As a league average minor league player just starting his professional career, you will usually find yourself attending extended spring training before being assigned to a short season league in which you will gain your bearings, learn how to adhere to a professional regimen on and off the field and hone your raw skills. However, Eury Perez is far from the league average minor league player. Four starts into his professional career, he’s proving why.
Born April 15th, 2003, Perez was a Marlins’ international signee out of the Dominican Republic as part of the 2019-20 selection period. At 18 years and 16 days, Perez is the youngest player in all of Minor League Baseball currently assigned to a roster. Challenged that highly at such a young age, one would expect him to be understandably struggling through his first four starts. However, Eury has done quite the opposite of struggle. Through four starts and 14 innings pitched, the 6’8”, 200 pounder is among the best pitchers in the Low A Southeast league. Among hurlers with at least 10 IP, his 1.29 ERA ranks 11th and his 0.93 WHIP ranks 13th. He’s giving up hits at a lowly .163 clip which ranks 17th in the league and his 25.5% K/BB% ranks 21st.
So how has such a youthful pitcher playing in his first ever affiliated games against average competition over three years older than him gotten off to such a successful start?
Perez is 6’8” tall, putting him in the 90th+ percentile of all affiliated pitchers when it comes to height. Here is his release point mapping from three of his four starts so far:
A young man who knows his body well, Perez throws from an extremely high release point and planes downhill with natural ease, giving hitters a very tough time picking up the ball out of his hand and timing the break on his pitches, each of which moves at an above average rate.
Velocity and separation
Despite his immature wiry 200 pound weight range, Perez is already able to pump his stuff up into the upper 90s. Through his first four starts this season, he’s ticked up as high as 98. He throws the fastball two different ways, with two and four seams. The two seamer shows diving action while the four seamer has natural sink to the lower half. The only issue with Eury’s fastball velo is the fact that it has waned as he gets deeper into his starts, but that is something that should work itself out as his body matures.
It’s one thing to have a good fastball and good velo but it’s another to be able to provide different looks with your secondary pitches. Perez does that and more. On top of above average spin rates on each of his four pitches, Perez provides a variety of speeds, the lowest being on his 75-78 mph curveball followed by his 84-86 mph slider and a 88-90 mph power slider.
We’ve mentioned movement and spin rate a few times already and for good reason. As many boxes as he checks, this might be Eury’s best attribute. Let’s take a look at this year’s MLB RPM averages up against where Perez is with each pitch:
Averge MLB sinker: 2193
Average MLB four seamer: 2305
Average MLB curveball: 2499
Perez: nearly 2600
Clearly, Perez is putting all of the attributes we talked about previously to work here: big hands and fingers, a shortened distance to the plate, a high arm slot and familiarity with his body leading to the ability to repeat. Eury doesn’t throw anything lightly; everything jumps on hitters and dives away from where they think the ball is going. This movement gives Eury the ability to challenge with every single pitch he throws.
It’s hard to find many even in such youth as Perez currently finds himself, but there are a couple of things he needs to clean up as he traverses the minor leagues.
As good as Eury has been and should continue to be in the lower minors at his current level of development, he will need to clean up his effort pitch to pitch to succeed as he proceeds up the minor league ladder.
As good as Perez’s arsenal is, he shows the tendency to put more effort into his fastballs and less into his breaking pitches. If this continues, major league caliber hitters will see it in his film and notice it on the mound which would lead to Eury tipping his pitches.
The good news: he’s 18. Already showing good feel for three of his four pitches, Eury has plenty of time to learn how to match effort and arm speed on each of his offerings. While he is still raw in terms of repeatability, there is plenty of time for him to work it out and he has enough in his aforementioned tools to be effective while doing so, especially at the lower levels.
If Perez has one average pitch, it’s the changeup. While he can show above average spin rates with it and the ability to place it well, the consistency is lacking. He shows the ability to spin it in the 1800 RPM range, giving it both vertical drop and horizontal fade but it will also flatten out to the 1600s, making it a hit table offspeed offering. Moreover, his control and overall feel for the pitch is also very inconsistent.
That being said, the flashes Eury shows with it are extremely encouraging, especially for a pitcher his age. If there is one system who can be trusted to develop the changeup, it’s the Marlins’ system which has turned mere blueprints into effective weapons for the likes of Trevor Rogers, Braxton Garrett, Elieser Hernandez and others. With a better blueprint than some of those names before the development team got a hold of them and insurmountable time on his side, Perez should more than be able to build that offering into a plus pitch.
All in all, Eury Perez already checks many boxes with just a few holes and all the time in the world to correct them. For a teenager making his pro debut while being challenged to full season ball, the Marlins could not have asked for much more than what he has done so far. The organization is going to keep close tabs on this kid. You should, too.
In the darkest of times for baseball (including Marlins baseball) — the times in which the game we love cannot be contested — we will look back on brighter ones, namely the brightest of occasions for each Marlins’ Minor League affiliate. Presenting our All-Time Baby Fish Teams!
We begin with the Jupiter Hammerheads, Miami’s A+ affiliate since 2003. The Hammerheads compete in the spring training home of the Marlins, Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium which was erected in the township of Abacoa in 1998. One of the busiest complexes in the sports world, the Marlins share the facility with the St. Louis Cardinals.
C J.T. Realmuto
A+ Stats (2012) .256/.319/.345, 8 HR, 24 XBH, 46 RBI, 64/37 K/BB; 71/40 SB/CS (36% CS%)
Realmuto was a Marlins’ prep pick in the 2010 Draft out of Carl Albert High in Oklahoma. His single season in Jupiter came in 2012 when he nearly mirrored his numbers from the year previous in the A Greensboro. Though his average and OBP numbers fell, those factors could be blamed on a lower BABIP figure (.279 vs .341) produced by the Florida State League. However, the fact he matched his totals in steals and saw his K rate fall from 20.5% to 12.8% while throwing out 37% of his potential base stealers made Realmuto’s single season in Jupiter an overall success and an important stepping stone.
After two full years in AA including a .299/.369/.461, 8 HR, 18 SB, 132 wRC+, 33/21 SB/CS (39 CS%) showing in 97 games in 2014, Realmuto made his MLB debut that September. In 2016, Realmuto hit 303/.343/.408, marks which ranked fourth, 12th and 13th among MLB catchers with at least 200 PAs. His 39% CS% from behind the plate ranked fourth in baseball. Come 2018, by way of a .310/.365/.536 first half, J.T. was selected to his All-Star Game. Overall that year, J.T. hit .277/.340/.484. His 126 wRC+ and 4.9 WAR solidified his position as one of MLB’s premier backstops.
Following that season, Realmuto was traded to Philadelphia in return for new MLB catcher Jorge Alfaro, the Marlins’ now top prospect, Sixto Sanchez and another member of the top 30 organizational prospects club Will Stewart. In his inaugural season with the Phillies, Realmuto hit a career high 25 homers, fourth among backstops in baseball. He paced the power with a .275 BA, fifth in MLB. J.T. Was nearly perfect behind the plate, throwing out 43 of 49 potential base stealers. All of this equated to a 5.7 WAR. In other words, he wasn’t just in the equation for it, he was baseball’s best catcher.
And it all ran through Jupiter.
1B Gaby Sanchez
Jupiter Stats (2006/07) – .269/.364/.422, 10 HR, 57 XBH, 77 RBI, 86/76 K/BB
A hometown kid, Sanchez was a Marlins’ fourth round draft pick out of the University Of Miami. In a two year career with the Hurricanes, the Brito High grad hit .322/.386/.493 with 14 homers, 52 XBH and 103 RBI. After a .235/.282/.356, 2 HR, 11 XBH 32 game showing in the Cape, his first action with a wood bat, the Marlins selected Sanchez in the fourth round of the 2005 MLB Draft.
A solid collegiate career parlayed right into the beginning of a fantastic minor league career. In his first professional season, Sanchez won the New York Penn Leage batting title by hitting .355 and outhitting the likes of Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Jed Lowrie. His .401 OBP ranked seventh in the league and his .888 OPS placed eighth. He was also the Top Star in the NYPL All-Star Game.
While enjoying a(bother) spectacular .317/.447/.603 All-Star campaign at the A level in 2006, Sanchez had his season derailed due to injury, but he was able to make it back in time to pull on a Hammerheads uniform for the first time at the end of the year. Following that 16-game moonlighting performance and a .279/.379/.396 29-game regrouping in the Arizona Fall League, Sanchez spent all of 2007 in Jupiter. Coming off injury he played in 133 of 140 games, second most in the Florida State League and a welcome sight for the organization to see from its fourth-ranked prospect. He slashed .279/.369/.433 and appeared on a multitude of stat leaderboards: His 132 hits were 10th most in the league, his 40 doubles and 89 runs scored were each second most on the circuit, his 52 XBHs were fifth most, his 64 ranked seventh and his 1.16 K/BB ratio was fourth best.
A year later, Gaby made the jump to AA, a leap that didn’t hamper his production one bit. In 133 games (tied for third most) as a Carolina Mudcat, he hit .314/.404/.513/.917, marks which ranked ninth, seventh, eighth and sixth in the Southern League while he went up against the likes of Tommy Hanson, James Houser and Wade Davis. He paced the league in doubles with 42 while his 150 hits were third most on circuit, his 245 bases were second most, his career high 17 homers were seventh most and his 92 RBIs ranked second, making him an easy selection for a September call-up to the big leagues.
The highly durable and extremely patient and regular XBH threatening corner infielder went on to enjoy a .260/.334/.422, 43 homer, 84 double career as a Marlin which included an All-Star selection in 2010. The hometown kid is still a regular fixture on broadcasts and in charitable community work inside the community, making him a continuous face of the franchise.
And it all ran through Jupiter.
2B Austin Nola
Jupiter Stats (2013) – 124 G, .232/.331/.308, 26 XBH, 40 RBI, 92/54 K/BB
Nola is a four-year graduate out of LSU and, by way of a .296/.387/.425, 128/115 K/BB career stat line, the earner of a fifth round selection by the Marlins in the 2005 MLB Draft.
Nola spent his second year as a pro in Jupiter in his 2013 where he hit .232/.331/.308. The season served as a lead-in to a trio of solid campaigns in the upper levels of the minors. From 2014-2016, Nola hit .253 with a .334 OBP. He added some power to his game in the last of those years, smacking a career high six homers and 23 doubles for the New Orleans Zephyrs. The .261/.308/.376 campaign placed the middle infielder on the verge of his MLB debut. However with no real future with the club on the middle infield due to being blocked by Dee Gordon and Adeiny Hechavarria with JT Riddle and Derek Dietrich coming behind them, the Marlins chose to hold Nola back and attempt to transition him to one of the thinnest positions in the organization, catcher.
The experiment produced positive results as Nola proved his versatility had little boundaries. In 83 games and 629.1 innings behind the plate between AA and AAA in 2018, he threw out 27 of 38 potential base stealers. Nola’s bat struggled a bit through his learning process on the other side of the ball as he slashed just .233/.330/.311, but it came back in 2018 when he put it all together, hitting .279/.370/.376 and tossing out 37% of his runners.
At the end of 2018, Nola elected for free agency from the Marlins who had DFA’d and outrighted him earlier that year. A month later, he picked up with the Mariners who invited him to spring training. After just three months with the Tacoma Rainers in which he posted a booming .327/.415/.520 slash line, the super-est of super utility men finally made his MLB debut at age 30. While spending time at literally every position, Nola saw his offensive numbers translate as advantageously as possible to the bigs. In 79 games, he hit .269/.342/.454 with 10 homers, 23 XBH and a 63/23 K/BB. An extremely easy guy to get into games and a catalyst for giving guys days off, the durable 6’, 200 pounder who oozes “team player” heads into 2020 as the primary bench piece for Seattle.
And it all ran through Jupiter.
3B Brian Anderson
Jupiter Stats (2015/2016) – 173 G, .253/.325/.367, 11 HR, 49 XBH, 87 RBI, 147/62 K/BB
Anderson is the Marlins’ 2014 third rounder out of the University of Arkansas where he was a .327/.424/.493 hitter over the course of three seasons. At that time, one sports publication had this to say about him:
“He’s not an elite talent, which isn’t good for a player who projects to be a second baseman, but he has done nothing but perform in the SEC for three years. The 21-year-old hit a stellar .325/.448/.488 as a sophomore in 2013 and has followed that up with a career-high six homers this season. The holes in his game are pronounced, limiting his upside, but he has enough talent to suggest he can turn into a capable middle infielder/utility player in the future.”
Five years later, Anderson became one of baseball’s a top five third basemen.
Things started pretty primitively for Anderson in his first full big league season in Jupiter in 2015. Just breaking in to wood bat leagues in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League, Andy was humbled by a .235/.304/.340 slash line, made possible by a .287 BABIP and 20.6% K rate. However, it didn’t take Anderson long to adjust and continue developing as the Marlins’ top prospect. Back in a Hammerheads jersey to begin 2016, Brian slashed .302/.377/.440 while shrinking his K rate by more than two full points (18.4%), quickly earning him the call to AA Jacksonville after just 49 games. In 86 games with the newly named Jumbo Shrimp, he hit .243/.330/.359.
After hitting .273/.360/.506 and pacing the Arizona Fall League in homers with five, Anderson once again grew into his competition level as he returned to Jacksonville to hit .251/.341/.450 with 14 bombs and a 71/36 K/BB. On July 15, Andy got his call to AAA. Taking his final step towards his big league debut, he absolutely destroyed the hitters league, slashing .339/.416/.602 with eight homers in 33 games.
Anderson made his MLB debut on September 1st, 2017 and he has yet to look back. In 307 games, he’s hit .267/.349/.425 with 31 homers. Twenty of those long balls came last season, a .261/.342/.468 campaign. He’s one of eight MLB third basemen to post a WAR of at least 3 in each of his past two seasons, putting him in elite company. Entering his age 27 season with the most talented squad he’s ever had surrounding him, many have the .260+ hitter in each of his first three seasons tabbed to take yet another jump in 2020. With even bigger talent on the way, he is the cornerstone of the Marlins’ rebuild.
And it all ran through Jupiter.
SS J.T. Riddle
Jupiter Stats (2015) – 45 G, .270/.311/.314, 7 XBH, 29/11 K/BB
Riddle is one of many University of Kentucky draft selections by the previous regime. Attending from 2011-2013, he enjoyed a .283/.358/.384 career in the SEC. He also added a .232/.278/.344, two homer, 10 XBH showing in the Cape to his draft resume. The Marlins selected the swift-fielding, versatile shortstop in the fifth round of the 2013 Draft.
After hitting .252/.296/.356 between Batavia and Greensboro, Riddle joined the Hammerheads to begin 2015. Due to being pushed rather quickly due to age and the thinning of the shortstop position within the organization, Riddle’s stay in Jupiter was short. Short but pretty sweet. In 45 games, J.T. solidified himself as a for-average threatening defensive wizard. He hit .270 and posted a .976 fielding percentage by way of a 4.80 range factor at baseball’s most demanding position.
In late June, Riddle made the jump up to Jacksonville. In an equal amount of games (minus one) and nearly an equal amount of ABs, Riddle’s skill set in a more neutral hitting environment earned him a .289/.323/.422 slash line with five homers and 12 XBH. In more than twice as many games with the Suns in 2016, Riddle posted similar results: .278/.332/.368.
Following a 31-game matinee showing in AAA at the end of 2016, Riddle cracked the Marlins’ roster in 2017 and his MLB debut on Opening Day. Injuries would mar the rest of Riddle’s career with the Marlins. Due to left biceps tendinitis, his inaugural stint in the bigs lasted just 70 games. A season later, right shoulder tendinitis limited him to 102 MLB games. Last season, Riddle only played 85 total games due to a right forearm strain.
Riddle was DFA’d by the Marlins in December and elected free agency. He was signed by the Pirates on January 31st. All of his recent setbacks aside, the versatile infielder with a twitchy bat has a good chance to play a big role for a club in the nascent stages of a rebuild this coming season and beyond.
And it all ran through Jupiter.
LF Miguel Cabrera
Jupiter Stats (2002) – 124 G, .274/.333/.421, 9 HR, 52 XBH, 75 RBI, 85/38 K/BB
A member of Marlins’ Mount Rushmore and quite possibly the first Fish to enter the Hall Of Fame likely as a first ballot selection, Miguel Cabrera was built for greatness.
A Marlins’ international signee at age 17 out of his high school in Venezuela, the man who would come to be affectionately known as ‘Miggy’ had a brief stay in the minor leagues. His longest visit was to Jupiter in 2002 where he hit .274/.333/.421 in 124 games. Playing against competition 3 1/2 years his elder, Cabrera paced the team in doubles with 43. He also placed third on the squad in batting average and fourth in slugging.
In 2003, Cabrera was assigned to AA. After 69 games worth of a .365/.429/.609 slash line with 10 homers and 42 XBH, the Marlins had seen enough of Miggy in the minors and called him up to the majors. His career was 368 games old. As the youngest player in all of Major League Baseball, Cabrera hit .268/.325/.468. It’s clear and present: without Miggy, there would’ve been no Marlins 2003 World Series championship. The baby faced infielder turned in a monstrous in the month of September, slashing .308/.370/.505 and provided some of the playoffs’ biggest moments. He went 4-5 in the NLDS series clinching victory against the Giants, he hit a grand slam in the NLCS clincher against the Cubs and he homered in the Marlins’ game four winner against the Yankees helping them tie the series and berthing a three-game title clinching win streak.
A two time league MVP, a Triple Crown winner, an eleven time All-Star and a 69.5 WAR figure, Cabrera’s accomplishments and talent measure up with some of the greatest of all time.
And it all ran through Jupiter.
CF Christian Yelich
Jupiter Stats (2012) – 106 G, .330/.404/.519, 12 HR, 46 XBH, 48 RBI, 85/49 K/BB, 20/6 SB/CS
Two words describe Christian Stephen Yelich: baseball prodigy.
For the .416/.532/.730 prep hitter, playing baseball in Miami was a foregone conclusion. Yelich was first recognized by another the Hurricanes to which he made a verbal commitment for a full-ride scholarship. Then, in the winter of 2010, the Marlins called Yelich’s name in the first round with the 23rd overall pick. Yelich weighed his options for a while until finally on August 17th, just before the amateur signing period ended, the two agreed on an entry level contract to which a $1.7 million bonus was attached.
Yelich made the Marlins’ investment pay off almost immediately. Following a 12 game .362/400/.468 preview between the GCL and Greensboro to end his 2010 calendar year, he hit .312/.388/.484 for the 2011 Grasshoppers, placing 17th in the South Atlantic League in BA, 19th in OBP and 29th in slugging. Among his countable stats, Yelich’s 144 total hits ranked third, his 32 doubles ranked seventh, his 77 RBIs ranked 10th and his 15 homers ranked 16th.
Yelich spent his single full season with the Hammerheads in 2012. For a 20-year-old playing against guys three years his elder in the Florida State League, he posted an inconceivable .330/.404/.519 slash line. The league’s eight youngest player, those figures placed seventh, seventh and fourth league wide. His 12 homers also placed seventh and his 29 doubles ranked fifth. Yelich rounded out an audacious 2012 season by hitting .301/.343/.387 in the Arizona Fall League.
Yelich kicked off 2013 in Jacksonville. He hit .280/.365/.518 and was on pace for 25+ homers before the Marlins gave him his first big league call. The translation couldn’t have been better as Yelich lived out the rest of the year with the Marlins, hitting .288/.370/.396 with his first four big league homers, 17 XBH, 10 steals and 66/31 K/BB, preluding his four-of-five tool skill set.
A .290/.369/.432 hitter as a Marlin, an NL MVP in 2018 and an NL Triple Crown hitter last year, Yelich is well on his way to a Hall Of Fame worthy career.
And it all ran through Jupiter.
RF Giancarlo Stanton
Jupiter Stats (2009) – 50 G, .294/.390/.578, 12 HR, 24 XBH, 45/28 K/BB
If you didn’t appreciate him at his Michael, you don’t deserve him at his Giancarlo.
Drafted out of Notre Dame High School in Southern California in 2007, Giancarlo Cruz Michael Stanton came to the bigs as a tall but lanky 6’5”, 190 pounder. A three sport athlete in high school, there was never any doubt about his natural raw athleticism or the fact that his physical frame would grow to match it. The Marlins were the first suitor to come calling for Stanton’s services, selecting him in the second round of the 2007 Draft, 76th overall. The club saw enough in Stanton’s projection to overwhelm him with a $475,000 bonus, well over slot value. Giancarlo forwent both football and basketball and a commitment to USC and put pen to paper.
A year later, Stanton jumped right into his first full pro season as a member of the Greensboro Grasshoppers. In 125 games, he hit .293/.381/.611. His 39 homers not only led the South Atlantic League, the total was one shy of the all-time league record set by Russell Branyan in 1996. Stanton’s average competition was nearly four years his elder.
Stanton began 2009 with the Hammerheads but he quickly proved he need not spend any more time in A ball. In 50 games, he hit .294/.390/.578 with 12 homers. On pace for 33 homers with the Florida State League’s second best slugging percentage, tenth best OBP and 22nd highest BA, he was given the call to AA. 132 games worth of .263/.365/.562, 37 HR, 105 RBI ball later, Stanton received his first MLB call.
From there, the rest is well-known history. After hitting 22 homers in 100 games in his rookie year, Stanton led the Marlins in homers every year from 2011-2017. In four of those seasons, he hit 30+, including his final season in Miami when he led all of baseball with 59 long balls and won the National League MVP Award and in 2014 when hit 37, most in the NL by way of a league-best .555 SLG (he barely lost the MVP award to Clayton Kershaw). All in all, Stanton smacked 267 career homers for the Marlins, a club record that will be tough to break. Giancarlo also holds Marlins career records in WAR (35.7), slugging percentage (.554), total bases (1983), RBI (672) and runs created (722).
As part of the Marlins’ very busy 2018 offseason, Stanton was shipped to the Yankees in exchange for Jose Devers and Jorge Guzman, both of whom are top 30 prospects for Miami. Following another a-typical season (.266/.343/.509, 38 HR, 100 RBI) which helped New York to a 100 win season and an ALDS berth, Stanton fell on hard times last year. Battling a multitude of injuries, he only appeared in 18 games. However, at 100%, Stanton stands tall as one of the most dangerous men in all of baseball and he has done so from a very young age. As long as he can stay on the field, he is well on his way to a Hall Of Fame worthy career.
And it all ran through Jupiter.
SP Jose Fernandez
Jupiter Stats (2012) – 11 G, 7-1, 55 IP, 1.96 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 59/17 K/BB
Jose Fernandez never played a day in his life against competition younger than himself. However, whenever he was on the mound wherever it was, he dominated. He was king.
Jose’s story is the stuff of legend, both on and off the field. From how he saved his mother while defecting from Cuba to how he commanded the high school ranks and led his team to state championships in each his sophomore and senior years (the latter in which he went 13-1 with a 2.35 ERA and threw two no-hitters), Fernandez was a hero in the state of Florida before his career with the Marlins was ever a sure thing.
Miami selected Fernandez with their first round pick, 14th overall in the 2011 Draft. After single games with the GCL Marlins and short season Jamestown, Jose was assigned to A Greensboro to begin his first full season in 2012. In 79 innings as a Grasshopper, Fernandez was undefeated going 7-0 with a 1.82 ERA and 0.873 WHIP, marks which ranked second lowest and absolute lowest respectively in the South Atlantic League. Additionally, despite spending just 14 games in Greensboro, Jose’s 99 strikeouts were 22nd most in the league.
Jose’s tenure with the Hammerheads came in the second half of that same season. And the results kept coming. In 55 IP: 7-1, 1.96 ERA (eighth in the Florida State League), 1.00 WHIP (10th in the league) and a 3.47 K/BB ratio (13th on the circuit).
Having never pitched above A ball, the Marlins saw enough in Jose’s ability to give him the call straight to the pros to begin 2013. As the youngest pitcher in the National League, Jose went 12-6 with a 2.19 ERA second only to Clayton Kershaw. His 0.979 WHIP ranked third in his league and his 187 Ks ranked 14th. At season’s end, Fernandez was resoundingly named the NL Rookie Of The Year.
Injury limited the next two years of Jose’s career as he made just 19 starts between 2014 and 2015. Then, Fernandez came back with a vengeance. In 2016, by way of a 107.1 IP, 2.52 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 154/31 K/BB line, José earned his second All-Star selection. On September 20th of that year, Jose mowed straight through the eventual NL East division winning Washington Nationals, allowing just three bass runners (all hits) and striking out 12 in eight innings. Number 16 picked up his 16th victory making him just the seventh pitcher in Marlins history to win as many games.
Four days after the aforementioned outing against Washington, Jose, who had thrown 102+ pitches in each of his last six starts, learned that his final start of the season would be pushed back. That night, he ventured out with friends aboard his yacht, the aptly named “Kaught Looking”. During the early morning hours of September 25th, the craft hit a rock jetty just off the coast of Miami Beach. All three people aboard were killed.
Set to enter free agency for the first time in his career that offseason with a baby on the way, Jose was flying high. Today, he flies even higher albeit on a different plane of existence. It seems ironically cruel to think that the same waters that brought us the gift of Jose Fernandez, the same ocean that he breathed life into, took his life from his family and from us, his extended family. However, everyone who came to know José can take solace in the fact that in filling every single one of his days in America with as much joy and happiness as possible and making it a point to impart his infectious smile unto others, Jose Fernandez lived a lifetime. In just four short big league seasons, Fernandez — the Marlins’ all-time win/loss percentage leader (.692) via the club’s eighth most total strikeouts (581) — built a legacy that is cemented outside of Marlins Park, a legacy that will live on forever.
And it all ran through Jupiter.
RP AJ Ramos
Jupiter Stats (2011) – 49 G, 50.2 IP, 25 SV, 1.78 ERA, 1.105 WHIP, 71/19 K/BB
There’s gold in that there arm.
Alejandro “AJ” Ramos in the MLB ranks wasn’t always a sure thing, especially after he underwent Tommy John in his junior year at Texas Tech in 2008. However, the Marlins looked through the health issue, the 5.53 ERA and the 1.54 WHIP and brought Ramos to the big leagues with their 21st round Draft selection in 2009. Immediately, Miami converted Ramos to a relief role exclusively.
With less pressure on both his arm and mind, Ramos fireballed his way through the minor league ranks. Following 92 innings worth of 32 saves via a 3.13 ERA, a 1.17 WHIP and a128/46 K/BB in his first 74 games against wood bats in 2009 and 2010, Ramos made the trip to Jupiter in 2011. There, he posted a 1.78 ERA and ranked third in the Florida State League in saves, successfully turning in 25 of 28 save opportunities.
Ramos got a final year in the minor league ranks on on 2012. He transitioned to AA like a champ. In 55 games and 68.2 IP, he posted a 1.44 ERA and converted 21 of 25 via a 89/21 K/BB. His .152 BAA was a career low marker.
AJ made his MLB debut as a September call up on the 4th of the month. He struck out all three batters he faced. The perfect inning was an equally perfect precursor to what became a 327.1 IP, 2.78 ERA, 1.228 WHIP, 379/173 K/BB, 92 SV six year career in Miami. He stands as the fourth-best closer in Marlins’ history via appearing in its third most games.
And it all ran through Jupiter.
To all who voted: thank you for your participation and assistance in our Twitter polls (@marlinsminors). We will hold our next series of polls in the coming week. The results will make up our All-Jacksonville squad.
Stay strong. Together, we will get through this.
With the turn of the tide for the Marlins franchise comes an influx of new talent on the shores of Jupiter, Florida. They come bearing jagged teeth that prove to get even sharper over these next five months.
The man overseeing that process will be former major leaguer Todd Pratt. Over his fourteen year career, the .251/.344/.398 is probably most remembered for this moment in the 1999 Division Series.
Prior to his playing career, Pratt embarked upon coaching in 2010 as the inaugural manager of the West Georgia Tech Golden Knights baseball team. After building the program up from club-level to Division I status, Pratt was named the school’s athletic director in 2011, a position he held through 2016. Pratt came to the Marlins in 2017 to coach the A Greensboro Grasshoppers. After two seasons there, he heads up the ladder to A+. Following Pratt to Jupiter this year are many of the young prospects Greensboro rostered last year. Joining the promotees will be a few new signees and prospects acquired via trade. Altogether, they make up a star-studded roster which holds 12 of the organization’s top 30 prospects, including four of the top ten. It is far and away the most talented roster Pratt has been responsible for. According to the skipper though, he is heading into the season with no weight on his shoulders.
“With all of the prospects, and I think there’s more prospects here than is being noted, you’d figure there would be a lot of pressure on the manager. I think it’s a pleasure to be he manager. I’ve had most of them before so I’m looking for them to have a good season, just playing the way they’re supposed to be playing,” Pratt said. “It is an honor to be able to lead a team that could be considered the future of the Marlins. I will use my 24 years of professional experience to keep the ship steady. My job is to get them ready daily and mentor them so they can become the player they and the Marlins want them to be.”
In moving from the single A to single A advanced ranks, Pratt will be tasked with guiding some of the Marlins’ top young talents to some of the biggest challenges they’ve faced in their careers. According to Todd, the toughest of those tests is being able to make positive adjustments as your opponents go through the same struggle. Coach Pratt says that is the biggest separator between ability at the A+ level.
“The big difference is the consistency of the talent. Players in high A have been around a couple of years professionally and know what it takes to grind everyday in a 140 game season. Players at this level are starting to learn they must make adjustments during the season as the opponents do as well. Scouting and analytics have come a long way since I played at this level so that needs to be taken into consideration as well.”
SS José Devers
CF Victor Victor Mesa
LF Tristan Pompey
1B Lazaro Alonso
3B James Nelson
DH Isael Soto
C Nick Fortes
RF Cameron Baranek
SS José Devers
2018 (A-A+) – .272/.313/.330, 16 XBH, 26 RBI, 47 R, 49/16 K/BB, 13/6 SB/CS
Devers is a 2016 Yankees’ international draft signee out of Somana, DR. After spending the first 11 games of his pro ball career in the DSL (.239/.255/.326), the 17-year-old transitioned stateside where he lived out the rest of his rookie season. In 42 games with the Yankees East Gulf Coast League squad, Devers hit .246/.359/.348 with a 21/18 K/BB and a 15/3 SB/CS. He also yarded his first career homer. Devers accomplished all of this against competition 2 1/2 years older than him.
Devers’ exceptional raw talent as well as his already mature speed and fielding prowess garnered the attention of Marlins scouts. Last winter, he was part of one of the biggest trades of the offseason, coming to the Fish in the Giancarlo Stanton swap.
Upon joining the Marlins as a viable but distant third piece to both Starlin Castro and Jorge Guzman, Devers was a more-than-solid for-average threat, hitting .273/.313/.332 in his first 85 games stateside. Those exports have allowed him to make the jump up to A+ this season. He will be competing in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League against competition nearly four years his elder. He is officially the youngest player on the circuit. Not only does Pratt feel Devers is up for that challenge, he has made the teenager his leadoff hitter to start the campaign.
Watching Devers this preseason, it isn’t difficult to recognize what the organization sees in Devers’ maturing natural abilities and maturing physical stature. After coming in to camp with at least 20 pounds of added muscle mass to his listed 155 pound stature, Devers has learned quickly how to put that weight to use. Approaching from a straight-away stance from the back of the box, his slashy singles swing is beginning to show some loft and he’s garnered the ability to stride downward into contact. His placement in the box allows him to use his plus plate vision to his advantage and once on base, Devers is an absolute weapon. Still very much a kid with tools that are growing at a very quick rate and a guy who has the potential do damage in a multitude of ways offensively on top of an already-elite defensive skill set, Devers projects as an every day starter at shortstop and future table-setter capable of a ceiling approaching a lefty-hitting Edgar Renteria, a .284/.343/.398 career hitter with a 73% SB% and an 8.9 career dWAR.
CF/DH Victor Victor Mesa
Mesa is the crowned jewel of the first offseason orchestrated by Jeter and Co. The top international prospect, Mesa (along with his 17-year-old brother Victor Jr) signed with the Marlins for $5.25 million. Here’s why:
After defecting from Cuba in 2016, Mesa hadn’t played an inning of organized baseball in almost two years when he suited up for Team Cuba in the World Baseball Classic. For that reason, the Marlins hoped to get Mesa as many at bats as possible this spring. That plan was turned on its head when Mesa injured his hamstring while running the bases in his first official stateside start. According to Pratt though, despite missing out on the opportunity to get some valuable ABs in this spring, Mesa has fully recovered.
“Coming into spring early he had some nagging stuff but anyone’s gonna have that going from not playing at all to being out there every day. He’s a full go,” Pratt said.
You don’t have to watch many videos or read many reports in order to see what the Marlins invested in when they doled out the biggest payday to an international free agent in franchise history. In Mesa’s approach, we see a lot of Giancarlo Stanton. From a slightly spread stance with his front foot straddling the edge of the box, Mesa uses a front-foot toe tap trigger to step into the ball. From there, his best swings explode through the zone from. The follow through is well-balanced as he keeps both hands and eyes on the bat through contact. From there, Mesa allows 70-grade speed to go to work for him. That speed follows him in to the field where he is exceptionally capable as a center fielder.
Where Mesa will need to improve is creating leverage and loft to his swing in order to make the most of his abilities. On top of that, VVM will need to adjust his timing and pitch recognition as he will consistently be facing some of the best pitching the baseball ranks anywhere have to offer. According to Pratt though, Mesa is perfectly capable of accomplishing those feats but after spending so much time off the field, his growth will be safely guided.
“He’s not an 18-year-old kid; he’s 22 years old. So he’s got an idea of what he wants to do; he just needs to play every day. There may be some days he has to take off because he hasn’t played in two years. We’re going to make sure he’s rested and at 100% every day he walks out there,” Pratt said. “Obviously, we want to get him as many ABs as possible but we don’t want to break him down. It will be a guided process.”
Mesa’s efforts in his first full pro season will be two-fold: adjusting advantageously on a North American field and adjusting to life in the US off the field.
“The game doesn’t change. The communication aspect is probably most difficult for these Latin players. I think we are right on track with him,” Pratt said. “We understand each other and I think he’s done well with Kevin Witt, our hitting coach. “He’s an exciting player who will play center field for us and we will see what develops.”
If Mesa can accomplish both, the 22-year-old has the upside of a special MLB talent with the ceiling of Odubel Herrera, currently a .280/.336/.429, 54/23 SB/CS threat with at least 60-grade defense.
Pratt sees the same potential in Mesa and says that once he makes health his ally, he will quickly begin to dominate the Florida State League and beyond.
“He just needs the reps and to learn what being a pro is all about. He was slowed in spring training due to some minor injuries, but he is starting to get healthy,” Pratt said. “I cannot wait until he is 100% as he is showing signs why he was highly sought after as a free agent out of Cuba.”
LF Tristan Pompey
2018 (RK-A+) – .299/.408/.397, 12 XBH, 23 RBI, 47/32 K/BB, 10/5 SB/CS
Pompey is the Marlins first round pick out of the University Of Kentucky in 2018 where he had a .321/.426/.521 career. After his $645K payday, Pompey broke into pro ball with Pratt’s Grasshoppers last season. There, the multiple time All-American hit .314/.422/.430 with four doubles and his first two professional homers in 86 ABs. He also stole five bases in eight attempts and had a 22/16 K/BB before being called up to the Hammerheads.
Pompey’s current skill set translated with superiority to the more pitcher friendly Florida State League ranks. In equal time with the Hammerheads (24 games), he hit .291/.396/.384 with five doubles, a homer, a 4/1 SB/CS and a 21/13 K/BB. He begins 2018 back with the Hammerheads, but if he enjoys similar success for the bulk of the year, he could wind up in AA Jacksonville by season’s end.
“He started with me in Greensboro last year and really didn’t belong there. He got up here and it was the same consistency with better ballplayers and the (Florida) heat,” Pratt said. “He can swing the bat from both sides with good discipline and a good knowledge of the strikezone. I’m very impressed.”
Approaching from a split stance, Pompey brings his front leg inward to the ball with a medium-high timing trigger before engaging a well-leveraged swing with good uppercut action. It’s a stroke tailor-made for doubles. Because of the inside-out action of his lower half, Pompey favors pull-side contact, but, thanks to his parents teaching him how to switch hit when he was a child, Tristan is able to mirror his mechanics from both sides of the plate, making him a much more complete offensive threat. Couple that fact with a patient eye and the bat speed to fight off tough pitches, Pompey projects as a plus for-average threat with the ability to add even more power. He will need to add more torque and use of his hips in order to play up to his full potential of the back half of that equation, but with more physical growth, that should come naturally. Add to the fact that Pompey is capable of plus speed on the basepaths, the 22-year-old projects as a future centerfielder, hitting top three in the batting order.
2B Riley Mahan
2018 (A+) – .250/.298/.340, 29 XBH, 40 RBI, 127/24 K/BB
Mahan is another Kentucky alum selected by the Marlins, this time from the 2017 draft class. Before his .311/.360/.524 three year career at UK, Mahan was a high school standout for the Archbishop Moeller Crusaders in Cincinnati, Ohio. There, he was a .367/.460/.538 career hitter and a 2014 preseason All-American. Postseason, he earned first team All-State and All-GCL honors. After hitting .304 with 22 RBI in the Cape Cod League in 2016, Mahan hit .336/.392/.618 as a senior at UK. The last of those figures was driven by a team leading 15 homers and 23 doubles. He also drove in a team high 67 runs. The boost in power was a huge catalyst in Mahan being selected at his $525K-worthy draft slot.After just six games with the Grasshoppers, Mahan suffered a groin strain, bringing an end his 2017 calendar year. However, after a strong camp, the Marlins saw enough to task the middle infielder with a quick graduation to A+ Jupiter to begin 2018. After missing two weeks early in the year with an aggravation to the same injury, Mahan hit right at the Mendoza line, slashing .250/.298/.340 with a team leading 23 doubles, three triples and three homers. With similar home and away splits, what really hampered Mahan from standing out even more offensively was his 31% K rate and 127/24 K/BB. Mahan will look to rectify that area of his game this season as he faces off against the same level competition.
An athletically built 6’3”, 200 pound specimen, Mahan hits lefty and throws righty. From a compact closed stance, he approaches from the back of the box, but crowds the plate, allowing him to get his average sized limbs all the way across the zone. In trying to create leverage in his swing though, his cut gets a bit long, leading to either weak contact or swings and misses. When Mahan shortens up though, he flashes a 50 grade hit tool stemming from good bat control, capable of a good average. His future will depend on his ability to read pitches more consistently, work counts and stay simple.
On the other side of the ball, Mahan possesses a good glove and nimble feet, but his throwing arm is just average, which limits his infield ceiling to second base. While that is where the team would like to continue to develop Mahan, the 23-year-old may be converted to left field during the fast-tracking process. Entering an important developmental season, we will follow this ceiling Kelly Johnson (.251/.330/.422) and floor fourth outfielder New Year’s Eve baby closely.
RF Cameron Baranek
2018 (A-A+) – .244/.307/.347, 17 XBH, 39 RBI, 79/26 K/BB
With the early season promotion of Corey Bird who heads up to the Jumbo Shrimp, right field opens up for Cameron Baranek (pronounced BAH-rah-NIK), a Marlins’ draftee from 2017. Baranek comes to the Miami after a two years in JuCo at Santa Ana College where he was a .344 BA, 435 OBP hitter and after a single season at Hope International University where he hit .364/.486/.672 with 14 homers and a 20/10 SB/CS on top of a 32/43 K/BB. Baranek’s single season totals at HIU not only helped his school to an NAIA World Series berth, they broke several school records including HR, SLG, total bases and SB.
Following his standout junior season, Baranek broke yet another Hope International mold, becoming the first player from the collegiate program to be selected in the MLB draft. The Marlins took Baranek in the ninth round at 269th overall.
“It’s quite an honor being able to represent HIU, and being the first draft pick from the school. The school and coaching staff were so helpful in every aspect to allow me to be the best student athlete I could be,” Baranek told us last season. “Being a smaller Christian school with a focus on quality education and it’s a really awesome place for growth, the coaching staff and baseball program is top notch and to get a good foundation and name in its second year is huge and hopefully will draw more athletes alike with the same goals to win a championship and make it to the next level.”
After finishing his 2017 campaign by hitting .234/.306/.351 with 22 RBI and nine total XBH including his first career homer in the GCL, Baranek received the call to full season ball last year. There, in Greensboro, the lefty quickly proved he was more than capable of low A ball, hitting .319/.400/.479 with four homers, a 19/13 K/BB and a 4/2 SB/CS in 94 ABs. After those 28 games, Baranek was given the promotion to A+ Jupiter where he lived out the year. Overall, he hit .208/.259/.284, but that doesnt tell the whole story of how he started to figure things out late in the year. In the month of August, Baranek hit .230/.284/.324 with four doubles, a homer and 13 RBI. He had a five game hit streak from August 10th through 16th. Baranek will look to build on that success this season as he begins his third pro season back in the Florida State League.
A stout but athletic 5’10”, 195, Baranek owns great bat speed and a mostly lateral swing with some slight loft, allowing him to hit gaps and occasionally a fence. Once on base, Baranek exhibits plus speed, capable of double-digit steals. When he’s making consistent contact, Cam is a catalytic type threat that can start a fire from either the top or bottom of a lineup. The main area of offensive improvement for Baranek is his plate discipline, especially against same-side pitching and gaining the ability to adjust to the count, attributes which should come naturally as he faces off more frequently against fellow professionals. With a 90+ MPH outfield arm capable of accurate throws that carry and good outfield readability, Baranek is a floor fourth outfielder and lefty bat off the bench and a ceiling starting and/or platooning outfielder with the prowess of a .270+ BA and a .400+ SLG.
While he isn’t a name that will stand out to even the informed Marlins fan right now, Baranek could be on his way to quietly sneaking on to an MLB roster sometime in the not too distant future.
As formidable as the Hammerheads’ starting lineup is this season, their pitching rotation is even more drool-inducing. The star-studded staff includes two Marlins first round picks, a fire-balling international draftee and two 20th round picks who are in the midst of standout minor league careers
1. Jordan Holloway
2. Trevor Rogers
3. Braxton Garrett
4. Edward Cabrera
5. Will Stewart
RHP Braxton Garrett
2018 – DNP (Tommy John)
Garrett is the Marlins’ first round pick from 2017 out of Florence High School in Florence, Alabama. Long and lanky with plenty of physical projection and velo which already sat at 92 with a best-pitch curveball and above average changeup, the lefty was ranked as the seventh best overall pitching prospect and second best lefty in his draft year of 2016.
The Marlins selected Garrett away from his Vanderbilt commit at #7 overall, rewarding him a $4.1 million payday.
After an impressive camp, Garrett was assigned to A Greensboro. Not long after that, though, the 6’3”, 190 pound lefty went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. After just four starts and 15.1 IP, it was revealed that Garrett’s throwing shoulder required Tommy John surgery. The injury cost him the rest of 2017 and all of last season.
This year, Garrett was one of the first Marlins’ back on the field as he participated in Captain’s Camp. In addition to his repaired shoulder, Garrett v. 2.0 also sports a pair of spectacles on the mound. But as a few things changed for Garrett, more things stayed the same, including Braxton’s mindset and his drive to succeed. According to Mark DeFelice, those intangibles attributed a lot to the reason the Marlins drafted Garrett and they will continue to aid him most handily in the future.
“He’s a guy that the organization spent a lot of money on. Obviously it was related to stuff but I think moreso the kind of person he is, his character, his integrity,” DeFelice said. “The type of person he is is going to withstand the injury. Rehab is grueling; you never know how someone is going to respond, be it physically or mentally. But I think he’s checked all the boxes when it comes to that.”
According to DeFelice, Garrett, now at 100% can go full bore 100% of the time, an aspect of his game that should allow him to make a huge leap in progression this year.
“I absolutely loved what I saw (in Greensboro) and moving forward, I think he’s going to be that much better having that healthy arm,” DeFelice said. “When something is ailing you, you tailor back. Now we are in the building process, building his arm strength back to getting that feel for his breaking ball. He’s made strides up until this point and I think that will continue into the year.”
A 6’3”, 190 pound physical specimen, Garrett is capable of an absolutely filthy three pitch mix. Anchored by a four seamer that is capable of 95 but usually sits 92, he mixes in an improving 85-87 mph changeup, pitching in to his best pitch high 70s curve which shows tight arc and late drop down into his spot on the lower half. Garrett shows the ability to both pitch cautiously away from contact on the outer half and come right after hitters, busting them in on the inner quadrants. Nearly everything is down and even when he isn’t at his best, Garrett is able to get by by inducing weak contact. A guy who shows the ability to adjust to his present stuff from start to start and even inning to inning, Braxton, despite the surgery, still projects as a front line starter with an ace’s ceiling.
RHP Edward Cabrera
2018 (A) – 100.1 IP, 4.22 ERA, 1.465 WHIP, 93/42 K/BB
Cabrera is a Marlins 2015 international signee out of the Dominican. Upon signing his $100K contract, the 18-year-old was immediately assigned to stateside ball in the Gulf Coast League, where hitters nearly three years his elder touched him up for a 4.21 ERA and 1.362 WHIP in his first 47 IP. However, despite subpar numbers, the Marlins saw the true potential in Cabrera’s fiery arm, skipping the regular reacher of 96 MPH up to low A in 2017. There, the numbers were even less satifsying: 5.30 ERA by way of a 1.4 WHIP in 35.2 IP. Still, the organization saw past the numbers and tasked Cabrera with his first year in full season ball last year. As a Greensboro Grasshopper, the 20-year-old managed a 4.22 ERA despite a 1.465 WHIP. In by far the most lengthy season of his career in a hitter friendly league, Cabrera managed a 2.21 K/BB. According to his pitching coach Mark DeFelice, Cabrera’s success stemmed from better confidence in his changeup and his ability to turn it in to a plus pitch.
“He was only 20 years old so with that maturity level, the question was can he handle his emotions? When he started getting hit, he had the tendency to go to the breaking ball a little more or start rushing and then his fastball started getting up in the zone and he started getting hit. He was able throughout the last year, to stay with the fastball command down and then elevate when he needs to,” DeFelice said. “The breaking ball had been there but his changeup development last year had gotten a little better. In previous years, he was only using 2-3 a game but we had him up to 15-20 per game. It’s almost like a two seam fastball coming out of his hand with the depth that’s created. I think moving forward his changeup has turned into his best secondary pitch over his breaking ball. This year, that’s going to be a pitch that’s going to take him from where he was to where he needs to be as a big league pitcher.”
Pratt, who will be Cabrera’s head coach for a second straight season, echoes DeFelice’s sentiments and likens the 20-year-old to a very high ceiling.
“He is over powering and his breaking ball is really starting to develop. The change was a plus pitch for him last season and as he is becoming more confident throwing it,” Pratt said. “He has three plus pitches in his arsenal now and he has shown dominance here early in the season. He will be a dominant starter in the future and I see him as a front-end starter on any staff.”
LHP Will Stewart
2018 (A) – 113.2 IP, 2.06 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, 90/21 K/BB
Stewart is a Phillies’ 20th round pick out of Hazel Green High School in Hazel Green, Alabama. Plucked from the ranks of the unknown as just the twelfth professional to ever attend HGHS, Stewart stands to become just the second MLB player to spend his secondary school years there and the first to ever be selected straight out of the institution. While the school isn’t rich in baseball history, Stewart had scouts flocking to his starts. The primary reason for that was advanced feel and control over a sinker/changeup combo that had hitters spellbound.
Upon joining the professional ranks as an 18-year-old, Stewart had a bit of a wake-up call, pitching to a 4.29 ERA via a 55/32 K/BB over 65 innings in the GCL from 2015-2016 and a 4.18 ERA via a 1.48 WHIP and .268 BAA in short season ball in 2017. Last season though, in his first year in full season ball, Stewart’s fastball velo took a timely jump up to the 90-93 MPH range, giving him a much more advantageous differential down to his 86-88 MPH arm-side fading changeup and developing slurvy 84-86 MPH slider. In addition, Stewart commanded the zone with much more efficiency in 2018, throwing all three pitches for consistent strikes and keeping everything below his opposition’s eye level, leading to many long swings and weak contact. Stewart generated ground balls at a 62% rate, tops in the South Atlantic League.
A fairly averaged sized 6’3″, 175 pound specimen, Stewart puts every bit of his stature to use in his approach, especially vertically. Stretching all the way downward in his slow windup, Stewart strides and powers through his motion from a mid-3/4 release, adding deception to his delivery. The change of speeds and his ability to hide the ball as well as his repeatable replease points keep hitters guessing and prevent them from timing him. In place of one elite pitch, Stewart is the owner of three plus offerings with a good feel for each of them. He will get hurt when he isn’t commanding well, but those instances are growing fewer and farther between. If his fastball velo takes another jump or if his slider can start generating more whiffs out of the zone, he has the ability to become a top-tier starter. At the very least, Will could be a viable back-end starter as early as next season.
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.
— Victor Victor Mesa (@victorvmesa) November 20, 2018
“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.
— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) June 5, 2018
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.
— Jupiter Hammerheads (@GoHammerheads) January 16, 2019
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.
Finally, some highlights of LHP Luis Palacios from the Dominican Summer League.
63.2 IP, 0.85 ERA, 0 HR, 62 K.
Palacios was the best baseball player in the entire organization this season. pic.twitter.com/mgvCtgHQM2
— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) September 6, 2018
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.
Even for the virtually unknown, there is always Hope. For proof, look to first-year pro and graduate as well as first MLB Draftee of Hope International University, Cameron Baranek.
Born February 1995, Cameron Baranek attended Canyon High School in Orange, CA where he earned All-American Honorable Mention honors in his senior year before attending JuCo at Santa Ana. There, Baranek hit .344/.434/.534 over two years. Prior to that, he was recruited to Hope International University, a Private Christian school in nearby Fullerton for their second baseball season.
There, for the newly crowned Royals, Baranek enjoyed a standout season, one which put him in both school and district record books and led his team to their first conference title and to the top seed in the conference’s playoff. Baranek placed in the top 10 in nearly every offensive category in his conference, the Golden State Athletic Conference, including BA (.344, 8th) and OBP (.434, 3rd). At season’s end, Baranek was named an NAIA All-American Honorable Mention, the first in program history.
While being incredibly proud of what he was able to accomplish and attribute to the attention and concentrated tutelage of his coaches at HIU, Baranek hopes his exports at Hope pave the way for the program to become a baseball powerhouse.
“It’s quite an honor being able to represent HIU, and being the first draft pick from the school. The school and coaching staff were so helpful in every aspect to allow me to be the best student athlete I could be,” Baranek said. “Being a smaller Christian school with a focus on quality education and it’s a really awesome place for growth, the coaching staff and baseball program is top notch and to get a good foundation and name in its second year is huge and hopefully will draw more athletes alike with the same goals to win a championship and make it to the next level.”
Baranek parlayed his record-setting junior season at HIU into a .234/.306/.351 season in the Gulf Coast League in 2017. While those numbers may not be particularly impressive on paper, when you consider those 111 ABs were Baranek’s first above the Division II collegiate ranks and first with a wood bat, they appear very respectable. In addition, Baranek drove in 22 runs, second most on the team (in just 29 of the team’s 55 games). He also stole the third most bases on the team (6).
Regarding how he was able to adjust so quickly to the staunch rise in competition level as well as the change in bat material from metal to wood, Baranek says that despite some growing pains in the midst of his first season, it was all about remaining open to change and, in that spirit, making positive adjustments at the plate.
“After being drafted I was coming off a good collegiate year and had some success to start, along with some struggles I had to face about halfway through which was good for me to grow and learn my body and swing and how to mature as a professional player,” Baranek said. “I’ve always loved using wood bats hut they’re definitely not as forgiving as metal, so when you get hits they’re true as can be. Took the good and tried to learn how to make adjustments when things don’t come as easy in the box.”
The work Baranek put in last season in the GCL didn’t go unnoticed. This season, the Marlins skipped the 23-year-old past short season ball and straight to his first year in full season A with the Greensboro Grasshoppers. Baranek responded to the promotion by hitting .319/.402/.479 in 28 South Atlantic League games, numbers which each ranked in the top 10 on the circuit at the time. Regarding how he was able to enjoy continued success despite the massive jump from the D-II metal bat collegiate league to full season A ball after just 29 games in the short season rookie ball ranks, Baranek attributes it all to remaining open to changing as his frame did the same maintaining a positive attitude even when things aren’t going his way and in taking pride in his exports.
There are three things that helped Baranek the most in Greensboro and that will continue to serve him as he progresses: his faith, sticking to his roots and remembering a motto that is continuously imparted on him by a close friend and mentor.
“No one feels bad for you when you line out over and over so just sticking with a good approach and my trust and faith in God definitely keeps me as level headed and confident as I can be when things are going good or not as well as they could be,” Baranek said. “”It’s a marathon, not a race,” my scout always says. It is a helpful concept when it comes to any short term adversities that may go on during a season.”
In response to Baranek’s great start with the Grasshoppers this year, the Marlins gave him another promotion after just 27 games, one game shy of the 28 he spent in the GCL before his first call-up. Through his first 19 games with Jupiter, Baranek’s hot for-average hitting continued as he hit .270, thanks in part to hitting in 10 of 11 games from June 29-July 11. Though he has cooled off a bit of late, Baranek enters each game with the same mindset: remain thankful, stay humble and keep the game fun.
“I’m just loving the opportunity and confidence that our organization has shown. I’m going to do everything I can to help a team win, and will fight until the end in every way I can. It’s an honor to play professional baseball and I don’t every want to take it for granted,” Baranek said. “My parents and my faith definitely keep my drive and my heart very innocent playing this game. I have just as much or more fun as I did being a kid playing wiffle ball in the front yard, so for me to be on this stage is awesome and I only hope to keep adjusting swinging hard, and Lord willing continue to climb the ladder and grow as a player and teammate.”
Above all, perhaps the best testament to Baranek’s drive and will to succeed is the fact that his body was surgically repaired three times early in his playing career. Despite the setbacks though, Baranek’s attitude to repay the favor to do as much as, if not more, for his body than it has done for him has prevailed and allowed him to make it as a pro.
“I’ve always had a passion for fitness and staying in shape. Just like Jeter and so many great players have said about people being more talented, but no one should outwork you I keep that mindset in every facet because if I’m not doing everything I can to take care of my body, I’m not giving myself the best chance on the field,” Baranek said. “Injuries are inevitable at times but the farther I can stay away from that by being healthy and in shape the better. Can’t help a team win in the training room. Having a little extra strength to help a smaller guy like me get a few over the fence isn’t the worst thing either.”
Built 5’10”, 195, the lefty hitter makes up for his stout size by exhibiting above average bat speed and good plate coverage via the ability to get extended across the zone. His swing is mostly lateral with slight uppercut action and he stays through it well with great steady balance giving him the potential to find gaps and the occasional fence. Though he has some filling out to do against quality breaking stuff especially from same side pitching, it’s nothing pro coaching can’t rectify.
On top of his intriguing offensive prowess, Baranek carries plus defensive abilities, skills that have allowed him to flash a 90 mph+ arm with good carry and lines and great reads off the bat which have allotted him a .966 fielding percentage and 2.48 range factor across all three outfield positions, including in the massive Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium yard.
Chalk Baranek up as a lefty hitting threat that has the floor of a righty mashing platoon option who plays great defense off a MJor League bench. With improvement against same side pitching, he has the ceiling of a top of the order catalytic threat. For now, Baranek, never the one to put more pressure on himself than necessary, says he’s enjoying the process spurred by the support of his family (miles apart or not) and will welcome the role life places him in, wherever that be.
“My family is all the way back in Southern California so I missed them a lot but it’s been nice talking to my mom and going over bible studies and keeping in touch with them. Gives me a little taste of home when I’m out here,” Baranek said. “I appreciate my family and coaches always being supportive and helping me along the way. God’s always got me and I’m just going along for the ride and enjoying every step.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ben Meyer: A Golden Gopher with a golden arm and a golden future. The Minnesota alum spent the past 30 days continuing to prove himself worthy of those titles, tossing to a 1.01 ERA via a 0.79 WHIP and in so doing, earned himself another accolade: Fish On The Farm’s July Prospect Of The Month.
35.2 IP, 1.01 ERA, 0.79 WHIP
100.1 IP, 2.06 ERA, 0.94 WHIP
39/3 K/BB, 10.0 K/9, 0.75 BB/9
121/21 K/BB, 10.9 K/9, 1.88 BB/9
.188 BAA, .266 BABIP, 73.3 LOB%
.204 BAA, .298 BABIP, 76.8 LOB%
Benjamin K. Meyer was born on January 30, 1993 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In his high school days at Totino-Grace, Meyer lettered in both baseball and basketball but upon his graduation, Ben, who comes from very athletic bloodlines, followed in his father’s footsteps rather than his twin siblings and gave up the court in favor of the mound. In 2012, he became a second generation University of Minnesota pitcher proceeding his dad, Bob and by so doing, made a childhood dream reality.
“I wanted to do the same [as my dad] ever since I was younger,” Meyer said regarding toeing the rubber for the Golden Gophers.
Although he became a quality basketball player late in his amateur career, Meyer says he didn’t fully acquire the physical size for it until his high school tenure was finished which made him focus more on and gain more of a passion for baseball.
“I was a late grower, so I was better at baseball at a young age,” Meyer said. “I wasn’t done growing until my freshman year of college, so my basketball skills developed later in my high school career.”
Even though his basketball days are behind him now, Meyer credits his time on the hardwood to his ability to adjust to his body, remain well conditioned and most importantly for him, keep baseball fresh and exciting.
“I think it’s important for kids not to specialize in one sport too early to keep from burning out,” Meyer said. “Basketball helped me become a better all around athlete which correlates to success on the mound.”
Focusing solely on baseball, Meyer quickly became the anchor of the Golden Gophers’ bullpen, holding down a 2.37 ERA via a 1.08 WHIP in his first 38 collegiate innings. This all came after he dropped two subpar offerings from his arsenal and rapidly developed two brand new pitches that backed up his low 90s cut fastball more advantageously. Meyer credits his Minnesota coaches for immediately turning him in to an effective collegiate arm and for starting him down the road to becoming a professional rotational arm.
“When I got to college I switched out my splitter and curveball for a changeup and slider,” Meyer said. “I worked a lot with my college pitching coach to improve their consistency and make them look more like my fastball out of the hand to keep hitters off balance. I’ve also found a bigger need for the changeup at the pro level as hitters bat speed is quicker.”
In his sophomore year, Meyer began the transition to the rotation, playing in 15 games and starting eight, doubling up his inning count from the year previous. The increased workload showed a bit as his WHIP rose .2 points and he gave up 2 more hits per nine than the year previous but he still held his ERA under 3 (2.80), improved his BB/9 by .45 points, tossed two eight inning shutouts and one complete game shutout, proving he belonged in the rotation.
The Golden Gophers staff took notice of Meyer’s overall successful tenure as a starter and made him one full time in his junior year. Despite taking on an even bigger workload and putting by far the most stress on his arm he ever has, tossing in his conference’s third most innings (98), Meyer placed sixth in the Big 10 in ERA (2.39), 12th in WHIP (1.13) and fifth in strikeouts (67). His K total combated the only area where the high inning total showed any effect on him, his heightened but still respectable walk rate (2.57). That career high BB/9 was completely offset by his career low 7.62 H/9.
After starting the Big 10’s second most games in his junior season, Meyer once again proved his durability by tossing in 14 more in his senior year. However, that same season and his draft year, Meyer’s stats became the victim of circumstance when the Big 10 modified their official baseball in an attempt to increase offensive production. Although his great control persisted (7.29 K/9, 2.46 BB/9), the result for Meyer was a 4.31 ERA by way of a H/9 over 9 and a HR/9 over 1.00, causing his draft stock to plummet. In hindsight though, Meyer says the change was an advantageous for him in that it allowed him to hurdle over some common struggles for young professionals at an earlier age.
“My last year of college they lowered the seams on the baseball. This made it more similar to a minor league baseball, which was a good transition for me,” Meyer said. “It taught me to pitch more effectively down in the zone and forced me to mix my pitches a little more.”
Meyer admits he sweated through the draft process as he watched the rounds pass him by, hoping to not have a bad case of deja vu from the year previous when he was not selected. His relief came on the final day in round 29 of 40 when he got his call from Stan Meek and the Marlins.
“The last day of the draft was definitely the longest day of my life as well as one of the most exciting, especially after I didn’t get drafted after my junior year of college.” Meyer said. “I was just hoping for an opportunity and was very grateful when the Marlins called saying they were going to take me.”
After seven innings in the GCL and five in Greensboro, Meyer lived out the rest of 2015 in Jupiter pitching against competition a year and a half older than him. That fact along with the wear on the 22-year-old’s arm (he racked up a total of 120 innings pitched, by far a career high), led to a 1.54 WHIP via a 9.13 H/9 and 11.7 BB% but thanks to a 76% LOB%, Meyer was able to hold down a 3.18 ERA, which was very respectable when all things are considered. His overall successful cup of coffee with Jupiter that year planted a good seed within the organization as he found himself just outside of its top 20 prospects.
Meyer lived out 2016 in Greensboro where he began his transition to starting as a pro. It was a bit of a learning curve for Meyer as he went 0-8 in 10 starts with a 4.23 ERA and 1.41 WHIP. He was much more effective out of the pen. Throwing in eight more innings as a reliever as opposed to a starter, he held down an ERA a full point lower (3.10), walked one less (10 vs 11) and striking out nearly twice as many (60 vs 34). However, Marlins didn’t give up on the prospect of one day seeing Meyer in their big league rotation. After beginning the year regaining his confidence tossing out of the Grasshoppers’ bullpen where he held down a 2.15 ERA and 0.95 WHIP, the Marlins brought Meyer back to A+. There, Meyer has started 10 of his 16 games appeared in and rewarded the confidence the organization has shown in his ability by producing a 2.03 ERA by way of a 0.93 WHIP, marks which rank second and first in the Florida State League among qualified players (>70 IP). Within that same group, Meyer’s 28.7 K% and 23.4 K/BB% each rank second. Even though he divulges that all of the moving around between the rotation and bullpen was a bit tedious, taxing on his body and wracking on his nerves, Meyer, ever the “big picture” guy, says the experience was a major catalyst in making him the pitcher he is today, able to pitch in any circumstance, understanding the mind of a hitter and mastering the art of pitch selection and location.
“Moving to the bullpen after college was a big transition for me because I was only in the bullpen for my freshman year of college. I had to learn how to warm up quicker, and come into the game with a different mentality,” Meyer said. “When I moved back into the rotation in 2016, the biggest adjustment for me was learning to throw on a 5 day rotation vs the college 7 day. It took some time to get my body to bounce back quicker. This year, my velocity has been up a little bit, which has helped, and my slider has been more consistent than it was last year. I have had more confidence in my slider to throw in more situations and keep hitters off balance.”
The impetus behind Meyer being allowed to experience all the things he has, learn from them and grow so quickly has been excellent health. In his entire baseball career, even though the stress on his body has doubled and sometimes even tripled, Meyer has never made a trip to the disabled list and has never been out of action for more than a few days. In addition to his overall fantastic athletic background imparted on him at birth and fully realized very early in his amateur career, Meyer attributes his good health to good fortune, staying active every day, and to the medical regimen assigned to him by the attentive Marlins’ medical staff.
“I have been very fortunate to stay healthy over the years,” Meyer said. “The Marlins have a great arm care program that I follow between starts, as well as running every day and staying on top of our strength program has helped keep my body and arm healthy.”
The fact that Meyer once succeeded as a basketball player is evident as he stares down his opposition from his towering 6’5″, 180 build. Meyer maintains his height advantage over hitters as he winds up from a straight up-and-down stance but creates deception as he planes his pitches in downhill. Viewing the strike zone from a birds eye, overhead angle, Meyer commands it wonderfully with all of his pitches, something he has done his entire career, something which he is very satisfied with and the basis of his confidence as a hurler. He plans to ride that confidence to the upper levels of the minors and beyond.
“I have always prided myself on my command of 3 pitches and ability to work ahead in the count. I would rather give up a hit than walk somebody and give them a free base,” Meyer said. “It’s definitely tougher as the competition gets better as the strike zone shrinks, and hitters get better eyes, but it comes down to trusting my stuff and preparation.”
Meyer will rarely touch any higher than 94 MPH with the fastball but his plus plus secondaries both of which he created in college and has established during his great minor league run more than make up for it. He throws all three of his pitches with the same arm speed which adds to his nearly impossible to pick up motion and mixes them beautifully which makes him nearly impossible to time or wait out. As a result, Meyer works quick tidy innings and limits pitches. Six of his 10 starts, including four in a row in July, have been quality outings. Meyer’s best pitch is his go-to slider which sits in the 82 MPH range, has hard bite and which he likes to run in on the hands of guys inducing plenty of whiffs. He will also bury it in favorable counts and due to the late break, get guys fishing. The Meyer changeup sits in the 86 MPH range. Due to its good depth and his shortened stride to the plate, it is one of the more deceptive pitches in the Marlins’ system right now. As with all of his pitches, Meyer will throw it in any count but he shows an affinity for pitching off of it. The change sets up Meyer’s “show me” fastball, a 9o-94 MPH offering which he can run to either corner and which he likes to put in the eyes of hitters in two strike counts. In most cases, a three pitch arsenal isn’t translatable to Major League rotational success but in the case of Meyer, who throws all three pitches interchangeably with similar arm speed and great control and command, he should be able to succeed with it. If not, judging by how quickly he established two brand new pitches, he has the ability to quickly re-develop and fall back on the split change and 11-6 curve that he threw as a high schooler.
A battle tested thinking man’s thrower, Meyer sets up as a 4-5 inning eating rotational option and floor bullpen anchor in that same capacity. With similar success in the upper minors which he stands to break into soon, the 24-year-old should be fast-tracked to his MLB debut, realizing not only his dream but fulfilling a family legacy. But for now, Meyer, as per usual, as staying level headed and letting the process work itself out.
“Playing in the big leagues would obviously be a lifelong dream of mine. I’ve put in a lot of hard work, and still have a ways to go, so I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself,” Meyer said. “I’m just trying to stay day to day and get better each outing.”
Meyer should make the jump to AA next season.
Jupiter Hammerhead’s outfielder Stone Garrett came into 2017 as the sixth ranked prospect in the organization. But through 22 games, Garrett’s Jupiter teammate, fellow outfielder and owner of a similar surname has been the one playing up to that title. Introducing our April Prospect of the Month, Kyle Barrett.
Kyle Barrett, a Georgia native, was born August 4, 1993 and spent his college days in Wildcat blue at the University of Kentucky. There, he spent three seasons amassing a .324/.386/.391 slash line with an 8% walk rate and 21 steals in 34 tries, beginning to lay the foundation for the type of bat he is currently becoming. Playing in the same conference as current top MLB prospect Andrew Benentendi, in his junior year, Barrett finished seven spots underneath the league leading Benentendi in BA, hitting .354. He also appeared just inside the top 10 in his freshman year when he hit .349.
Following the 2015 collegiate season, Barrett entered the MLB Draft and was selected 446th overall in round 15 by the Marlins. He signed on June 19 of that year and took his talents to Batavia to begin his big league career. However, the excitement of being drafted and the prospect of making a quick first impression soon came to a grinding halt. In his fourth game with the Muckdogs, Barret broke his right hand, an injury that cost him the rest of the year. Going from the high of being drafted only to, after just 11 ABs, land on the DL for an extended period was an experience Barrett admits was very frustrating.
“I was pretty crushed,” Barrett said. “I worked so hard my whole life to get drafted and it happens and I start my career off on the wrong foot.”
Even though Barrett was able to return for the start of the 2016 season and although he made the jump to full season ball strictly on a confidence vote by the team, he still wasn’t completely over the injury. Despite rehabbing during the offseason, the strength in his dominant hand still hadn’t completely returned and it showed. In his first 22 games as a Grasshopper, Barrett went just 12-72 with a 17/6 K/BB. For Barrett, it was probably the lowest he’s been mentally in his baseball career.
“It really affected me that off season because I really wasn’t able to hit without being pain free,” Barrett said. “I got the opportunity to go to Greensboro that year and I really struggled at first because I was out of baseball for nine months.”
However, despite a disappointing start to his career that lasted 11 months and must’ve seemed like 11 years, the pure talent of the grinder Barrett finally prevailed. On May 29, he went 3-5 with a walk and scored two runs in a 6-2 Greensboro win. It began a stretch in which Barrett would reach via a hit in 55 of his last 79 2016 games, a stretch in which he went 88/282 (.312 BA).
“I finally got some mechanical things adjusted and the success and confidence came,” Barrett said.
After ending that season hitting .282/.333/.345, very respectable considering how the year started, Barrett got his second call up in as many years which was, all things considered, spectacular. This season with the Hammerheads, a 100% healthy Barrett has once again become the guy the Marlins drafted out of UK. Hitting at the top of the order, he has gotten on base in 20 of his 22 games and collected at least one hit in 19. He’s slashing .330/.376/.372 with a BA and an OBP that rank among the top 10 in the Florida State League. It may have taken him a little longer than he would have liked, but through determination and perseverance through adversity, Barrett has now fully arrived on the Minor League Baseball scene. Barrett was able to overcome the disappointing start to his career not only because of fantastic raw talent but also because of the understanding that in baseball, like any sport, it’s not about how the game knocks you down; it’s how long you let it keep you down that really counts.
“Baseball is full of ups and downs and how you overcome adversity,” Barrett said. “You can’t let one bad game from the day before affect the next game.”
Not only is Barrett’s bat exporting similar results to those he provided during his time at Kentucky, he is making them happen via the exact same approach and mechanics. Barrett and his coaches agree: if it isn’t broken, why fix it?
“My approach has stayed the same since I was in college so I’m really comfortable with it,” Barrett said.
Because of that comfort and the confidence he has in his game, Barrett is playing stress-free despite knowing that he is a few months of similar play away from a call-up to AA.
“There’s no pressure to keep hitting like this at all,” Barrett said. “I don’t look too much ahead on whether or not I’ll get called up; instead, I control what I can control and I make the most of it and don’t take anything for granted.”
During an average Kyle Barrett AB, there is rarely a strike that goes by without him getting at least some part of the bat on it. A stout 5’11”, 185, the lefty hitter minimizes an already small strike zone via an extremely quick snap swing which gives him the ability to wait out the break on pitches, select one he likes and drive it. At the very least, the result of a Barrett swing is almost always some sort of contact, even if it is just to foul off a tough pitch and the result of his ABs, nearly all of which last at least five pitches, either end with him on base or at the very least, with him inside of a pitcher and catcher’s heads, setting up his next chance. While most of Barrett’s hits go for base hits, he does have some hidden gap-to-gap power which allotted him 12 doubles in his final year in college and has already led to four two-baggers this season. As the 23-year-old completely reaches his ceiling, that number should increase.
On the base paths, Barrett exhibits great instincts on top of plus speed. Last year in Greensboro, he swiped 17 bags in 22 chances. This year, Barrett is already 5/7 in stolen base attempts. Barrett puts his plus jets to good use in the field as well where he makes good reads off the bat, runs good routes and exhibits an above average throwing arm.
With a swift singles first swing, some disguised strength, good speed and good outfield prowess, Barrett appears to be nurturing a skill set similar to Chris Coghlan and his personal hero, Brett Gardner. Excellent on-field play coupled with an outgoing personality and a sound head for the game make Barrett a great teammate and an extremely easy guy to root for. An all-around great athlete, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility for Barrett to reach the bigs by next season.
- * This is Kyle Barrett’s second time being named Prospect Of The Month.
It is only a short 105 minute trek from Jupiter to Miami. However, in figurative terms of making it from the friendly confines of Abacoa and a Hammerheads’ cap and jersey to the shadow of the Miami skyline and the bright lights of Marlins Park and an orange and black lid and garb, the road is much, much longer. Nobody knows that better than the bulk of this year’s Hammerheads’ Opening Day roster, a squad nearly completely full of young men repeating a second full season in A+ ball. But the simple fact that this group will spend at least the start of another season in Jupiter should not lead one to draw any negative conclusions. There is talent on this club in the likes of Taylor Ard, Dexter Kjerstad, John Norwood, Avery Romero and Jeff Brigham — talent that they and the Marlins hope will allow them to take the next step sometime this year.
One of few new call ups to the Opening Day Hammerheads will be at the managerial position as Kevin Randel gets the promotion following following two seasons with the Grasshoppers. Randel, a 13th round pick by the Marlins in the 2002 MLB Draft, played for seven seasons, exclusively in the Marlins’ organization. A super utility type guy that could play basically anywhere, Randel boasted a .267/.374/.439 slash line but only played seven games above the AA level and never cracked the majors. Two years after his retirement from playing, Randel re-joined the Grasshoppers, one of his former teams, as hitting coach where he served for two seasons before serving in the same capacity for the Jacksonville Suns. He returned to the Grasshoppers in Greensboro, North Carolina which is a stone’s throw away from his home in Fuquay-Varina to make his managerial debut in 2015. Over the past two years, Randel has recorded a 114-165 record as head coach. A solid lower minors hitter in his time with a wealth of positional knowledge, Randel is well-rounded managerial material.
CF Jeremias Pineda
2B Brian Schales
RF John Norwood
LF Dexter Kjerstad
1B Taylor Ard
3B Avery Romero
DH Brad Haynal
C Rodrigo Vigil
SS Rehiner Cordova
Taylor Ard is a 2012 Seattle Mariners’ seventh round pick out of Washington State whom he joined after two seasons at Mt. Hood Community College. As a freshman at Mt. Hood in 2009, Ard earned his league’s triple crown hitting .490 with 12 HR and 49 RBI, an accomplishment that, despite playing just three games before red shirting in 2010, allowed him to join the Division I ranks. In 2011 as a red shirt sophomore, Ard thanked Washington State for their confidence in him to succeed even after missing a full season by hitting .337/.408/.577, a BA that ranked 8th and a SLG that ranked third and .985 OPS that ranked fourth. The power figures came by way of Ard’s 10 homers, most in the Pac 10, and 17 doubles, third most. In his junior year, Ard had another similar fantastic year, hitting .332/.412/.577. Again, he appeared on nearly every power hitting leaderboard including SLG, OPS (.989, 6th) and homers (12, 3rd) and total bases (127, 7th). As a whole, Ard’s three year (plus three games) college career consisted of a .372/.455/.637 slash line with a 1.092 OPS, 34 homers, 46 doubles and a .240 ISO.
Ard joined the Mariners’ organization following the end of the Pac 12 season in 2012 and kept the good times rolling. In his first season as a pro with the short season Everett Aquasox, Ard hit .284/.356/.497. Among qualified Northwest Leaguers, Ard’s BA ranked 10th, his SLG ranked second and his OPS ranked fourth. His twelve homers again put him atop his league’s leaderboard as did his 21 doubles.
However, all of Ard’s success didn’t stop the Mariners from inexplicably releasing Ard just before the 2014 season. It also didn’t stop Ard from playing good baseball and it didn’t take him long to resurface in the pro ranks. Upon his release, Ard took his talents to the independent leagues where he hit .338/.404/.544 with nine homers, 15 doubles and 33 RBI in 50 games, earning All-Star selection honors and catching the attention of the Arizona Diamondbacks. He joined the D-Backs as a member of the rookie ball Misoula Osprey followed by the Hillsboro Hops and finally ended his busy travel season in low A South Bend. In 34 total afilliated ball games, he hit .309/.425/.509 with four homers, eight doubles and 17 RBI. At season’s end, after giving him just 110 ABs and 34 above the rookie ball level, Arizona had apparently seen enough. On October 22, 2014, he was released from the afilliated ball ranks for the second time in two seasons.
But Ard’s tenacity once again paid off. He turned what had to seem like a bad bit of deja vu into a positive learning experience by having an even better 2014 season with the River City Rascals than he had with them a year previous despite playing in nearly twice as many games. In 96 contests, he hit .313/.385/.646. Along with that SLG, his 30 homers, 29 doubles and 83 RBI were all league best totals. At season’s end, after he was named the Frontier League MVP, Ard got a call from a familiar phone number: it was the Marlins, the first club to ever draft him in the 35th round of the 2010 Draft. At that time, Ard, who was 20, passed up Miami’s offer in favor of finishing his college career at Washington State. Seven years later, Ard accepted the Marlins’ offer and headed to Jupiter.
In his first season in the Miami organization at the highest level of competition he’s ever played at and in an extremely power subduing ballpark and league, Ard was able to slug .373, among the top 30 in the FSL. His 14 homers and 73 RBI, on top of both being Hammerheads’ team high totals, were the eighth and fourth best totals in the FSL and his 21 doubles were tied for 20th most.
Ard is a pure power hitting first baseman standing at a robust 6’2″, 230. He stays back on the ball well and transfers his weight very well with an active midsection and legs allowing him to go with pitches on either side of the plate and hit to all fields. But as good as his lower half is, his upper half is equally at a disadvantage. Ard’s trouble with getting his arms extended on swings leads to below average bat speed and although his patience and vision isn’t as bad as his 111/41 K/BB from last year would indicate, leads to a lot of swings and misses. At 27 and still in high A, there is a fair amount of doubt as to his future and in making it to the show but with similar power production to start 2017, he should be a fast mover to AA. What he does in making that difficult jump to the upper minors will go a long way in telling the tale of how far his career can go. If Ard can shorten up his swings and improve his bat speed, he draws comparison to a Mike Sweeney type fourth outfielder.
Dexter Kjerstad forwent being drafted out of high school by the Reds in the 50th round of the 2010 Draft in favor of enjoying a very successful two year (plus five games) collegiate career, albeit at three different universities in the hopes of improving that draft stock and his reputation as a prospect. However, despite posting a .374/.426/.621 slash line which included an All-Conference junior season at Louisiana Lafayette in which he led the Sun Belt Conference in BA (.388), hits (99), and total bases (155), ranked fourth in homers (12) and came in fifth in SLG (.608) and OPS (1.039), Kjerstad somehow fell off draft boards altogether.
Prior to the 2014 Draft, Kjerstad was signed by the Kansas City Royals. In 80 games that year for the low A Lexington Legends, the 22-year-old had a respectable season (especially for a guy in his first season in affiliated ball), hitting .275/.336/.428 with six homers, 25 XBH and 33 RBI. A year later though, another wave of somewhat unexpected and potentially mysterious bad fortune hit Kjerstad when after 51 games of .247/.288/.316 ball in high A, the Royals pulled the plug and released him. However, no stranger to a setback, Kjerstad once again took it in stride and headed to the independent leagues where he quickly became one of the American Association’s very best players.
After living out the rest of 2015 hitting .300/.338/.584 with 11 homers and six triples, totals which ranked third and second on his hometown Amarillo Thunderbirds despite him playing in just 45 of their 100 games, Kjerstad was noticed by and signed by the Marlins. Last season, his first full year in A+, consisted of a .227/.291/.383 slash line with 15 homers, a team high and fifth most in the Florida State League, 55 RBI, 14th most in the FSL and 177 total bases, 12th most on the circuit. While the Ks kept coming for the free swinging power hitter, the rate at which he K’d as well as walked slightly improved from his previous days at the same level. In 170 plate appearances in 2015, Kjerstad walked in just 4% of his trips and struck out in 27.6% of them. Last year, in 462 PAs, he walked 29 times or 5.6% of the time and K’d 132 times or 25.8% of the time. While the improvement wasn’t drastic and while it is unrealistic to expect a hitter like Kjerstad to ever become a walks machine who limits strikeouts, the slight improvement proves his knowledge of the strike zone is maturing.
Along with continuing to improve his plate discipline, the other area of Kjerstad’s offensive game that needs to improve is his becoming a more complete zone hitter. Kjerstad’s hit charts pave him as a pure pull hitter and when you watch his mechanics, you know why. While he transfers his power vertically through his body from bottom to top just fine, his troubles begin when he tries to engage his swing. Far too often does he commit the cardinal sin of pulling his head off the ball in favor of looking skyward towards left field, leading to a reduction in contact. The 6’1″ 210 pounder who owns just average bat speed also finds it difficult getting his arms extended on his swing, disallowing him from barrelling up as often as he would like, making him a prime candidate to get jammed and sawed off and, most of all, leaving the outer half of the plate unprotected. These two factors along with the fact that he doesn’t step into pitches tailing away have made him easy pickings for opposing pitchers who hit their spots on the outer black where Kjerstad either makes forced contact or no contact at all. As Kjerstad proved this fall in the Arizona Fall League where he K’d 20 times in 15 games, those problems will only compound against better competition. These issues are to blame for Kjerstad staying in A+ for a third year and they will need to be ironed out as he inches closer to a AA call-up.
While he faces the pretty tough task of redefining his approach and mechanics at the age of 25, if anyone can do it, it’s the extremely motivated Kjerstad who has never backed down from adversity or challenge. A very athletic outfielder who can play either corner spot with good speed and a slightly above average arm that produces throws that carry, if Kjerstad can add fluidity and extension to his swing and improve his plate coverage, his power potential could carry him to a big league bench sometime within the next three years.
John Norwood is another physical specimen who forwent being signed out of high school in favor of college and then was signed by the Marlins as a minor league free agent. Since joining Miami following a .284/.358/.391 three year career from 2012-2014 at Vanderbilt, Norwood has become one of the most impressive power producers in Miami’s organization. After finishing off his junior collegiate year in 2014 by hitting .256/.284/.295 for the Muckdogs, Norwood made the transition to full season affiliated ball by hitting .233/.304/.392 for the single A Grasshoppers. That year, his 16 homers tied him for sixth most in the South Atlantic League. When Norwood would reach without extra bases that season, he frequently turned it into extra bases by way of the steal as his plus plus speed allowed him to swipe 34 bags, seventh most in the Sally. Last year as he moved to pitcher friendly Jupiter, Norwood improved his walk rate from 8% to 9% and lowered his K rate from 23% to 22%. The power still persisted though as he had 24 doubles, tied for ninth most in the Florida State League and collected nine homers and 50 RBI each of which placed 23rd in the FSL. Usually hitting in a prime RBI slot between 3-5 in the lineup and against the highest level of competition he’s ever played at, Norwood’s stolen base total took a bit of a hit but he was still able to swipe 14 bags, good for second on the Hammerheads and 22nd in the league. Whether it be by way of the hit or by way of his improved walk rate, he got on base at a .347 clip, which led Jupiter and ranked 16th in the FSL.
Norwood’s hitting style and swing favor pull but approaching with a balanced load allows him to reach all fields. The work Norwood continues to do in the gym from his senior year collegiate days when he weighed in at 210 to last year when he dropped 20 pounds to come in a 190 has continued to pay dividends for Norwood. Due to his physical regiment, Norwood is getting around on his swings much better and covering the plate much more advantageously. All of this has spelled out a much more complete offensive game for Norwood who has gone from being an all-or-nothing pure power threat to becoming more of an on-base threat, proven by last year’s 60 point uptick in OBP to .347 from the .284 marker he posted in his first 20 pro games in 2014. What’s even better is the drop in weight hasn’t resulted in a power struggle for Norwood whatsoever. Although much leaner, he still collected 37 XBHs in one of the most pitcher friendly leagues in Minor League Baseball last season. While he will still struggle with breaking pitches on the outer half, Norwood’s ability to adjust his game around his body and become a much more all-around offensive weapon is very encouraging for his future.
Despite OPSing .744 last year, Norwood enters 2017 as a somewhat puzzling repeater of a level of the minors for the first time. However, if his play persists including his power production, improved knowledge of the zone, above average speed and abilities to cover all the ground necessary in right field (1.94 range factor last season), run good routes and make strong accurate throws (seven assists in 2016), it will not take him long to make the jump to AA. Still just 24, Norwood, already a College World Series hero, sets up as one of the more intriguing under-the-radar high ceiling prospects in the organization.
Avery Romero was selected and signed by the Marlins out of high school in the third round of the 2012 Draft. Entering his fifth year in the organization, it’s been an up and down career so far for the now 23-year-old. Romero broke out in 2013 with a .297/.357/.411 campaign for the Muckdogs, averages which ranked 7th, 20th and 22nd in the NYPL, along with 18 doubles which was tied for third and 30 RBI which tied him for 20th despite playing in just 56 of the league’s 74 games. From there, he moved to the Grasshoppers where he had an even more impressive season, hitting .320/.366/.429. He was once again near the top of his league in BA (5th), improved to 14th in OBP, and ranked inside the top 25 in slugging. His surprising power, especially for a guy of his 5’11”, 195 stature, persisted as he collected 23 doubles and slammed five homers. These exports earned Romero his call to A+ to end the 2014 season where he finished off his already strong season even stronger, hitting .320/.366/.429 in his first 100 ABs and allowed him to enter the next season as the Marlins’ fifth best prospect.
However, that 2015 season which Romero spent entirely in A+ was a lot less kind. That season met Romero with a stunt in his growth as he managed to slash just .259/.315/.314, his K rate rose from 11% to 14%. After hitting 32 total doubles in 2014, he managed just 14. Even though all of this came by way of an almost exactly neutral .297 BABIP, none of it stopped the Marlins from rushing Romero to AA to begin last season. After a dismal .190/.299/.290 initial 36 games with the Suns, the Marlins sent Romero back to the Hammerheads. There, an even further sub-par season greeted him as he hit just .253/.314/.335 in 75 games. The one silver lining from 2015, his improved walk rate of 7.5%, shrunk back to 6.8%. However, the strikeouts persisted as he K’d at a 13.2% rate.
While it was probably a mistake for the Marlins to rush Romero to AA last year after such a dismally average 2015 in which he sat right around the mendoza line and while it probably did more harm than good for his growth, Romero is still just 23 and still honing a unique skill set. When batting, Romero crowds the zone and attacks it from a low athletic stance which allows the 5’11” infielder to cut down even more on an already small strike zone. His swing which he times from a front foot trigger and steps to the ball nicely from, holds good bat speed giving him the ability to wait out breaking pitches of any kind. As mentioned, Romero does hold above average power especially for a guy his size but he is more a gap to gap doubles threat than a home run threat. Realizing that has been and will continue to be Romero’s biggest challenge as his biggest weakness is trying to do too much with his swings at the expense of his balance. Realizing the limits of your offensive game is a big step for any prospect to make and it will be even harder for Romero who is feeling the pressure of falling out of the organization’s top 30 prospect rankings this season for the first time in his career. Playing at third base, a very high power expectant position, full time as he did last season will only work further against the gifted infielder’s psyche so the Marlins would be wise to move him back to his more natural position and a spot where his gap hitting game will be more valuable, second base. In 2,531.2 career innings there before his spending more games at third for the first time in his career last year, Romero has posted a ridiculous 4.46 range factor and has only committed 49 errors in 1,365 chances (.964 fielding percentage).
Completing Romero’s game and getting his production back on track after his sophomore slump 2015 and his ill-advised promotion to AA for a third of his season and an equally disadvantageous move to third base full-time in 2016 will be a dual effort between him and the team. But should Romero improve his discipline in terms of not trying to swing out of his shoes so often and instead maintain the softness in his hands and stop falling off to his pull side, his K rates which soared last year should lower and his walk rate should improve. Management can make this a much easier process for Romero if they move him back back to second base where he has much more experience and plays his best defense. There, he won’t feel the pressure of being relied upon to produce bigger power numbers and thus be allowed to comfortably be himself. Should that two-way street run smoothly and should Romero grow into even more strength on top of his already plus power game as his 23-year-old body completes its development, Romero could become a very valuable, very rare breed: a complete hitting bat with the ability to both get on base and drive runs in on top a wizard-like glove and pair of feet in the middle of the field. With a ceiling I equate to Josh Harrison only with better patience and a better K/BB, Romero may be out of sight within the Marlins’ top 30 prospects (according to MLB.com), but he should definitely not be out of mind.
1. Jeff Brigham
2. Jorgan Cavanerio
3. Chris Sadberry
4. Felipe Gonzalez
Jeff Brigham is a Dodgers’ fourth round draft pick out of the University of Washington in 2014. After sub-par years in 2012 and 2013, he earned his draft stock that year by having a 90 IP, 2.90 ERA, 1.13 WHIP junior season. He finished off the 2014 calendar year by getting his feet wet in affiliated ball, tossing to the tune of a 3.58 ERA, a 1.47 WHIP and a .268 BAA in 33.2 innings for the Ogden Raptors.
Enter 2015. This is where the mismanagement of Brigham by the Dodgers began and his career with them started to end. Just seven innings into his full season ball career, LA, possibly feeling the pressure of Brigham’s high age of 23 for such a low level of competition, thought it wise to allow Brigham to just about completely skip low A and promote him straight to single A advanced Rancho Cucamonga. That season, Brigham struggled mightily. In 17 games and 68 innings, his ERA reached an ugly 5.96, third worst in the California League, by way of a 1.68 WHIP, fourth worst and a .286 BAA. However, all of these struggles would prove to be a blessing in disguise for both Brigham and the Marlins.
On July 30, 2016, Brigham was thought by the Dodgers to be nothing more than a throw in chip in the trade that brought them Mat Latos and Michael Morse at the expense of Victor Araujo and Kevin Guzman. By joining Miami, Brigham also joined the pitchers’ haven Florida State League allowing him to get his career back on track. There, in the last two years, Brigham has become quite possibly the most valuable peice on either side of that trade.
Upon joining Jupiter, Brigham finished out his 2015 campaign with 33.2 innings worth of 1.87 ERA, 1.28 WHIP ball, a small sample but nonetheless a feel-good ending to an otherwise depressing season. In 2016, after he struggled through an injury, a trip to the DL and an overall slow 5.73 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, .269 BAA first half, Brigham became one of the most reliable and effective starting pitchers in the organization in the second half. From June 25 through September 3, Brigham started 13 games, averaging over five innings and an even three runs per as well as an overall 1.17 WHIP. Brigham, who got stronger and stronger, healthier and healthier the later the season got, struck out 21% of his opponents in those 13 starts and one relief appearance and walked just 7%.
From Tommy John in 2012 that caused him to miss an entire season of play, to his struggles in 2015 that caused him to be pawned off by the Dodgers to undergoing a second surgery and making another lengthy to the DL last year, Brigham has already been through the ringer in his baseball career and has been forced to grow up quickly as a pro. It speaks volumes to his tenacity and grit that he is where he is today, heading into 2017 arguably the healthiest he has ever been after his most successful season at the highest level he’s ever played at. Throwing downhill from a rocker step wind up and full arm circle release, Brigham steps into his pitches with tons of power and generates great downhill velocity. His heat which shows good arm side run can get as high as 97 but, considering his past health problems and the fear of flare ups, will usually be harnessed in the 92-94 MPH range. Brigham’s second pitch is a slider which sits in the mid 80s and offsets his fastball positively. A lot of reason for his success in the second half of 2016 was due to his gaining more control of the pitch and being able to spot it on the low inner half against righties. Combined with the drop in velo from his heat which runs outside against same side hitters, it became more of a perfect complimentary offering and he gained the ability to pitch off of it. Brigham also made strides with his changeup in the second half last year, flashing added depth and good command although it can be a bit inconsistent. Despite the encouraging uptick in Ks in the second half last year, Brigham has a more vast history of being a to-contact guy and that reputation should follow him into the upper minors. If he hopes to stick as a rotation starter, he will need to further develop his changeup into a more reliable plus pitch. It has shown flashes but it is not there yet. That along with staying healthy will be the primary areas of focus for Brigham. If he comes back throwing the same way he did to end 2016, the Marlins’ 17th rated prospect is a prime candidate to get the promotion to AA with the floor of a multiple inning reliever and the ceiling of a back end starter.
Projected Team Stats
65 HR/264 XBH
1,185 IP, 3.86 ERA, 1.30 WHIP
Making it to the Major Leagues from the ranks of the independent leagues is a tough road to hoe. From 2013 through last offseason, just 208 total players, 120 pitchers and 88 position players, were selected by major league clubs. Making it out of an indy league uniform and into a Marlins’ affiliated uniform is an even rarer feat. Just three of those 208 had their contracts purchased by the Fish. So when the Marlins do invite an indy league player to the majors, as they did with Dalton Wheat in October, they obviously see something special.
Wheat, a native of Augusta, Kansas, got his collegiate baseball career started at a small area community college. Over the course of two seasons as a Butler Grizzly, Wheat hit .341/.421/.497 with 71 RBI and 74 steals before moving on to the state university level. The jump in level didn’t phase Wheat at all. Over the next two years in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association with the Emporia State University Hornets, he hit .367/.452/.578 with 78 RBI and 32 steals. However, despite a .353/.435/.531, 149 RBI, 105 SB collegiate career, Wheat went undrafted in the 2015 MLB Draft. For many players his age, going undrafted after four years of college is usually a kiss of death for promising baseball careers. Wheat’s career itself nearly fell victim to it as well as he was admittedly disappointed and in the beginning stages of pondering life after baseball. Then one day his phone rang.
“It wasn’t the easiest pill to swallow,” Wheat divulged. “I thought I was going to have to find a job and finish up school. But after I got a call from the T-Bones, I was just grateful for another opportunity to play. That’s all I wanted was a way to get my foot in the door so I can continue playing baseball.”
In a single season for the Kansas City T-Bones, Wheat did more than get his foot in the door; he kicked it down. It took Wheat just 67 games to become unaffiliated baseball’s top prospect by way of a .335/.414/.403 slash line. Finally, after a long road and some adversity which he handled like a pro, this coming season, Wheat will be a major leaguer. When asked what he will do in order to succeed in affiliated ball, Wheat points towards doing the same thing as he always has and what allowed him to enjoy a fantastic college career and a coming out season in the indy leagues.
“I was very excited when I got the news that I was able to move to the next level,” Wheat said. “I’m not really sure what to expect, but I’m going to treat the game like I’ve always treated it. I’m going to work hard play as hard as I can so the transition should be smooth if I just worry about controlling what I can control.”
Sticking to what has served him well holds a lot of weight with Wheat. It is for that same reason that he has continued a tradition that he began in his years in community college and a tradition that has since become his own personal trademark, even at this young stage of his baseball career. When hitting, Wheat doesn’t wear Nike, UnderArmour or adidas on his hands. Instead, he literally wears the American outdoors as he sports the same gloves that he uses when he goes hunting in his leisure time away from baseball. According to Wheat, it is something that he began doing in a time of need and something that hasn’t failed him since so he never stopped and doesn’t plan on doing so in the majors.
“I started wearing them my freshman year at Butler because I let my buddy borrow my actual batting gloves at the time and we ended up being in different hitting groups the next day,” Wheat said. “I had a big blister on my hand, so I didn’t want to make it a lot worse by hitting without gloves, so I just grabbed a pair of work gloves I had in my truck to hit with and I liked the way they made me feel like I didn’t have to over grip the bat so I’ve been using them ever since. I plan on continuing to wear them unless I’m told otherwise. They have worked well for me this far, so why try to fix something that ain’t broke?”
Having spent most of his life in the small town midwest, in coming to south Florida or New Orleans, Wheat will be in for a new experience and challenge in adjusting to big city life and in travelling the minor league and potentially major league circuits, life on the road as a big leaguer. It will also mean it is the furthest away from his family he has ever been. It will be a new and untraveled road for him but if anyone is up to the task, Dalton is. And though they will be further away, his family, as they always have been, will be in his corner.
“They are really supportive and really excited,” Wheat said of his loved ones’ response to the news that he will be taking his baseball career east. “They are a little sad that I’ll be going away. But they are mainly happy for me that I got this opportunity.”
Wheat himself is undoubtedly a bit sad to be waving goodbye to his home for an extended period for the first time in his life but, looking for the positive in the situation as he always has, he also sees it as an advantage in the way that he will be able to focus completely on baseball without being as connected to his life at home.
“I think it actually might help me stay focused because I wouldn’t have the normal distractions I would at home,” Wheat said of his relocation. “I think I am going to be pretty busy with ball so I don’t think I’ll have much time to think of anything else.”
In Wheat, the Marlins get a guy that remained a complete hitter all through college, through the let down of going unrecognized in the draft, and, after nearly setting up a life away from baseball, a full season in the independent leagues that saw him becoming its most prized asset. He comes to the Marlins with whom he will be able to devote more of his attention to with very few hitches in his overall game. With a great attitude and work ethic, Wheat, still just 22, should begin his big league career in high A Jupiter but could and likely will fly through the lower minors. Scouts place his ceiling at fourth outfielder status but should he build a bit of outfield arm strength and maintain the same great plate vision and solid straight-through stride and swing at the plate and plus speed on the bases while he adjusts to a new level of opposing pitching and defense, he could become starting outfielder material. While Wheat’s signing by the Marlins who always try to get creative with their offseason moves, wasn’t covered much aside from a few short paragraphs around the internet, in a few year’s time, it could prove to be one of their best under the radar offseason moves in recent memory.
Considering he has fantastic ability and an attitude to match, keep the name Dalton Wheat at the back of your mind and don’t be surprised if it rises to the forefront of the Marlins’ top prospect list very quickly.