Category: Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp

Jesus Sanchez, Lewin Diaz Off to Impressive Start in AAA as Jacksonville Welcomes Back Fans, Max Meyer Debuts

Photo by Vincent Wong/Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp

Not even 48 hours into the Minor League Baseball season, outfielder Jesus Sanchez and first baseman Lewin Diaz are lighting up stat sheets and proving they are on their way to big things in their MLB careers which could (re)commence in the not-too-distant future.

On Tuesday night at 121 Financial Ballpark in Jacksonville, Diaz, hitting second, homered on the second pitch he saw. An inning later, Sanchez struck a well-hit RBI single to left field, plating two runs. Five innings later, Diaz doubled to center and Sanchez connected for a three run bomb. The pair’s 4-10, 2 HR, 8 RBI barrage accounted for eight of the Jumbo Shrimp’s 11 runs and rout of the Norfolk Tides.

Less than 15 hours later, Diaz and Sanchez were at it again. Both back in the lineup for Wednesday’s 1:05 start, the two top 30 organizational prospects once again led the way in an impressive offensive barrage, combining for seven hits, eight RBIs, two homers and four XBH in Jacksonville’s 10-7 win.

Diaz, Fish On The Farm’s seventh ranked organizational prospect, had a busy winter and spring. After taking part in the Dominican Winter League where he hit .207/.301/.354 with three homers and 12 RBI against competition more than four years older than him on average. More so than the stats, the most impressive attribute to Lewin was the improvement in his physical build.

“I was eating well, I was hitting the gym a lot, I gained some muscle mass. I feel perfect right now,” Diaz told us this spring. “I feel like I’m hitting the ball a little harder.”

Through his first two games, Diaz is hitting the ball hard in virtually every AB. Diaz rode the opportunity to stay fresh and get bigger back home into spring training where he was among the most frequently used players, appearing in 16 of the Marlins’ 19 games. He went 5-22 with two doubles and a 5/4 K/BB. More important than the stats though was the experience and the ability to further prepare.

“I’m planning ahead this year,” Diaz said through a translator in early March. “I’m working on swinging at good pitches and getting good at bats so that I can go back to the major league level and stay there for a long time.”

Through two games, Diaz’s plans seem to be coming to fruition very early. Via extremely soft hands, excellent vision and insurmountable plate coverage, Diaz already looks locked in at the plate. Showing the ability to get to virtually any pitch and hit it hard, Diaz has already had a couple of “how did he do that?” moments.

Handling his newly added size with grace and ease, Lewin looks to have made the most of his winter league experience where he said he tried to learn as much as possible from guys veterans Robinson Cano and his spring training experience where he faced off against big league arms on the regular.

During spring, Don Mattingly told us it is “definitely possible” we see Diaz back with the Marlins sometime this season. If this early production persists, that possibility will be a foregone conclusion for the Marlins’ first baseman of the future.

While Diaz was getting reps and experience on the field for much of spring training, Jesus Sanchez was doing quite the opposite. After just eight ABs, Sanchez suffered a groin strain which kept him out of action for the rest of the Grapefruit League tenure and eventually saw him placed on the 10-day IL. This Tuesday, in his first AB in 64 days, Sanchez did this:

Despite missed time, Sanchez has flown out of the gates this year and is getting to pitches rarely seen touched, let alone hit for extra bases. His amazing raw strength is to thank for that. As he proved this week when he golfed a pitch out of 121 Financial Park, any pitch Jesus Sanchez gets under has a chance to leave the park. In his minor league career so far though, with a career ground ball rate around 50% and a ground ball/fly ball rate of 1.36, the consistency on which he’s been able to hit the ball in the air has been a bit of an issue and it is the main culprit keeping him from his 50-grade game power tool. If Sanchez has figured that out and if he can stay on the field, the 23-year-old slugger should be another one of the first promotees to the big leagues, especially with three expiry contracts currently manning the Marlins’ outfield.

For now, enjoy the show, Jacksonville.

Jumbo Shrimp Welcome Back Fans

While the other three Marlins MiLB affiliates started their seasons on the road on Tuesday, the gates of 121 Financial opened to fans for a Minor League Baseball game for the first time in 617 days. 

“I was overfilled with excitement,” Jumbo Shrimp emcee and in game host Jordan Price said about walking back into the park. “You miss seeing the season ticket holder fans and interacting with them. They become like family so you miss the game day conversations. The fans make the ballpark come alive and adding baseball back is icing on the cake.”

Jumbo Shrimp fans weren’t in their seats very long. Not even ten minutes after the national Anthem, Lewin Diaz took a ball deep for the first Shrimp homer of the season. It was far from the first time Shrimp fans rose to their feet. Jacksonville put on an offense clinic, banging out eleven runs in route to victory, the first Shrimp win since August 26th, 2019. The sell-out crowd wasn’t only treated to fireworks on the field during the game, they got to take in a postgame fireworks show as well, the perfect ending to a great first night back out at the ballpark.

“You could tell the fans have been waiting patiently for this game,” Price said. “They were so enthusiastic about every little detail that was happening within the game from the players being announced, the play ball kid, the National Anthem and even booing the umpires as they walked out. Everything the fans did, they did it with more enthusiasm.”

Jumbo Shrimp play-by-play announcer and director of media relations Scott Kornberg described the climate as a playoff atmosphere.

“Jacksonville has great fans to begin with. To be honest, it’s one of the very few places that actually gets LOUD. So we’ve felt that energy for months now, and even that extraordinary build-up did not exceed the actual moment,” Kornberg said. “From the instance the gates opened, you could tell everyone felt lucky to be there, myself included. It was one of the very, very surreal things I’ve been able to experience.”

Straight out of minor league spring training, the Shrimp as a whole looked to be in mid season form. After starter Braxton Garrett worked into the 4th inning, reliever Brett Eibner threw 2.1 scoreless innings behind an offensive explosion which included a five run 2nd inning and a four run 8th. Kornberg believes the fans played a big part in the players’ performance.

“These players have gone from either not playing at all in 2020 or playing in front of no fans. And they’re all aware upon coming to Jacksonville of what the atmosphere in the stands is like,” Kornberg said. “They all say it the first day they get here, how much they’ve heard about how great it is to play here. So for them, it was special, and then you add in our crowd? I think there was no question those guys love playing in front of our fans to begin with, and the atmosphere last night only added to it.”

The excitement surrounding the return of baseball in Duval county was far from exclusive to Opening Day. On a Wednesday afternoon, 121 Financial was close to allotted capacity. That crowd took in another Jacksonville victory. This weekend, a ticket to a Jumbo Shrimp game will be hard to come by.

“We are sold out pretty much every home game through this homestand,” Kornberg said.

Even without baseball in 2020, the Shrimp stayed active in the community and worked diligently with health and safety officials and county leadership to stay involved in the  community and keep the gates of 121 Financial open. Through that work, the organization was able to host a variety of socially distanced events such as movie nights and bingo nights. Undoubtedly, that continued community involvement is a harbinger for why Duval continues to rally around the Shrimp organization. 

“I think them being involved kept them top of mind with the fans and giving hope that things will be back to normal eventually,” Jacksonville fan Stoffer Cochran said. “I love Minor League Baseball and I’m proud of the Jumbo Shrimp.”

Max Meyer Debuts

On Wednesday night, 2020 third overall pick Max Meyer made his professional ball debut at AA Pensacola. He did not disappoint. The 23-year-old lefty worked five scoreless innings allowing just two baserunners (one hit, one walk) and striking out five. He needed just 65 pitches, 42 of which were strikes.

Meyer came as advertised, pumping up to 97 with his fastball (sitting 94). His famously sickening slider, labeled the best pitch in the 2020 MLB Draft, was on full display. Four of five of his strikeouts were finished with that pitch, including this one which, per the Mississippi Braves’ broadcast, had a spin rate of 2539. Major League Baseball’s average slider spin rate this season is 2453.

Meyer didn’t need his changeup at the collegiate level and he didn’t really need it in this start either, but he did show it a bit. It sits in the 84-86 mph range and Meyer flashed the ability to locate it similarly to the heater. It has some nice late plane, giving it ability to have some tunnel off the heat leading up to the wipeout slider.

While we need to see more than the few he threw in this start, it was encouraging to see Meyer mix it in and throw the changeup with conviction for strikes.

So how did Meyer, pitching in his first pro game and l for the first time in a game at any level in over a year, fly out of the gates in this fashion at such a high level? Postgame, manager Kevin “Smoke” Randel likened it to mixture of ability and blissful ignorance.

“He doesn’t know any better,” Randel said. “He’s never pitched in the Florida State League or even the (New York-) Penn League or low A. So it’s just the minor leagues to him. He feels like he needs to be up in the big leagues. He’s got the best stuff. That’s just how he pitches.”

Meyer’s next start should come next Tuesday in the Blue Wahoo’s home opener against the Birmingham Barons.

All-Time Baby Fish Team: Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp

Isan Diaz (Photo by Brian McLeod/MiLB.com)

Continuing in our series of All-Time Baby Fish Teams, we make the jump up to AA to highlight the best members of the Jacksonville Suns/Jumbo Shrimp.

An MLB affiliate since 1962 and a Miami partner since 2009, the club continues to aid in the growth of some of baseball’s best such as Larry Walker, Randy Johnson, Clayton Kershaw and Alex Rodriguez. In this listing, we will highlight the top Shrimp who became Marlins.

J.T. Realmuto (Photo by MiLB.com)

C J.T. Realmuto
Jacksonville Stats (2013/2014) –  .269/.340/.408, 68 XBH, 101 RBI

His second selection in our All-Time Baby Fish Teams Series, Realmuto spent all of 2013 and most of 2014 with the Suns where he totaled a .269/.340/.408 slash line with 68 XBH 101 RBI in 203 games. He threw out 47 of 84 or 56% of his potential base stealers. In the latter of his two stints with the Suns, Realmuto’s .299 BA, his .461 SLG and his 132 wRC+ each ranked fourth among all AA baseball catchers.

Realmuto made his MLB debut on June 5th of that same year. He went 2-4 with three RBIs. The showing served as a perfect prelude to a .279/.327/.442, 59 HR, 189 XBH, 243 RBI career with the Marlins including a .303/.343/.428 2016 campaign in which his BA ranked third, his OBP ranked sixth and his 111 wRC+ ranked seventh among 24 qualified MLB catchers. He threw out 28 runners, fifth most in baseball.

Solidified as one of the top backstops in the game, the Marlins dealt Realmuto, who was coming off his first All-Star selection and a career high 4.5 WAR campaign, to the Phillies last offseason for a package of prospects including future ace and the organization’s current top prospect Sixto Sanchez. Miami also acquired their current backstop Jorge Alfaro and international bonus pool money which they eventually used to sign the Mesa brothers.

Realmuto began his tenure in Philadelphia by recording career highs in homers with 25, RBIs with 83, slugging percentage with a .493 marker and dWAR with a 1.7 tally. He earned his first Gold Glove, his second All-Star selection and by way of the NL’s second best BA and second most homers among catchers, his second Silver Slugger award. A guy who has caught his power tool up to plus plus hitting mechanics and strike zone recognition, an elite throwing arm and insurmountable athleticism, Realmuto owns 4/5 tools and has already, in just over five seasons in the league, has a WAR over 18. He’s special.

And it all ran through Jacksonville.

Logan Morrison (Photo by Bruce Lipsky/The Times-Union)

1B Logan Morrison
Jacksonville Stats (2009) – 79 G, .277/.411/.442, 8 HR, 26 XBH, 47 RBI, 46/63 K/BB

LoMo mojo.

A Marlins’ 22nd round prep draft pick in 2005, Justis Logan Morrison attended Northlake High School in Slidell, Louisiana. The son of a military man, Morrison has credited his su but stringent father as his toughest critic but also his greatest influence on his rise to stardom as a standout talent despite hailing from a scarcely recruited corner of America. A sign and follow prospect, the well-traveled Morrison spent a year in Missouri in the JuCo ranks where he hit  .436/.532/.743 with a conference most nine homers and third most 34 RBI in 35 games before he took his talents to the affiliated ranks in A Greensboro 2007.

As a a Grasshopper, Morrison immediately flashed his plus power potential, clubbing 24 homers, fourth most in the South Atlantic League. The mid-season All-Star also led Greensboro in RBI with 86, spurring his call to A+ the next season. Morrison took a huge step forward in 2008, hitting .332/.402/.494 in the pitchers haven Florida State League. While his K rate fell from 19 to 14 and his walk rate stayed around 10%, Morrison placed second in the FSL in BA, fourth in OBP and seventh in SLG. Among countable stats, his 162 hits and 38 doubles were each the most on the circuit, his 74 RBIs ranked sixth and his 13 homers ranked eighth.

Morrison began his 2009 season in Jacksonville but after just two games, he hit the IL with a broken thumb. A month later, the organization’s second-ranked prospect came back with a vengeance. From June 11th through the end of the season, LoMo hit .277/.411/.442 with the Southern League’s fifth best OBP, eight homers, 36 XBHs and 47 RBIs. Despite the big jump and missed time, he walked more than he struck out, tallying a 48/64 K/BB. His 0.18 walk percentage led his circuit.

A year later, Morrison was called up to AAA New Orleans where he hit .307/.427/.487. Once again, his OBP ranked top five in his league as his patience persisted evidenced by a 38/45 K/BB. Morrison received his first MLB call at the kid season mark and spent the rest of 2010 with the Marlins. His skill set immediately translated to the bigs advantageously as he hit .283/.390/.447 with 29 XBHs, 18 RBIs and a 51/41 K/BB in his first 62 games in Miami. Somehow, he didn’t receive a single Rookie of the Year vote.

Morrison would go on to have a decent career with the Marlins, but injuries prevented it from being great. After a .247/.330/.468 2011 season in which he finished second only to Giancarlo Stanton in homers with 23, Morrison appeared in just 93 and 85 games over his final two seasons with the Fish. Since then, LoMo has played for four different clubs. His standout campaign came in 2017 when he hit .246/.353/.516 and clubbed 38 homers for the Rays, fifth most in baseball.

As his bat and power grew, Morrison was able to maintain his equally large personality while also learning how to keep it in check. If not for injuries, he had a sizable future as a big leaguer. Even still, raw talent has allotted Morrison a decent .239/.324/.426 139 homer, 4.6 WAR tenure in the majors.

And it all ran through Jacksonville.

2B Isan Diaz
Jacksonville Stats (2018) – .245/.365/.418, 10 HR, 30 XBH, 42 RBI, 95/53 K/BB

Before Isan was hitting his first big league shot in front of his parents, he was regularly collecting extra bases in Duval county.

A second round pick by the Diamondbacks in 2014, the lefty hitting Diaz — a two sport athlete in high school — came to the pros as the 76th ranked prep athlete in the country. At the time, PerfectGame scouted him this way:

“Solid athletic build, good present strength, looks stronger than last observed. Left handed hitter, big pull back load, flows into contact, timing can be impacted but approach develops big bat speed, explosive hands at contact, loose and fluid swing with lift and extension out front, has pull side power, owned mid-level pitching in every at bat and made hit look easy, advanced hitter with tools and feel. 7.22 runner, middle infield actions, stays balanced and works through the ball, plays under control and lows the game down, compact quick release, second base profile and tools. Can be a high level offensive second baseman.”

Diaz set out to fulfill that destiny with the D-Backs as a teenager in 2018. A year later, Diaz hit .360/.436/.640/1.076 for the short season Missoula Osprey. Those metrics ranked eighth, seventh and second and second in the Pioneer League. His 13 homers also ranked second circuit wide. That offseason, the ninth ranked prospect in Arizona was dealt to Milwaukee in the trade that sent Jean Segura and Tyler Wagner westward.

In his first year with the Brewers’ organization, Diaz embarked upon his first full season of pro ball. Then and there for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Isan hit .264/.358/.469. The 20-year-old’s 20 homers paced the Midwest League, his 75 RBIs placed third and his SLG was good enough for 13th. A year later, Diaz made the jump up to A+ Carolina where the 5’10, 170 pounder continued to exhibit plus power rarely heard of from of a middle infielder as he slammed another 13 homers and 20 doubles albeit at the expense of a lot of swing and miss potential, spelling a career high 27% K rate.

On January 25th, the Marlins acquired Diaz as a glorified throw-in piece in the highly-heralded trade that sent Christian Yelich to the Brewers. Despite his struggles at A+ a year previous, the Marlins started Isan out in AA Jacksonville. In 83 games with the Shrimp, his BA rose more than 20 points from a year previous to .245, his OBP rose 30+ points to .365 and he fell just three homers short of his 2017 total in 27 less games. After living out the rest of 2018 feeling out AAA, Diaz returned to New Orleans last year where he absolutely crushed against competition nearly five years older than him. In 102 games, Isan hit .305/.395/.578 with 26 homers. The All-Star Futures Game selection received his MLB call in early August.

Diaz made his MLB debut on August 6th, 2019 in the first game of a doubleheader against the Mets at Citi Field. With his family looking on, Isan provided one of the most memorable moments of the entire MLB campaign.

A stoutly built middle infielder who comes by easy power via incredible bat speed, Diaz has Marlins fans reminiscing of Dan Uggla.  And he’s still just 23. On the precipice of a breakout year, there’s tons to be encouraged about here.

And it all ran through Jacksonville.

Jazz Chisholm (Photo by Joseph Guzy)

SS Jazz Chisholm
Jacksonville Stats (2019) 23 G, .284/.383/.494, 3 HR, 9 XBH, 24/11 K/BB

The next generation cometh.

Reminiscent of Albus Percival Wolfrick Brian Dumbledore, Jasrado “Jazz” Hermis Arrington Chisholm was born with a name made for fiction, but he’s beginning to conjure up something magical in real time.

Born February 1st, 1998 in Nassau, Jazz credits his grandmother, a Bahamian national softball player, for introducing him to the game. Immediately, he fell in love. Very early on in his scouting period, international scouts saw the special talents Jazz owner, talents that were already polished beyond his teenage years. With an attitude and affinity to match a huge five tool skill set, the Diamondbacks made an easy decision to offer Jazz his first pro contract in 2016.

Jazz’s first stop was short season with the Missoula Osprey. There, he hit .281/.333/.446 with the Pioneer League’ eighth most homers, nine. He was the ninth youngest player in the circuit. A season later, Jazz got his first full season assignment with Kane County but that duty was short lived. The 19-year-old tore his meniscus while taking BP mid-way through camp. He was placed on the IL on April 4th and would not return until October 6th. Chisholm got in just 29 games that year, equating to a .242/.325/.358 slash line.

Jazz broke back in to the Midwest League ranks in 2018. It was a bit of a slow go for Chisholm getting back into the swing of things full time after suffering a major injury. He hit just .244/.311/.472 in 79 games. But after a career 5-6, two homer, five RBI showing on July 16th in which he came within a double of the cycle, the D-Backs gave him the call the A+. There, in 36 games with the Visalia Rawhide, Jazz exploded, hitting 10 homers including six in his last 18 games and one in each of his last three contests. He closed out the 2018 calendar year by hitting .442/.489/.767 with three homers and seven steals in just 10 Arizona Fall League contests.

The third ranked prospect in Arizona’s organization, Jazz began last season in AA with the Jackson Generals. Through the month of July, Chisholm struggled with the big jump up the MiLB ladder. On July 30th, hitting .204/.305/427, he was traded to the Marlins in exchange for top pitching prospect Zac Gallen. Back on his home coast, Jazz showed out huge in 23 games for the Jumbo Shrimp, going 23-81 with three homers and a trio of three hit efforts. After playing eleven games worth of winter ball in Puerto Rico, Jazz reported to Marlins camp where he continued to impress, going 4-13 with two steals and an absolute missile-grade homer off of Cardinals’ top pitching prospect Genesis Cabrera.

Just as if not more impressive as his play on the field was Chisholm’s attitude and persona off of it. With an infectious personality and an equally captivating smile which he is rarely seen without, Jazz has already begun to endear himself to fans both at the park and in the community. In just seven short months as a member of the organization, Jazz has shown, said and done everything necessary to become a fan favorite franchise player.

A five-tool talent with some of the quickest hands in the game on both sides of the ball, Jazz is a guy who feeds off friendly competition and camaraderie with his teammates, the energy of the fans and most of all a profound love for the game of baseball. He plays the right way and conducts himself just as advantageously off the diamond. Still just 21 and already eyeing his professional debut, he is a major part of the Marlins’ future core.

And it all ran through Jacksonville.

Brian Anderson

3B Brian Anderson
Jacksonville Stats (2016-17) – .247/.336/.405, 22 HR, 49 XBH, 95 RBI, 130/72 K/BB

Another repeat selection, Anderson, the Marlins’ third rounder out of the University of Arkansas in 2014. Ranked the Marlins’ top prospect in the preseason of 2016, Brian was one of the Florida State League’s top talents, hitting .302/.377/.440 before getting the call to AA. He joined the Suns on May 31st and hit .243/.330/.359 with eight homers and 40 RBIs. Following spring training a year later, Anderson rejoined the newly named Jumbo Shrimp. In 87 games — one more than he competed in at the AA level in 2016 — Anderson’s slash line jumped up to .251/.341/.450. Shedding a bit of timidity, he hit nearly twice as many homers, 14.

Anderson rounded out his MiLB career with New Orleans where he absolutely mashed the Pacific Coast League, slashing .339/.416/.602 with another eight homers before receiving his MLB call on September 1st, 2017.  Considered a major cornerstone of the Marlins’ rebuild, Brian has hit .267/.349/.425 with 31 homers. Coming off a .261/.342/.468, 20 homer, 1.1 dWAR, +9 dRS season at two different positions, Anderson, who is under club control until 2024 and staring a contract extension directly in the teeth, is a main pillar of Jeter and company’s rebuild.

And it all ran through Jacksonville.

Christian Yelich (Photo by MiLB.com)

LF Christian Yelich
Jacksonville Stats (2013) – 49 G, .280/.365/.518, 7HR, 26 XBH, 29 RBI, 52/26 K/BB

Our third repeat candidate, Yelich, the Marlins’ first rounder in 2010, spent a 49 game tenure in Jacksonville in 2013 leading in to his first MLB call. Yelich earned his mid-season beckoning by posting the Southern League’s fifth best slugging percentage and its eighth best OPS (.883). He was the tenth youngest player on the circuit.

In just 292 games, Yelich went from draft pick to Major Leaguer. These days, he’s a three time Silver Slugger, a two time All-Star, a near two time league MVP and the recipient of a lifetime contract from the Brewers.

And it all ran through Jacksonville.

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Juan Encarnacion (Photo by Eliot J. Schecter/Getty Images)

CF Juan Encarnacion
Jacksonville Stats (1997) – 131 G, .323/.394/.560, 26 HR, 61 XBH, 90 RBI, 86/43 K/BB, 17/3 SB/CS

Juan De Dios Encarnacion was saint-like in the two of the biggest years in Marlins’ franchise history. But before that, he was tearing it up at the Baseball Grounds.

Discovered by the Tigers as an amateur free agent out of the DR at age 17, Encarnacion fast tracked through the minors, jumping a level with each passing season from ‘94-97, hitting at least 15 bombs, collecting an equal 31 doubles and slugging at least .400 at each stop. The last of his visits was to Jacksonville. There, the 21-year-old, playing against competition 3 1/2 years his elder, Encarnacion absolutely exploded. In 131 games, the sixth-ranked Tigers prospect hit .323/.394/.560 with 26 homers, fifth most in the Southern League, 90 RBIs, ninth most on circuit and 17 steals, tenth most. The overly successful campaign came littered with awards including an All-Star selection where he was named the game’s MVP and the titles of Southern League’s best hitting prospect, best outfield arm and most exciting player (Baseball America). A September call up to the bigs, Encarnacion made his big league debut on the 2nd of that month as one of the youngest players in baseball. In 11 games, Juan went 7-33 and smashed his first big league homer.

After beginning 1998 in AAA, Encarnacion made it back to the bigs that July. Still amongst the leagues youngest talents, he hit .329/.354/.561 with seven homers. After that showing, he became a mainstay in Detroit’s starting lineup for the next three seasons. Encarnacion’s best campaign in a Tiger uniform came in 1999 when he hit .255/.287/.450 with 19 homers, 55 XBHs and 33 steals in 45 attempts.

In 2002, the rebuilding Tigers shipped Encarnacion (along with Luis Pineda) to the Cincinnati Reds for Dmitri Young. At the outset, it looked to be one of the best things that could happen to a pure power hitter like Juan, playing in the bandbox-iest of all bandboxes, Great American Ballpark. Hard as it may be to believe though, Enc actually hit better in a Reds’ away jersey. In four less games (39 vs 43), his average was only two points lower (.276 vs .278), he hit four more dingers (10 vs 6), his SLG was 50 points higher (.450 vs .500) and his wRC+ differed 12 points (114 vs 102).

At that year’s trade deadline, Encarnacion would be on the move again as the buying Reds dealt him along with Wilton Guerrero and Ryan Snare to the selling Marlins in exchange for Ryan Dempster. Juan made his Marlins debut on July 12th, 2002 and went 2-7 with a stolen base, his tenth of an eventual 21. Two days later, Enc crushed his first homer for the Fish. He would proceed to hit seven more and ended ‘02 with 24.

A season later in his first full year with the Marlins, Encarnacion .270/.313/.446 with 19 bombs. He posted career highs in doubles (37), XBHs (62) and RBIs (94). Some of Juan’s most memorable moments in Florida came during the Marlins’ playoff run where he homered in game two of the NLDS as well as during a two hit effort in the first game of the NLCS. He also went 2-4 and scored the eventual winning run in game one of the World Series.

After being sold off (along with many other Marlins assets) at the beginning of the 2004 season in exchange for Travis Ezi, Encarnacion would come back to Florida at the deadline (along with Paul Lo Duca and Guillermo Mota), completing one of the most peculiar timelines in Marlins’ transaction history. A season later, Encarnacion enjoyed a career year, posting lifetime highs in BA (.287), OBP (.349) and wRC+ (112) with 16 homers and 46 XBHs. In a very Larry Beinfest move, the Marlins did not render Encarnacion for 2006 and he signed with St. Louis. He hit .278/.317/.443 with another 19 homers and hit safely in seven of 13 playoff games en route to adding another ring to his collection as the Cardinals toppled the team that brought him to the pros 12 years previous.

A two time World Series champion, Encarnacion was a guy that could hurt his opponent in many ways and, based off his .276/.324/.421, 22 HR, 36 SB line in high leverage situations, a guy you prefer having on the field with the game on the line. The owner of 42.2 power speed number (link), eighth highest in Marlins franchise history, and the rightful owner of the “3, 2, Juan!” chant whenever he stepped into the box beginning midway through his career in South Florida, Encarnacion goes down in history as a slightly unheralded but extremely important piece of the Marlins’ success in the early 21st century.

And it all ran through Jacksonville.

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Jake Marisnick (Photo by MiLB.com)

RF Jake Marisnick
Jacksonville Stats (2013) – 67 G, .294/.358/.502, 12 HR, 28 XBH, 46 RBI, 68/17 K/BB, 11/6 SB/CS

Marisnick is a Blue Jays’ third round pick from 2009 out of Cal Poly High School in Southern California. After hitting .320/.392/.496, marks which ranked seventh, eighth and tenth in the Midwest League in his first full season in the minors in 2011, Marisnick split time between A+ Dunedin and AA New Hampshire in 2012. He hit .249/.321/.399 and parlayed that effort into a .314/.380/.457 showing in the Arizona Fall League.

That winter, the 21-year-old 58th best prospect in baseball was dealt to the Marlins as part of the twelve player trade that was also responsible for bringing Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez and Anthony DeSclafani to the east coast of the US.

Shortly after the trade, Marisnick was assigned to AA Jacksonville. In 67 games with the Suns, Jake hit .294/.358/.502 with 12 homers and a 36% XBH%. He had the tenth best BA and eighth best SLG in the Southern League, earning the call to the majors in September. Following a trip to AAA and 14 more games with the Marlins in 2014, Marisnick was traded to the Houston Astros in the deal that brought Jarred Cosart and Kike Hernandez eastward.

Though he played a grand total of just 25 games in Miami, Marisnick’s growth with the organization prompted a so far solid career off the bench which took off in 2017 when he slugged .496 with 16 homers for the World Champion Astros. Though he didn’t play in the postseason that year, Marisnick did appear in 23 total games in 2015, 2018 and 2019. He went a collective 7-21 and the Astros went a collective 16-7.

More so than his bat though, Jake has become known for his defensive skills which are right up there with the best in baseball. Playing all three outfield positions, Marisnick has saved a total of 74 runs with his glove and arm, equating to an 8.9 dWAR.

Set to join a Marlins’ divisional rival, the Mets, in 2020, Marisnick is an extremely durable compliment to an MLB bench, capable of deciding a game with both his plus power bat and especially his flashy glove and canon arm.

And it all ran through Jacksonville.

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Tom Koehler (Photo by Florida Times-Union)

SP Tom Koehler
Jacksonville Stats (2010) – 28 G, 158.2 IP, 2.61 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 145/46 K/BB

If you were a fan of pitching in 2010, TK Day in Jacksonville wasn’t a day you wanted to miss. However, he put in some serious work to grow to that point and didn’t stop grinding until he became a mainstay in an MLB rotation.

A native of the Bronx, Tom’s baseball career began in high school at New Rochelle High where he lettered in all three of his varsity campaigns. After being named league Rookie of the Year in 2002, Koehler had an even bigger senior season (58 IP, 0.86 ERA, 108/12 K/BB) which earned him some equally huge accolades such as a Rawlings All-Northest selection, All-Section and All-State honors, and a Section I Pitcher of the Year title. With fastball velo in the 91st percentile in his class and budding breakers, TK committed to playing collegiate ball at Stony Brook Universtiy on Long Island.

Koehler’s collegiate years started out pretty rudimentarily as he gave up more hits than innings pitched in each of his first three seasons. However, Koehler finished strong in his senior year, holding down a 4.15 ERA by way of a 1.43 WHIP, each career lows. In 14 starts and 93.1 IP, a conference high, TK’s 111 Ks led the America East Conference and his 10.7 K/9 ratio ranked second. With 17 wins by way of 297 Ks in 294 IP, the two-time second team All-Conference selection was enshrined in the SeaWolves’ Hall of Fame in 2016.

Noticing his growing aptitude for filling up and commanding the lower half of zone with improving stuff, the Marlins selected Koehler with the 238th overall pick in the 2008 Draft. Turns out the Marlins scouted Koehler perfectly. Following a 66 IP, 3.68 ERA, 1.44 WHIP 58/29 K/BB performance for short season Jamestown in his inaugural showing against wood bats, TK broke out in his first full season in the minors, starting with a 98.1 IP, 3.20 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 47.7 GB%, 82/39 K/BB tenure with A Greensboro and finishing with a 34.2 IP, 3.37 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 25/9 K/BB, 45.2 GB% visit to A+ Jupiter.

Koehler’s stop in Jacksonville came in 2010. It wound up being one of the best single seasons for a pitcher in Suns’ history. In the Southern League’s most starts (28) and second most innings pitched (158.2), TK had the league’s second best ERA (2.61), its best WHIP (0.96) and its second most strikeouts (145). His 8.22 K/9 ranked ninth on circuit. He was an All-Star at midseason and in the postseason, the league’s Most Outstanding Pitcher.

After inexplicably waiting out two full seasons in the hitters’ haven Pacific Coast League of the AAA ranks, Koehler finally got his MLB call and made his MLB debut on September 5th, 2012. His best season in Miami came in 2014 when he dealt to a 3.81 ERA (3.84 FIP) via a 1.296 WHIP and 2.15 K/BB ratio in 191.1 IP. Arguably TK’s most memorable career start came on May 7th of that year when he shut the Mets out over eight innings, limiting them to just two hits on one walk and five Ks.

Overall as a Marlin, Koehler tossed to a 4.43 ERA via a 1.39 WHIP and 1.85 K/BB in 767.1 IP. Though injuries marred him after his tenure with the Fish came to an end, the late round pick went above and beyond expectations, filling out as a serviceable back end rotational piece.

And it all ran through Jacksonville.

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Brad Hand (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

RP Brad Hand
Jacksonville Stats (2010-2011) – 20 G, 116.1 IP, 3.39 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 75/53 K/BB

Let’s close it out by giving the team a Hand.

Bradley Richard Hand is a Marlins’ 2008 2nd round pick out of Chaska High in Minnesota. As an amateur, he gathered up 18 wins and 246 Ks, a school record. At one point in his final season, the ace, who also played football and ice hockey, didn’t give up a run in over 20 IP (link). 8-2 with a 0.62 ERA along with a .352 BA and eight homers at the plate, Hand was named Minnesota’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2008. His coaches and area scouts labeled him the most exciting player they had seen since Joe Mauer. The Marlins collected Hand in the second round of the draft, awarding him a signing bonus of $760K.

After getting his feet wet in the GCL and Jamestown, Hand went through a staunch learning process in Greensboro in 2009, going 7-13 with a 4.86 ERA. His body held up well against the innings wear though and the strikeout metrics (111 K, 8.6 K%) were solid, giving the Marlins reason to give him the promotion to A+ in 2010. With park factors behind him, Hand gained confidence in his stuff. The Hand changeup took a leap and he was able to limit damage, pitching to a 3.33 ERA via a 134/49 K/BB despite being touched for a .278 BAA. Hand’s final start of the year was his first with Jacksonville. He tossed a six inning quality start.

Hand got the full-time promotion to AA when camp broke in 2011. Against upper minors competition three years his elder, hitters put the ball in play more decreasing his K rate. However, Hand’s ability to mix and command four pitches severely limited hard contact. On June 6th, holding down a 3.43 ERA via a 1.27 WHIP, .234 BAA and 45/27 K/BB, the Marlins brought Hand to the Show. That same day, the Marlins drafted Jose Fernandez. A day later, on June 7th, Hand made his MLB debut against the Braves. He threw a six inning quality start on just one hit, a solo homer but still took the loss. Four starts later, Brad picked up his first big league win following a 7 IP, two hit shutout performance against the Astros.

For the next two months, Hand skipped back and forth between Jacksonville and Miami until his last call-up when rosters expanded allowed him to end 2011 with the Marlins. 2012 and 2013 followed this same theme as Hand boarded frequent flights from New Orleans to Miami and vica versa. In the latter of those years, the innings started to catch up with Hand as he spent time on the DL with two separate ailments, prompting the Marlins to delegate him to a swing-man role. After struggling in each of 2014 and 2015, Miami designated Hand for assignment.

Hand wasn’t unemployed long. Five days after being DFA’d, the Padres claimed him off waivers and assigned him to a late relief role. In that capacity, Hand absolutely flourished and he hasn’t stopped, converting 88 of 111 save ops in the last four years. In his past two seasons as the anchor of the Indians’ bullpen, Hand has ranked seventh and fifth in saves. Simply put, the guy slams doors. Doors that only opened because…

It all ran through Jacksonville.

 

Prospect Of The Month, June 2019 – J.C. Millan

J.C. Millan (Photo by Danielle Bleau)

JUNE STATS 2019 STATS
.299/.386/.471 .278/.336/.364
3 HR, 6 2B, 13 RBI 4 HR, 13 2B, 33 RBI
12 K/13 BB 40 K/20 BB

 

Though he may not have laced up a pair of cleats until he was a teenager, Juan Carlos Millan Jr’s love for the game was born in him at an early age. As a young child, JC spent many hours watching his father, Juan Carlos Senior, prepare off the field and perform on the field in the family’s home country.

“Back in Cuba I played little baseball, but I remember watching him play in packed stadiums. It felt like the World Baseball Classic.”

When JC was eight, the Millan family emigrated to the United States, settling in South Florida. According to Junior, it was then that he started learning how to play the game. His tutor: none other than his hero, his dad.

“When we got here, I started playing more baseball and my dad started training me pretty much from scratch,” Millan said. “I wasn’t very good until everyday sessions became our thing.”

Junior’s rudimentary start would wind up being a blessing. Through many hours spent practicing together, ensuring fundamentals, creating a swing and building arm strength, the Millans strengthened their bond as father and son.

“He’s my right hand man, my brother; everything to me,” JC said. “I used to watch him, now it’s time to for him to enjoy watching me and see what he created. It’s really cool.”

When his high school age came calling, Millan devoted his services to Brito Academy in Miami, the same secondary school that berthed the likes of Manny Machado and former Marlin Gaby Sanchez. According to JC, the atmosphere created by the coaching staff at Brito (despite being hard at times) is plenty responsible for bridging the his gap between childhood hopeful and young adult prodigy.

“They opened the doors for me, giving me a place where I could develop myself as a baseball player and a human being. Everyone in the school is like a family,” JC said. “The coaching staff we had there were amazing people that helped me grow as a baseball player with their guidance on and off the field. I couldn’t be any more thankful for guys like David Fanshawe, Lazaro Fundora, JC Ruiz. Our head coach Pedro Guerra would be a pain sometimes and be hard on us, but I’m glad he was the way. That’s the reason why we won states and had no pressure on us on the field.”

From there, Millan took his talents to nearby Broward College in Coconut Creek. In a single season in the JuCo ranks, he hit .324/.406/.463, garnering the attention of scouts and eventually awarding him a free-agent contract, post-draft To Millan’s delight, the team that came calling was none other than his hometown Marlins. According to JC, being able to stay at home and maintain a close relationship with his family — especially his dad — has been advantageous for his career as well as his life.

“Playing here in Miami in front of my family and staying close was a huge help,” Millan said. Being able to stay close to my Dad has been huge because he has taught me pretty much everything I know about baseball.”

After signing, Millan attended spring training camp and was assigned to extended spring training before remaining in Jupiter as a member of the 2016 GCL squad. In his first taste of professional ball, Millan hit a modest .177/.250/.228, but his strong contact tool was already on the rise as he only struck out nine times in 79 ABs.

A season later, Millan wound up a ton of frequent flyer miles as the club attempted to gauge his level of maturation. Millan played at all four levels of the system, beginning in A Greensboro before a three day stay in AAA New Orleans. Following another two weeks back with the Grasshoppers, Millan spent 13 games in AA Jacksonville before ending the year with seven games in A+ Jupiter. According to Millan who always seeks the positive in any situation, he views his 2018 campaign as a good lesson on how to stay motivated and how to stay grinding, no matter where you are.

“I was healthy during that time; I was just moving up and down wherever the organization needed me to be,” Millan said. “I never lost sight of what I was trying to do. I always played hard and gave 100% whereever they sent me; it didn’t affect me at all. It just kept pushing me to be better each day.”

This season, Millan has not only stayed in one place for more than a few weeks, he’s spent his entire season with the Jacksonville Shrimp. According to Millan, getting the opportunity to build a relationship with his teammates and coaches and getting a feel for scouting his opposition have been the biggest catalysts for his success this season, including his big month of June. And of course, Millan has remained in constant contact with his biggest supporter and mentor, his father.

“Playing for one team for a while helps a lot since you face the same pitchers over and over, so you sort of have a feel of how they pitch to you. I just trust my preparation before the game and the game plan I have for each pitcher,” Millan said. “Also, my coaching staff and teammates have really helped me feel comfortable. Whatever I feel like I’m doing wrong, I ask the coaches and we go and work on things. Plus when I give my dad a call and he’s watching the game, he’s tells me a couple of the same things and I’m able to make the adjustments right away.”

Millan’s breakout has coincided with the changing of the guard; with the Marlins franchise coming under the control of the Jeter regime. J.C. says that is no coincidence.

“They have done a great job getting good prospects in the organization and giving guys a chance to show what they have before making any decisions,” Millan said. “Since day one, I knew these guys were going to change things around and find a way to get the best guys to make a winning team and it’s showing. Down here in the lower levels, there’s a lot more talent compared to past years and I’m sure this organization will have a lot of success in the near future.”

Approaching from a nearly straight-away righty stance, Millan uses a toe-tap trigger before slightly stepping in to an uppercut stroke that makes the most of his upper half. Where Millan has shown the most improvement this year has been his contact tool. By shifting his stance deeper into the box, Millan is reading pitches better and putting bat to ball on a much more consistent basis. The aforementioned opportunity of getting to face the same competition more than once has led to a much better average. With better plate vision and bat speed to his credit this year, Millan is profiling as a future catalytic bat off the bench. If he finishes filling out advantageously and begin integrating his lower half in his swing more, addding more launch angle and leverage (which he has flashed this past month), Millan, who also has eligibility at first base, would have a ceiling reminiscent of Josh Reddick, a .274/.322/.431 career bat.

The State Of The Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp

Success is a tradition long since born in the Jacksonville baseball franchise. From 2003 until 2009, the organization, then owned by Peter Bragan, Jr. and his father, facilitated a successful park rebuild and led the Southern League in attendance for six straight seasons. No matter the age of the park they were playing in, the Bragans never had a problem creating a winning culture within their organization. In their 30-year tenure owning the team, the family brought six league titles to Duval County.

So, when one Ken Babby surprisingly supplanted the Bragans in 2015, he had some big shoes to fill. The first move by the 30-something year old was one just as bold as the words Bold City which are now befittingly emblazoned upon the team’s third jersey: rebrand the team, turning the long-tenured Suns into the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.

Across baseball and most professional sports, it is very common for a new team owner to go through the rebranding process as a first step towards recreating the organization in his/her own image. But according to Babby, his decision to make the Suns the Shrimp revolves around unselfish reasons, the most paramount being bringing a sense of pride back to a great and loyal MiLB market. It was about giving the team back to the fans.

“Each market and each community probably requires a more dedicated investigation to understanding the why. In our case, we felt like there was a historic love and real appreciation for great Minor League baseball in northeast Florida and had been for quite some time but that the experience of going to the ballpark, the experience of wearing your cap or your shirt out in the community had declined,” Babby said. “When we talked to people and asked them when was the last time they went to a Jacksonville Suns game, in lost cases the answer was 10 or 15 years ago. So what we did as part of this rebrand was as much as thinking about the identity and the experience of the ballpark as much as it was about team names or colors.”

So why the name Jumbo Shrimp? Babby expanded on that, citing how he, a board member at Jacksonville University and regular visitor of the area, views the region: a big community with a small-town feel and deep military roots.

“It’s actually the largest community in the US in terms of land mass, but a town in which everyone seems to know each other. So with ‘Jumbo Shrimp’, we honor that big/little mentality,” Babby said. “We are on the water both on the St. John’s River and along the ocean. Finally, we have a huge military presence with three active bases within driving distance of the ballpark so that was a good opportunity for us to really weave that light blue into our colors and play off that grittiness that the Shrimp stand for.”

While the rebrand was still in its infantile stages Babby is on record stating that he expected some resistance and backlash in response to the audacious changes to such a classical baseball market. The news of the rebrand hit the region so hard, it trumped then-President elect Donald Trump and then-president Obama both being in town at the same time in the battleground swing-state. Babby and Co. even advantageously placed children front and center during the unveiling, a tactic that the rebranding team half-heartedly referred to as “self-preservation”.

As it turns out, the only safeguarding that would be necessary in Jacksonville was that of the team’s fans’ wallets. Not only did the market accept the rebrand, they absolutely loved it.

“They took their time to really go in depth and figure out Jacksonville before the rebranding. They really wanted to incorporate the colors red, white, blue for our military town. I believe the rebranding caught the eye of many and a lot of people were inquisitive of what’s going on and what it would bring to Jacksonville,” longtime Duval County resident and Shrimp hype woman Jordan Price said. “Word-of-mouth also helped out the rebranding because people talked about how much fun they were having with promotions, giveaway nights etc. As the Jumbo Shrimp, we pride ourselves on affordable family fun and just the name in itself already brings a fun atmosphere to the ballpark.”

In addition to Jacksonville’s new logos and colors, the team has also added some attractions to Bragan Field friendly to fans of all ages. These sights include a boozy tiki bar beyond the left field wall that offers local craft brews and cocktails, a kids fun zone featuring batting cages and bounce houses beyond the center field wall and some of the best and most popular giveaways Minor League Baseball has to offer.

While Babby and Co. have focused on bringing the franchise into the 21st century, they have also made it a point not to forget the game’s roots and the bonding experiences enjoyed by the families of the region and those visiting the First Coast.

“In Jacksonville, we recognized early on that change is difficult and sports teams are very much part of people’s lives; their brands live in our homes whether it be shirts or hats but more importantly in memories,” Babby said. “You remember where you took your kids for their birthday parties or where a grandfather might take his grandson on a Sunday afternoon. Those memories are cherished and are really important.”

According to Babby, his vision in rebranding wasn’t to simply re-color his team but to recreate the fan encounter with the ballpark.

“The cost of creating a new brand and the cost of developing and trademarking all of those merchandise items really does not make it worthwhile to change it even if you’re gonna sell an incredibly high volume,” Babby said. “The real value of why teams rebrand, change identities and change colors really is to change an identity, change an experience and to redefine what I means to come to a game.”

Relative to Miami, their rebrand and their stadium improvements many of which have been requested by fans, in this young Marlins regime, Babby sees a lot of what he saw in himself as the new owner of the Shrimp two seasons ago: more community involvement and a much more fan-friendly ballpark experience with on-field success very much on the horizon.

“It’s an exciting time to be a Marlins fan. I am personally really excited for what they are doing from a player development standpoint; we have a front row seat to that. I think it’s a time to be excited about what this brand means and I think he new colors speak to the heritage of Miami and speaking to the vibrancy of the community “ Babby said. “I’m excited to see how it performs and I can pretty much guarantee that that logo and that brand is gonna catch on quickly in town.”

From a business standpoint on the Jacksonville front, the Marlins’ player development agreement with the Shrimp will be up for renewal this coming offseason. With the recent success of the Jacksonville franchise, there has been talk of the team deservedly moving up the minor league ladder to the AAA level. However, Babby has no such immediate plans.

“We are a really proud affiliate of the Marlins and we are proud to be their AA affiliate and really proud to be in the Southern League. We are the owners of not one but two AA franchises. We are huge champions of AA baseball and huge champions of this level of baseball. I can tell you with great certainty that we don’t have any plans to change that at time. I think time is on our side and there is going to be great success from the Marlins at this level and at the Major League level for years to come. And we are so glad to be a part of that.”

And we are glad to have you, Mr. Babby.

As it has been for quite some time, the state of the Jacksonville baseball franchise as well as their relationship with the Marlins which stands to continue, are both very strong.

God’s Plan: Nick Neidert Trusting Faith, Stuff In Journey Through Minors

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Looking at the career of Nick Neidert in a nutshell, one would be inclined to question how he made the near-impossible possible. The answer to that query lies in the faith and trust the now 22-year-old top prospect holds in a power much bigger and higher than anything baseball has to offer.

At the beginning of his baseball career, Neidert was a middle infielder at Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee, Georgia. Then, one day, in his third amateur season, his coach tasked him with manning the mound. It didn’t take long for the PRHS coaching staff to realize the natural gifts Neidert had been endowed with by his creator. And thus, the teenager began down the path destined for him.

“In high school, I was trying to get the feel for pitching. Just trying to get the grasp on how hitters think, what kind of sequences to use, just the basic stuff,” Neidert said. “God blessed me to make the huge velo jump [in my senior year] and he allowed me to have better stuff fairly quickly, getting me on a bunch of team’s radars.”

Upon the completion of his senior year, Neidert was reaching as high as 96 MPH with both fade and run, spotting his heater at will all over the strike zone. His 86-88 MPH slider and 75-77 MPH curveball, though sometimes blending into each other, both showed plus potential and he was already starting to throw a 86-88 MPH changeup. Lauded as the 29th best high school prospect in the 2015 draft, Neidert forwent a commitment with the University of South Carolina in favor of signing for the Mariners who selected him with their second round pick.

For the second time, Neidert’s life path took a sudden turn. But once again, the newly-turned adult didn’t question things; he just went with it, trusting in faith and prayer to guide him through the maturation process both as a pitcher and a person. In his first taste of pro ball, Neidert provided a good glimpse at his potential as he held down a 1.53 ERA via a 0.96 WHIP and 23/9 K/BB.

“When I went out to Arizona, it was definitely a big change for me. I was definitely a little nervous, but I knew that that was in God’s plan and what he wanted in my life so I just trusted in him,” Neidert said. “It was a good first season. It helped me grow as a person. You gotta mature really quickly when you go away for 3-4 months. It was a great experience.”

Neidert was spectacular in 2017, pitching to a career best 10-3, 2.76 ERA, 1.073 WHIP, 107/17 showing in the A+ California League, marks which made him one of the circuit’s best pitchers. His ERA was led the league as did his 78.8 LOB%, his 6.41 K/BB ratio ranked third and his 3.39 FIP ranked second only to teammate Pablo Lopez. On top an All-Star selection, Neidert won the California League’s Pitcher Of The Year Award, a title formerly won by the likes of Felix Hernandez, Ervin Santana and Brad Penny. By way of those accolades, Neidert rocketed up prospect rankings, placing as high as number two organizationally heading into 2018.

There was little time for Neidert to reflect on his first full-season campaign as, exactly four months after he threw his final pitch, the newly-turned 22-year-old was traded to the Marlins in the Dee Gordon trade.

“It came as a shock to me because a lot of people were saying I was an untouchable prospect for [Seattle], but in my mind, nobody’s untouchable. So when I got traded, I was kind of caught off guard, but I knew God had a plan for that and I knew there was a reason behind it.”

Two months after being dealt from the only system and baseball family he’d ever known, Neidert was back at spring training on a different coast with a team in a completely different situation; with a team in the early stages of a rebuild rather than one on the verge of the playoffs. As if that weren’t enough, at the start of the year, the righty was tasked with making the full-time jump to AA, quite possibly the hardest task in professional baseball. Despite changing coasts, joining a different organization for the first time in his career and joining the upper minors full-time against competition over three years his elder, Neidert didn’t miss a beat. In a career-high 26 starts, he lasted a career-high (and Southern League most) 152.2 IP and held down a 3.24 ERA via a 1.13 WHIP, marks which placed 4th and 6th circuit-wide among pitchers with at least 100 IP. His 154 Ks were second-most only to D-Backs top prospect Taylor Widener and his 20.1 K/BB ratio placed third.

According to Neidert, his ability to continue to develop positively despite joining a brand new club lay in the fact that with the recent regime change, everyone was acclimating to the Marlins’ reconstructed organization. In essence, everyone was the new kid in town.

“When I came to the Marlins, they had a whole new front office so it kind of helped me coming in because everyone else was learning a new front office, it wasn’t just me,” Neidert said. “The players and the guys, I connected with them very quick because we all have the same dream ahead of us, the same goal. So it wasn’t too bad trying to fit in.”

And, as always, despite whatever circumstance came his way, Neidert maintained his allegiance to his faith.

“Throughout all last year and throughout whatever has gone on, I’ve put my trust in God,” Neidert said. “My identity is in Him, as a child of God. So I haven’t really been too nervous or anxious on what has been going on around me and the places I’ve been because I’ve always felt He has a plan for me.”

Along the path created for him, Neidert has been the beneficiary of the expertise of many different mentors, including five pitching coaches in the past four seasons. According to Neidert, he picked up something useful from each of them.

“It’s hard pick just one,” Neidert chuckled when asked to name his most helpful mentor. “I want to say Rich Dorman because he was my very first pitching coach. He was there for me in the AZL in my very first season and taught me about how pro ball goes and how to become a pitcher who can succeed. I had Peter Woolworth after that. He taught me how to contain myself. Then this year we had Storm Davis and Dave LaRoche, both legends in the game of baseball. They taught me so much how to slow down the game and change timing, how to disrupt a hitters timing, how to change speeds and how to keep hitters off balance. Collectively, if we could combine all of them into one, that’d be incredible.”

Despite the jump in level in 2018, Neidert’s swing-and-miss potential followed him from A ball where his K rate was 26% in 104.1 IP to AA where it was 25.2% over 152.2 IP. According to Neidert, that persistence had less to do with an improvement in stuff and more to do with a better psychological understanding of his opposition.

“I’ve always been a pitch-to-contact kind of guy because I’d rather a guy ground out or pop out in two pitches because pitch count is big now; get your team back in the dugout quicker. I’ve really never tried to do much different. But just learning pitch sequencing more, learning what hitters are trying to do in every situation; that kind of stuff, just taking my knowledge and trying to apply it every single time to keep hitters messed up at the dish and to try to have more success.”

Although his stuff showed true two seasons ago, Neidert’s pitcher’s IQ has absolutely soared in that time, not only allowing him to better understand hitters but to further understand himself. Through this unique but very advantageous route, Neidert has grown into a near-MLB ready hurler in just a four year tenure in minor league ball. As we enter 2019, Neidert, the owner of a four-pitch arsenal including a changeup that he made huge strides with in 2018, catching it up to his low-mid 90s heat which he throws with both two and four seams, sits on the precipice of realizing his Major League dream.

As he has been for every other challenge that life has thrown his way, Neidert will undoubtedly be up for the jump to the Major League ranks, but for now, he isn’t concerned with when it occurs.

“I don’t look at the prospect rankings because everyone has an opportunity to make it to the big leagues. Once you’re there, you stay there. If not, you go down,” Neidert said. “I’m just working on really mixing up my sequencing, my pitches and trying to be as deceptive as I possible can be. Just to try to have the most success with the things I have. I am going to try to build off last year and try my best to work even harder and to put in even more just to get 1% better every single day.”

One of those days not too far in the future, Neidert will find himself pulling on an official “Our Colores” Marlins’ uniform. Not only is Nick a fan of the look, he’s a huge supporter of what it stands for.

“I love the new colors. It basically states that we are in a rebuild and this is a completely new organization than it has been in years past,” Neidert said. “I’ve been here since the start of the start of the new front office and I can tell you that in everything they’re doing, the Miami Marlins are going to be competing for World Series championships for years to come. The culture they’re creating in the clubhouse is absolutely incredible and the fact that one day I’ll be blessed enough to pitch in a big league ballpark, that’s equally incredible.”

As exceptional as the prospect is, Neidert isn’t concerned with the date and time of that occurrence. Rather, he is leaving that to date and living in the moment. Overall, Neidert doesn’t view himself as the driver in charge of his career, but rather as a passenger.

“I’m just along for the ride, man,” Neidert said. “Just allowing God to use me.”

Keep enjoying riding shotgun, Nick. We are thoroughly enjoying the view from the backseat.

2019 Top Prospects

At this time last year, despite being under new management, Marlins fans and the rest of the baseball collective were turning up their noses at the once again rebuilding Marlins, scoffing, “Same old, same old.” However, it quickly became evident that this Jeter and Co: reboot starkly contrasted the many orchestrated Loria and Co: it was being done and properly and most importantly of all, completely and thoroughly with the fanbase’s best interests in mind.

Rather than holding on to parts of failed core(s) year after year, Jeter traded away all of the Marlins’ biggest MLB assets (J.T. Realmuto pending) and began building a core of his own down in the minor leagues. Jeter ensured the best trade returns possible by not asking partners to eat bad contracts a la Loria, creating a hand-picked nucleus. Then, by doing some strategic wheeling and dealing, he capped it all off by landing the top free agent on the international market. After ending 2017 with the 28th-ranked farm system, the Marlins are now a top-15 organization. When all is said and done this offseason, they could have a top-10 system, something Loria never even got close to sniffing due to his penny-pinching and living off distant hopes and dreams.

Add to the pot the fact that they have facilitated solutions to fans’ material factors surrounding the team such as updating the logo and colors, ridding the stadium of the egregious home run sculpture and lowering prices on both tickets and concessions, in just over a year, this new regime has given the team back to Miami and created a culture that promotes the term ‘community’ in every possible way.

Nothing brings a sports community closer than winning games. And by 2020, thanks to the blueprint Jeter’s administration has laid out and executed so well in such a short time, the M stands to be flipped on a regular basis. At the forefront of those occasions will be these faces and names that Marlins fans should start getting plenty used to seeing and hearing.

Without any further ado, we present our 2019 Top Prospects list.

1. OF Monte Harrison
2019 (AA) – .240/.316/.399, 19 HR, 48 RBI, 28/9 SB/CS

Harrison, who came to the Marlins in what wound up being one of the biggest moves of this past offseason, the deal that sent eventual NL MVP Christian Yelich to Milwaukee, was a Brewers draftee in 2014. Considered one of, if not the best athlete in that year’s draft, it cost the Brewers a pretty penny, $1.8 million, to sway Harrison to sign with them rather than honoring a two-sport commitment with the University of Nebraska.

Harrison had a rough start to his professional baseball career, breaking his tibia and fibula while running the bases in his first season in 2015 which limited him to just 76 games. Harrison was understandably slow out of the gate in 2016, hitting just .163/.245/.209 in his first 39 games before he began to settle in game 40. From May 26th-June 17, Harrison went 24-79 (.303) with six homers, showing the Brewers his true potential for the first time. Then, Harrison went under the knife again, this time for a broken hamate bone in his dominant hand. Despite missing almost two month’s worth of action, Harrison returned on August 11 and finished the season by going a respectable 17-59 (.288).

This past season was a turning point for Harrison in more ways than one. First up on a long list of happenings for Harrison was his trade to Miami in exchange for Christian Yelich. Accompanying Monte to the Marlins were Lewis Brinson who just graduated prospect status and the duo of Isan Diaz and Jordan Yamamoto, each of whom will appear in the top ten in these rankings (spoiler alert). 

While some pundits have stated that the Marlins didn’t get enough back in this trade, they have done so as they have stared directly at the accomplishments of Yelich while simultaneously turning a blind eye to Harrison’s athletic pedigree and the nature of the two hard-luck injuries, one suffered on a hustle play and one on a hit-by-pitch, that stunted his growth as Brewers property. In his first year as a Marlin, Harrison was able to wholly avoid the injury bug and make up for lost time. Positive adjustments began to reward Monte late in the season as he went 23-70 in his final 22 games. He ended the regular season with a .240/.316/.399 slash line with 19 homers, fourth in the Southern League.

This winter, Harrison participated in the Arizona Fall League. There, as a Salt River Rafter, Harrison perfected the changes in his approach he showed late in the regular season campaign, including a much more closed stance and a much smaller front leg timing trigger. These changes have allowed Monte to keep his head and shoulders stationary and via a shorter swing that better employs his plus bat speed, cover much more of the plate much more advantageously. This re-tooled version of Harrison promotes much better contact rates and drastically lower K rates than the MiLB-leading 37% factor he posted during the regular season. In 19 Arizona Fall League games (81 PAs) against competition a half a year older than him, Harrison hit .290/.348/.343 with a 19/10 K/BB. The only thing glaringly missing, both in the month of August and in Arizona, from Harrison v. 2.0’s potential five-tool game was the over-the-fence power prowess that was his calling card as a younger prospect. However, now that he has been properly coached to simplify his plate work, prolong counts and use his elite bat speed properly, Harrison, who has always owned good hands and horizontal movement in his elbows as well as an uppercut swing plane that promotes barrel contact and lift, he is much closer to realizing his five-tool type ceiling than he ever has been. By being coached to step into the ball in sync with his downward swing slope and by adding torque to his presently fairly stationary hips, he can get all of his power back and then some, creating a near-complete offensive threat. That will be the 22-year-old’s focus as he begins 2019 at the upper-most level of the minors as a New Orleans Baby Cake. With similar output that he showed at the end of last season and this fall, Harrison could be a Miami Marlin, joining his former Brewers organizational Brinson in the same MLB outfield by the All-Star break.

2. OF Victor Victor Mesa

One of the biggest free agent sweepstakes revolved around Cuba’s Victor Victor Mesa. The attention was well deserved.

Mesa began his professional playing career in the Cuban National Series as a 16-year-old in 2012. Through four seasons playing at his home country’s top level, Mesa hit .275/.334/.378 including a .354/.399/.539, and 40/10 SB/CS in 2016-17, leading to the fanfare  surrounding his free agency this year. At one time, more than ten teams were rumored to be heavily involved in the Mesa sweepstakes. The Marlins has their eyes on the brothers from the start and remained focused throughout the offseason, making them a-priori. The team shrewdly began racking up bonus pool money in the middle of the season when they flipped Cameron Maybin to the Seattle Mariners for $250K in pool space and infielder Bryson Brigman. At season’s end, the Fish made a trio of trades, sending Ryan Lillie to the Cincinnati Reds for $750K in cap space and Kyle Barraclough to the Washington Nationals for $1MM. On October 16, the Marlins dealt Dominican Summer League prospects Adonis Giron and Brayan De Paula to the Astros for another $500K. The dealings vaulted the Marlins from $4MM past the Orioles, who sat at $6.7MM.

“We had to put in all our chips,” Michael Hill said, “and add chips.”

On October 22nd, 2018, the Marlins claimed their long-sought after prize, signing Víctor Victor Mesa for $5.25MM (as well as Victor Jr for an even $1MM). In addition to acquiring the special talent, Jeter told ABC News he wants the signings to set a new standard for the Marlins’ organization.

“We want Miami to be the destination for top international talent,” Jeter said. “This organization should reflect the diversity of the South Florida community.”

In Cuba, Victor Victor personified the term baseball phenom by way of a skillset that promotes all five tools. Well recognized and touted for his explosive defensive arm and plus-plus speed on top of advanced contact readability and route-running knowledge acquiescent of any of the three outfield positions, Mesa is even more ahead of the curve on the offensive side of the ball — figuratively and literally. Setting up in the back of the box via a slightly open stance to the third base side, Mesa owns a compact back leg load and vertical power transfer. Through his swing, Mesa maintains his skyward-pointed back elbow and lateral front elbow, creating natural arc and lift to his explosive swing. Though he doesn’t quite have the size or raw power to match, Mesa’s mechanics are reminiscent of Giancarlo Stanton.

Where Mesa easily trumps Stanton is in his his pitch recognition, plate coverage ability and the IQ needed to adjust mid-count and prolong his chances. While he won’t walk a ton, Mesa has an offensive skillset that promotes tons of contact. With 70-grade speed capable of 30+ steals and 60-grade defense, Mesa is a small uptick in over-the-fence power away from owning all five tools. And he’s still just 22. The only thing that keeps Mesa out of the top spot in these preseason rankings is the fear of the unknown as he breaks into full-season ball in America. That said, there Mesa shows more than enough natural talent to break in to the affiliated ranks and succeed as the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp’s starting center fielder. From there, the sky is the limit. We place Mesa’s ceiling sky high: a potential .290/.340/.430+ annual hitter with an average of greater than 20bSBs and a plus-plus dWAR.

3. RHP Nick Neidert
2018 (AA) – 152.2 IP, 3.24 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 154/31 K/BB

Neidert is a 6’1”, 180 pound righty hailing out Suwannee, GA. Seven months before the draft, in his junior year of high school, Neidert was already showing a unique brand of pitch mix, placement and deception via late movement on his already deep and well advanced four-pitch arsenal which ranged from 92-76. Already flashing a big sweeping hook, a sinking changeup and a running fastball to all parts of the zone, a 17-year-old Neidert was already well on his way to big things.

Upon being drafted by the Mariners 60th overall in the 2nd round in 2015, Neidert finished the year by making 11 starts for the Arizona Mariners of the rookie ball Arizona League. Despite somehow not earning a win (0-2), Neidert held down a 1.53 ERA via a 0.96 WHIP and 2.56 K/BB. In 2016, Neidert made 19 starts for the Clinton LumberKings but was limited to 91 innings as the Mariners nurtured his development. Still, the solid numbers persisted as Neidert posted a 2.57 ERA via a 0.97 WHIP and 69/13 K/BB.

Come 20-7, Neidert’s leash was lengthened. That factor along with the advancement of his changeup which caught up to the rest of his staff allowed him to hold down a 2.74 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 104.1 IP in the A+ California League. Most noticeably improved was Neidert’s K rate which rose from 19% a year previous to 26%. All the while, his impeccable control persisted (1.47 BB%). Among California League pitchers with at least 80 IP, Neidert’s (.41 K/BB ranked third just behind teammate Pablo Lopez (6.85 K/BB).

This past season upon joining the Marlins in the Dee Gordon trade, Neidert made his way to AA Jacksonville. There, despite the big jump in level, Neidert’s success continued as he went 12-7 with a 3.24 ERA in a career high 152.2 IP via a 1.13 WHIP and 154/31 K/BB. With a complete arsenal and equally complete head for pitching, Neidert got inside the head of hitters with four completely different looks. Despite not owning overpowering stuff, he was able to post the Southern League’s third best K/BB ratio (20.1%).

Feauturing a velo mix ranging from 93 (with the ability to reach 95 when he ramps up) via a two-seamer with arm side run, Neidert drops down to 73 with a 12-6 curve. He mixes in an 86-88 mph 11-5 slider with great delineation from the aforementioned offering as well as an 89 mph change that he masks well and which piggybacks the fastball perfectly. While he won’t overpower you or light up radar guns, Neidert is a thinking-man’s hurler that hides the ball well in his low 3/4 arm slot. Despite limited size, he maintains the same stride and arm angle when coming home with four completely different looks, making him a master of deception. A guy who has always played above his age, we like Neidert to break into the Marlins’ big league rotation not long after spring training and quickly recognize his ceiling as a 2-4 slot starter.

4. RHP Jordan Yamamoto
2018 (A-A+) – 68.2 IP, 1.83 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 85/14 K/BB

Jordan Yamamoto is another product of the Yelich trade. At the time the trade was made, he was thought to be the sugar of the deal, sweetening it on a throw-in level. A season later, Yamamoto has proven he’s much more than that.

Yamamoto is the product of St. Louis High School in Honolulu, Hawaii. When Yamamoto gets his MLB call, he will become the third man from the state capital to pitch for the organization, joining Justin Wayne and the man who threw the first pitch and earned the first win in team history on April 5, 1993, Charlie Hough. Judging by his current level of progression, that future isn’t too far away from the 22-year-old’s realization.

Yamamoto was selected by the Brewers with the 356th overall pick in round 12 of the 2014 MLB Draft. In his first 83.2 innings as a pro, Yamamto’s statistics were very becoming of a teenager taken in that kind of low-risk draft slot as he posted a 1-7 record, a  ERA and a. WHIP. However, since being the unfortunate owner of a 7.84 ERA and 1.95 WHIP as a member of the Pioneer League’s Helena Brewers in 2015 and finding himself on the verge of exploring life outside of baseball, Yamamoto made a concerted effort to succeed, resulting in him becoming a top-tier pitching prospect.

The difference for Yamamato from then until now lies in the simplification of his delivery and a change in his arm slot.

The most noticeable change in Yamamoto’s pre-pitch mechanics are a smaller step back toward the first base side, the erasure of toe-tapping which served as a tip to hitters on breaking balls and a much lower 3/4 arm slot which has allowed Yamamoto to hide the ball better and to prevent himself from flying open. Coupled together, these improvements have given Yamamoto the ability to repeat his delivery much more efficiently and to place pitches much more accurately, creating more deception and more advantageous counts.

From there, Yamamoto relies on his stuff to he hitters out. And he has a very deep arsenal of plus pitches to dip into. While he is another guy who won’t blown you away with velo, he is a strike-zone resident who will wow with his secondaries. For proof, see some of Yamamoto’s latest exports from the Arizona Fall League below:

Yamamoto’s 90-93 MPH fastball holds great spin rates and is workable in every area of the zone, giving him the ability to change a hitter’s eye level and/or completely take their vision away, setting up his two plus secondaries that he commands very well on the lower half. Coupling late break on his tight 83-85 mph curveball with his 86-88 MPH changeup that runs arm-side and holds late fade to his arm side.

By making adjustments necessary to catch his command tool up to his stuff, Yamamoto has enjoyed great success of late in the minors. This past season, he pitched to a collective 1.83 ERA by way of a 0.83 WHIP and 6.07 K/BB, aided in part by his 13/0 K/BB performance on (), an outing in which he set the record for most strikeouts in a single game by a Jupiter Hammerheads pitcher. Jordan then parlayed that performance into a standout campaign in the Arizona Fall League where as a Salt River Rafter, he went 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 27/13 K/BB in 26 IP.  During that time, in a pleasant bit of foreshadowing, Yamamoto was among the first few players to pull on a new Marlins’ jersey. With continued success in spring training, it won’t be very long before Yamamoto, owner of a complete three-pitch arsenal and a good mix of swing-and-miss and limited contact inducing stuff, dons the same jersey again in his first MLB game. Place his ceiling at a 2-3 starter and floor at the back end of a major league rotation.

5. C Will Banfield
2018 (A) – .238/.308/.385, 3 HR, 43/11 K/BB; 37/23 SB/CS

Banfield is the Marlins’ CBA Round B pick from 2018. Hailing out of Brookwood High School in Snellville, GA, the native of nearby Lawrenceville was highly heralded for his defensive capabilities including a 1.74 second pop time and an 84 MPH arm behind the dish. He proved his throwing arm was capable of growth by clocking in at 94 MPH velo he flashed from the opposite side of the mound. Coupling the aforementioned canon with solid glove-to-hand transfer times, a good and growing throwing accuracy and solid receiving abilities including framing prowess and the agility to go well out of the zone, Banfield was considered one of if not the best defensive catchers in the draft. It was on that basis that Marlins selected Banfield with a CBA pick at 69th overall.

This past summer, Banfield joined the GCL Marlins. In his first 22 pro games, the 18-year-old threw out 18 of 44 potential base stealers (41% CS%), allowed just five passed balls and held down a perfect fielding percentage by way of a 8.05 range factor before being called up to A Greensboro. As a Grasshopper, Banfield committed just one error while catching five of 16 potential base stealers (31% CS%). In those 107 innings catching more advanced stuff, he didn’t allow a passed ball.

Offensively, Banfield also played pretty closely to his scouting report which states that he has above-average raw power stemming from his athletic 6’1”, 210 frame with room to grow, but that he also owns just average bat speed. Banfield will need to make some adjustments in reading opposing pitchers, timing swings and shortening his stroke in order to tap in to his raw power potential, but at just 19 entering his first full professional season with pro coaching and facilities at his disposal, we see a fully-grown Banfield as an elite defender with a respectable bat capable of at least a Mendoza line average with plus power numbers. He is the franchise’s cornerstone catching prospect. Entering a big season in his developmental process, if things go well, a fully-grown Banfield could be ready for the Show by 2021.

6. RHP Sandy Alcantara
2018 (AAA) – 115.2 IP, 3.89 ERA, 1.254 WHIP, 88/38 K/BB

Alcantara is a 6’5”, 185 pound righty signed by St. Louis in 2013. Upon building his way to being named the Cardinals’ ninth best prospect by the end of 2016, he became Marlins property last offseason in the trade for Marcell Ozuna.

Alcantara spent most of 2018 in AAA New Orleans where he threw 115.2 IP and managed a 3.89 ERA via a 1.254 WHIP and 2.32 K/BB differential. Sandy accomplished all of this while throwing against competition nearly five years his elder.

Upon the MLB’s September roster expansion, his exports earned Alcantara a call to the bigs. In his first action as a Marlin, Alcantara held down a 3.44 ERA in 34 IP via a 1.41 WHIP, a .214 BAA and a 30/23 K/BB. Alcantara’s bread and butter that he used to climb up the MiLB ranks is his fiery velocity on his four-seamer which he can ramp into triple digits but which usually sits in the 96-99 MPH range. He shows the same consistent command and usage of his two-seam sinker which has great arm side action and allows him to add and subtract, keeping hitters guessing. But, while the rest of his arsenal which includes an 85-91 MPH changeup and a tight 12-6 power curveball that has sharp downward action, have shown flashes of brilliance, what his secondaries lack most is that same C word when it comes to controlling them: consistency.

If Alcantara hopes to stick as a starter, he will need to gain a better feel for his stuff, most significantly the grip and release point on his changeup which currently comes in mostly straight, and when he isn’t at his best, misses spots more than it hits them. The sharp break on his curve and the differential in velo, dropping 20 MPH lower than his heat, plays up, but he will need to refrain from overthrowing it. While these are certainly issues, they are the type which should work themselves out with age and proper coaching.

Alcantara should enter 2019 at the back end of the Marlins’ rotation. Still in his age 23 season and entering his first full season at the behest of MLB coaching, there is plenty of time for Alcantara to recognize his ceiling potential as a front end starter.

7. IF Isan Diaz
2018 (AA-AAA) – .232/.340/.399, 13 HR, 56 RBI, 140/68 K/BB

Along with Harrison and Yamamoto, Diaz is the final return piece in the Yelich trade with the Brewers and at age 21, the youngest of the trio acquired by Miami in the deal.

Diaz, a native of Puerto Rico, moved to Springfield, MA when he was four, bringing an ironic beginning to a life which has been full of quick and stark changes of scenery. When of age, Diaz began to attend Springfield Central High School where he became a two sport athlete, playing both baseball and basketball. After entering the 2014 draft as the eighth ranked infielder and the 38th ranked overall prep prospect according to MaxPreps, Diaz was selected 70th overall by the Diamondbacks in the 2014 draft. Forgoing a collegiate commitment to Vanderbilt, Diaz signed with Arizona for $750K.

Upon moving to the opposite side of the country as an 18-year-old, Diaz broke in to pro ball with the Arizona League D-Backs, hitting .187/.289/.330 in 182 ABs. After partaking in eight games in the Puerto Rican Winter League, Diaz spent the rest of the 2015 offseason under the close tutelage of pro coaches, simplifying his swing.

Through streamlining of his pre-pitch timing mechanics and some shortening of his swing, Diaz broke out in a big way in 2016. For the short season A Missoula Osprey, Diaz hit .360/.436/.640. His BA and OBP each ranked sixth while his SLG led the league. The power figure was made possible by 13 homers, second most on the circuit and a league-most 25 doubles, adding up to 174 total bases, also a Pioneer League best. Among his many highlights that year was hitting for the cycle on August 23rd.

After being named the Pioneer League’s MVP, Missoula’s first in 14 years as well as a Pioneer League All-Star, Diaz was traded to the Brewers in the deal that brought Jean Segura to the desert. In 2016, the eight-ranked Brewers prospect made his full season debut with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. In almost twice as many games as he played in a year previously in brand new surroundings, Diaz held up well, both physically and statistically hitting .264/.358/.469. He once again appeared on league leaderboards in a multitude of categories. Playing on the same circuit as baseball’s current number two ranked prospect Eloy Jimenez, Diaz’s 20 homers led the league, his 34 doubles ranked 5th, his 75 RBIs were 3rd, his .469 SLG placed 13th and his .827 OPS came in 20th. With a 149 wRC+, Diaz was named the Brewers’ minor league player of the year.

Following an appearance in the Arizona Fall League (17 G, .239/.338/.373), Diaz spent 2017 in A+ Carolina. There, a nagging wrist injury limited him to a pedestrian .222/.334/.376 slash line and 104 wRC+. On August 31, the Brewers shut Diaz down for the year, bringing an end to his season after just 110 games. The slight hiccup in Diaz’s production allowed the Marlins to buy low on the infielder as they swayed Milwaukee to include him in the three-piece deal for Yelich. On January 25, 2018, Miami became Diaz’s third organization in his young four year career.

Despite his mundane 2017 season, the Marlins challenged Diaz to take on the AA level with the Jumbo Shrimp in 2018. Back at 100%, Diaz fared well, slashing .245/.365/.418 with 10 homers and 19 doubles, not too far off the pace which resulted in his aforementioned .264/.358/.469, 20 HR, 34 2B season back in low A in 2016. His walk rate of 14.89, a career high, resulted in a 1.79 K/BB ratio, a career low. Playing second base full time, he flashed some of his best defense, collecting a career high 153 putouts and 200 assists and being part of 45 double plays. By way of a 4.30 range factor, he held down a .975 fielding percentage. Diaz spent the final 36 games of the 2018 regular season in New Orleans, getting his feet wet at the AAA level. The highlight of that tenure was a 3-5, 2 3B, HR, 5 RBI performance against Albuquerque on August 4th. In 137 ABs with New Orleans, he slashed .204/.281/.358. Despite finishing the season rather slowly (7 for his last 52), Diaz proved he isn’t far away from competing for an MLB starting job at second base. With another slight push forward in maturation and production, the realization of Diaz’s Major League dream would allow the Marlins to shed another $21 million in owed money (Starlin Castro) and possibly bring back a mid-lower level tier prospect or two and/or mid-round draft selections.

Where Diaz needs to improve for that to occur is in recognizing and identifying major league quality stuff, especially secondaries, something that should come naturally as he gets more ABs in the uppermost level of the minors. 5’10”, 185, the stout Diaz with surprising pop profiles as a lefty-hitting Dan Uggla with slightly less power, built for more doubles than homers and slightly better defense capable of manning both shortstop, second base, and, the Marlins hope third base. The team gave him a look at the hot corner this winter when Diaz partook in the Puerto Rican League. In 99 innings played at the hot corner, Diaz committed just one error. Oh, and he also hit .276/.348/.366.

An athletic gamer who is showing versatility both on the field and off adjusting to whatever circumstances come his way, we like Diaz to reach a ceiling somewhere around .260/.340/.460 with room for 20+ homers and 30+ doubles sooner rather than later.

8. OF Connor Scott
2018 (A) – .218/.309/.296, 1 HR, 24 RBI, 56/24 K/BB

Scott is the Marlins first rounder from last season and the fifth straight prep the franchise has spent their top selection on. Leading up to the draft, the first draft pick of the Jeter era drew close comparisons to his former teammate turned MLB’s fifth ranked overall prospect Kyle Tucker. If that weren’t enough, according to draft connoisseurs including Keith Law and MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, Scott draws reminiscence of current NL MVP Christian Yelich. Watching Scott play, it’s easy to see the similarities.

In his senior year at Plant High, Scott was .526 hitter with 20 homers via barrel velocity of 89 MPH which ranked in the 57th percentile. Scott also showed off a plus arm, tossing 90-93 from the hill. Despite missing valuable playing time against top talent in the summer due to the removal of his appendix, the Marlins selected Scott as an outfielder with 13th overall pick.

Upon inking his $4 million signing deal, the 18-year-old spent his first 27 pro games in the Gulf Coast League where he slashed .223/.319/.311 before joining the single A ranks in Greensboro. In 23 games as a Grasshopper he hit .211/.295/.276. His first career homer came on August 20th, 2018.

Though he is still very raw, Scott exhibits all five tools loudly. From a split stance in which he points his front foot up the first base line, the lefty hitter has a compact approach with good power load in his hands and elbows which maintain their height throughout his swing which holds great speed and through which the barrel spends advantageous time in the zone. Scott favors pull, but has already shown enough plate coverage to go to all fields. Where the teenager stands to improve is in getting his mostly stationary lower half more involved in his approach which will aid in the recognition of his power ceiling as well as in more contact to pitches on the outer half via a better step into the ball. Similarly, on the other side of the ball, Scott could use to improve his footwork leading to more power behind throws and better routes to balls. However, with already present foot speed, good bat to ball instincts and overall feel for hitting should allow Scott to bridge the gap from amateur standout to professional pretty smoothly. Scott should start 2019 with A Clinton and, with success, could move up to Jupiter sometime in the second half, but entering his age 19 season, there should be no reason to rush his development. His ceiling, although uncertain at this point in his career, could potentially be that of a .270 average hitter with 20/20 HR/SB capacity.

9. 3B James Nelson
2018 (A+) – .211/.262/.280, 2 HR, 28 RBI, 66/13 K/BB

Picked by Miami in the 15th round of the 2016 draft, Nelson hails out of Cisco Junior College in Cisco, Texas. Previously, he was selected by the Red Sox in round 18 of the 2015 draft out of his high school alma matter, Redan High in Stone Mountain, GA.

“Going to Junior college was probably the biggest and best decision I could’ve made to be honest,” Nelson told us last year. “I don’t think I got enough exposure in high school as far as seeing the pitchers I did.”

In his junior and senior seasons, Nelson hit a total of four homers. In his single JuCo season, a more physically matured specimen hit 17. The jump in power production was a major precursor for Nelson’s earlier draft slot which awarded him $75K, over $20K more than the slot Boston signed him in.

After breaking in with the GCL Marlins, Nelson spent 2017 absolutely raking in single A. Highlighted by a .372/.425/.540, 8 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 5/1 SB/CS month of May, Nelson slashed .309/.354/.456 with 31 doubles, three triples and seven homers. His BA ranked 11th and his two bagger count ranked sixth league wide. At the end of 2017, Nelson was named the Marlins organizational Minor League Player of the Year (LINK).

After opening the eyes of those who underrated him due to his brief amateur career, the 19-year-old headed in to last offseason riding high, primed to build on a more than solid debut full season. However, just before camp began, Nelson suffered a torn meniscus, an injury that, with no past history of knee trouble, he says “just sort of happened”. The injury required surgery and kept Nelson out of action until June. Upon making his season and Jupiter Hammerheads debut on June 3rd, Nelson played in five games before he quickly landed back on the DL due to a setback. From there, it was a slow go for Nelson who went 10 for his first 71 (.140). However, by going 33 for his final 143 (.230) with at least one hit in 23 of his final 37 games, Nelson proved he was adjusting well to the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. He will likely begin 2019 back in Jupiter. With success, he could move up to AA sometime in the second half.

Approaching from a slightly split stance, the righty hitter owns a middle-high timing trigger which he uses in concert with his plus plate vision to both stay behind the ball and get extended to it. From there, Nelson executes an absolutely explosive swing that is lightning fast, short and well-leveraged, allowing him to use all fields with hard line drive contact. On the frequent occasion that he barrels up, the ball absolutely flies, giving him some of the best exit velo in the organization. Past his good plate approach and mechanics, Nelson owns 50-grade speed and a good glove at third base, one which he has quickly grown in to since beginning to learn the position upon becoming a pro. The Marlins bought in to Nelson’s future at the both offensive and defensive demanding hot corner based on his second-to-none athleticism, his already advanced offensive makeup and his growing frame which looks to have improved this offseason.

A guy who looks to have spent his offseason getting healthier and stronger, Nelson appears to have all the tools necessary to become a constant power threat with both gap-to-gap and over-the-fences power. Nelson should begin the 2019 season back in Jupiter and, with consistent health, looks primed to make the jump to the upper minors not too long after. Place Nelson’s ceiling at that of a .270/.320/.450, 25+ 2B, 20+ HR, 15+ SB yearly offensive threat with above replacement level defense.

10. OF Tristan Pompey
2018 (A-A+) – .299/.408/.397, 3 HR, 23 RBI, 47/32 K/BB, 10/5 SB/CS

Pompey is a Marlins’ 2018 first rounder out of the University Of Kentucky and the owner of a great baseball pedigree. Born to parents that prefer he play football rather than a sport they barely understood or even liked, both Tristan and his brother Dalton before him, opted for the diamond.

Being supporters of their dream no matter which path they chose, the Daltons’ parents learned the game along with their sons and at a young age, taught them both to switch hit. The gift bestowed upon Dalton allotted him a .279/.364/.405 Minor League career including .283/.396/.462 leading up to his MLB debut, but due to frequent injury and an overcrowding of outfield candidates in Toronto, his Major League career has been limited to just 64 games.

Now, after a standout three-year .321/.426/.521 career at the University Of Kentucky including the posting of a 1.005 OPS in both his sophomore and junior seasons, accolades which earned him multiple All-American selections and allotted him being named as high as the 14th best player in the 2018 Draft, it’s younger brother Tristan’s time to shine. After joining the Marlins upon the inking of his $645,000 signing bonus, Tristan spent just four games conditioning in the GCL before joining the full season single A ranks. But after hitting .314/.422/.430 with a 22/16 K/BB in 24 games, Pompey was quickly back on his way down to Jupiter, this time to play in the big park with the A+ Hammerheads. He spent the rest of his rookie year slashing .291/.396/.384 with a 21/13 K/BB. These loud results earned Pompey an invite to play in the Pan-American games for his home country of Canada, a pre-qualifier for the 2020 Olympic Summer Games. He is the third youngest player on the roster. From there, Pompey should begin 2019 back in Jupiter but results permitting, could be a quick mover up to the AA level.

Already the more physically mature Pompey brother, Tristan, who will turn 22 in March 23rd, still exhibits the same front leg timing trigger that caused some scouts to look down on him leading up to the draft. However, as a pro, Pompey has improved his back leg mechanics, keeping it planted and using it to drive forward into his downward planed and well-leveraged swing. He’s also closed his stance a bit and is approaching from further back in the box, allowing his plus plate vision to go to work for him on a more frequent basis. 

With a great feel for the barrel from both sides of the plate via a short stroke path to the ball, a good first step out of the box and a plus-plus runner when he gets to full-stride, Pompey, who has stayed healthy most of his playing career and adjusted well to his environment with each jump in level, profiles as a future 20/20+ threat. If his throwing arm improves past it’s current grade of 45, he is on a great track to reach his ceiling as a middle-of-the-order starting right fielder.

11. RHP Edward Cabrera
2018 (A) – 100.1 IP, 4.22 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 93/42 K/BB

Cabrera is a Marlins’ 2015 international signed out of the Dominican, heavily lauded for his upper 90s velo. With just 182.1 IP under his belt, Cabrera has spent his early career learning how to pitch stateside. The Marlins have been methodical with Cabrera’s development, limiting him to 82.2 combined IP in his first two seasons. Last season, Cabrera was stretched out to an even 100 IP. Cabrera held up well both physically and statistically in his first elongated look, holding down a 4.22 ERA by way of a 1.47 WHIP, 11.6 K/BB%, and a 44% GB%.

A tall, lanky righty who weighs in at 6’4”, Cabrera gets every bit of his body involved in his delivery, nearly completely turning his back to the hitter and exploding through his 3/4 slot. His current mechanics already allow him to hold 94+ MPH velo throughout his starts, but issues repeating the delivery cause him to struggle with command, causing him to miss spots, often missing wide to his arm side where the pitch naturally runs to. Past the four-seamer, Cabrera owns the solid blueprint for a good slurvy slider that comes in at 77-80, a pitch that would both accentuate and counteract his fiery heat beautifully, but he will need to improve his release point and follow-through in order to create proper deception. Cabrera also owns an 88-90 MPH changeup, a pitch which has the prospect of being a great accompaniment to the high heat and the low bender, but it is an offering that is still very much in the beginning stages. Still many years away from the majors though and with room to grow physically, Cabrera is far from a finished product and is already quite intriguing. With a fastball that already plays up via natural plus-plus velo and a good foundation for at-least average, if not better secondary stuff, Cabrera, although still being very much a work-in-progress, has youth on his side and the work ethic needed to become a ceiling 3-5 starter.

12. RHP Trevor Rogers
2018 (A) – 72.2 IP, 5.82 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 85/27 K/BB

Rogers is the Marlins top draft pick in the 2017 Draft, a spot and $3.4 million payday he garnered after a 26-5, 0.73 ERA, .138 BAA, 325/52 K/BB prep career at Carlsbad High in New Mexico. In 182 career innings pitched, Rogers only allowed one home run. An All-American preseason selection in his senior year, Rogers defended that honor by going 11-0 with a 0.33 ERA and 134/13 K/BB. The top ranked draft prospect out of the state of New Mexico, Rogers signed on with the Marlins for $3.4 million.

Suffering from a mild forearm strain, the Marlins, a franchise all too familiar with prep picks going awry, erred on the side of caution and assigned Rogers to the instructional league. However, that entire campaign was washed out due to Hurricane Irma, keeping Trevor sidelined. After participating in minor league camp, Rogers finally made his pro debut on May 22nd. Following a bit of an adjustment period in pitching to professional hitters and in getting back into in-game action for the first time in 364 days, Rogers went on a nice run as things began to click. From July 6th to August 18th, he went 43.1 IP while holding down a 3.13 ERA with a 42/13 K/BB. The highlight of Rogers’ rookie campaign was a 7.2 IP, 1 H, 12/2 K/BB outing in which he flirted with a no hitter on July 29th.

A 6’4” 220+ specimen, Rogers makes the most of his size on the Hill, throwing downhill into the strike zone thereby gaining an extra few ticks on his fastball which comes in in the 92-96 MPH range and stays there throughout his outings. Coming out of high school, Rogers had a quality slider but trying to take too much off of it was causing him to tip it to opposing hitters. Since then, Rogers has quickly been coached to not overthink pitches, throwing everything with the same arm speed, a modification that has worked out well in his favor, aiding his confidence and pitchability. Rogers also owns the makings of a plus curveball with 12-6 action and good late bite and an at least average changeup with good fade to the arm side.

A coachable asset with youth and projection both on his side, we like Rogers, who also impressed during the instructional league this offseason, we like Rogers to break the Marlins’ spell of high school draft picks gone wrong and, upon further growth in A-A+ this coming season, realize his ceiling potential as a top end starter come 2020-21.

13. RHP Luis Palacios
2018 (A) – 63.2 IP, 0.85 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, 62/4 K/BB

Palacios is a lefty hurler who signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican in 2016. It is there, with the DSL Marlins, that the teenager has spent the first two seasons of his professional career making a clear cut name for himself. As a 16-year-old in his debut season, Palacios worked 46.2 IP, holding down a 2.70 ERA via a 1.14 WHIP and 2.87 K/BB%. This past season, Palacios worked in the same capacity (4 starts, 11 relief appearances), lasting 63.2 IP and managing a sparkling 0.85 ERA by way of an even more dazzling 0.60 WHIP. Somehow, the 17-year-old allowed even less baserunners his previous campaign while tossing in nearly 20 more frames. While leading the league in IP, he also led it in ERA, in WHIP and absolutely blew it away in K/BB% (25.4). In 2019, Palacios, a Dominican League stud, will first participate in the Marlins’ Captains’ Camp before making his regular season stateside ball debut, likely with the Batavia Muckdogs but possibly with the full-season LumberKings.

After a high leg kick, Palacios, a 6’2”, 160 pound specimen, comes home with a well-balanced 3/4 delivery. His whip-through follow-through on all three of his pitches allows him to mask them all advantageously. From there, the stuff speaks for itself. His fastball comes in at 93-95 with good bite to his arm side. Palacios’ best secondary is his 88-90 MPH changeup which fades late and holds corner-painting prowess. Palacios has similar control over his 86-88 MPH power slider which owns late 11-5 run. Palacios’ stuff, which is well beyond his years, proved to be nearly unhittable for his countrymen.

This coming season as Palacios makes his US debut, he will need to improve the consistency of his release points as his pitches can sometimes get away from him. That said, Palacios is a kid who shows good feel for all three of his pitches, a trio which already good velo mix. At just 18, growing both mentally and physically, Palacios has plenty of room to add even more MPH and quite possibly a fourth pitch to his arsenal (he shows the beginnings of a big curveball).

Given how far along he is at such a young age, Palacios, who will remind Marlins fans of a miniature Dontrelle Willis, has a huge ceiling, that of a potential ace. Though still pretty far out, pay close attention to this name which is likely to rise up these prospect rankings sooner rather than later.

14. RHP Jorge Guzman
2018 (A+) – 96 IP, 4.03 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 101/64 K/BB

Guzman is an Astros 2015 international signee out of the Dominican. After learning how to pitch stateside in the pro ranks by tossing 55 IP to the tune of a 5.04 ERA and 1.68 WHIP with three different rookie ball teams that year, the 20-year-old improved his peripherals to a 4.05 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 2016. In just 40 IP, the righty struck out 54 and walked just 17. That offseason, Guzman was dealt to the Yankees along with Albert Abreu in the trade that sent Brian McCann to Houston.

Guzman spent 2016 in short season A ball compiling a 5-3 record and 2.30 ERA by way of a 1.03 WHIP and 88/18 K/BB. His 11.88 K/9 ranked second league wide. By way of that season in which Guzman flashed the beginnings of a power slider to piggyback his tremendous blow-it-by-you fastball that sits at 96 and tops at 103 that he climbed the Yankees’ prospect ranks and wound up at number 25. That offseason, Guzman became the centerpiece of the trade that sent Giancarlo Stanton to New York. Starlin Castro and Jose Devers also joined the Marlins.

Upon his arrival in Miami, the Marlins were extremely careful with Guzman’s development, not inviting him to spring training or assigning him an affiliated squad at the break of camp. Instead, Guzman, whose career high innings count was 66.2, conditioned in extended spring training. On April 28th, Guzman finally joined the Jupiter Hammerheads and made his first start. Ninety-six innings later, Guzman sported a 4.03 ERA. Judging by his extended numbers including a 4.45 FIP, a 1.45 WHIP and lowly 38.7 ground ball rate, it looks as though Guzman benefitted from throwing in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League.

Guzman’s biggest and currently only mature weapon and the reason for his prospect status is his aforementioned heat which rarely ticks below 96, hits as high as 103 and persists throughout his starts. However, Guzman has yet to show the consistent ability to harness the potential 70-grade tool. Though he shows flashes of dominance, Guzman fails to repeat his delivery and gets hurt when the mostly straight pitch misses spots, causing his walk and contact rates to rise. Moreover, Guzman’s lack of a secondary arsenal allows hitters to sit on the heat, negating his best asset even if he does hit the zone.

2019 stands to be a make-it-or-break-it type year when it comes to Guzman’s future as a starter. In order to stick in a rotational role long-term Guzman will need his curveball to play up to its 60-grade potential. An 11-5 power hook, the pitch has shown the ability to partner well with his heater but he currently lacks the feel and arm speed to throw it with any sort of consistency. Guzman began to learn a changeup last year, but that pitch is still in the foundational phase and is very little more than a waste offering. Unless Guzman takes a big jump this year, he will probably start working out of the bullpen as a closer, a role in which he could absolutely dominate.

15. OF Brian Miller
2018 (A+-AA) – .295/.338/.355, 21 2B, 5 3B, 66/32 K/BB, 40/13 SB/CS

Miller is a Marlins’ CBA pick, taken 36th overall in 2017 out of the University of North Carolina. He earned his draft spot and $1.8 million payday by way of a .332/.419/.453, 0.88 K/BB%, 55/13 SB/CS three-year career in Tarheel blue, a team he made via a glorified try-out (LINK). Add to his resume a 327/.369/.387 showing in the Cape in 2016 as well as his league-leading 77 hit, .476 OBP, 38 SB campaign in the Coastal Plain League following his rookie season, it’s easy to see the potential the Marlins saw and continue to see in Miller’s slap hitting, speed-first game that holds room for more gap-reaching growth.

“My approach is pretty simple in the box. I just try to be on time and hit a ball hard up the middle of the field. I think always staying to the middle of the field puts me in a good position to succeed because it helps me hit any pitch at any location in the strike zone,” Miller told us last year. “Also, when I mishit a ball I have a good chance of beating it out with my speed because the middle guys have to move the most and sometimes make far throws on the run.”

That skillset has been on full display in Miller’s first 185 career games in which he has matured all the way to the double A level, making him one of the quickest rising prospects in the organization. After breaking in to pro ball with a .322/.384/.416, 17 double, 21 SB 58-game campaign and being selected our Minor League Player Of The Year in 2017, Miller absolutely torched A+ pitching during the first half of last season. Upon slashing .324/.358/.398 with 13 doubles and 19 steals, the 23-year-old made it to AA Jacksonville where he hit a respectable .267/.319/.313. The owner of a career .304/.353/.374 slash line, a 76% success rate in stolen base attempts and a 20% XBH%, Miller heads into spring training this year as a member of the Marlins’ 40-man roster.

Though he isn’t the biggest name nor the most flashy prospect in the organization and even though he needs to show sustainable success against upper minors pitching this coming year, Miller is a guy who understands his potential skill-set well and doesn’t try to overdo it. A contact-first swinger who picks and chooses his quick line drive hacks well and uses his plus speed to turn virtually anything that drops into extra bases, Miller lines up well as a ceiling .280/.340/.340, 25+ SB top of the order catalytic threat and floor fourth-outfielder off-the-bench spark plug.

2018 Prospect Of The Year – Dustin Beggs

When you jump from single A all the way to AA and hold down a collective 2.12 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 111/20 K/BB along the way, you beg to be awarded postseason accolades — especially when your name is Dustin Beggs. This season, we are happy to oblige and award the 25-year-old righty with our Prospect Of The Year Award.

Beggs, born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, attended high school in northwestern Georgia. Beggs lettered in both his junior and senior seasons, the latter of which he also earned his team’s MVP award as well its Cy Young award. At season’s end, Beggs appeared in many Perfect Game showcases, not placing any worse than in the 50th percentile on fastball velocity and flashing a velo mix of more than 20 MPH before departing for junior college. There, as a Georgia Perimeter College Jaguar, Beggs compiled a 17-5 record in 150.1 IP while holding down a 1.86 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP via a 175/27 K/BB. Most of Beggs’ dominance was done in 2014, a sophomore season in which he struck out a league most 125 and managed a league leading 1.65 ERA. Following his second collegiate season, Beggs was drafted by the Cardinals in the 17th round of the 2014 draft. That same offseason, Beggs was recruited by the University Of Kentucky. Ultimately, he decided to go back to school.

“That decision was made by talking with my parents and coaches at UK,” Beggs explained. “I think the main message I got from them was that going to play at an SEC school for a year or two would help me develop not only physically, but more importantly, mentally.”

In his first season as a Wildcat, Beggs made the full-time transition to the rotation.

“The jump from JuCo to the SEC seemed pretty big when I first got there,” Beggs said. “I remember giving up 3-4 runs in my first intrasquad and thinking, “Wow, these guys are really good 1-9. It was definitely an adjustment process.”

In 14 starts that year, Beggs posted a 3.65 ERA via a 1.09 WHIP and 75/20 K/BB, numbers very respectable for a first-year D1 hurler, marking the first time but certainly not the last that Beggs would show that he is very capable of adjusting to competition level.

After posting a 9-2 record and a 3.01 ERA by way of a 0.95 WHIP and 80/16 K/BB in 98.2 IP in his senior year in 2016, Beggs was drafted for a third time. On this occasion, the Marlins took him in the 16th round and Beggs obliged, signing with Miami and earning a $10,000 signing bonus. He came to the Marlins as the fifth of seven Kentucky alums the organization has drafted from 2012 to the present. Other Wildcats turned Fish over that span include JT  Riddle and Beggs’ former teammate and current 25th ranked prospect, Riley Mahan. Beggs says the fact that Michael Hill and company keep going back to the UK honeypot draft after draft is a testament to the strength and stability of a program that will only get better in the years to come.

“I think it speaks to the University of Kentucky coaching staff and how well they have done at preparing players for the next level,” Beggs said. “They take pride in, not only in winning games and competing in the SEC but also in helping players get the most out of the talent they have. With them building that beautiful new stadium, I think that trend is going to continue for a long time.”

After breaking in to pro ball at the end of 2016 with Batavia, Beggs rode the aforementioned preparedness borne in him from Kentucky to a fantastic rookie pro season in full season A in 2017. There, as a Greensboro Grasshopper, Beggs held down a 10-6 record and a 3.86 ERA. He K’d a team-high 107 in 149.1 IP, another team high, the second most in the South Atlantic League. According to Beggs, staying both healthy and effective over the course of his first full pro league season was a challenge, but, thanks to his years spent at UK learning how to create, execute and maintain an advantageous weekly regimen, a challenge he was able to stare down and conquer.

“Throwing almost 100 innings in both of my seasons at Kentucky helped a lot not only with understanding how that feels physically on your arm, but mentally understanding that you have to have a good routine and pace yourself over the course of the year,” Beggs said. “The routine helps you categorize your days off and have an idea of what to do when you get on the field each day.”

As well equipped as Kentucky made him for the rigors of life in the minor leagues, Beggs attests to the fact that pitching in Greensboro taught him many more valuable lessons such as learning how to advantageously pitch to contact. Accordingly, Beggs labels his first MiLB season as a very important foundation laying process that he will build off for the rest of his career.

“Since Greensboro’s field is so small, it really taught me the value of pitching down and inducing ground balls,” Beggs said. “[The 2017 season] was a very helpful building block just to give me confidence going forward. A lot of times confidence is the biggest key to getting people out, knowing your stuff is good enough to get people out and compete at each level. That really helped me going forward.”

This season, Beggs, a second year pro, used his newfound confidence to jump two levels all the way to AA. After starting the year back in Greensboro and holding down a 2.66 ERA and 1.08 WHIP with an 8.33 K/BB in 40.2 innings, Beggs got the promotion to A+ Jupiter. There, he returned to exclusive rotational work. In seven starts for the Hammerheads, Beggs had a tiny 2.01 ERA with a 35/6 K/BB in 44.2 IP. The highlight of his A+ career was a 7 IP, 1 ER, 10 K, 2 BB start on July 7. Six of his seven Jupiter starts were quality outings. 

Between A and A+ in 2018, Beggs had a 2.32 ERA and allowed just 84 baserunners in 85.1 IP (0.98 WHIP) while compiling an 88/12 K/BB. Those accolades earned Beggs his second promotion of the season, this time to AA Jacksonville, on August 15.

Making the difficult leap from the lower to upper minors, all four of Beggs’ starts with the Shrimp were of the quality variety. During those 25 innings, he limited opponents to a .193 BA and just four earned runs. His impeccable control numbers persisted as he struck out 23 and walked just eight. Beggs, who trades any sort of fiery velocity for hitting spots, missing barrels, says the key to his continued success as he’s traveled through the minors, has been maintaining a great working knowledge of himself and his abilities, staying true to that persona and avoiding the urge to become something he is not.

“I think the key has been consistency and keeping an even temperament on the mound. As the levels pass and the opponents and teammates change, you have to keep attacking hitters and throwing strikes,” Beggs said. “I understand that I’m not going to blow it by people so I use offspeed and location to my advantage.”

Following a head-turning 2018 campaign, the 25-year-old Beggs will head into 2019, a campaign in which, with continued success at the AA level, could include his Major League debut. However, the 25-year-old is determined not to let anything — not even the pending realization of his childhood dream — alter his steadfast concentration.

“It’s very exciting to think about, but I am a very in-the-moment focused person,” Beggs said. “I have to keep working this offseason to put myself in a good position to compete this spring. I’m just going to keep staying the course and focus on how I can better myself.”

A 6’3” 180 pound specimen, Dustin August Beggs literally DAB-bed on the competition no matter where he pitched in 2018 via his best tool: impeccable control. While his low-90s heat won’t light up radar guns or the eyes of scouts, the placement of his huge 12-6 curve that clocks in at 72-74 MPH, his sweeping 9-6 slider that sits 75-78 MPH and his 82-84 MPH changeup that shows late arm-side run to the black provide Beggs with the ability to use any pitch in any count. He masks each of his pitches by repeating his windup, arm speed and follow-through. A guy who is extremely averse to a free pass and who limits pitches per AB and is more than capable of erasing what few baserunners he does allow via a lightning quick pickoff move, Beggs has the ceiling of a 2-3 starter and the floor of a back end swing man, capable of eating many innings.

A guy who earned the reputation of a more-than-reliable starter in college, Beggs has begun to pave a path to do the same as a Major Leaguer. With similar success in both spring training and early in the minor league season with the Jumbo Shrimp, Beggs should be among the first handful of Marlins hurlers to earn a major league promotion in 2019.

Monte Harrison Making Strides In Arizona Fall League

In 2018, his first season with the Marlins, the organization’s new top prospect Monte Harrison played to the tune of a famous Billy Joel song: he went to extremes. Too high and too low, there was no in between as the 23-year-old struck out 215 times, the most in all of AA and at a 37% rate, and walked just 44 times at a 7.5% pace. His excellent raw talent and power potential allowed Harrison to swat 19 homers, a career high and fourth most in the Southern League. However, if Harrison hoped to match and/or better that number when he arrived in The Show, he had some adjustments to make heading into his second Arizona Fall League campaign.

It is undeniable: Monte Harrison has always owned many plus-plus offensive tools. With great overall strength stemming from his 6’3”, 220 pound frame, Harrison uses an advantageous vertical path in his hands and wrists during his load leading up to the execution of his superb bat speed which gives him exceptional leverage. His menacing physicality and good upper half mechanics give him a figurative leg up on his opposition before a pitch is thrown. However, this past season, not long after an opposing pitcher came set, Harrison had too much of a leg up — literally.

 

Harrison had been trading attempting to recognize pitches for trying to time a pitcher’s motion. Through his aforementioned fantastic core strength, good hands and 60-grade power tool that still has room to grow, Harrison was been able to exhibit fence-clearing power, but that success had been had nearly exclusively in either obvious fastball counts or on mistake pitches that floated into his wheelhouse. The habit that Harrison formed disallowed him from staying back and led to off-balance long hacks that expanded the zone. This was the main culprit feeding Harrison’s gargantuan strikeout rate. For that reason, Harrison’s hit tool is currently capped at 45.

After this fall though, that number will undoubtedly rise.

“He did have the high leg kick when he got here,” Salt River Rafters Head Coach Tommy Watkins corroborated. “Since then, he’s cut it down a bit and he’s been having good ABs.”

Here are some of the ABs Watkins speaks of:

So far this Arizona Fall League season, Harrison has shown a much more simplified approach, allowing him to utilize his superior bat speed and upper half mechanics to the best of his advantage. The drop in lower half involvement has led Harrison to drastically drop his strikeout total and improve his contact rates. But as positive as these adjustments have been, has Harrison negated his lower half too much?

Looking at the new Harrison, his lower half is nearly stationary, limiting his fence clearing ability, especially at his future home of Marlins Park. The minuscule hip torque and lack of power transfer will cause his hit tool to rise but his power tool, which currently stands at 55, to drop.

The question is can Harrison put it all together and become the complete offensive threat the baseball world foresaw when the Brewers offered him nearly a $700K signing bonus and when the Marlins traded soon-to-be NL MVP to Milwaukee for him last offseason. While that remains to be seen and while Harrison will need to make several more adjustments in order for it to happen including closing his very wide stance, his willingness to learn and change his approach in order to improve is very encouraging. For evidence, peep one of Harrison’s latest efforts: 2-3, 3B, 3 RBI, 2 R, BB 2 SB. He’s reached base in all 13 of his Arizona Fall League games.

By losing a literal first step, Harrison has taken a big proverbial leap towards becoming a more complete hitter this fall. From a development standpoint, he’s following a similar path as the guy who he accompanied to Miami, Lewis Brinson. Already making positive strides this fall, Harrison looks forward to a spring training campaign in which he will share a dugout, a clubhouse not only with Brinson but with MLB coaches and facilities at his disposal. All things considered, we like a near-complete five-tool outfielder to join Brinson and potentially another piece of the Yelich trade, right hander Jordan Yamamoto, in Miami for regular season action in the second half of 2019.

Prospect Of The Month, July 2018 – Dylan Lee

This past week, the United States celebrated National Left Handers’ Day. But for Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp reliever Dylan Lee, forcing his competition to respect his southpaw arm was so two months ago.

For a month and a quarter, if the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp had to have a clean inning or two, all they had to do was call upon number 37 who, from June 22 until July 26, turned in 15 straight scoreless innings, 10 of which came in the month of July. Over that span, he allowed just five hits and recorded a 19/0 K/BB. Lee finished the seventh month of the year running that audacious scoreless stretch to 17 IP by tossing two near-spotless in his first game at the AAA level.

For taking literally no time to become a purely dominant arm at the AA level and earn the call to the highest level of the minors where his success has continued, Lee, who began the year in A+ Jupiter only to find himself a stone’s throw away from his MLB debut in four months’ time, earns our Prospect Of The Month honors for the month of July.

Lee, who just celebrated his 24th birthday on August 1, attended high school at Dinuba High located between Fresno and Visalia in California’s southeastern valley. Lee was a  letterman in all three of his varsity seasons by way of an 18-8 record and 1.39 ERA, a .164 BAA and a 230/85 K/BB in 180.2 IP. This included a 69.2 IP, 9-3, 0.40 ERA, .117 BAA, 112/22 K/BB IP in his senior season in 2012 at the end of which Lee was named Dinuba’s Player Of The Year by MaxPreps.

Following high school, Lee attended junior college at the College of the Sequoias in nearby Visalia. As a 19-year-old sophomore in 2015, he had one of the best seasons in school history and earned the titles and accolades to match. By winning a school record 13 games (all of which came consecutively before he lost his first and only game) by way of a 2.34 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 3.00 K/BB in 103.2 IP, Lee was named to the All-California State Team and labeled the Central Valley Conference’s Pitcher Of The year.

After his superb sophomore season, Lee was recruited to Division I ball at powerhouse Fresno State. While his first season was very much like his first year in JuCo — an adjustment process — Lee rebounded well in his senior year. Focusing solely on relief work, Lee’s ERA shrunk over two full points (5.31 in 2015 to 3.45 in 2016), his WHIP came down almost half a baserunner (1.54 to 1.19) and his K/BB rose from 1.67 to 2.93. According to Lee, owner of a bulldog mentality, his transition to pitching exclusively out of the pen and in high leverage situations was met with a shot in the arm and led to a rise in his overall compete level.

“Coming out of the pen at Fresno State was different for me, but I liked the adrenaline and being called in for late relief during close games,” Lee said.

Eventually, the comfort in knowing when and in what type of situation his number was going to be called upon allowed Lee to solidify his game plan and made the former swing man a much more effective pitcher. Lee contributes that sense of consistency, being able to maintain the same ideology from outing to outing and time spent analyzing it to his great July run and believes it will further assist him as he fills out and moves closer to his big league debut.

“Mindset is different from starting and in relief. The situations you are in during a game will determine the pitches and locations you should use. I’ve learned your mindset should be the same throughout your outing,”  Lee said. “I will continue to work on my mechanics and recognizing what the hitter is trying to do in his at bat so I can continue being effective.

The work Lee refers to has lay within his delivery. Still a very deliberate and seemingly effortless tosser at the beginning of the year, Lee has focused on putting more into his delivery without discounting his control. Formerly a guy who would rarely touch above 91, he has between 93-96 and topped out as high as 97 this season. This has created a more advantageous velo mix to his bread-and-butter FB/CH combo and an even further velo distance from his developing curveball.

According to Dylan, the rise in fastball velo can be attributed his ability to remain upright, creating a better arc to his release and creating a better downward plane to his stride towards the plate. 

“I’m definitely not the biggest pitcher in the organization, but I worked on staying tall and staying over my back leg for as long as possible at Fresno State,” Lee said. “I have worked on it during my throwing program, flat grounds, and pens to be consistent during the game.”

Most of all though, this current and very spicy brand of Dylan Lee heat has been made possible by each of coaching, the organization and Lee himself removing any sort of leash. A guy who looked like he was tossing BP at times while still hitting 89-92, this new and unlimited version of Lee is a much better suitor for his bulldog mentality and huge compete level.

“It felt like I was playing catch out there,” Lee said. “I was getting frustrated that I wasn’t letting it go.”

As much as incorporating his physicality in to his approach and plan of attack on the mound has allowed him to flourish of late, Dylan attributes the bulk of his accomplishments to a gargantuan intangible factor that has stuck with him throughout his pro career: confidence.

“My faith has been the biggest thing for me. Staying in the moment and appreciating everything that has put me in this situation, Lee said. “It doesn’t matter what level I am at or who is in the box; the rubber and the plate is going to be the same distance apart and that’s how I have and will continue to keep my composure.”

On top of his improved heater, Lee still hold on to the pitch that was his calling card as a draftee: his 83-85 mph changeup. Thrown with the exact same arm speed as his fastball, Lee masks the pitch well and has a good feel for the release. The pitch both sinks and fades away late from opposite side hitters, creating tons of weak ground ball outs (see his 0.82 GO/AO rate and sub-.140 BAA vs RHB in A+ and AA this year).

Lee‘s aforementioned developmental offering is a slow 76-78 MPH curve. Nothing more than a below average mix-in prior this year, Lee has focused on improving the grip and release points on it in his warmups and has used it much more frequently during in-game action. Accordingly, Lee has put much better spin rates on the ball and a higher 12-6 arc, bringing the pitch out of the dirt and into the lower half of the zone. Formerly a pitch he’d throw maybe two times over the course of an inning, the curve has become a major part of Lee’s repertoire and a pitch he can use in any situation.

“I’m throwing it the most I ever have and I’m throwing it to LHH and RHH and both early and late in the count,” Lee said. “But most importantly I’m throwing it with conviction.”

A guy who has jumped multiple levels from A+ all the way to the highest level of the minors, managing to adjust to each by maintaining his supreme level of poise and also building up his arm, Lee, a floor pitch-count limiting middle reliever and ceiling late-innings setup man/closer, should get a look in spring training next season. The lefty who is having fun every time he toes the rubber should at the very least be at the very top of the list of bullpen call-ups next season. When his moment comes, Lee, who has been sold short since graduating high school, will allow it to serve as a resounding “I told you so”. And undoubtedly, that will be fun, too.

“Mr. Irrelevant. That’s always been me,” Lee said. “But being underestimated pushes me. It’s always fun beating the big name guys.”

Adjust your radars, baseball world. Lights out lefty appearing on heading 2019.

2018 All-Baby Fish Team

With the explosion of young talent that has arrived in Miami both via offseason trades and the draft, some new Marlins stars have been born and some have even begun to go supernova. With first halves complete across baseball, here’s a look at which organizational players have shined brightest thus making up our 2018 All-Baby Fish Team, some of which could see time with the big league club during the second half.

C Austin Nola (AAA)
.282/.358/376, 14 XBH, 24 RBI, 29/17 K/BB, 39% CS%

If the surname sounds familiar, that’s because it is. After clearing some massive hurdles recentl, Austin, the younger brother of Phillies’ ace Aaron, is beginning to show the same athletic prowess and similar standout baseball abilities, the kind the Marlins foresaw in him when they selected him in the fifth round of the 2012 MLB Draft.

A .296/.387/.425 career hitter over the course of a four year career at LSU, Nola was a 2009 College World Series champion as a freshman and a major catalyst in the team’s 2010 SEC title and their #9 nationwide ranking a year prior. The patient, pesky, contact-first top of the order threat (128/115 K/BB) who also found plenty of gaps (30% XBH%) and the occasional fence (1.45 HR%), Nola, an SEC Tournament MVP, a second-team All-SEC selection, a CAS Regionals MVP and a Wally Pontiff Award winner as top scholar athlete, also manned a more than solid shortstop, most heralded for his huge arm and throw accuracy all across the diamond. Including his posting of a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage in the CWS in his freshman year, Nola posted a career FPCT over .970 during his time in purple and gold.

After posting a .968 fielding percentage in his first 5,108 innings as a professional, the Marlins decided to ride that history as well as the reputation Nola built in the collegiate ranks by assigning him to the second-most defensively responsible position on the diamond: catcher. Playing at a spot he hadn’t played since little league (link) Nola responded to the position change by tossing out 27 of his first 38 runners.

Through his first 49 games this season, Nola has allowed more SBs than he did in 75 overall games last season (38 vs 41). However, in place of an adjustment process to MLB-caliber runners, Nola has soared on offense, hitting .282/.358/.378/. Among PCL catchers with at least 100 ABs, those marks rank 11th, 8th and 19th. Additionally, Nola’s 0.64 BB/K ranks 7th.

Though the 28-year-old might be a bit of a late bloomer in realizing exactly where his future lies, he’s less than a step away of putting it all together and becoming an above average defensive catcher with an at least average offensive bat. Given his background and biological pedigree, we like Nola to make the squad, post-Realmuto or not, as the backup backstop next season after a cup of coffee is served to him this September.

1B John Silviano (A+)
.281/.363/.491, 12 HR, 22 XBH, 39 RBI, 61/30 K/BB

A local boy makes good.

A native of Boynton Beach and graduate of Summit Christian School, Silviano attended Lynn University for a single season in 2016 after being released by the Blue Jays who drafted him in the 13th round in 2012. In that single season, Silviano hit a ridiculous .405/.528/.950 by way of 31 homers, a number which set both conference and team records and made him just the third player in Division II history to hit at least 30 long balls. In addition to his SLG, Silviano’s RBI (76) and total base tallies (190) also set Fighting Knights program records.

After hitting a subpar .212/.281/.449 while manning backstop in his first season with the organization, the Marlins gave Silviano the promotion from A to A+ and a positional switch from catcher to DH in order to focus on his offensive game. That season, the switch proved to be productive as Silviano paced the Hammerheads and placed third in the Florida State League in homers with 13. Additionally, his .172 ISO placed fourth in the league’s ranks. However this also came while Silviano had the 15th lowest BB/K in the league at 0.29, giving the Marlins reason to hold Silviano back from a promotion.

So far this season, there is very little holding Silviano back from a seemingly destined call upstate to Jacksonville. A .281/.363/.491, 12 HR first half hitter and owner of the league’s fourth best SLG and fifth most homers, Silviano has also tempered his free swing and become an 11.5 BB% presence.

Though he is another late arrival due to some early career hindrances based on a lack of confidence by a knee-jerky organization that drafted him and cut him after just 247 plate appearances as an 18-and 19-year-old in rookie ball, the now 24-year-old is very much in the cusp of cracking the upper minors and eventually touching the Majors as at least a lefty power bat off the bench spot with the ceiling to share starts as a righty-mashing platoon option at first base. So far in his career as a Marlins’ affiliated player, Silviano is hitting .277 with 29 homers against opposite side hurlers. This year, his slash line vs righties reads .305/.379/.584.

2B Eric Campbell
.321/.436/.455, 24 XBH, 57 RBI, 54/53 K/BB

A New York Mets’ 2008 8th round pick after a .306/.391/.448 career at Boston College, Campbell rose through the Mets’ Minor League ranks, the standout seasons being a .306/.369/.467 year between A+ and AA in 2010 and a .314/.435/.475 AAA season in 2014 before he made it to the majors for the first time that same season. In his first 85 MLB games, Campbell hit a respectable .263/.322/.358. A season later, Campbell made the Mets squad out of spring training only to manage a meager .197/.312/.295 line over 71 games before being sent back to AAA. Prior to hitting .363/.493/.593 for the rest of that season, Campbell earned a second straight Opening Day roster spot for the Mets in 2016 only to hit .173/.287/.227 in 40 games that year. Campbell spent most of that season hitting .301/.390/.447 in AAA

After spending a season abroad in Japan, Campbell returns to the MLB ranks hoping to shake the audacious title of AAAA fodder. So far this season, he appears to be a step closer to accomplishing that feat. He has done so by making himself nearly impossible to not promote via exceptional offensive output. A Triple A All-Star starter, Campbell hit .326/.429/.468 in the first half, marks which ranked 9th, 6th and 31st in the PCL. Campbell’s current .891 OPS ranks 13th.

With MLB experience and good positional flexibility and eligibility at first, second, third and in left field, it’s easy to believe the Marlins will give Campbell another chance in the majors ahead of calling up their young prospects who they have no reason to rush. Look for Campbell to pull on a Marlins jersey very shortly after the trade deadline.

3B Cristhian Adames
.264/.315/.366, 20 XBH, 38 RBI

A Marlins’ free agent depth signing at the beginning of the year, Adames impressed this spring in extended action, hitting .333/.381/.513 with five doubles, a triple and an RBI before being assigned to AAA in favor of Yadiel Rivera, the final spot on the bench, to begin the season.

While Rivera has gotten a much longer leash than originally thought and used it to hit a very unappealing .198/.317/.248 while playing -1 DRS overall defense (though he has been rather good at shortstop, posting a +3 mark in that respect), Adames is hitting .262/.315/.366 with 20 XBHs, 34 RBI and a 46/24 K/BB along with a .970+ FPCT across three different infield positions.

While it’s taken this long for Adames to get another shot in the pros, it may not take him much longer. Look for Adames to get a look as a switch-hitting bench option sometime early in the second half.

SS Jose Devers
.272/.308/.339, 16 XBH, 21 RBI

Despite being the youngest guy to crack these rankings as well as the youngest member of the Greensboro Grasshoppers after he skipped rookie ball, Jose Devers has been one of the best and brightest stories to grace the system this season.

Another organizational player with a preceding pro pedigree in being the brother of Red Sox’ standout Rafael Devers, the Marlins acquired the Jose Devers of the Dominican in the Giancarlo Stanton trade with the Yankees. A native of Somana, DR, Jose hit .245/.336/.342 in his age 16-17-year-old seasons that marked the beginning of his pro career.

In his inaugural season with the Marlins’ organization, though he has shown that he still has room for growth in terms of strike zone knowledge by recording a 3.28 K/BB, Devers has already begun to exhibit his lauded raw elite bat speed by hitting to a .272 BA. He’s also enjoyed good success on the base paths where he is 11/16 in stolen base attempts.

A kid who has been on base in 26 of his last 29 games while also exhibiting a .973 fielding percentage via the same great speed that allows him on-base success, a fantastic first read to the ball off the bat and a flashy glove, Devers is the dark-horse candidate to become the best piece of the return for Giancarlo Stanton.

While the Marlins will undoubtedly take it easy with the kid’s progression up the ranks, we expect his name to be a mainstay among the top prospect ranks as a for-average shortstop with above average defense for the foreseeable future.

LF Cameron Baranek
.278/.341/.390, 5 HR, 11 XBH, 22 RBI

In enjoying his fantastic first half this season, second year Marlin Cameron Baranek is not only making a name for himself, he’s gaining his alma matter some deserved recognition. Miami’s ninth round selection last year, Baranek is the first ever MLB draftee from Hope International College in central California. However, that’s far from the first “first” Baranek recorded for the brand new Hope International baseball program.

The transfer from nearby Santa Ana college earned his Draft honor by setting multiple club records in his single season with HIU in its sophomore season including BA (.364), homers (14) and steals (20), flashing a five-tool skillset. In so doing, Cameron led the school to 35 wins and its first Conference title. After the season, Baranek was named the the Royals’ first NIAA All-American.

Despite playing just one season for the Royals, Baranek will forever remain a pioneering member of the HIU baseball family.

What had been potentially most impressive about what Baranek was able to accomplish in his amateur days was the fact that he was able to succeed and realize his dream of becoming a pro despite not only coming from a very young and virtually unknown pedigree but that he was able to overcome a laundry list’s worth of injuries sustained since he began high school. Since the age of 17, Baranek underwent surgery to repair three different parts of his body.

Still, he was able to stand tall (albeit on a surgically repaired knee and ankle) on June 14, 2017, as a professional baseball player. It’s hard to believe Baranek’s grind, drive and incredible ability to stay positive was lost on the Marlins.

That same mindset has remained in Baranek this far in his young career as a professional.

Prior to being drafted, Baranek broke into the professional ranks by hitting .234/.306/.351 with 9 XBH and his team’s second best RBI total (22) for the GCL Marlins last season, the 22-year-old impressed in camp and earned his initial call to full season ball to begin 2018.

This year, Baranek became one of the best hitters in the South Atlantic League, hitting .420/.453/.580 in June. Among hitters with at least 90 ABs, Baranek’s .319 overall BA ranks 9th, his .400 OBP ranks 4th and his .479 SLG ranks 16th. His wrC+ of 150 ranks 7th.

On June 20, Baranek received his call-up to A+ Jupiter and built on a 21-game on base streak by reaching in his first four games, turning it into a 25-game on base streak. He had a 30/81 with 11 walks. Over that span, Baranek had a .445 OBP.

A lefty hitter with a bit of surprising pop behind his 5’10”, 197 pound frame and quick bat speed propelled by a flashy cut with uppercut action and a strong raw throwing arm that stands to get better with improved accuracy, Baranek is a 20+ 9th round boom-or-bust draftee that should be fast-tracked through the minors. If his career thus far is any indication, he should end up on the right side of that equation as at least a fourth outfielder and/or lefty threat off the bench with the potential for more.

Chalk Baranek up to reach a ceiling of that of Nick Markakis with a more moderately adjusted expectation around Raul Ibanez, a career .801 OPS.

CF Brian Miller
.320/.359/.398, 22 XBH, 27/35 SB/CS, 42/20 K/BB

Like you didn’t know this was coming.

Fish On The Farm’s 2017 Minor League Player Of The year last season after hitting .322/.384/.416 in his first 57 pro games with Greensboro (he skipped through the GCL and short season), Miller began 2018 in A+ Jupiter. There, Miller continued to flaunt his for-average, gap thirsty swing and above-average speed, hitting .324 with 13 doubles and 19 steals in 25 attempts before getting the call to AA Jacksonville.

In his first 21 games for the Shrimp, Miller has answered the promotion to AA by hitting .321/.358/.417 in 21 games, reaching base in each of them and hitting in all but one of them. In other words, Miller has taken the toughest jump in the minors to take by adjusting immediately and continuing to be one of the most productive prospects in the organization despite his career being just 140 games old.

On top of good strike zone knowledge and vision, Miller’s calling card is his extremely quick bat speed that he uses to reach all parts of the plate and go to all fields. From there, Miller puts arguably the best of his four tools to work for him, his speed, to create runs. In 97 trips on base for the Hammerheads this year, Miller swiped 19 bags in 25 attempts. Trouble catching Miller has proven to be just as difficult for upper minors catchers as he has stolen seven in his first nine tries. Overall this season, Miller has an audacious 78% SB success rate (21/27).

Miller’s speed serves him just as well in the field where he owns a 2.00 range factor and .988 fielding percentage this season. Though he projects most advantageously as a center fielder Miller’s jets and good reads off the bat provide him with positional flexibility anywhere in the outfield.

A top of the order for-average on base threat who has hit at each of the three levels he’s played at in an extremely young Minor League career but one in which he has disallowed the Marlins from taking a watchful eye off of him as well as disallowing the organization from holding him back to repeat any level, we are penciling Miller in as a potential September call-up and as a shoe-in to get a long, extended look next year in Spring Training. With only one spot in next year’s Marlins’ outfield currently occupied (Lewis Brinson), Miller is the rest of the season doing exactly what he’s done his entire minor league career and a strong spring showing away from potentially appearing in an MLB Opening Day lineup. To do what Brian has done in such a short amount of time on the pro circuit can only be described in one word: wow.

RF Austin Dean
.326/.392/.472, 8 HR, 25 XBH, 49 RBI, 44/28 K/BB

From the lowest of lows to the highest of highs.

Not far from this time last season, long time Marlins farm hand drafted in 2012 Austin Dean began his way back from a knee injury suffered seven games in to the 2017 season when he collided with a teammate in the outfield. After a .283/.325/.415 second half that year, a 100% healthy Dean returned to Jacksonville this season and in his third season’s worth of work for Jacksonville, proceeded to make Southern League history.

By hitting .420/.466/.654 in the first month of the season, Dean held the best overall batting line in the month of April since at least the year 2005. Following that showing in which Dean hit in 17/22 games and at one point had a 10 game hit streak, he was promoted to AAA New Orleans. The call-up came just over one month shy of the anniversary of Dean’s return from the most serious injury of his career which occurred in the same outfield he commanded this season. Talk about coming back with a vengeance.

What is more is that Dean’s success this year hasn’t been exclusive to the AA ranks. Instead, he is exhibiting the same well balanced and timed shortened line drive swing, the same knowledge of the strike zone and the same improved bat speed and plate coverage via the same better extension across the dish to become one of the better for-average and on-base threats at the highest level of Minor League Ball. Through 64 games, his .299 BA ranks 20th and his .373 BA ranks 23rd in the Pacific Coast League.

While it may have taken him six years, almost a year and a half total of which was spent on the shelf with various ailments, it looks as though Dean has finally realized the potential the Marlins saw in him when they drafted him out of a Texas high school in 2012. A .294/.367/.409 hitter against the best of what MiLB has to offer this year, Dean is a shoe-in for a September (if not earlier) call and a lead candidate to win a roster spot next season.

SP Nick Neidert
105.1 IP, 2.91 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 110/23 K/BB, .248 BAA

Nick Neidert was the main return piece in the trade with Seattle for Dee Gordon. In his first 17 games as an organizational Marlin, the 21-year-old has proven why he was such a sought after commodity.

Neidert, a second round pick by the Mariners out of Suwannee High in Georgia, impressed in his first two seasons as a pro, holding down a 2.50 ERA by way of a sub-1 WHIP and 5.15 K/BB before being promoted to AA late last year. comes back to his home coast.

After getting a taste of the competition in the upper minors, Neidert has begun to dominate it this season, proving his success wasn’t exclusive to A ball. In 17 games, the-22-year has held down a 2.91 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP, marks which rank 3rd and 5th in the Southern League.

Neidert’s deception starts in his slow and deliberate delivery which he then speeds up at his moment of propulsion off his back foot. The sudden change in motion and acceleration makes Neidert one of the most difficult pitchers in the system to time and leads to a multitude of swings and misses and at the very least, off-balance contact when he’s hitting spots. His stuff consists of a low-mid-90s fastball with sink as well as arm-side run, a shapely changeup with good running fade and a 12-6 curve with sharp downward action. He commands all three pitches extremely well down in the zone and can spot on both corners.

Already the owner of a more than solid three pitch repertoire and great command via repeatable mechanics that deceive, Neidert stands to get a September call, fill out even more with pro coaching and be a mainstay among the top three in the Marlins’ rotation in 2019 and beyond.