters in sixty two innings, resulting in a miniscule 1.6 BB%. This is not an aberration; Palacios has posted walk rates below 2% at three different minor league stops of over forty innings. His fastball may not top ninety miles per hour, but Palacios clearly has some level of deception that is working to keep getting batters out.
With a strikeout rate just below 25%, Palacios is also clearly capable of getting swings and misses. His changeup is probably his best pitch, which can lend itself to soft contact as well. At this point, I am curious to see if Palacios can continue his success at the next level. Sometimes, there is no explaining it, but certain pitchers just get guys out without identifiable velocity or nasty stuff. Palacios feels like one of those guys.
RHP Bryan Mitchell, AA
This Week’s Stats: 7.0 IP, 1 R, 5 H, 7/0 K/BB
Bryan Mitchell got drafted all the way back in 2009, by a New York Yankees team that was on the way to the World Series. He underwent plenty of highs and lows with the Yankees, including some success in the bullpen and a series of unfortunate injuries. Since being a part of the Chase Headley trade, Mitchell has bounced around and appeared in a few organizations. He was DFA’d by the Marlins last August, only to be brought back in the minors for 2022. Mitchell got off to a rough start with the Wahoos, but pitched a gem against Tennessee last week that should cement his spot in the Wahoos rotation for the time being.
Mitchell had his curveball working in that game, with the majority of his strikeouts coming on off-speed pitches that darted towards the dirt. He appears to be operating with three pitches at the moment, while appearing especially comfortable with that breaking ball. Mitchell also features a fastball that gets ground balls and a cutter that has a good amount of movement. The fastball played well up in the zone against Tennessee, but it has been more of a low-in-the zone, ground ball producing pitch in Mitchell’s MLB experience. He has now made three straight starts for Pensacola, so Mitchell just needs to keep on showing that he still has what it takes to pitch at a higher level. Not walking any hitters in that start was the best thing Mitchell could have done for himself; he had walked eighteen batters in just twenty six innings going into that appearance.
Up Next (6/21-6/27)
- AAA Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp vs Durham
- AA Pensacola Blue Wahoos at Biloxi
- A+ Beloit Sky Carp at Lansing
- A Jupiter Hammerheads at Daytona