Lights out, impressive, dominant. Choose your favorite adjective. They can all be used to describe what lefty Trevor Rogers is accomplishing this spring, solidifying himself as the Marlins’ fifth starter. One of the marquee positional battles coming in to spring training, with a week left, the 24-year-old lefty has made it virtually impossible for decision makers not to include his name on the Opening Day roster. In his first 19 spring innings, Trevor’s stuff has spoken for itself. In 13.1 IP, he’s racked up 19 Ks to just four walks. He has at least five strikeouts in each of his last three outings.
The last time we saw Trevor pitch in minor league games, the 6’6” 185 pound lefty was topping out at 94 with an average slider and the nascent beginnings of a changeup. He was also experimenting with a cutter (which he has since dropped) but overall, he lacked a true third pitch. Since then, Rogers has put on 20 athletic pounds. Don Mattingly commented earlier this spring on how striking the contrast in Rogers’ build was from the last time he saw him to when he saw him for the first time this spring.
“It looked like his neck really filled up,” he said. “You’re kind of taken aback by the appearance and the change.”
Rogers came by the added size via pretty simple meal planning: eating more fatty foods of the time while mixing in healthier stuff “here and there”.
“Just crushing calories any way I can,” he told the Miami Herald’s Jordan McPherson. “And it’s not always good calories.”
As unusual as that may seem for a professional athlete, it’s worked wonders for Trevor. The byproducts of his diet have been two-fold: up to three miles an hour of velo added to his fastball and more force behind his breaking pitches including his slider which he is gripping tighter and spinning better.
The most noticeable change in Rogers circa 2019 compared to this spring though has been the improvement of his changeup.
Rogers says he began getting a better feel for the pitch in 2020. He gained the ability to throw it for strikes frequently and started throwing it with added conviction. Like the slider, this spring, Rogers has begun putting more behind the changeup, transforming it into a whole different animal.
“I felt like I was hitting the fluency of it [last year]. I felt it was my second best pitch but I was less intense,” Rogers said. “I got more confident throwing it over the plate and added some intensity which gave it that late dive action. It’s really grown a lot over the last year or so from back when my confidence in it was at an all-time low.”
Over the course of the last year and a half, Rogers has managed to take loop out of the pitch in terms of its horizontal break and he’s added tons more vertical break. All in all, the pitch moves sharply from right to left before falling off the table. Previously with little to no break, the pitch now has two-plane action and Trevor’s high pitcher’s IQ allows him to mix with it advantageously.
Suddenly armed with higher heat and two plus breakers, Trevor Rogers has turned the corner and looks primed to go toe-to-toe with the rest of the National League’s top rookie starters. While that would surprise many in the national baseball world, we, along with others in the Marlins’ community, wouldn’t be surprised at all.
It happened. His day has finally come. After being initially linked to the Marlins as far back as late 2019, Yiddi Cappe was forced to wait another six months to officially make his dream a reality. Today, Cappe, surrounded by his family, finally inked his contract with the Marlins who took him with their first pick in the international draft.
“It was just more of a dream,” Cappe said through an interpreter at his introductory press conference. “As a kid being part of Miami, there in Florida [are] a lot of Cubans. The community is really big. It’s just a dream. I always wanted to be a Marlin, and now I am, and it’s an honor.”
The 10th ranked international prospect, Cappe came to America as a 16-year-old in 2018. Cappe began playing against national competition and it didn’t take him long to start garnering the attention of scouts. Cappe could have been selected earlier than today but he originally hit the market at a time when most teams spent most of their pool money. According to reports, it is rumored that the Marlins offered Cappe a $3.5 million bonus to hold out until 2020 when bonus pools reset. Cappe apparently agreed. Since then, Yiddi has been working out at the Marlins’ academy in the Dominican Republic. The film we have seen of him is encouraging:
Latest round of BP from Marlins international free agent target Cuban SS Yiddi Cappe (wearing a face covering) pic.twitter.com/bGKCNN4jIa— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) May 7, 2020
The ultimate question on everyone’s mind is how good can Yiddi be? Where do we cap Cappe’s ceiling? Judging by what reports and our eyes while viewing the material we have seen on Yiddi tell us, that ceiling is pretty high. He has a solid straight-through approach, good bat speed, a good feel for the strike zone and can cover the plate in order to hit to all fields. The biggest question surrounding Yiddi for evaluators is can he make that translate to in-game action at the next level? A lanky kid and one of the older signees in this year’s class and a guy who hasn’t seen much in game action recently, some scouts limit their optimism and label Cappe a glove-first player at the next level. On the flip side, there are others who see a good offensive blueprint and plenty of time for Yiddi to grow in to his body, adding a better power element to his game
While the jury is very much still out and will remain out on Yiddi as he translates to minor league ball, he is well advanced for his age in terms of defensive mechanics. At the very least, he will become a perennial Gold Glove contender. He is also ahead of his years in terms of plate vision and strike zone knowledge. Swing paths to the ball are clean and his hands are quick, allowing his long limbs to get to the ball and put it in play to all fields. These traits should allow Yiddi to limit strikeouts and lengthen at bats. Cappe is already being praised for his bat to ball skills and ability to hit the ball hard, but with little uppercut to his swing and questions about his frame when fully grown, he projects best as a plus BA, plus OBP hitter with average speed.
Far beyond his age with so many tools already at his disposal, even if Cappe doesn’t ever come by much over-the-fence power, there is huge potential here. While skeptics remain regarding Yiddi’s build, age at time of selection and experience, he joins a Marlins system rich in middle infield talent. The $3.5 million man will undoubtedly be treated with care and not rushed in the slightest. While we still need to see him play, the comparison to Astros’ standout Carlos Correa, a 6’4”, 220, .276/.353/.480 career hitter six years into his career, is real and prevalent here.
The Marlins’ cap is on Yiddi and the show is about to start. After extended spring training, his big league career should begin in June 2021 in Jupiter with the GCL Marlins.
With the unprecedented taking place all around them and for a time infiltrating their clubhouse, the 2020 Miami Marlins rose up in the face of every adversity that approached them and accomplished what most of the baseball world thought to be seemingly improbable, making the postseason for the first time in 17 years. A major catalyst in the Marlins’ success this season were the exports of young players, some of which were necessarily called upon to make their MLB debuts ahead of schedule.
“I’m so happy for them. I gave them a big hug after the last out,” club leader Miguel Rojas said after the Marlins’ final game of the season. “I’m happy and proud of every guy but especially every guy that wasn’t supposed to be here.”
Despite the cancelation of Minor League season, the cancelation of spring training and the closing of facilities due to the COVID-19 and despite trips back and forth between the alternate training site, many Marlins youngsters remained prepared, stayed ready to go and showed marked improvement while participating at the highest level of development. What did we see from whom and what are our impressions of them as we look ahead to 2021? Here are our thoughts.
RHP Sixto Sanchez
2020: 39 IP, 3.46 ERA, 1.205 WHIP, 33/11 K/BB
The prize of the JT Realmuto trade, Sixto brought his wrath to the bigs on August 22nd after building up his arm during spring and shedding weight during the COVID layoff.
— Fish On The Farm (@marlinsminors) July 7, 2020
A much brisker Sixto took the mound on August 22nd armed with better command over his staple, a spicy 97-101 mph heater and a wipe-out changeup that he showed the ability to locate on both sides of the plate for easy whiffs both in and out of the zone. The Sanchez changeup came to the plate turning at an average rate of 1800 RPMs, 55 above league average and with vertical movement 1.5 inches better than league average competition thus the reason for swings such as this:
— Fish On The Farm (@marlinsminors) August 23, 2020
Sixto’s fastball/changeup combo is downright deadly and provides him with the ability to become a very special talent in the not too distant future. How far Sixto goes will be dependent on two other variables: more consistent command and the development of a third pitch. Here are Sixto’s pitch charts (via Baseball Savant) from his second start in which he struck out 10 and his final start of the season in which he struggled:
More consistent command should work itself out naturally as Sixto gains more experience so we should start seeing the corner-painting, whiff-inducing Sixto who got ahead with a first pitch strike around 75% of the time in his first four starts as opposed to the one who only got ahead around 55% of the time in his last three starts more often next season. The question will be how often does that version of Sixto show up? His fiery arm and equally fiery style of play and the fact that he plays with so much emotion make Sanchez a prime candidate to bits of overthrowing. Coaching will play a huge part in keeping Sixto composed going forward. Lucky for the Marlins they have arguably the best developmental staff in all of baseball, so we like Sixto’s chances to mature advantageously and in a hurry.
The second hurdle if Sixto is to grow into the bonafide ace the Marlins hope he can become: he will need to further develop one of his third pitches into a plus pitch. Sanchez has good blueprints for two other offerings, a slider and a curveball both of which, like the changeup, hold superior spin rates but he lacks a current overall feel for both the 88-90 mph slide piece and the power 83-86 mph tight hook. Both pitches show flashes: the slider shows late wipe-out action and Sixto has shown he can place it both in the zone and on the back foot for true strikes and chase strikes. The curve shows flashes of good hard bite and downward action, giving it a future for high swing end miss rates coupled up against his heater but again, the consistency will need to arrive. The slider is further ahead than the curve, but Sixto has more often than not caught too much zone or not enough leading to either hard contact or an easy spit by opposing hitters. Hitters are picking the slider up out of Sixto’s hand because he slows down his arm speed leading to more difficulty when it comes to tunneling the pitch with the fastball. Upon release, Sixto is also prone to falling far off to his glove side, leading to lapses in control.
Polish Sixto would have received during a full 2020 MiLB season he began receiving against MLb hitters this year. He will start rounding into form during the offseason and spring training. Given his work ethic and determination on top of the fact that the Marlins have the best developmental staff in the game, we have no doubt Sixto will make the 2021 rotation as the best version of himself. Stay tuned, Marlins fans. You’ve only begun to be dazzled.
LHP Trevor Rogers
28 IP, 6.11 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, 39/13 K/BB
Rogers is no stranger to having his growth stunted. After being selected by the Marlins in the first round of the 2016 MLB Draft, the high school product out of New Mexico had Tommy John forcing him to miss the entire 2017 season. So when spring training was canceled and when the MiLB season was called off, Rogers knew exactly the course of action to take in order to keep improving. After only having the basic schematics for a third pitch in spring training 1.0, Rogers showed back up to camp in July armed with the same changeup seen here used to K Rays’ breakout star Randy Arozarena:
Asked about the quick development and maturity of the pitch after his third career start, a 6 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 10 K, 5 BB quality outing against the Phillies, Rogers credited the improvement to his ability to allow his windup to go through its entire cycle before release.
“I think it’s just getting to my top,” Rogers said. “I can kind of drift, kind of rush my delivery and cut across the baseball. So if I can just get to my top and get my legs underneath me with the ball out in front and have that good down action to it, it’s a very effective pitch.”
It’s a testament to Rogers’ work ethic and focus that he was able to bring that pitch from barely a mix-in offering to one that flashes plus and has plenty of opportunity to grow into a consistent plus pitch. He also added a couple ticks onto his heater which previously sat between 90-93 and topping at 96 but is now sitting 92-94 and hitting 97. Rogers also has the makings of a cut piece which is still inthe nascent stages given the amount of work he put in with the change up but if his recent past is any indication, he could quickly develop that offering as well.
If you look at Rogers’ stats from the 28 innings he threw with the Marlins this year, you’d think he really struggled but he only really got hit hard on one occasion, a 3 IP, 8 ER dousing at the hands of the Phillies. If you take that outing off his ledger, he had a 3.96 ERA in 25 IP. He also showed the mental maturity needed to succeed at the next level by bouncing back from that start with his aforementioned 10 K shutout performance against the AL Champion Tampa Bay Rays.
Perfecting one pitch while working on others isn’t easy, but it’s extremely difficult to do when you’re pushed into doing it at the big league level. Overall though, a few command and control woes aside (which, like Sixto, should work themselves out as Rogers fills out and the rest of the way into his frame), Trevor responded extremely well to everything this season threw at him. He will have some competition next spring if he wants to keep a rotation spot but knowing Trevor, he will use that as even more fuel for his fire. We predict Trevor will really impress this March and, armed with four pitches, make the 2021 Marlins rotation as the four/five slot starter.
IF Jazz Chisholm
2020: .164/.221/.321, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 19/5 K/BB, 2/2 SB/CS
The prize of the oft-criticized Zac Gallen trade last season, Jazz begun to make beautiful music to Marlins’ fans’ ears by hitting .284/.383/.494 in 81 games with the AA Jumbo Shrimp upon his change of scenery last season. The 22-year-old showed up at camp this year as a member of the Marlins’ 40-man and showed out on the field as well as in the clubhouse while beginning to endear himself to Marlins fans.
Check out this 🚀 (112 mph exit velocity) off the bat of Jazz Chisholm.
Read more about Chisholm on the #Marlins Top 30 Prospects list: https://t.co/o8XYUl1VjS pic.twitter.com/64e8gzapDP— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 8, 2020
Despite the impressions made, Jazz was likely headed for AAA Wichita for some final seasoning to begin 2020 but COVID had other plans and Jazz was called upon to make his MLB debut on September 1st. His first at bat came a night later and his first hit came four days later. In his seventh MLB appearance, Jazz did this:
Overall, in the regular season, Jazz hit .161/.242/.321. The stats don’t necessarily jump off the page but for a kid nearly seven years younger than his league average competition with less than a full season above A ball to jump into the majors and contribute positively in any regard should be commended and should be viewed as encouraging. But wait, there’s more. After making his final regular season appearance on the final day of the regular season, Jazz was included as part of the Marlins’ postseason roster. After being a glorified spectator for 10 days, Don Mattingly recognized Jazz’s ability to be a catalytic energizer and included him in the starting lineup for what would wind up being the Marlins’ final game of the season. Though the Marlins wound up being eliminated from the playoffs on that day, Jazz stepped into the biggest game of his career, reached base twice and nearly homered late.
Chisholm, a lefty hitting athletically built 6’, 185 pound specimen, has one of the sweetest swings in the Marlins’ organization. Even though his swing is mostly straight through his lightning quick hands and the ability to stay through the ball with good balance and posture promotes gap and fence power to all fields. He also owns plus speed which he has put on display in his minor league career (49/12 SB/CS) and early in his big league career (4/2 SB/CS this season, including spring training). Jazz’s flighty feet serve him just as well in the field where he shows good range to both sides of the middle infield and an above average glove capable of a plus dWAR. The Marlins began trying Jazz out at second base this season, a spot in which he had only ever played one career inning. Chisholm looked plenty comfortable and plenty capable of manning that spot regularly. With all the Marlins have coming at the shortstop position, it is advantageous to have flexibility with Jazz at a secondary position.
As good as Chisholm is on the field, he’s just as good if not better off the field. With an infectious personality and an uncanny ability to stay positive and keep the game fun for both his teammates and fans, Chisholm is a face of the franchise type talent capable of big things both tangible and intangible.
“Every game I play, I’m having fun,” Chisholm said. “That’s never going to change. I could be 50 out there, and I’m still going to have fun. Every day is 100-percent fun for me. All smiles.”
With the Marlins reportedly in the market for veteran middle infield pieces this offseason, it is possible Chisholm will head to AAA to begin 2021 in order to finish garnering seasoning, namely the one labeled “plate vision and discipline” (career MiLB K rate near 30%), an issue that could be fixed with better pitch recognition and by him allowing the ball to get deeper before swing execution. Wherever Jazz starts though, he will undoubtedly contribute to the Marlins next season. A 20/20 threat at premium positions, Jazz is a key cog in this rebuild and the long term future of the club. A joy to be around and watch play, those who hated the Gallen trade will soon begin hearing and loving the music.
OF Monte Harrison
2020: 47 AB, .170/.235/.255, HR, 3 RBI, 26/4, K/BB, 6/0 SB/CS
A product of the Yelich trade and the Marlins’ third ranked prospect entering this season, Harrison came to the Marlins on August 3rd after the COVID-19 outbreak. The results for the 2014 second round pick? Not great. In his first 37 big league ABs, Harrison went 4-33 with a 21/3 K/BB before being sent back to the ATS. An injury to Harold Ramirez gave Harrison a second chance to shine in September. Serving in a fill in/utility role, Harrison showed some improvement (extremely limited sample alert) equaling his previous hit total in less than half the amount of ABs.
Harrison’s development has been the victim of some serious snags, the first being a major wrist injury last season that limited him to 59 games and the second the canceling of the 2020 Minor League season. While he has been on the field, Marlins coaches have worked tirelessly with Monte shortening both his swing and shortening his timing trigger, turning it into a short downhill stride into the ball, promoting a better bat to ball tool. If and when Monte makes contact, the ball has the ability to absolutely fly; it’s improving that frequency that will make or break his big league future. And the Marlins are on the path to do so. Much like the club has done with Lewis Brinson who is playing the best baseball of his big league career, they are beginning to see Monte turn the corner in a very similar fashion.
Not too arguably the most athletically gifted figure in the entire system and maybe even in all of baseball, Monte was a two sport athlete in high school lettering in both baseball and basketball. On top of insurmountable raw strength, the 6’3”, 225 pound specimen owns plus plus speed, making him a threat for 20+ steals annually and giving him the ability to cover any outfield ground necessary and then some. Add on to that a powerful outfield arm and Harrison is a potential five tool standout. His struggles aside, there is still tons of upside here especially if and when Monte completely riddles out his bat-to-ball frequency. Harrison should be considered a favorite in the Marlins’ 2021 Opening Day outfield contest that will take place this spring.
“It’s up to them now to get better,” Miguel Rojas said at the end of the season. “To put in the work and come back to spring training better than ever and ready to battle.”
For Minor League Baseball players, the work never stops. The road to Spring Training 2021 started immediately after the final out of the 2020 season. And we, like the Marlins, are ecstatic to see where that road leads for these players and countless others.
Stay tuned to Fish On The Farm all offseason long here, via @marlinsminors on Twitter and Instagram and via our podcast Swimming Upstream for prospect reports and coverage leading in to the 2021 season.
In 2020, the breeze will carry Marlins AAA prospects back westward. They will settle in southeastern Kansas as members of the Wichita Wind Surge. Why the relocation? Why Wichita? Why the Wind Surge? For the answers to those inquiries and more, we spoke to the franchise’s owner, Lou Schwechheimer.
Since 1993, Schwechheimer’s franchise made its home in the city of New Orleans. For the first four years of existence, the club played in the American Association before signing their first PBA affiliation in 1993. Ten years and two PCL league titles later, the club became affiliated with the Marlins. In 2017, Schwechheimer and his staff attempted to reinvigorate the club by rebranding and the Zephyrs became the New Orleans Baby Cakes. It worked.
“The year we rebranded from Zephyrs to Baby Cakes, the team went from last in Triple A in merchandise to the Top 20 of the 160 clubs in Minor League Baseball for the first time in New Orleans team history. The Baby Cakes logo was voted best in all of Minor League Baseball in a nation-wide contest by Baseball America.
In addition to changing the team’s name and image, Schwechheimer attempted to do the same to Zephyr Field as it became the Shrine On Airline. Schwechheimer and his partners put up thousands of dollars of their own money in order to upgrade the park’s fan interaction areas in an attempt to drive attendance numbers which had been declining annually long before his arrival in NoLa.
“When we first arrived in New Orleans, the franchise had faced a long, slow slide in virtually every category. There were significant concerns as attendance ranked consistently at or near the bottom of all Triple A clubs. Ticket sales were also ranked at or near the bottom of AAA franchises. The stadium had a number of issues that were in need of repair,” Schwechheimer said. “I am proud of the fact that we immediately sought to reenergize the franchise, pouring significant money into repairing the stadium, building new concession stands, improving the clubhouse amenities for the players, etc.”
However, all of Schwechheimer and company’s action to revitalize the team was met with equal inaction by local officials and by the stadium’s management team, LSED which last renovated the park in 2008 (playing surface only). For that reason, Schwechheimer applied to terminate partnership with the city after the 2019 season, despite there being two years remaining on the club’s lease at the Shrine.
According to Schwechheimer, because of his own expenditures in New Orleans, he was not actively seeking to relocate the club before those efforts reached fruition and before his contract with LSED expired. However, in Wichita, Schwechheimer recognized a golden opportunity, one he knew he had to seize.
”We had made significant private investment in the stadium in New Orleans, which was not owned by the team, and were not looking to relocate. However, the City of Wichita had long sought to return Triple-A Baseball to town and had the funding in place to build a Triple-A stadium. Once all of the proper permissions were secured to explore the territory, we visited Wichita and immediately realized that this was a once in a generation opportunity to create a magical environment,” Schwechheimer said. “The civic, political and community passion to bring a team to Wichita was extraordinary and a partnership was created that will secure family-friendly entertainment and serve as a catalyst for a Baseball & Entertainment Village for all to enjoy.”
Under the guidance of the stadium oversight committee headed by three members of the team’s front office, construction on the soon-to-be Wind Surge’s home ballpark began in February 2019. The design and build teams were headed by the DLR Group and JE Dunn Construction which have experience in building upward of 50 stadiums and arenas nationwide. More than being a place for his team to play ball, Schwechheimer’s vision for the park, a $75,000,000 project built on the banks of the Arkansas River overlooking the Wichita skyline, is two-fold: drive local business and create a family-friendly destination for both Wichita natives and out-of-towners, one to be enjoyed for generations to come.
“Wichita is the largest city in Kansas with a master development vision for both sides of the river. The stadium will serve as a catalyst for significant development with new restaurants, hotels, bars, a Ferris wheel, and many recreational activities for families and fans of all ages,” Schwechheimer said. “The park stands poised to take its place as one of the most iconic ballparks in all of Major League and Minor League Baseball.”
— Wichita Wind Surge (Official) (@WindSurgeICT) December 14, 2019
What fan interaction areas does Schwechheimer have planned for the park to ensure his vision is seen through? He highlighted just a few of his fondest:
“My favorite features are wide concourses, extra wide seats and rows so fans will sit in comfort with room to stretch out,” Schwechheimer said. “There will be fan-friendly pavilions with incredible views into ballpark and also views of river from rooftop bars and patios.”
In relocating, Schwechheimer has also prioritized his relationship with the Marlins and has welcomed them as an equal partner while building the park’s playing surface and player/coach areas.
“We are very appreciative of the Miami Marlins agreeing to join in the various design meetings to insure that the playing field, clubhouses, weight room, training and conditioning spaces, video rooms, managers and coaches facilities, player and family areas exceed the requirements of the PBA and will insure that Wichita is a great place that players will thrive in and enjoy playing on their way to the big leagues,” Schwechheimer said. “We will educate fans as to our role in the player development system, and celebrate the achievements of the Marlins players as a community when players get the call to the big leagues. In time, we look forward to the Marlins bringing the World Series Trophy to Wichita.”
What’s in a name? For Schwechheimer, a ton.
When relocation became a certainty, Lou and crew left naming the franchise in the hands of those that would be donning, speaking and connecting with the name most frequently: the fans. In order to give breath the eventual winner, the club recruited one of the best sports artists: the world-renowned Todd Radom.
“We have had over 3,000 online submissions with suggestions for the Wichita team name. We worked tirelessly to narrow the candidates to six. Each is unique to Wichita and each tells a story,” Schwechheimer said. “Todd Radom is a genius, and has done so many remarkable logos and baseball-related projects, and I am pleased to report that our staff worked with Todd over the past several months to bring the final name to life.”
The team’s social media accounts revealed the five runners-up for the clubs name including the Line Men, the Doo-Dahs and the 29ers before finally announcing the team’s official identity on November 13.
Here’s the meaning behind your Wichita Wind Surge!! Here’s to a new era in this great city!! pic.twitter.com/VxMoGRGkL0
— Wichita Wind Surge (Official) (@WindSurgeICT) November 14, 2019
“Wichita fans were great and we had over 3,000 name suggestions, many related to “Air Capital of the World’, the plains, wheat, the Chisholm Trail, etc,” Schwechheimer said. “We had several suggestions relative to the awesome power of the wind so decided the imagery of the power of the wind with a city truly ‘surging’ forward was the way to go.”
The market agreed and the immediate response to the logo unveil was booming. According to Schwechheimer, it is the most successful branding he has ever been a part of.
“We were involved in a new rollout in Pawtucket with Red Sox which was a very traditional classic baseball look, then took New Orleans Zephyrs from last in Triple A baseball to Top Ten in all of Minor League Baseball with the irrreverent Baby Cakes. But I am pleased to say that the Wichita Wind Surge’s first two weeks has surpassed both and is one of the most successful in baseball in terms of sales out of the gate and enthusiasm in the team store and on-line,” Schwechheimer said. “We received orders from 37 different states and a number of countries in just the first two days.”
According to Wichita native and new Wind Surge fan, Chad Downing, the new team name and logo was met with coalesced reactions. However, Downing is confident that come Opening Day, the region, being rewarded with an MLB-affiliated franchise for the first time since 1984, will be all in.
“With our new name and logo being announced, there were definitely a lot of mixed feelings, but I for one believe in the back story of the name and feel it represents Wichita very well,” Downing said. “I think that once our team runs out onto the field for the first time, my fellow fans, who may not be 100% sold on them yet, will change their minds and believe in the team. This is exciting opportunity for Wichita and our community definitely knows how to rally behind its own.”
In addition to providing Marlins AAA prospects with a state-of-the-art home facility, the venture in Wichita has already begun building Miami’s fan base well outside the borders of South Florida, a tradition that should continue with each passing generation as Wichitans introduce their children to the game of baseball.
“I’m very excited to have the Marlins’ AAA affiliate come to town. I’ve been following allowing with all of the moves the club has made this offseason and they have made me even more enthusiastic,” Downing said. “I plan on taking my family to games at the new park. My wife and I are huge fans of the game and we cannot wait to introduce it to our four-year-old.”
Overall, Downing, speaking on behalf of his fellow Wichitans, grows more and more exuberant as the Surge’s stadium continues to take shape in the shadow of the Wichita skyline. Downing said the region isn’t taking the return of affiliated ball for granted. He is confident that his fellow fans will turn out in full throat not only this season but for many years to come.
“As our new stadium continues to take shape, the city’s excitement grows every day,” Downing said. “It’s a really unique opportunity to be part of the opening season for a new team, in a new ballpark. Myself and much of the region are excited to learn about the new team and to get out to the stadium as much as we can to watch the young talent progress.”
Speaking from experience, Schwechheimer affirms that the road to success is an essential route, one that — if paved correctly — builds relationships and makes triumph that much sweeter. Looking back at the past few months, Schwechheimer attests that his staff, all while juggling the responsibility of moving their personal lives to the Midwest, have performed exemplary, going above and beyond to ensure a swift relocation and timely birth of a new park. Due to the nearly perfectly smooth path trodden, all signs point to a prosperous Opening Night on April 14.
“The magic is in the journey. We have a vibrant young staff, great leadership with Jay Miller, Matt White, Annie Life, Cookie Rojas and Jared Forma, 40 families who have now made Wichita home, and will be hiring another 400 plus seasonal and stadium staff. So it has been frenetic and exhilarating,” Schwechheimer said. “The stadium is a legacy project which has transformed the Riverfront, spurred economic development and truly is a game-changer for the City of Wichita, the state of Kansas and the entire region. That feeling when the players take the field for the first time in front of the home crowd makes every second worthwhile.”
The Wind Surge, headed by a class chock full of Marlins’ top 30 prospects such as Monte Harrison, Jesus Sanchez, Nick Neidert and others, will take their home field for the first time on April 14. Due to his staff’s early efforts to endear themselves to their new home both inside and outside of their new confines, the city of Wichita will undoubtedly be with them.
With the turn of the tide for the Marlins franchise there comes a ripe new group of Jupiter Hammerheads who sense blood in the water. Led by Corey Bird, Brian Miller, Joe Dunand, James Nelson, Sam Perez, Robert Dugger and Ethan Clark, this young crop of Sharks is primed and ready to feed on the rest of the Florida State League.
Leading the school of young pups into battle for a second straight year will be Kevin “Smoke” Randel. A 13th round draft pick by the Marlins out of Long Beach State University, Randel slashed .267/.374/.439 over a seven year playing career, all in the minors. Coincidentally, his best years came with the team he now coaches, the Jupiter Hammerheads. In 2005 and on return trips in 2007 and 2009, Randel hit a combined .294/.392/.480 with a 1.53 K/BB in 933 total at bats. He spent one season above A ball in 2009 and showed decently, hitting .253/.371/.496 while finishing second on the team in walks (62) and homers (12) only to Giancarlo Stanton (16). The lefty hitter who played three infield spots as well as left field could’ve made a decent career as a bench player but having only briefly reached higher than A ball, he instead decided to retire.
Randel spent two years out of the game before returning to the Marlins organization in 2010 as an assistant coach for the Greensboro Grasshoppers. After two years there and two years with the Jacksonville Suns, he received his first head coaching gig in 2015 with Greensboro. After recording a 116-163 record with the Hoppers, he became the Hammerheads manager last season. That team finished just south of .500, by far his best year as a manager. It was made possible by way of a collective 2.82 ERA, second in the Florida State League, a 1.165 WHIP, also second, and a league leading 2.4 K/BB, numbers which evened out lowly offensive numbers such as a team .233 BA, dead last in the league, and 1,236 Ks, also dead last.
Randel returns to Roger Dean Stadium this year with a much improved talent class, undoubtedly the best he’s ever coached. One of Smoke’s most successful alumni, Kyle Barrett who played for Randel first in Greensboro in 2016 and then in Jupiter last season says that his former coach is perfect for player development because although he demands hard work, Randel’s coaching style makes working hard fun. Barrett also commends Randel’s ability to relate to players.
“Smoke is the man, he’s young so he’s not far out of the game and has feel,” Barrett said. “He’s a laid back coach but also holds you accountable. Play the game the right way and you’ll have no issues.”
Rounding out Randel’s staff is Dan Black, another Marlins draftee from 2010 and minor leaguer from then until 2015. A career .253/.326/.344 hitter, Black was teammates with Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich, J.T. Realmuto and briefly with Giancarlo Stanton in 2011 and 2012. In 2013, he also shared a dugout with Derek Dietrich and Jake Marisnick. In 2012, Black had a great year as a Hammerhead, hitting .314/.375/.396 in 78 games before getting his first AA callup. Black says the breakout year was made possible by his ability to modify his approach and attitude, an experience that many minor leaguers struggle through. Black brings the knowledge and graduation of that process to the squad as a coach at a transitional level of development.
“It was a very important year in my personal development. It is very hard to maintain consistency throughout the length of the season, and 2012 was the first year that I had a clear approach at the plate and I stuck with it. I did not try to do to much and just stayed in the gaps and within myself. After that it was just about competing and believing I was not gonna get beat by anyone.”
Needless to say, Black understands what it takes to get the job done at the professional level. According to Black, he prizes the relationships he made as a player and strives to bring the same sense of belonging to the Hammerheads as a mentor.
“I was very fortunate to be surrounded by not only great players but great teammates and coaches,” Black said. “A very special thing that our team possessed and a quality I try and carry out through my coaching is the trust and respect of your fellow teammates and coaches.”
Overall, a grateful and humble Black says he is excited to return as coach and continue to impart wisdom gained through a trying yet successful minor league playing career at the A level on the next crop of young Marlins’ talent.
“I am very blessed to have been apart of this game for as long as I have and to be around some amazing people,” Black said. “I just look forward to helping these men get better and ultimately fulfill there dreams of playing well at the highest level.”
Joining Randel’s staff as hitting coach is Daniel Santin. Santin, a Miami native and attendee of Brito Academy and Miami-Dade College, was a 23rd round pick out of high school by the Mariners in 2003. After hitting ..314/.371/.485 in his first season, the catcher went on to post a career .270/.309/.393 slash line almost entirely at the single A level, including .264/.289/.391 with the Marlins’ single A affiliate in 2007. In 2015, Santin returned to the Marlins organization as hitting coach for the GCL Marlins, a position he has held for the last three seasons. Those three squads hit a collective .245/.323/.415. The promotee replaces Rey Noriega who departs after one season.
CF Corey Bird
LF Brian Miller
SS Joe Dunand
3B James Nelson
2B Riley Mahan
DH Boo Vazquez
RF Stone Garrett
C Jarrett Rindfleisch
1B Will Allen
Bird is a 7th round pick out of Marshall University in 2016. As a member of the Thundering Herd, Bird showcased his on-base instincts and enjoyed a standout .301/.374/342 three year career. He led Marshall in batting average in his freshman (.292) and sophomore (.307) seasons and, being the only player to appear in all 55 of Marshall’s games, was a few hits away from doing so again during an even .300 junior year. That season which would wind up being his draft year, Bird was a first team All-Conference selection. He rounded out his slash line with a .375 OBP and 335 SLG. His career walk rate as a collegiate player was a ridiculous 9.8 and he stole 58 bases in 73 attempts, a 79% success rate.
After finishing his season off by adapting to the speed of the professional ranks in Batavia where he slashed .237/.302/.265, Bird impressed in camp in 2017. After, he was challenged to the prospect of his first full professional season. Bird not only met that challenge, he soared over it it by slashing .294/.360/.387 with a team high 23 steals in 32 attempts, enough to earn him a late season promotion to the Hammerheads. Playing in advanced A ball after being drafted not even a year and a half earlier, Bird’s average persisted as he hit .274 in 113 ABs, a metric that was only limited by the extreme pitcher-friendly confines of Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium that limited him to a .286 BABIP.
In his age 23 season, Bird returns to the Hammerheads to start the year but by as early as midseason, he may find himself headed north on I-95 to Jacksonville. The organization is extremely high on Bird and it’s easy to see why. Standing an even 6’0” at a current 180 pounds, Bird approaches from a straight away stance that sees his back foot straddling the back of the box and that he stays back on advantageously, allowing him to read the break on pitches, no matter how late and if he so chooses, engage a swing that may be the quickest in the organization thanks to his adaptable hands. These are Bird’s best mechanical tools and the bread and butter he projects to ride to the top of an MLB lineup. His swing is lateral and he has the smarts to settle for what he is given and he rarely presses, even when he is infrequently behind in the count. A heady hitter with a good working knowledge of the zone and how to approach ABs from a catalytic standpoint and poke out hits via solid plate coverage then late his plus speed go to work for him on the basepaths where he shows equally good instincts, Bird projects as a prototypical leadoff hitter. That said, although he will probably never be a true power threat, he is still building strength and when at his potential ceiling, could be an increased threat for true extra base hits, based on the speed of his swing alone. Coupled with good reads and equally as quick instincts in the field, Bird‘s ceiling should be placed at that of Austin Jackson, a career .275/.335/.402 hitter with a 73% stolen base percentage.
Miller is a 2017 Marlins’ first round draftee, taken with the last pick of that round, 36th overall, with a competitive balance selection. He hails from the University of North Carolina, a team he made as a preferred walk-on back in 2014. Virtually unknown, Miller went on to enjoy a .332/.419/.453 career in Carolina blue all while fulfilling a childhood dream to play on their field.
Miller’s lasting impression upon scouts was a .343/.422/.502 junior year, a line he held down while taking the most ABs in the ACC. For a third straight season, he walked more than he struck out (35/38 K/BB), ending his collegiate career with a ridiculous 0.88 K/BB ratio. He was also once again unstoppable on the basepaths, swiping 24 bags in 30 chance a total which was good for second most in the ACC and which gave him a career success rate of 81% in stolen base opportunities (55/68).
The biggest thing Miller proved in his junior year of college was that he has the ability to be more than a pure singles threat. After heading into that season with just two career homers, Miller slammed a respectable seven bombs on top of 16 doubles and three triples, leading to a .159 ISO. His five-tool type season pushed Miller up draft ranks to what was thought to be a late second round selection. According to Miller, it was his support system that was the biggest catalyst in getting him to that position.
“Getting picked in the first round was pretty cool, but it’s not really a goal I had all along because I just wanted to play for a team that valued me and gave me a chance to succeed,” Miller told me a few months ago. “There are a lot of very very good baseball players that didn’t get picked that high and will have great careers. Your junior year there’s so much noise out there about you as a player or where you might get picked. I was very blessed to have great friends and family around me that helped me tune all of that out and just play as hard as I could for my school.”
Upon being drafted, Miller, who forwent being sent to Batavia, spent the rest of 2017 by making his pro debut in front of his family and friends. He responded by hitting .322/.384/.416 for the Grasshoppers. His success on the bases persisted as he stole 21 bags in 27 attempts. Despite the change in competition level, his solid patience also stayed strong as he posted a more than respectable 35/23 K/BB.
Heading into 2018, Miller rides that fantastic ability to adapt into a pitcher friendly Florida State League especially at home at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. Even though it will no doubt be a tough test for him after just 57 games in low A, if there’s anyone who has the ability to conquer it, it’s the same guy who went from near obscurity to a great fantastic career to an impressive initial showing in pro ball Greensboro.
My 2017 Prospect of the Year, Miller exhibits four out of the five major tools. His excellent patience, strike zone knowledge and plate vision allow him to both avoid strikeouts and, coupled with his extremely shortened, lateral and lightning quick line drive cut, hit for a plus average. As quick as his hands at the plate are his legs on the bases. There, via good reads and probably his best present tool, his foot speed, making him a threat to steal every time he’s on. His quickness, good route running stemming from a good first step to the ball and solid throwing arm give him eligibility at all three defensive outfield spots but his future will probably be made in centerfield.
Above all, Miller is the epitome of a guy who takes what he is given whether it be a walk, an infield single, a bunt hit or a stolen base, making him the perfect leadoff or two hole hitter. He’s a guy who is clearly valued in that capacity by the organization and rightfully so. Flying through the minors, with another good showing, Miller could get a look at AA by season’s end.
2017 – A-A+ – .370/.471/.667, 6 XBH, 8/5 K/BB
Dunand, the nephew of Alex Rodriguez. is a second round pick from last season out of NC State University. A Miami native, Dunand began garnering national attention in 2014 when he homered in eight straight at bats in a national tournament in Arizona.
Dunand parlayed that performance into a solid three year collegiate career with the Wolfpack. Appearing in 178 of a possible 180 games, Dunand hit a collective .268/.334/.476 with 29 homers and 75 XBHs. Most of his success came during a .287/.368/.632 junior season in which he went yard 18 times, fourth most in the conference. His even 1.000 OPS ranked eighth in the ACC.
Dunand rode that performance all the way up the draft board, going from a presumed late round pick at the start of 2016 to a seventh round selection in 2017. Upon joining the professional ranks, he had an intriguing first eight games in Jupiter between the backfields in the GCL and at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium with the Hammerheads (small sample aside) hitting 370/.471/.667. He flashed what is believed to be his best tool, plus raw power by collecting six XBHs, including his first professional homer. Judging by those numbers, the transition from metal to wood bats won’t be a problem for this kid.
Watching him in camp, the righty hitter who gets low in a straight away stance impresses with his straight up the middle power. In a game I watched, Dunand went to the same exact area of the field twice against different pitchers with line drive hits, showing good repeatability in his approach and timing. The biggest and possibly only knock on Dunand’s approach is that he looks like a prototypical low ball hitter who can struggle against quality pitches on the upper half which has led to his high K totals. Better plate coverage will be paramount in how far he can go. Outside of that though, Dunand projects as a solid extra base hit threat who also hits for average and can play multiple infield positions including up the middle at short and second base. Should he improve his selectiveness and show the ability to walk more as he grows physically, he will be a highly prized commodity as a major leaguer. Place the ceiling here somewhere around Brandon Phillips, a career .275/.320/.421 hitter with the same quickness, instincts and hands in the field to match a career 9.5 dWAR.
Nelson is the Marlins’ 15th round draft pick from 2016 out of Cisco Junior College. The 20-year-old spent just one season there before signing with the Marlins upon his second draft selection. His single season in juco was paramount in his adding muscle and improving his power game. After hitting a total of just four homers in his junior and senior years of high school combined, Nelson exploded for 17, allowing him to climb up draft boards nearly 100 picks from 531st overall in 2015 to 443rd and garner a $75,000 signing bonus. He ended his 2016 campaign by hitting .284/.344/.364 in his first 162 pro ABs in the GCL.
Last year in Greensboro, Nelson showed off an MVP-type skillset. Appearing in 102 of the Grasshoppers 136 games, Nelson hit .309/.354/.456. His BA brought him within one point of the South Atlantic League’s batting title, his OBP placed seventh and his .810 OPS sixth. His 31 doubles also ranked sixth. When measured by runs created (wRC+), Nelson was 32 runs better than the league average player. All the while, Nelson accomplished all of this despite being nearly three years younger than the Sally league’s average player. Much like his huge junior year in college, Nelson’s huge 2016 has garnered him a ton of attention from scouts. According to MLB Pipeline, he heads into 2018 as the 16th best prospect in the newly rebuilt Marlins’ system.
Swinging from a low straight stance, Nelson engages from a big front foot trigger into a quick and well leveraged swing. Approaching from the back of the batters box, Nelson flashes the ability to wait out the break on pitches and a good step into the ball, allowing him to go to all fields. There isn’t much in the way of load or power transfer from the lower body. Rather, Nelson relies on bat speed, raw strength and speed to produce his XBHs, which last year were fairly limited to line drive doubles. Nelson’s upper body mechanics are solid. He maintains a stationary head and keeps two hands on the bat all the way through the zone, ensuring his plus contact rates. Nelson advantageously looks the ball off his bat and follows it into the field, allowing him to make a good first read on the basepaths where he shows above average jets.
Areas of concern for Nelson are few and far between. One of those few is his patience. As good as his barrel path to the ball, full body extension and plate coverage abilities are, Nelson has a habit to press on pitches outside of the zone when down in the count and a susceptibility to allowing his top half to fly open a bit. Nelson will need to gain the ability to take more pitches, get ahead and work counts if he is to maintain a solid average and OBP at the upper levels and beyond. This fact isn’t lost on him.
“The biggest thing is not wasting at bats, bearing down and getting the job done with runners on or not,” Nelson told me last year. “If they are gonna give me a walk, I gotta take it and not press.”
Another area of concern for Nelson was his lack of home run power during his 2017 campaign as he hit just seven. While his ability to find holes and gaps shouldn’t be discounted, if he hopes to stick as a third baseman, that total as well as his 2.05 ground out to air out ratio will need to improve.
Speaking of his future at third, Nelson’s fielding error total of 19 will also need refinement. Though he shows off a 60-grade throwing arm, he sometimes rushes his feeds. He’s also still learning how to make the most advantageous reads off the bat.
Just 19, there’s plenty of time for Nelson, a traditional shortstop, to close those gaps in his game. However, he will lose a bit of that time to injury at the start of this season. At the beginning of camp, Nelson suffered a meniscus injury that required surgery. With no past history, Nelson says it came out of nowhere. However, despite the tough luck, he plans to come back no worse for the wear.
“It just kind of happened. It’s weird because I didn’t feel anything last year,” Nelson said. “I’ll probably be out a month, but I’ll be fine.”
What hurts most about the injury isn’t necessarily the longevity or seriousness of it but rather the timing. Due to the surgery, he missed the opportunity to reap the benefits of the tutelage big league coaches such as infield guru Perry Hill, the chance to get some work in against big league talent and begin to adjust to his slightly bigger body (he put on 20 pounds of mass in the offseason) and new home park Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. Instead, all of that will be need to be done on the fly during regular season action by a kid who will once again be the youngest player on his team.
If he doesn’t lose a step, if the solid average persists and he is able to add some launch to his swing, get his lower half more involved in his approach and find more consistent over-the-fence power and if he can he can take the next step in his development as a defender, Nelson could get a look in AA at the end of the year. With a good gap-to-gap foundational make up, a great baseball IQ and fantastic athleticism, it’s definitely within the realm of possibility. However, there shouldn’t be any pressure on him to make that jump. Still in his teenage years, there’s plenty of time for Nelson to reach his potential as a 20/20/20 type offensive weapon with at least average all-around defensive skills. Although he faces a tough test this year, he will be one of the most intriguing pieces to watch within the entire organization.
2017 – A-A+ – 117.2 IP, 2.75 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 3.63 K/BB
Acquired by the Marlins in the offseason trade for Dee Gordon, Dugger was an 18th round draft pick by the Mariners out of Texas Tech University. In a single season out of the Red Raiders bullpen, Dugger appeared in 30 games and held down a 2.67 ERA via a 1.4 WHIP, 8.01 K/9 and 2.35 K/BB in 60.2 IP. After his collegiate career, the Mariners tried to transition Dugger to the starting rotation. Since that time in 2016, he’s been a project in progress. His most convincing work was done this past season as he started the year in low A and held down a 1.18 ERA as a starter via a .199 BAA and 46/9 K/BB before being called up to A+ where he had a 3.94 ERA in the same amount of innings via a 47/16 K/BB and .272 BAA.
Dugger returns to A+ this year with the Hammerheads in his age 23 season. A decently sized 6’2”, 180, Dugger delivers from a step-back delivery, a high leg kick and a low 3/4 slot. There’s quickness and deception in his delivery that he also maintains out of the stretch but there is a bit of effort in it leading to some doubt as to his ability to hold up during a season’s worth of starts. His heat which shows a bit of life tops out at 93 but his bread and butter pitch is a good power slider at 91 which he spots very well on his outer half. While his command can be spotty at times, he rarely misses up in the zone. He has a good feel for his craft as a weak contact inducing hurler. That said, Dugger doesn’t have much more of an arsenal outside of the beginnings of a changeup that lacks shape. He started throwing a curveball in college but has since abandoned it in favor of his quality slide piece. If he’s going to stick as a starter, Dugger will need to further develop the changeup. That’ll be the focus going into this season but at this point, at 24, he projects better as a pen arm with swing man potential.
Perez is a 23-year old righty out of Missouri State University drafted by the Marlins in the fifth round of 2016. After recording a 4.50 ERA and a 26/8 K/BB in his first 34 innings that spanned his freshman and sophomore seasons, Perez enjoyed effective junior and senior campaigns solely out of the Missouri State bullpen, holding down a collective 3.06 ERA over 159 IP. He allowed just 156 baserunners over that same span, giving him a lowly 0.98 WHIP. What stood out even more over that 63 game span were Perez’s swing and miss numbers as he posted a 3.41 K/BB. The lasting impression he left on scouts in his senior year was a 112/35 K/BB and a ridiculous 11.04 K rate. Combined with a sub-3 (2.86) ERA and 1.09 WHIP that season, he climbed up into the top five rounds on draft boards. That’s exactly where the Marlins got him at 143rd overall. Perez received a $20,000 signing bonus.
Upon his arrival in the professional ranks, the Marlins nearly immediately began transitioning Perez to the starting rotation. After coming out of the pen in eight of his first nine outings, Perez made seven straight starts to end his 2016 season. He responded pretty well, holding down a 3.72 ERA via a 1.38 WHIP and a 20/11 K/BB over 29 innings.
In 2017, Perez began the year tossing out of the pen for the Grasshoppers. The exports were similar from a control standpoint as he collected 30 Ks to just six walks but the immaturity of his breaking arsenal cost him to give up seven homers in just 33 innings pitched. As a result, he was sent back to Batavia at the beginning of the short season.
Despite his overall ineffectiveness in relief in Greensboro, the Marlins showed confidence in Perez’s ability by maintaining their commitment to making him a full-time starter. In 14 starts for the Muckdogs that year, Perez rewarded that confidence by flashing his best overall stuff yet, tossing to the tune of a 2.21 ERA via a 1.09 WHIP in 77 innings. He also showed excellent control numbers, walking less than two per nine innings (1.51) while striking out six per nine.
The Marlins are hoping the bit of adversity is just what Perez needed to adjust to life at the upper levels. He will begin that life this year as he begins the season in single A advanced. A 6’3”, 210 specimen, Perez lives off a fastball that sits in the 92-95 mph range. In his second stint with the Muckdogs, Perez spent a lot of time developing his secondary pitches. Both offerings, a slider and a changeup sit in the 85-88 mph range and even with the steps they’ve made are still just average. As good as Perez has shown he can be against younger talent, he has had equally as tough a problem doing it with consistency. These issues stem from a crux in his ability to repeat his delivery and maintain velo after more than a few innings. Though he will get yet another and quite possibly a last chance to show he can succeed as a starter at the highest level he’s ever pitched at, the soon to be 24-year-old’s long term future is probably going to come as a bullpen arm. That said, he could still make a decent living as a 1-2 inning middle reliever.
Clark is a 23-year-old righty who has had quite a traveling baseball career. After being born in Oklahoma City, Clark graduated from Greenwood High School in Greenwood, Arkansas before attending college at Crowder Junior College in Missouri. On the last of those stops, Clark had a 4.58 ERA in 107.1 IP by way of a 1.58 WHIP. His most impressive JuCo stat was a great K/BB metric of 100/43. That stat made possible by way of his gargantuan physicality was Clark’s meal ticket to being drafted by the Rays in round 15 of the 2015 draft and to garnering a $127.5K signing bonus.
After finishing out his 2015 campaign by getting a taste of short season ball, Clark returned to the Princeton Rays in 2016 and began showing the Tampa organization his true potential. In 12 games, nine of which were starts, Clark held down a 2.91 ERA via a 1.06 WHIP in 56.2 innings. His solid swing and miss numbers also persisted as he collected 44 Ks to just 15 walks. What was most impressive about Clark’s 2016 campaign was his ability to rise to the occasion. His 7.21 hits per nine was the lowest he’d allowed in his baseball career.
In 2017, Clark received the call to the Bowling Green Hot Rods, Tampa’s single A squad. Once again, facing the most grueling season of his career, Clark once again showed a great ability to successfully adjust to a new level by holding down a 3.11 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in his first 12 games and 58 IP. His stuff took yet another step forward over that span as he only allowed two homers (0.33 HR/9) and he struck out 50 giving him a 8.18 K/9. Those metrics attracted Clark to the Marlins who acquired him in the trade that sent Adeiny Hechavarria to the Rays. Clark, showing poise well beyond his 22 years, was nearly unphased by the trade. In 11 appearances (all starts) and 52.2 IP for Greensboro, Clark limited damage to the tune of a 7.01 H/9 and a 0.68 HR/9, leading to a 1.07 WHIP. His solid whiff counts also persisted as he posted a 9.74 K/9. All in all, despite relocation and by far the highest innings count of his career all while being converted to a full time starter, Clark held down a collective 2.59 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP, 6.52 H/9 and a 107/44 K/BB.
Clark’s ability to adapt to his surroundings including a higher inning count and promotion in competition level has lain in his ability to continue to make the most of his god-given attributes while also advantageously developing his craft while having the presence of mind to not try to do too much. A massive 6’8”, 240 pound specimen, Clark doesn’t overpower with velocity but what he lacks in that department he makes up for with his ability to deceive. Maintaining a slow and methodical pace, Clark kicks his front leg high before following through from a high 3/4 slot. His arsenal consists of a 92 MPH fastball, an 86 MPH changeup and his best pitch, an 84 MPH slider. Where Clark succeeds most in limiting damage and generating swings and misses is in his ability to plane all of his pitches down into the lower half of the zone, keeping hitters nearly blind to the eventual location of his stuff and getting them to swing over it. This offsets his lack of velo mix and makes him a low effort guy capable of effectively eating innings. A guy who looks like he’s simply playing catch out there, Clark’s slow pace, his incredibly smooth mechanics and good body control allow him to repeat his delivery well. Combined with a good working knowledge of the strike zone and a solid three pitch repertoire, Clark has a good professional history, adapting to whatever level and situation he’s pitching in. At 6’8”, he would be the tallest pitcher to start a game in Marlins’ franchise history and the third tallest to appear in a game, a future that doesn’t seem too far away.
.247/.341/.639, 65 HR, 336 XBH, 2.56 K/BB, 86 SB, 37 CS (70%)
2.68 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 3.57 K/BB