Dax Fulton (Photo by Pensacola Blue Wahoos)

The Minor League season is just about wrapping up, especially for the lower-level teams. All four Marlins teams continue to hover right around the .500 mark, so there is plenty to play for in September. Featured this week are several players who have shown to be up to the challenge of a mid-season promotion.

1B Troy Johnston, AAA

This Week’s Stats: 4-15, 2 HR, 1 2B, 4/5 K/BB

Since being drafted in 2019, Troy Johnston has been amongst the steadiest players the Marlins have had come through the system. At every level, he has gotten on base, slugged, and made contact at above average levels. While he plays a position that is low on the defensive spectrum, Johnston can hold his own with the bat enough to justify playing first base.

The biggest question with Johnston is if his power can translate enough in games to lead to high home run totals. To this point in the minors, Johnston has shown extra base power, but not high home run totals. Including his collegiate career at Gonzaga, Johnston has never topped fifteen homers in any given season. However, there is precedent for young hitters not showing high home run inputs initially, before eventually translating to more power as they mature.

Jose Ramirez, of the Cleveland Guardians, is a great example of this. He never had double digit home run totals until he reached the big leagues. Since then, Ramirez has become one of the premier power hitters in the world. That is obviously not a reasonable expectation for Johnston, but he has started hitting for more power as he advances minor league levels.

Getting more loft in his swing should help with that, as Johnston can still be prone to hit the ball on the ground. He has the plate discipline and contact skills to be a great hitter. Against Gwinnett this past week, Johnston had a two-homer game, with the second homer being a bomb to dead center. His transition to Jacksonville has gone swimmingly. Now, all we need to see is continued growth in the power department.

LHP Dax Fulton, AA

This Week’s Stats: 6.0 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 8/1 K/BB

Dax Fulton has been just about unhittable since his promotion to Pensacola. Through eleven innings pitched (two starts), Fulton has struck out thirteen batters while allowing just one earned run. It is a feel-good story for a player who underwent Tommy John Surgery two years ago, and has only gotten better with each start since.

Fulton has an intriguing profile that is not often seen nowadays. His fastball is difficult for hitters to barrel up and leads to a lot of weak contact. It’s a pitch with surprising tilt to it, leading to a plethora of ground balls. While most pitchers seem to be fitting into the fad of high spin, up in the zone fastballs, Fulton’s strength is not spin, but deception. His fastball has not gotten above the mid-nineties, but hitters clearly struggle to pick up on the pitch.

Fulton’s secondary pitches play well off the fastball. His curveball is a slower, less sharp pitch, but hitters struggle to differentiate it from the fastball. As a result, Fulton gets many swings and misses because of it. The third pitch, a changeup, remains in the back pocket and is useful against right-handed hitters. Fulton still needs to work on command above all else; his delivery is not particularly clean, and his walk rates have been too close to 10%. However, Fulton is clearly an uncomfortable plate appearance for any hitter.

Pitching against a prospect-rich Chattanooga lineup, Fulton neutralized their offense well. In the clip above, he struck out Elly De La Cruz, one of the best prospects in the game, on that curveball that hitters do not see well. He has yet to turn twenty-one years old and is pitching this well at Double-A. Fulton should be a high riser on prospect boards this winter.

1B Torin Montgomery, A

This Week’s Stats: 7-20, 1 HR, 1 2B, 3 R, 6/1 K/BB

The Jupiter Hammerheads have undergone significant changes in the past month or so. With all of the post-trade deadline promotions, and the addition of players from the amateur draft, Jupiter is a much different team than they were back in April. The team has managed to play steadily all year long, and the addition of a big collegiate bat like Montgomery’s has helped.

The Marlins have been on Torin Montgomery for years. They initially drafted him out of high school in 2019, but he elected to go to Boise State instead, before eventually transferring to the University of Missouri. The Marlins drafted him for a second time this past July, and signed him out of the fourteenth round.

Montgomery is a big guy, at 6’3 and 245 lbs. However, like Johnston, the Marlins would like to see more home run power out of him. Montgomery raked against SEC pitching this past spring, hitting .365/.462/.547 over a full season. However, his seven home runs were not exceptional. On a more positive note, Montgomery struck out in less than 17% of his plate appearances and shows plus plate discipline.

Montgomery also posted exit velocities in high school nearing 110 mph. Having that baseline bat speed is a good sign and makes sense considering the strength of Montgomery. He had a four-hit night on Tuesday for Jupiter, while smashing a mistake pitch over the heart of the plate for a homer. He looks very relaxed at the plate, so expect the results to keep coming at the lower levels of the minors.  

RHP George Soriano, AAA

This Week’s Stats: 5.0 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 5/2 K/BB

Having spent the last few months at Jacksonville, it is fair to say that George Soriano has adjusted well to his new role. After beginning the season in the Pensacola rotation, Soriano has transitioned to more of a bullpen role with the Jumbo Shrimp. While he typically pitches for longer durations than one inning, Soriano has racked up seven saves over twenty-six games since the promotion.

At 6’2 and 210 lbs., Soriano is an imposing presence on the mound. While we do not have all the spin rate data available to us for minor league teams, Soriano’s success with his fastball makes one wonder if it is a particularly high spin offering. He uses it consistently at the top of the zone and gets swings and misses with the pitch despite not having elite velocity.

Soriano’s slider is his other out pitch and plays well off the fastball. Of greater concern is the regression in Soriano’s command this season. After posting a 7.9% walk rate last year at Beloit, he is over 12% this season between two levels. His strikeout rate remains high, but Soriano will need better command to reach the majors. Soriano is Rule 5 eligible this winter, so the Marlins will be forced to determine if they can see him making a Major League impact soon. He has given up just twenty-seven hits over thirty-eight innings at Jacksonville, so the profile should be intriguing enough to get Soriano onto the 40-man roster.

LHP Chandler Jozwiak, AA

This Week’s Stats: 2.0 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 6/0 K/BB

Much like Dax Fulton as a starter, Chandler Jozwiak does not feel like he allows many comfortable at bats for hitters. He does not throw that hard, with a fastball that sits in the low nineties. However, with a plus slider and quality command, Jozwiak makes it difficult for opposing hitters to make contact against him.

Pitching this past week against Chattanooga, Jozwiak was nearly perfect. All six outs he recorded came via strikeout, while he allowed just one hit over two innings. He pitched in only one game but came into a tie game and kept it that way. This came after a tough debut appearance in Pensacola the previous week, where Jozwiak gave up four hits in a single inning.

Jozwiak was a reliable reliever at Texas A&M before being drafted in 2021 by Miami. The 13th round pick has continued to be dependable out of the bullpen at both Jupiter and Beloit before the recent promotion. He seems to hide the ball behind his back, making it especially difficult for hitters to pick up on the pitch in a timely fashion. The data backs that up, as lefties have particularly struggled against Jozwiak. He is twenty-three years old, so could be a bullpen option for the big league club by the end of next season if he continues pitching this well.

Next Up (9/6-9/11)

  • AAA Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp vs Iowa
  • AA Pensacola Blue Wahoos at Tennessee
  • A+ Beloit Sky Carp at Wisconsin
  • A Jupiter Hammerheads vs Lakeland