From first round high school draft pick to loser of an entire year of development right in to lights out rookie hurler for a major league club, having only spent 26 innings above the single A level. Despite all disruptions, Trevor Rogers is here and he is living up to his potential.
Last Wednesday afternoon at loanDepot park, Rogers cruised through a career high seven innings on just four hits, one walk and eight strikeouts. Since a rough first inning of the regular season which both he and Don Mattingly attributed to nerves, Rogers has allowed just eight baserunners while striking out 30 over 21 innings. His overall 22 IP, 4 ER, 31 K start to 2021 has him in some pretty special company. Only 46 other major league players have matched those numbers in their first four outings of a season. Some of their names: Nolan Ryan, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Randy Johnson and Tom Seaver. His stat line so far this season was only outdone by the likes of Jacob deGrom, Joe Musgrove, Tyler Glasnow and the man who he will oppose today, Corbin Burnes.
While Rogers was affective in the COVID stricken 2020 campaign, he was far from the guy we have seen so far this season. Don Mattingly attributes Rogers’ stark maturation to his ability to go to school, taking every ounce he could out of his seven starts last season.
“He really learned his lessons and went to work and made some big strides,” Mattingly said after Rogers’ last start. “He has been very mature about the way he goes about it. This guy’s stuff is really good.”
Mattingly also stated that every player that makes it as a major leaguer has a moment when they realize they belong. He believes Rogers is there.
We have stated before the quick maturation of Rogers’ changeup from a blueprint pitch in 2019 to a usable pitch in 2020. In 2021, the Rogers changeup is a downright weapon and he is beginning to utilize it more often. This is how the changeup was working like this his last time out:
Looking at that, it’s easy to see why Rogers threw the changeup 29% of the time in this start. Previously, he never went to it in more than 20% of a start. Last season, he only threw the pitch 9% of the time.
The fact that Trevor now has two plus-plus secondary weapons with which he can give hitters two completely different looks on top of his 95-97 mph fastball and the fact that he’s starting to mix them more interchangeably has elevated his floor and made a 2-3 starter ceiling very reachable. We may even be looking at ace potential here. It is surprising that many major sources still underrate Rogers. For example, he never ranked inside Pipeline’s top 100 prospects and The Athletic still ranks his stuff below league average. However, if he continues to get whiffs at a rate which currently places him third in baseball (bested by only deGrom and Lance Lynn) and in the 95th percentile in all of MLB per Statcast, those sources will be forced to recognize him as a strong Rookie of the Year candidate and a potential Cy Young candidate. The question is is this level of production sustainable?
Coming up through high school and through the minors, Rogers was always heralded for his advanced command tool. Today, that tool sits at 60 grade status and he is utilizing it on all three of his pitches. The big addition for him comes in his confidence to also deliberately throw pitches out of the zone and garner weak and sometimes foolish looking swings there. As Mattingly stated, Trevor is pitching with swagger, knowing he can play and succeed against the best hitters in the world. Of course, like any young pitcher, there will be some bumps in the road but all things considered, I believe Rogers is every bit the guy we have seen during this run.
Jose Devers Makes MLB Debut
On Thursday, the Marlins placed third baseman Brian Anderson on the 10-day IL with a left oblique strain. While he had been striking the ball on a pretty consistent basis, Anderson had been snakebitten at the plate, proven by a very hard luck .227 BABIP. Now, Anderson, at an important point in his contract with just two years of club control left, finds himself out of action. Oblique strains are tricky: some heal in a few days, some take a few months. Hope is that Anderson will be eligible to return when he is initially eligible early next month.
After he was held out of the lineup on the last game of the home stand which gave the Marlins a hint that he may need to miss time, Anderson’s roster spot became available the next day. This left the team with a few probable options.
First, the team could have realistically and retroactively placed Jorge Guzman, who suffered a setback in his rehab last week, on the 60-day IL to free up a 40-man roster spot and used that spot to get either Joe Dunand or Eddy Alvarez to the big leagues. They did not. This is good news for Guzman health wise, despite his recent setback.
Secondly, if the team was going to call up someone already on the 40-man, there was one glaring and obvious option: Isan Diaz. Isan was not a member of the taxi squad to San Francisco and remains at the ATS.
Instead, the Marlins made the move to activate 21-year-old Jose Devers, making him the third youngest active player in MLB. The younger cousin of Red Sox standout Rafael, Baby Devers has shown tons of promise in his MiLB career and during two spring training campaigns including this year when he bulked up a bit. Devers said that was his main focus over the offseason. He hung around Marlins camp all spring, showed improved physicality on top of his already plus hit and run tools. The career middle infielder even showed he’s capable of playing third base. However, Devers highest level of production in MiLB (not counting 11 games in the Arizona Fall League) has been A+ and, due to injury in 2019, he has been limited to 35 games there. It is worth noting that he was leading the Florida State League in batting when he went down 33 games into that injury plagued season in Jupiter two years ago.
So why the move to Devers instead of Isan Diaz? According to Don Mattingly, the club misjudged the severity of the injury to Anderson.
“We didn’t have Isan on the taxi and we wanted him to keep playing,” Mattingly said. “Andy we thought was the possibiltiy of being out a day, maybe two and obviously it was more than that. And then we are on the road. The timing of that kind of got us in a bind.”
Mattingly also would not commit to Diaz being a member of the taxi squad if and when he is sent back down.
“If he’s on the trip, he takes BP but he doesn’t play in games,” Mattingly said of the taxi squad, describing it as made up of ’emergency guys’. “You try to balance that taxi with these guys keep playing. If there is a serious injury, you want a guy that’s ready to go that’s been getting at bats.”
So where does this leave Isan within the organization’s plans? While it is tough to gauge at this point, one thing we know is that the Marlins organization has continuously preached something since the installment of Derek Jeter and Bruce Sherman as owners: versatility. Per the words of Kim Ng last month, we know that Isan has been getting time at third base to further his usage and make it easier for him to get into games, especially with what the Marlins have coming soon middle infield wise and with what is already here. When the minor league season starts and when Miami needs a roster spot, we would expect Isan to go down to continue to work on his swing without pressure while continuing to get part time reps at third.
For now, Isan Diaz is here and per Mattingly, his at bats have looked better and more relaxed.
Minor League Rosters Announced
After breaking minor league camp on Friday, the Marlins today announced Opening Day rosters for each of their four minor league affiliates.
What do Daniel De Vivo and I think about these rosters? What are the top stories to watch at each affiliate? We will discuss in an all new episode of Swimming Upstream on Monday morning. Available wherever you get your podcasts.
Jazz Chisholm Nearing Victory in Second Base Battle
The last time we got you caught up with the top stories coming out of spring training two weeks ago, Isan Diaz was putting together quality ABs, hitting the ball hard and showing improvement on the defensive side while Jazz Chisholm wasn’t even seeing a handful of pitches per AB. At the time, he was 1 for first 16 with seven Ks and no walks. We mentioned at the time he would need to blow up in the second half of spring training to claim the spot from Diaz.
Ladies and gentleman, Jazz has gone boom.
Since March 15th, Jazz is 8 for his last 16 with two homers, four RBIs, four walks and four strikeouts. The difference for Chisholm? The removal of tepidness and just letting his ability eat.
“The last two games, me and a couple of the hitting coaches were just like, ‘All right, time to let it loose,” Chisholm said. “”The season’s almost around the corner. Let’s get it going and take some hacks, you know?'””
While Jazz has been thriving, Isan Diaz has been struggling. On Friday, Diaz went 0-2 with two strikeouts and a walk. Since Jazz’s hot streak started, Diaz hasn’t recorded a hit, his contact consistency is down and he’s seeing less pitches per at bat. Since March 15th, he is 1-22 with eight Ks.
While Mattingly is not yet ready to confirm the winner of this battle just yet, he did recently state the spot will be earned, not given.
“We are trying to take the best club out of here that we can take out. Guys that give u the best chance to win,” Mattingly said on Zoom this past Thursday. “There’s been years where we know we are developing, we’re going to give some guys some opportunities. I think we are past that point.”
Through the entirety of spring training, while the baseball world viewed this is a fierce competition, Jazz has shown the ability to be an ultimate team player, supporting a guy he has known since a young age and pushing him to improve. According to Jazz, as focused as he has been on his own game, he’s been supportive of Isan’s.
Inasmuch as nothing is official yet, with three games left in spring training and the overall message from the organization being what it is, it’s hard to imagine Jazz Chisholm, whose shown both the tangible and the things you just cannot teach, not being in the Marlins’ Opening Day lineup. If he is at shortstop on April 1st, he and the team can take comfort in knowing that he earned that opportunity in every way.
Sixto Sanchez’s Preparation
Top prospect Sixto Sanchez has had quite the spring. After being delayed arriving to camp due to visa issues in the Dominican Republic, the 24-year-old fireballer had a COVID-19 test falsely come back positive, requiring him to spend another week away from the team.
Sanchez successfully passed through COVID protocols and was back in camp on March 6th. He finally got on the mound for his first spring training appearance on March 15th. Through three outings, he’s thrown eight innings, allowed five hits, one run, struck out three and walked two. With one outing left before Opening Day rosters are due in, he’s up to 61 pitches. After that outing in which Sixto coincidentally threw 45 strikes, the same number he will wear on his back starting this year, Sanchez said he feels good but that the outing he will get this Tuesday will be advantageous for him.
“I think I need a little more time,” Sanchez said through a translator following his last start. “I’m going to have another outing. Hopefully that will get me ready for the season.”
With rosters not due in until Wednesday night, the Marlins will have some time to break down Sixto’s last outing before making the call. Although Sixto looks good and looks like he will have just enough time to show he’s ready, the Marlins, not needing a fifth starter until the second week of the season and with both Nick Neidert and Trevor Rogers pitching like they are deserving of a spot, have every reason to play it safe with their top prospect.
“We just have to keep building,” Mattingly said recently on Zoom on what he needs to see from Sixto. “We have to get him to the point where he can compete in a major league game and not be stopped at a certain point.”
As entertaining as it is to watch Sixto pump it up to triple digits, the most encouraging sign he’s shown this spring has been the fact that he doesn’t need to do so every pitch or every start to he affective. In his third spring outing on March 20th, Sixto wasn’t showing all of his velocity. He only topped 98 a handful of times, his sinker was all the way down to 94 and his breaking pitches were in the mid 80s. According to Sanchez, that was something he had been working on in his bullpens and bringing it to that game was by design.
“During this outing, I was more focused on throwing strikes than actual velocity,” Sixto said after that outing. “I was more concentrated on finding weak contact so I can use that more often”
What does this show? It shows that Sixto knows he has the velocity but that he doesn’t always need to use it and it shows that he understands that three pitch ABs that end in groundouts are just as, if not more valuable than eight pitch ABs that end in Ks. This is a big step in the right direction in terms of Sanchez’s mental maturation, a step that should allow him to pitch deep into games more often and promote better health in his arm.
All in all, whenever we see Sixto this year, whether it be when he takes the field during Opening Day intros or a week or two after that date, we will be seeing the best, most well rounded version of him yet. As he prepares to graduate from prospect status within his first few starts this season, this camp, despite being abbreviated, has Sixto Sanchez all the more ready to live up to his ace potential.
Trevor Rogers Continues Dominance
After showing flashes of his ceiling during the 2020 season, lefty Trevor Rogers came to Marlins camp this year determined to take the next step and prove he belongs at the major league level. He started making that impression before he even got on a mound. At the beginning of camp, Don Mattingly mentioned he was “taken aback” by Rogers’ physical maturation. By “crushing calories”, Trevor put on a good 20 pounds. Then he started throwing. Through five spring outings, armed with three miles per hour of added velo to his heater and a vastly improved changeup, he did this:
According to Mattingly, Rogers, who has the most strikeouts in all of baseball in spring training, couldn’t be showing out much better this spring.
“He had a mindset that he knew what he wanted to accomplish,” Mattingly said. “He came with a purpose to spring. To this point, there really is not a whole lot not to like.”
While sticking to that blueprint, Rogers has also learned from previous mistakes. That as much as anything else is proving to be a catalyst for the impression he has made.
From Tommy John to a rough start to his minor league career to the pandemic wiping out nearly a full year of production, Rogers has stayed the course, kept his head up and his eyes forward. It is exceptionally refreshing to see the former first round pick thriving. If this kind of production continues into the regular season, there is potential for Rogers to compete with the league’s best rookies.
Sixto Makes Spring Debut
After being delayed by a visa issue in the DR and by a false positive COVID test, Sixto Sanchez made his debut today in West Palm against the Astros. Sixto threw 31 pitches in 1.2 innings. He allowed two hits but induced two double plays. He didn’t strike out any and allowed one walk.
“I don’t feel like I’m behind,” Sixto said through a translator regarding his current state. “I’m pretty much there, same as everybody else; I just can’t throw as many innings right now.”
As high as Sixto is ranked and as electric as his stuff is, including today, Sixto made his first appearance in game 13 of the 25 game spring schedule. The Marlins do not need a fifth starter until mid-April. A guy that has already undergone major throwing arm injuries and surgery, it would be risky of the Marlins to rush Sixto who at best stands to get two more in-game appearances.
According to Mattingly, Sixto will only pitch in big league games when the team believes he is ready.
Mattingly says Sixto will not be rushed, they will take their time getting him ready.— Fish On The Farm (@marlinsminors) March 16, 2021
Says Sixto will pitch when prepared “whether that happens right away or whether that happens seven nine days into the season”.#Marlins
As things stand, we think the Marlins will err on the side of caution with Sixto starting at the ATS to round his preseason program out. After Sanchez’s late start, at this point, we expect the name of a swing man such as Daniel Castano or rule 5 pick Paul Campbell to be announced during introductions on April 1st.
Second Base Battle Update
Coming in to spring training, all the talk was around the Marlins open competition at second base between Isan Diaz and Jazz Chisholm. Evaluators, fans and even the Marlins themselves thought this contest was going to be red hot all camp. A game over halfway in to the 25 game spring ledger, the competition has been pretty one sided.
While the stat lines don’t do either player justice, one guy has been well ahead of the other in terms of quality of at bats and quality of contact made. Isan Diaz has just two hits in his first 16 spring ABs but those two hits were a double and a triple. On March 7th, the same day of his triple, raked what should have been his first spring homer halfway up the berm at Clover Park, but a whipping wind barely pushed the ball foul. In terms of quality of contact, Isan’s average exit velo on nine balls put in play is 92.3. He’s walked four times to five strikeouts. When it comes to length of ABs, Isan has seen 73 pitches in 19 plate appearances or an average of about four per PA. These numbers are slightly convoluted due to The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches not incorporating Statcast. Thus, all strikeouts and walks are three and four pitches respectively and each hit is one pitch. Adding in accurate data from his four ABs at BPPB, it’s easy to assume Isan is in actuality at or above five pitches per PA. His two today in Palm Beach consisted of eight and four pitches respectively. He’s also looked better defensively.
Isan Díaz with another nice swing, sending a pitch to the right-field corner for the second straight game. Ruled a double, to third on the throw. Two runners score. Had a triple yesterday. 99.9 mph exit velo here. #Marlins pic.twitter.com/xQwHqoQOwp— Christina De Nicola (@CDeNicola13) March 8, 2021
According to Diaz, who went from opting out of the season at the height of the COVID outbreak last year to trying to return for the playoff run only to suffer an injury his first game back, this spring has been about getting back to where he was in AAA in 2019 where he hit .305/.395/.478.
“That’s what I’m kind of aiming for,” Diaz said, “to get that vibe, to put those good ABs together and do damage with runners in scoring position.”
Don Mattingly has liked what he’s seen of Isan so far.
“He’s starting to get in a little bit of a rhythm,” Mattingly said after the aforementioned game in St. Lucie where Diaz tripled and nearly homered. “He looks good right now.”
On the other side of this battle, you have the Marlins’ fourth ranked prospect 23-year-old Jazz Chisholm, the return product of the Zac Gallen trade at the 2019 deadline.
Jazz started off his spring about as good as possible: leading off in the Marlins’ first game, he homered on the second pitch.
But leading in to Monday’s game back in West Palm, site of the aforementioned bomb, Chisholm had been struggling. In his next 16 ABs, Jazz recorded just one hit while striking out seven times. He has yet to walk. This Monday’s game proved to be better for Jazz. Against Jose Urquidy, he battled out a seven pitch AB and beat out an infield single. In the top of the 5th, Chisholm singled in a full count on the seventh pitch of his AB and proceeded to steal second base, his first bag of this spring.
“He looked better today,” Mattingly said after Monday’s game. “I think he’s been a little bit all over. I’m not sure if he’s pressing or not. We just need to keep Jazz steady in what he works on.”
Mattingly also stated the team is working with Jazz on his consistency, encouraging him not to change his approach in the midst of a dry spell.
“Like a lot of young guys, they don’t get a hit and start messing around and tinkering instead of just staying with what they’re doing,” Mattingly said. “Working through it and allowing it to become consistent. We’re keeping an eye on Jazz in that way.”
Mattingly and the Marlins hope this is the turning of the corner for Jazz who has seen just 55~ pitches in 20 ABs. To take our Statcast-less park into account, his only AB at the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches before today was a groundout.
While the completion is still open, we believe it is going to take Jazz having a great second half of spring to claim the job over Diaz. That said, no matter if he starts with the Marlins or at the ATS/in AAA, you will see Jazz Chisholm back in a Marlins uniform sometime this season.
Braxton Garrett, Jose Devers Others Demoted
Before Monday’s game, the Marlins announced a number of roster moves: LHP Braxton Garrett was optioned to AAA and C Will Banfield, IF Luis Marte, RHP Alexander Guillen, RHP Luis Madero and SS Nasim Nunez were reassigned to Minor League camp.
Prior to Tuesday’s game, the Marlins optioned IF Jose Devers and OF Jerar Encarnacion to AAA and reassigned Cody Poteet and RHP Shawn Morimando.
While these moves were all expected, it’s worth recognizing a couple of these prospects and how they performed this spring:
First, Braxton Garrett, the Marlins’ first rounder in 2016 and our 10th ranked prospect. Not long after being drafted, Braxton underwent Tommy John in 2018 missing an entire year of development then was relegated mostly to the ATS in lieu of the lost MiLB season in 2020. Despite the lack of in game reps, Garrett showed up to his second big league camp healthy, throwing the hardest we’ve seen him throw (velo ticked up from 90 to as high as 93). His biggest crutch in past years, his command, was off in his first outing but looked much better his second time out.
“He’s been really good this spring,” Mattingly said after Garrett’s most recent spring outing, a two inning one hit, two K performance. “He has a little bit of a different body, a little more pop in his fastball. His breaking ball has always been good but it’s even tighter this year.”
Mattingly also stated Garrett is working on developing his pitch repertoire but that his success will depend on consistently being able to place the heater for strikes early in counts then pitch off of it.
“He’s adding a slider and he has the changeup he’s working on. All of a sudden you’re going to see a four pitch mix as he continues to develop,” Mattingly said. “He’s just going to get better and better. The main thing is he needs to get ahead in counts with his fastball and be able to locate it.”
With success developing his arsenal and with gaining consistent command at the ATS and in Jacksonville, Garrett will be a candidate to come back up to the majors over the course of 162 games this season. He has a back end starter floor and 2-3 rotational ceiling.
Secondly, we give a nod to Jose Devers who impressed the entire coaching staff, including hitting coach Eric Duncan.
“A guy who really stood out. He doesn’t seem fazed. … It doesn’t really matter the situation,” Duncan said “He has a really slow heartbeat and is able to put quality at-bats together. He’s been one that’s been tremendous to watch.”
Devers was leading the Florida State League in batting before going down with an injury in 2019. After showing up to camp a bit bulkier, the 21-year-old wowed with his glove (including at third base, a position he’s never played during in game action) while also showing good patience, the ability to make consistent contact and put the ball in play and while putting his above average speed to use on the basepaths. Devers went 2-9 with a triple, two RBIs, five walks to just two strikeouts and two stolen bases.
One of the youngest kids in big league camp, Devers really opened some eyes. After the ATS and minor league camp, should get the promotion to start the 2021. He should be considered at or near the head of the class among all of the Marlins’ young middle infield talent. ETA 2022/23.
Continuing in our series of All-Time Baby Fish Teams, we make the jump up to AA to highlight the best members of the Jacksonville Suns/Jumbo Shrimp.
An MLB affiliate since 1962 and a Miami partner since 2009, the club continues to aid in the growth of some of baseball’s best such as Larry Walker, Randy Johnson, Clayton Kershaw and Alex Rodriguez. In this listing, we will highlight the top Shrimp who became Marlins.
C J.T. Realmuto
Jacksonville Stats (2013/2014) – .269/.340/.408, 68 XBH, 101 RBI
His second selection in our All-Time Baby Fish Teams Series, Realmuto spent all of 2013 and most of 2014 with the Suns where he totaled a .269/.340/.408 slash line with 68 XBH 101 RBI in 203 games. He threw out 47 of 84 or 56% of his potential base stealers. In the latter of his two stints with the Suns, Realmuto’s .299 BA, his .461 SLG and his 132 wRC+ each ranked fourth among all AA baseball catchers.
Realmuto made his MLB debut on June 5th of that same year. He went 2-4 with three RBIs. The showing served as a perfect prelude to a .279/.327/.442, 59 HR, 189 XBH, 243 RBI career with the Marlins including a .303/.343/.428 2016 campaign in which his BA ranked third, his OBP ranked sixth and his 111 wRC+ ranked seventh among 24 qualified MLB catchers. He threw out 28 runners, fifth most in baseball.
Solidified as one of the top backstops in the game, the Marlins dealt Realmuto, who was coming off his first All-Star selection and a career high 4.5 WAR campaign, to the Phillies last offseason for a package of prospects including future ace and the organization’s current top prospect Sixto Sanchez. Miami also acquired their current backstop Jorge Alfaro and international bonus pool money which they eventually used to sign the Mesa brothers.
Realmuto began his tenure in Philadelphia by recording career highs in homers with 25, RBIs with 83, slugging percentage with a .493 marker and dWAR with a 1.7 tally. He earned his first Gold Glove, his second All-Star selection and by way of the NL’s second best BA and second most homers among catchers, his second Silver Slugger award. A guy who has caught his power tool up to plus plus hitting mechanics and strike zone recognition, an elite throwing arm and insurmountable athleticism, Realmuto owns 4/5 tools and has already, in just over five seasons in the league, has a WAR over 18. He’s special.
And it all ran through Jacksonville.
1B Logan Morrison
Jacksonville Stats (2009) – 79 G, .277/.411/.442, 8 HR, 26 XBH, 47 RBI, 46/63 K/BB
A Marlins’ 22nd round prep draft pick in 2005, Justis Logan Morrison attended Northlake High School in Slidell, Louisiana. The son of a military man, Morrison has credited his su but stringent father as his toughest critic but also his greatest influence on his rise to stardom as a standout talent despite hailing from a scarcely recruited corner of America. A sign and follow prospect, the well-traveled Morrison spent a year in Missouri in the JuCo ranks where he hit .436/.532/.743 with a conference most nine homers and third most 34 RBI in 35 games before he took his talents to the affiliated ranks in A Greensboro 2007.
As a a Grasshopper, Morrison immediately flashed his plus power potential, clubbing 24 homers, fourth most in the South Atlantic League. The mid-season All-Star also led Greensboro in RBI with 86, spurring his call to A+ the next season. Morrison took a huge step forward in 2008, hitting .332/.402/.494 in the pitchers haven Florida State League. While his K rate fell from 19 to 14 and his walk rate stayed around 10%, Morrison placed second in the FSL in BA, fourth in OBP and seventh in SLG. Among countable stats, his 162 hits and 38 doubles were each the most on the circuit, his 74 RBIs ranked sixth and his 13 homers ranked eighth.
Morrison began his 2009 season in Jacksonville but after just two games, he hit the IL with a broken thumb. A month later, the organization’s second-ranked prospect came back with a vengeance. From June 11th through the end of the season, LoMo hit .277/.411/.442 with the Southern League’s fifth best OBP, eight homers, 36 XBHs and 47 RBIs. Despite the big jump and missed time, he walked more than he struck out, tallying a 48/64 K/BB. His 0.18 walk percentage led his circuit.
A year later, Morrison was called up to AAA New Orleans where he hit .307/.427/.487. Once again, his OBP ranked top five in his league as his patience persisted evidenced by a 38/45 K/BB. Morrison received his first MLB call at the kid season mark and spent the rest of 2010 with the Marlins. His skill set immediately translated to the bigs advantageously as he hit .283/.390/.447 with 29 XBHs, 18 RBIs and a 51/41 K/BB in his first 62 games in Miami. Somehow, he didn’t receive a single Rookie of the Year vote.
Morrison would go on to have a decent career with the Marlins, but injuries prevented it from being great. After a .247/.330/.468 2011 season in which he finished second only to Giancarlo Stanton in homers with 23, Morrison appeared in just 93 and 85 games over his final two seasons with the Fish. Since then, LoMo has played for four different clubs. His standout campaign came in 2017 when he hit .246/.353/.516 and clubbed 38 homers for the Rays, fifth most in baseball.
As his bat and power grew, Morrison was able to maintain his equally large personality while also learning how to keep it in check. If not for injuries, he had a sizable future as a big leaguer. Even still, raw talent has allotted Morrison a decent .239/.324/.426 139 homer, 4.6 WAR tenure in the majors.
And it all ran through Jacksonville.
2B Isan Diaz
Jacksonville Stats (2018) – .245/.365/.418, 10 HR, 30 XBH, 42 RBI, 95/53 K/BB
Before Isan was hitting his first big league shot in front of his parents, he was regularly collecting extra bases in Duval county.
A second round pick by the Diamondbacks in 2014, the lefty hitting Diaz — a two sport athlete in high school — came to the pros as the 76th ranked prep athlete in the country. At the time, PerfectGame scouted him this way:
“Solid athletic build, good present strength, looks stronger than last observed. Left handed hitter, big pull back load, flows into contact, timing can be impacted but approach develops big bat speed, explosive hands at contact, loose and fluid swing with lift and extension out front, has pull side power, owned mid-level pitching in every at bat and made hit look easy, advanced hitter with tools and feel. 7.22 runner, middle infield actions, stays balanced and works through the ball, plays under control and lows the game down, compact quick release, second base profile and tools. Can be a high level offensive second baseman.”
Diaz set out to fulfill that destiny with the D-Backs as a teenager in 2018. A year later, Diaz hit .360/.436/.640/1.076 for the short season Missoula Osprey. Those metrics ranked eighth, seventh and second and second in the Pioneer League. His 13 homers also ranked second circuit wide. That offseason, the ninth ranked prospect in Arizona was dealt to Milwaukee in the trade that sent Jean Segura and Tyler Wagner westward.
In his first year with the Brewers’ organization, Diaz embarked upon his first full season of pro ball. Then and there for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Isan hit .264/.358/.469. The 20-year-old’s 20 homers paced the Midwest League, his 75 RBIs placed third and his SLG was good enough for 13th. A year later, Diaz made the jump up to A+ Carolina where the 5’10, 170 pounder continued to exhibit plus power rarely heard of from of a middle infielder as he slammed another 13 homers and 20 doubles albeit at the expense of a lot of swing and miss potential, spelling a career high 27% K rate.
On January 25th, the Marlins acquired Diaz as a glorified throw-in piece in the highly-heralded trade that sent Christian Yelich to the Brewers. Despite his struggles at A+ a year previous, the Marlins started Isan out in AA Jacksonville. In 83 games with the Shrimp, his BA rose more than 20 points from a year previous to .245, his OBP rose 30+ points to .365 and he fell just three homers short of his 2017 total in 27 less games. After living out the rest of 2018 feeling out AAA, Diaz returned to New Orleans last year where he absolutely crushed against competition nearly five years older than him. In 102 games, Isan hit .305/.395/.578 with 26 homers. The All-Star Futures Game selection received his MLB call in early August.
Diaz made his MLB debut on August 6th, 2019 in the first game of a doubleheader against the Mets at Citi Field. With his family looking on, Isan provided one of the most memorable moments of the entire MLB campaign.
A stoutly built middle infielder who comes by easy power via incredible bat speed, Diaz has Marlins fans reminiscing of Dan Uggla. And he’s still just 23. On the precipice of a breakout year, there’s tons to be encouraged about here.
And it all ran through Jacksonville.
SS Jazz Chisholm
Jacksonville Stats (2019) 23 G, .284/.383/.494, 3 HR, 9 XBH, 24/11 K/BB
The next generation cometh.
Reminiscent of Albus Percival Wolfrick Brian Dumbledore, Jasrado “Jazz” Hermis Arrington Chisholm was born with a name made for fiction, but he’s beginning to conjure up something magical in real time.
Born February 1st, 1998 in Nassau, Jazz credits his grandmother, a Bahamian national softball player, for introducing him to the game. Immediately, he fell in love. Very early on in his scouting period, international scouts saw the special talents Jazz owner, talents that were already polished beyond his teenage years. With an attitude and affinity to match a huge five tool skill set, the Diamondbacks made an easy decision to offer Jazz his first pro contract in 2016.
Jazz’s first stop was short season with the Missoula Osprey. There, he hit .281/.333/.446 with the Pioneer League’ eighth most homers, nine. He was the ninth youngest player in the circuit. A season later, Jazz got his first full season assignment with Kane County but that duty was short lived. The 19-year-old tore his meniscus while taking BP mid-way through camp. He was placed on the IL on April 4th and would not return until October 6th. Chisholm got in just 29 games that year, equating to a .242/.325/.358 slash line.
Jazz broke back in to the Midwest League ranks in 2018. It was a bit of a slow go for Chisholm getting back into the swing of things full time after suffering a major injury. He hit just .244/.311/.472 in 79 games. But after a career 5-6, two homer, five RBI showing on July 16th in which he came within a double of the cycle, the D-Backs gave him the call the A+. There, in 36 games with the Visalia Rawhide, Jazz exploded, hitting 10 homers including six in his last 18 games and one in each of his last three contests. He closed out the 2018 calendar year by hitting .442/.489/.767 with three homers and seven steals in just 10 Arizona Fall League contests.
The third ranked prospect in Arizona’s organization, Jazz began last season in AA with the Jackson Generals. Through the month of July, Chisholm struggled with the big jump up the MiLB ladder. On July 30th, hitting .204/.305/427, he was traded to the Marlins in exchange for top pitching prospect Zac Gallen. Back on his home coast, Jazz showed out huge in 23 games for the Jumbo Shrimp, going 23-81 with three homers and a trio of three hit efforts. After playing eleven games worth of winter ball in Puerto Rico, Jazz reported to Marlins camp where he continued to impress, going 4-13 with two steals and an absolute missile-grade homer off of Cardinals’ top pitching prospect Genesis Cabrera.
Just as if not more impressive as his play on the field was Chisholm’s attitude and persona off of it. With an infectious personality and an equally captivating smile which he is rarely seen without, Jazz has already begun to endear himself to fans both at the park and in the community. In just seven short months as a member of the organization, Jazz has shown, said and done everything necessary to become a fan favorite franchise player.
A five-tool talent with some of the quickest hands in the game on both sides of the ball, Jazz is a guy who feeds off friendly competition and camaraderie with his teammates, the energy of the fans and most of all a profound love for the game of baseball. He plays the right way and conducts himself just as advantageously off the diamond. Still just 21 and already eyeing his professional debut, he is a major part of the Marlins’ future core.
And it all ran through Jacksonville.
3B Brian Anderson
Jacksonville Stats (2016-17) – .247/.336/.405, 22 HR, 49 XBH, 95 RBI, 130/72 K/BB
Another repeat selection, Anderson, the Marlins’ third rounder out of the University of Arkansas in 2014. Ranked the Marlins’ top prospect in the preseason of 2016, Brian was one of the Florida State League’s top talents, hitting .302/.377/.440 before getting the call to AA. He joined the Suns on May 31st and hit .243/.330/.359 with eight homers and 40 RBIs. Following spring training a year later, Anderson rejoined the newly named Jumbo Shrimp. In 87 games — one more than he competed in at the AA level in 2016 — Anderson’s slash line jumped up to .251/.341/.450. Shedding a bit of timidity, he hit nearly twice as many homers, 14.
Anderson rounded out his MiLB career with New Orleans where he absolutely mashed the Pacific Coast League, slashing .339/.416/.602 with another eight homers before receiving his MLB call on September 1st, 2017. Considered a major cornerstone of the Marlins’ rebuild, Brian has hit .267/.349/.425 with 31 homers. Coming off a .261/.342/.468, 20 homer, 1.1 dWAR, +9 dRS season at two different positions, Anderson, who is under club control until 2024 and staring a contract extension directly in the teeth, is a main pillar of Jeter and company’s rebuild.
And it all ran through Jacksonville.
LF Christian Yelich
Jacksonville Stats (2013) – 49 G, .280/.365/.518, 7HR, 26 XBH, 29 RBI, 52/26 K/BB
Our third repeat candidate, Yelich, the Marlins’ first rounder in 2010, spent a 49 game tenure in Jacksonville in 2013 leading in to his first MLB call. Yelich earned his mid-season beckoning by posting the Southern League’s fifth best slugging percentage and its eighth best OPS (.883). He was the tenth youngest player on the circuit.
In just 292 games, Yelich went from draft pick to Major Leaguer. These days, he’s a three time Silver Slugger, a two time All-Star, a near two time league MVP and the recipient of a lifetime contract from the Brewers.
And it all ran through Jacksonville.
CF Juan Encarnacion
Jacksonville Stats (1997) – 131 G, .323/.394/.560, 26 HR, 61 XBH, 90 RBI, 86/43 K/BB, 17/3 SB/CS
Juan De Dios Encarnacion was saint-like in the two of the biggest years in Marlins’ franchise history. But before that, he was tearing it up at the Baseball Grounds.
Discovered by the Tigers as an amateur free agent out of the DR at age 17, Encarnacion fast tracked through the minors, jumping a level with each passing season from ‘94-97, hitting at least 15 bombs, collecting an equal 31 doubles and slugging at least .400 at each stop. The last of his visits was to Jacksonville. There, the 21-year-old, playing against competition 3 1/2 years his elder, Encarnacion absolutely exploded. In 131 games, the sixth-ranked Tigers prospect hit .323/.394/.560 with 26 homers, fifth most in the Southern League, 90 RBIs, ninth most on circuit and 17 steals, tenth most. The overly successful campaign came littered with awards including an All-Star selection where he was named the game’s MVP and the titles of Southern League’s best hitting prospect, best outfield arm and most exciting player (Baseball America). A September call up to the bigs, Encarnacion made his big league debut on the 2nd of that month as one of the youngest players in baseball. In 11 games, Juan went 7-33 and smashed his first big league homer.
After beginning 1998 in AAA, Encarnacion made it back to the bigs that July. Still amongst the leagues youngest talents, he hit .329/.354/.561 with seven homers. After that showing, he became a mainstay in Detroit’s starting lineup for the next three seasons. Encarnacion’s best campaign in a Tiger uniform came in 1999 when he hit .255/.287/.450 with 19 homers, 55 XBHs and 33 steals in 45 attempts.
In 2002, the rebuilding Tigers shipped Encarnacion (along with Luis Pineda) to the Cincinnati Reds for Dmitri Young. At the outset, it looked to be one of the best things that could happen to a pure power hitter like Juan, playing in the bandbox-iest of all bandboxes, Great American Ballpark. Hard as it may be to believe though, Enc actually hit better in a Reds’ away jersey. In four less games (39 vs 43), his average was only two points lower (.276 vs .278), he hit four more dingers (10 vs 6), his SLG was 50 points higher (.450 vs .500) and his wRC+ differed 12 points (114 vs 102).
At that year’s trade deadline, Encarnacion would be on the move again as the buying Reds dealt him along with Wilton Guerrero and Ryan Snare to the selling Marlins in exchange for Ryan Dempster. Juan made his Marlins debut on July 12th, 2002 and went 2-7 with a stolen base, his tenth of an eventual 21. Two days later, Enc crushed his first homer for the Fish. He would proceed to hit seven more and ended ‘02 with 24.
A season later in his first full year with the Marlins, Encarnacion .270/.313/.446 with 19 bombs. He posted career highs in doubles (37), XBHs (62) and RBIs (94). Some of Juan’s most memorable moments in Florida came during the Marlins’ playoff run where he homered in game two of the NLDS as well as during a two hit effort in the first game of the NLCS. He also went 2-4 and scored the eventual winning run in game one of the World Series.
After being sold off (along with many other Marlins assets) at the beginning of the 2004 season in exchange for Travis Ezi, Encarnacion would come back to Florida at the deadline (along with Paul Lo Duca and Guillermo Mota), completing one of the most peculiar timelines in Marlins’ transaction history. A season later, Encarnacion enjoyed a career year, posting lifetime highs in BA (.287), OBP (.349) and wRC+ (112) with 16 homers and 46 XBHs. In a very Larry Beinfest move, the Marlins did not render Encarnacion for 2006 and he signed with St. Louis. He hit .278/.317/.443 with another 19 homers and hit safely in seven of 13 playoff games en route to adding another ring to his collection as the Cardinals toppled the team that brought him to the pros 12 years previous.
A two time World Series champion, Encarnacion was a guy that could hurt his opponent in many ways and, based off his .276/.324/.421, 22 HR, 36 SB line in high leverage situations, a guy you prefer having on the field with the game on the line. The owner of 42.2 power speed number (link), eighth highest in Marlins franchise history, and the rightful owner of the “3, 2, Juan!” chant whenever he stepped into the box beginning midway through his career in South Florida, Encarnacion goes down in history as a slightly unheralded but extremely important piece of the Marlins’ success in the early 21st century.
And it all ran through Jacksonville.
RF Jake Marisnick
Jacksonville Stats (2013) – 67 G, .294/.358/.502, 12 HR, 28 XBH, 46 RBI, 68/17 K/BB, 11/6 SB/CS
Marisnick is a Blue Jays’ third round pick from 2009 out of Cal Poly High School in Southern California. After hitting .320/.392/.496, marks which ranked seventh, eighth and tenth in the Midwest League in his first full season in the minors in 2011, Marisnick split time between A+ Dunedin and AA New Hampshire in 2012. He hit .249/.321/.399 and parlayed that effort into a .314/.380/.457 showing in the Arizona Fall League.
That winter, the 21-year-old 58th best prospect in baseball was dealt to the Marlins as part of the twelve player trade that was also responsible for bringing Adeiny Hechavarria, Henderson Alvarez and Anthony DeSclafani to the east coast of the US.
Shortly after the trade, Marisnick was assigned to AA Jacksonville. In 67 games with the Suns, Jake hit .294/.358/.502 with 12 homers and a 36% XBH%. He had the tenth best BA and eighth best SLG in the Southern League, earning the call to the majors in September. Following a trip to AAA and 14 more games with the Marlins in 2014, Marisnick was traded to the Houston Astros in the deal that brought Jarred Cosart and Kike Hernandez eastward.
Though he played a grand total of just 25 games in Miami, Marisnick’s growth with the organization prompted a so far solid career off the bench which took off in 2017 when he slugged .496 with 16 homers for the World Champion Astros. Though he didn’t play in the postseason that year, Marisnick did appear in 23 total games in 2015, 2018 and 2019. He went a collective 7-21 and the Astros went a collective 16-7.
More so than his bat though, Jake has become known for his defensive skills which are right up there with the best in baseball. Playing all three outfield positions, Marisnick has saved a total of 74 runs with his glove and arm, equating to an 8.9 dWAR.
Set to join a Marlins’ divisional rival, the Mets, in 2020, Marisnick is an extremely durable compliment to an MLB bench, capable of deciding a game with both his plus power bat and especially his flashy glove and canon arm.
And it all ran through Jacksonville.
SP Tom Koehler
Jacksonville Stats (2010) – 28 G, 158.2 IP, 2.61 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 145/46 K/BB
If you were a fan of pitching in 2010, TK Day in Jacksonville wasn’t a day you wanted to miss. However, he put in some serious work to grow to that point and didn’t stop grinding until he became a mainstay in an MLB rotation.
A native of the Bronx, Tom’s baseball career began in high school at New Rochelle High where he lettered in all three of his varsity campaigns. After being named league Rookie of the Year in 2002, Koehler had an even bigger senior season (58 IP, 0.86 ERA, 108/12 K/BB) which earned him some equally huge accolades such as a Rawlings All-Northest selection, All-Section and All-State honors, and a Section I Pitcher of the Year title. With fastball velo in the 91st percentile in his class and budding breakers, TK committed to playing collegiate ball at Stony Brook Universtiy on Long Island.
Koehler’s collegiate years started out pretty rudimentarily as he gave up more hits than innings pitched in each of his first three seasons. However, Koehler finished strong in his senior year, holding down a 4.15 ERA by way of a 1.43 WHIP, each career lows. In 14 starts and 93.1 IP, a conference high, TK’s 111 Ks led the America East Conference and his 10.7 K/9 ratio ranked second. With 17 wins by way of 297 Ks in 294 IP, the two-time second team All-Conference selection was enshrined in the SeaWolves’ Hall of Fame in 2016.
Noticing his growing aptitude for filling up and commanding the lower half of zone with improving stuff, the Marlins selected Koehler with the 238th overall pick in the 2008 Draft. Turns out the Marlins scouted Koehler perfectly. Following a 66 IP, 3.68 ERA, 1.44 WHIP 58/29 K/BB performance for short season Jamestown in his inaugural showing against wood bats, TK broke out in his first full season in the minors, starting with a 98.1 IP, 3.20 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 47.7 GB%, 82/39 K/BB tenure with A Greensboro and finishing with a 34.2 IP, 3.37 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 25/9 K/BB, 45.2 GB% visit to A+ Jupiter.
Koehler’s stop in Jacksonville came in 2010. It wound up being one of the best single seasons for a pitcher in Suns’ history. In the Southern League’s most starts (28) and second most innings pitched (158.2), TK had the league’s second best ERA (2.61), its best WHIP (0.96) and its second most strikeouts (145). His 8.22 K/9 ranked ninth on circuit. He was an All-Star at midseason and in the postseason, the league’s Most Outstanding Pitcher.
After inexplicably waiting out two full seasons in the hitters’ haven Pacific Coast League of the AAA ranks, Koehler finally got his MLB call and made his MLB debut on September 5th, 2012. His best season in Miami came in 2014 when he dealt to a 3.81 ERA (3.84 FIP) via a 1.296 WHIP and 2.15 K/BB ratio in 191.1 IP. Arguably TK’s most memorable career start came on May 7th of that year when he shut the Mets out over eight innings, limiting them to just two hits on one walk and five Ks.
Overall as a Marlin, Koehler tossed to a 4.43 ERA via a 1.39 WHIP and 1.85 K/BB in 767.1 IP. Though injuries marred him after his tenure with the Fish came to an end, the late round pick went above and beyond expectations, filling out as a serviceable back end rotational piece.
And it all ran through Jacksonville.
RP Brad Hand
Jacksonville Stats (2010-2011) – 20 G, 116.1 IP, 3.39 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 75/53 K/BB
Let’s close it out by giving the team a Hand.
Bradley Richard Hand is a Marlins’ 2008 2nd round pick out of Chaska High in Minnesota. As an amateur, he gathered up 18 wins and 246 Ks, a school record. At one point in his final season, the ace, who also played football and ice hockey, didn’t give up a run in over 20 IP (link). 8-2 with a 0.62 ERA along with a .352 BA and eight homers at the plate, Hand was named Minnesota’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2008. His coaches and area scouts labeled him the most exciting player they had seen since Joe Mauer. The Marlins collected Hand in the second round of the draft, awarding him a signing bonus of $760K.
After getting his feet wet in the GCL and Jamestown, Hand went through a staunch learning process in Greensboro in 2009, going 7-13 with a 4.86 ERA. His body held up well against the innings wear though and the strikeout metrics (111 K, 8.6 K%) were solid, giving the Marlins reason to give him the promotion to A+ in 2010. With park factors behind him, Hand gained confidence in his stuff. The Hand changeup took a leap and he was able to limit damage, pitching to a 3.33 ERA via a 134/49 K/BB despite being touched for a .278 BAA. Hand’s final start of the year was his first with Jacksonville. He tossed a six inning quality start.
Hand got the full-time promotion to AA when camp broke in 2011. Against upper minors competition three years his elder, hitters put the ball in play more decreasing his K rate. However, Hand’s ability to mix and command four pitches severely limited hard contact. On June 6th, holding down a 3.43 ERA via a 1.27 WHIP, .234 BAA and 45/27 K/BB, the Marlins brought Hand to the Show. That same day, the Marlins drafted Jose Fernandez. A day later, on June 7th, Hand made his MLB debut against the Braves. He threw a six inning quality start on just one hit, a solo homer but still took the loss. Four starts later, Brad picked up his first big league win following a 7 IP, two hit shutout performance against the Astros.
For the next two months, Hand skipped back and forth between Jacksonville and Miami until his last call-up when rosters expanded allowed him to end 2011 with the Marlins. 2012 and 2013 followed this same theme as Hand boarded frequent flights from New Orleans to Miami and vica versa. In the latter of those years, the innings started to catch up with Hand as he spent time on the DL with two separate ailments, prompting the Marlins to delegate him to a swing-man role. After struggling in each of 2014 and 2015, Miami designated Hand for assignment.
Hand wasn’t unemployed long. Five days after being DFA’d, the Padres claimed him off waivers and assigned him to a late relief role. In that capacity, Hand absolutely flourished and he hasn’t stopped, converting 88 of 111 save ops in the last four years. In his past two seasons as the anchor of the Indians’ bullpen, Hand has ranked seventh and fifth in saves. Simply put, the guy slams doors. Doors that only opened because…
It all ran through Jacksonville.
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.
According to crustacean experts, baby shrimp growth is dependent on sunlight. After absorbing the Jacksonville Suns last season, the newborn Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, led by Monte Harrison, Kyle Barrett, Colby Lusignan, Jeff Brigham and Max Duval are ready to make their mark on the Southern League.
.242/.321/.360, 86 HR, 313 XBH
1185.1 IP, 3.69 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 2.64 K/BB
In their second season, the Shrimp will once again be lead by manager Randy Ready. A graduate of Cal State East Bay, Ready was selected by the Brewers in the sixth round in 1980. After jumping a level with each passing year from 1980-83, Ready made his MLB debut with the Brewers 1983 and went on to slash .259/.359/.387 over an 11 year MLB career. His best season occurred in 1987 when he hit .309/.423/.520 in 124 games for the San Diego Padres. Needless to say, Ready knows what it takes to proceed up the developmental ladder and make it at the highest level as a professional. According to Kyle Barrett who began playing for Ready last season and rejoins him again this year, Ready, by way of his many years of experience and a solid all-around skillset especially in the minor league circuit, makes a well-rounded minor league skip.
“Ready is laid back and a cool dude for sure. He had a long career in the bigs and knows his stuff,” Barrett said. “He’s really helped me with the smaller portions of the game such as bunting and baserunning.”
Rejoining Ready is his pitching coach Storm Davis. A Jacksonville native, Davis was a high school draft pick in round seven by the Baltimore Orioles out of University Christian High School in 1979. After flying through the minors jumping a level with each passing season despite still being in his teenage years in three of four of those seasons (including a stop in Fort Lauderdale with the Miami Orioles), Davis, by way of a collective 3.56 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, cracked the majors as a 20-year-old in 1982. Despite being over eight years younger than the average major leaguer, Davis, who made the Orioles out of camp, stormed out of the gate (pun intended) and collected a win in his first MLB start on July 3, 1982 against the Detroit Tigers. He would go on to post an overall 3.49 ERA, 1.232 WHIP and 2.39 K/BB over 100 innings in his rookie year.
Davis spent the next 12 years in a similar capacity pitching both as a starter and out of the pen, collecting a 113-96 career record and holding down a 4.02 ERA and 3.80 WHIP by way of a 1.392 WHIP and 1.53 K/BB (including over 1,000 strikeouts) over 1780.2 IP. In 1983, his sophomore season, Davis contributed a 13-7 record via a 3.59 ERA, 1.218 WHIP and 1.95 K/BB to the World Champion Orioles. He collected a second World Series ring in 1989 when he ran up a career high 19 wins (19-7) and was huge down the stretch for the Oakland A’s. In the second half, he held down a 3.61 ERA and went 12-3 in 17 starts. This year, Davis is bringing his expertise back to a level which he went 14-10 with a 3.47 ERA and 1.83 K/BB at despite being four years the minor to the average competition. A guy who grew up extremely fast, enjoyed a fantastic minor league career and borderline Hall Of Fame +17 WAR major league career, Davis simply knows what it takes to get the job done on the hill, no matter the level.
Marcus Crescentini who joins Davis’ staff this year has already begun to see the positive impacts of Davis’ much apprised but quite relaxed tutelage.
“I’ve only been with Storm a couple of weeks but what I’ve noticed with him is that his knowledge is endless and he is very approachable,” Crescentini said. “He also treats all of his pitchers like men; he doesn’t micro manage and he let’s us be who we are.”
Completing Ready’s staff is hitting coach Kevin Witt. Another Duval county native and graduate of Bishop Kenny High which is a short three mile drive from his current place of employment at the Baseball Grounds, Witt hit .481 as a senior before he became a first round pick by the Blue Jays in 1994. His #28 overall draft slot placed him ahead of fellow draftees Troy Glaus and AJ Pierzynski and just behind Jason Varitek and Nomar Garciaparra. After hitting .252 over his first three seasons including a .271/.335/.426 in A+ in 1996, Witt rose to AA in the Southern League, the same league he now holds managerial status in. There, Witt hit .289/.349/.539, tied for the league lead in homers and made the All-Star team as a utility infielder. In 1998, Witt began his AAA career and enjoyed immediate success leading the Syracuse SkyChiefs in homers with 23 while hitting .273/.354/.481. He made his MLB debut in September that season and recorded his first major league hit. Witt had a similar season in ‘99, once again leading the SkyChiefs in homers (24) and placing second in OPS (.896) before hitting .206 and recording his first MLB homer late in the season with Toronto. Following a 26 homer season in AAA in 2000, the Blue Jays cut ties with Witt a year later.
After a short stint in the Padres, Witt joined the Tigers in 2003. After a .316/.391/.594 performance in AAA, Witt got a mid season call to the majors. In his most extended look at that level, Witt hit a very respectable .263/.301/.407 with ten homers over 27 ABs. Witt was signed by the Cardinals where he enjoyed his best season as a pro hitting .306/.353/.600 and earning him the Pacific Coast League’s MVP trophy. However, on a stacked St Louis team, he never got a chance with the big league squad.
From there, Witt attempted to prove his worth in Japan, a very brief experiment, before rounding his playing career out with the Rays. After a .291/.360/.577 and whopping 36 homer performance with the Durham Bulls, a total which stands as Durham’s franchise record and the Rays’ organizational record and which earned him the International League’s MVP award. Witt got called up to the pros late in the season where he hit .148 in his final 19 MLB games. Witt rounded out his playing career back in Japan where he hit .174 in his last 40 games.
A fantastic .274/.336/.502 269 HR career minor league hitter with a plus plus power tool, Witt was unfortunately a victim of circumstance who never got his full shot in the majors in his prime. Regardless, Witt is a guy who knows how to adjust and get the job done at the plate no matter the level. He is a welcome contributor as hitting coach at a level he once dominated.
According to Austin Dean, Witt has good individual relationships with each hitter on the squad and is attentive and accommodating to each of their needs and routines. Describing his relationship with Witt, Dean says it’s one of mutual respect built on Witt’s trust in his players’ judgment and his overseer approach that lets them be themselves that stands out most. All in all, Dean says that on top of great expertise, Witt brings great reverence and leadership to the locker room, creating a more positive environment to play in.
“Being with Witt has been great. He’s very knowledgeable about the game and obviously he’s had great success as well,” Dean said. “Him and I’s relationship is a little bit different then everyone else. From spring training, he and I talked about routines and things I like to do in the season. And for me I don’t like hitting a lot. I like to take a couple rounds of five off the machine and then I go and hit BP on the field that day, and that’s it for me. And he’s respected that. He’s never tried to get me to do more then I wanted or that I needed. There’s times where I might be on my first round on the machine and I absolutely demolish five balls in row and he tells me to get and go back in the clubhouse. It’s things like that, he’s very encouraging and he knows what he talking about with us, and he’s been helping, you know, not just me but everyone else on team.”
DH Kyle Barrett
2B Isan Diaz
LF Austin Dean
RF John Norwood
CF Monte Harrison
1B Colby Lusignan
3B Brian Schales
C Rodrigo Vigil
SS Chris Diaz
Barrett is a Marlins 15th round draft pick from 2015 out of the University Of Kentucky, a pick which has been part of a shopping spree of the UK system from 2013 to present. Over the last five years, Stan Meek, Mike Hill and the Marlins have selected Wolfpack members in four separate drafts: J.T. Riddle in 2013, Barrett in 2015, Dustin Beggs in 2016 and Riley Mahan last year. Its been a “stick with what’s working” type approach from the scouting department to continue to return to Lexington on the regular year after year to scout and eventually select and sign players. Each of the four players selected has successfully parlayed a great collegiate career into at least some sort of positive progression since they’ve begun wearing a Marlins affiliated uniform.
While Riddle hit .275/.318/.364 over a four year minor league career, while Mahan has gotten off to a .289/.333/.458 over his first 20 pro games and while Beggs has posted a 3.61 K/BB in his first three seasons, Barrett has been one of the most consistent players in the entire organization. Barrett garnered the Marlins’ attention after a .324/.386/.391 collegiate career at UK which included a fantastic .354/.394/443 senior season. His BA that year ranked seventh in the SEC ahead of competition such as Dansby Swanson and just behind Red Sox top prospect and () overall prospect according to Baseball America, Andrew Benintendi. His average was made possible by his 46 hits, a total which ranked third in the conference, one shy of Benintendi. Barrett’s OBP ranked 17th in the SEC, just .23 points off of Swanson’s .417 mark. Barrett showed off his prowess on the bases as well scoring 29 runs and recording three triples, both of which were good for fourth most in SEC play and collected its 13th most total bases, 62. He accomplished all of this in the conference’s ninth most ABs, 124. Upon being drafted by the Marlins, Barrett headed to short season Batavia but just four games into his pro career, he broke his right hand and missed the rest of the campaign.
Despite the injury, Barrett joined the Greensboro Grasshoppers in 2016. Despite getting off to a slow 12-72 7/16 K/BB start due to the fact that he was still not pain free in his injured hand, Barrett, ever the grinder and with a staunch refusal to quit, turned it on in late May and wound up reaching base in 55 his final 79 games. Despite the slow start, Barrett hit .282/.333/.345. Among players who appeared in over 60 games, his BA and OBP were both team highs. He also stole 17 bags in 22 attempts.
The biggest hole in Barrett’s game headed into his sophomore season was his inability to read and time professional quality pitches as well as having a tendency to get a bit over-aggressive. This was proven by his heightened 17.05 K rate and 2.68 K/BB in Greensboro.
However, the Marlins didn’t let that small hitch hold Barrett back and gave him the promotion to A+. That year, Barrett, back at 100% to start the season, rewarded the Marlins’ confidence in his projection by slashing .297/.355/.342 over his first 66 games with the Hammerheads. His BA, made largely possible by a 12 game hit streak in which he went 19-49 in late May and early June, led the team and ranked 18th in the Florida State League. He reached base via a hit in 57 of his 66 appearances. All the while, Barrett’s walk rate rose to 7.77%, his K rate fell to 14.53% and his K/BB rested at 1.87. Originally snubbed from the FSL’s All-Star Game, he rightfully made it as an injury replacement. For the second half, Barrett received the promotion to AA Jacksonville. In his first 126 ABs as a Shrimp, he hit .230/.285/.286.
“I’m a firm believer that you can’t have success until you have failed. Failure is a teaching point,” Kyle says.
Barrett has had a few of those educational experiences so far in his pro career including being bitten by the sophomore slump in college (.253/.354/.312) and the aforementioned injury stricken 2016 season in Greensboro. However, each time, Barrett, by way of putting in all the necessary work and then some, has been able to adjust and come back the next season a much better player. Following a subpar audition in AA last season, Barrett faces a similar test in 2018 but if his track record is any indication, he will use stored knowledge, his fantastic work ethic and his ability to acclimate accordingly no matter the situation or level of competition to rise to the occasion.
According to Kyle, in addition to the bump in competition level, the biggest rectification for him to make mentally during his transition from A to AA last year was being prepared to hear his number called upon at any time in any situation on any given day and not losing his preparedness just because he didn’t see his name on the lineup card.
“The transition from high A to AA is definitely an adjustment,” Barrett said. “I learned that the days I’m not starting doesn’t mean I won’t play, there’s always a pinch hit or a double switch.“
5’11”, 185, Barrett packs a ton of talent into his stout but athletic frame. Formerly a high strikeout guy, Barrett has found a nice balance between aggression and patience. He’s also improved the lateral level of his swing, allowing him to get at least some part of the bat on pitches he engages on, prolonging his ABs and forcing his opposition to beat him with a quality pitch. That said, Barrett will also often attack early in the count if he sees a juicy morsel he likes. Simply put, he’s a very tough and pesky out to get and a guy who can give opposing teams fits. Barrett owns an extremely quick snap swing made possible by even quicker hands. Approaching from the back of the box, his speedy upper half and stationary head expand his field of vision and allow him to read pitches nearly all the way to the front black of the plate. While he probably won’t put many out of the park or even over outfielders’ heads, he has a great knack for finding holes and gaps. With plus speed, the ability to read the ball off the bat and good base running instincts, he turns singles into extra bases with relative ease. He holds plus speed and makes equally good reads off the bat and flashes a strong arm in the field. He can cover all three outfield spots but he projects best as a future center fielder.
Though the Marlins’ organization suddenly finds itself with a ton of young outfield depth especially after the acquisitions of Magnerius Sierra, Braxton Lee and Monte Harrison, with success at the AA level this year, Barrett is a rounding out a unique catalytic skillset. With success via another positive adjustment this season, he could receive a look in the bigs in September and he would definitely be a candidate to make his first 40-man roster next season. As good as his long range vision is on the field though, Barrett isn’t looking that far into the future. For now, he is putting all of his focus on what is directly in front of him and nothing more.
“I can’t think about it or stress about it. All I can do is control the controllable and play my game,” Barrett said. “If I stay within myself, be confident and have fun, everything else will fall into place.”
An extremely easy guy to get into games whether it be at the top of the lineup as a fire starter, at the bottom of it as a restarter or as a lefty bat off the bench as a rally starter, the 25-year-old’s modest ceiling should be placed somewhere around Roger Cedeno, a career .273/.340/.371 hitter and 77% successful steals threat.
2017 – .291/.328/.446, 25 XBH, 3.43 K/BB
A fourth round pick out of high school from the year 2012, Dean is a name that has been around the Marlins organization for a while. Entering his sixth year as a pro, Dean’s career so far has been a proverbial roller coaster ride full of ups and downs.
Dean hails from Klein Collins High School in his hometown of Spring, Texas. Coming into the draft, Dean was heralded for his great raw power via a solid 6’1”, 185 pound build, a great ability to get extended and a quick stroke with loft. Paired with good speed (clocked at a 6.74 first to home) and a good baseball IQ as well as classroom aptitude, Dean had a verbal commitment to Texas before he chose to sign with the Marlins after being selected in the 4th round of the Draft by the Marlins, a slot which garnered him a $379,000 signing bonus.
After starting out in the Gulf Coast League post draft where he posted a .223/.337/.338 line in his first 47 pro games, Dean joined short season Batavia in 2013. There in 56 games, Dean hit a respectable .268/.325/418. His slugging percentage that came via 21 XBHs ranked 15th in the New York Penn League. At the end of the season, Dean received a cup of coffee in Greensboro where he hit .200/.346/.400 over 20 ABs.
Regarding what life was like for him as a kid who suddenly saw an after school activity engulf his entire life and asked how he was able to maintain focus under those circumstances, Dean responds that it was a stark maturation process making his way as a teenager in professional baseball but with the help of a great supportive cast of teammates and coaches, he was able to keep his focus and nurture his skillset advantageously.
“My first year in pro ball was definitely life changing. Being away from home, and being away from your family is tough. But ever since then it’s been a growing up thing. You learn how to take care of yourself and be an adult while you’re playing. I’ve definitely matured a lot since 2012 when I got drafted. On the baseball side, I’ve come across many of different coaches and players, and you tend to pick things as you go and learn different things from them. I’ve learned a lot of thing over the past six years, and I think that’s help me as a baseball player.”
In 2014, Dean appeared on the Marlins’ top 20 prospect list slotting in at #15. At the beginning of the year, stared down the first full professional season of his career in Greensboro. Thanks to three separate injuries, a left hand injury he suffered during a slide, a nasal fracture that occurred while he has rehabbing and a right groin strain that occurred while running, Dean’s season would wind up being limited to 99 games. However, the missed time and gaps between in game action did not appear to affect Dean at all. When he was on the field, he was consistently effective. After beginning the year by hitting .288/.343/.403, accolades which earned him an All-Star selection, Dean missed 22 games and the All-Star Game. Undeterred, Dean returned in early July hitting .377/.459/.500 before hitting the shelf again in early August. He returned again on August 15 and closed out a fantastic .308/.371/.444, 33 XBH, 72/38 K/BB, 128 wrC+ breakout campaign, incredible numbers especially considering his youth (1.2 years younger than the league average player) and his health woes.
In 2015, Dean received a promotion for a fourth straight season, joining A+ Jupiter. While the power hitter’s overall .268/.318/.366 slash line didn’t pop off the page, the underlying reason for it was due to his being stymied by the extremely pitcher friendly confines of Roger Dean Stadium. While he only hit .244/.298/.317 in 195 ABs at home, Dean was a .289/.337/.410 hitter in 208 ABs throughout the rest of the Florida State League. All five of his homers came on the road. Dean also successfully tempered his K rate down to 13.1%, a career low, proving he was at par in terms of making contact with A+ competition.
That offseason, Dean took part in the Arizona Fall League. In 16 games and 62 ABs against some of the top young talent in professional ball, the 20-year-old turned in a .323/.364/.452 performance, marks which ranked 12th, 24th and 27th. His .815 OPS ranked 26th. 18 of the 25 players who ranked ahead of Dean on that list are current major leaguers such as Lewis Brinson, Gary Sanchez, Aledmys Diaz and Wilson Contreras.
By leaving that impression coupled with his solid situational year in Jupiter, Dean was given yet another promotion this time to AA Jacksonville, just a step away from realizing his dream. Just seven games into his AA career, Dean suffered a demoralizing injury on a collision with a fellow outfielder. The ailment would cost Dean nearly three full months. After suffering the injury on April 12, Dean did not return to the field until June 28. Following a four game rehab stint in the GCL, he finally returned to Jacksonville on July 3.
“When I got hurt last year, it was very unfortunate but you know injury’s happen; it’s a part of the game. While I was rehabbing in Jupiter it was very slow process, and it was hard not being up in Jax and playing and being around my teammates,” Dean said. “But I worked my butt off while I was down there, I was still able to lift weights, to a certain extent. I kept my body in shape so I would be ready for when I got back. It was very tough not playing baseball for long. But it’s one of things you have to deal with sometimes and I felt like I handled everything pretty well last year.”
The ever-so modest Dean handled his situation a lot better than “well”. Upon his return, he enjoyed a .205/.347/.311 month of July. He hit in 39 of his final 55 game and reached reached base safely in 13 straight from July 28 to August 18. Overall, he was a .282/.323/.427, 4 HR, 22 XBH performer as he once again proved to hold an incredible ability to overcome adversity.
Asked how he was able to rise to the occasion of meeting and exceeding expectations in the upper minors despite missing nearly the entire first half, Dean responded this way:
“My parents last year, was you know a big help. We’d talk every day or try too, and obviously this was something new to me not being able to play. They kept me motivated, and they were very supportive as well, and I probably couldn’t have done it with out them.
Despite having far from a sunshine and butterflies Sunday drive through the minor leagues, Dean has met every challenge he’s faced and conquered it all while keeping his development proceeding in the right direction. In 540 career games, Dean has been able to close some holes in his swing that were present when he got drafted, simplify his mechanics, improve his contact rates and learn how to take what he’s given, leading to good averages and a solid doubles-first power threat. While the Marlins would like to see more over-the-fence power from Dean, there’s still plenty of time for the 24-year-old to find that as he fills out the rest of the way.
One area of concern for Dean lies in his limited ability to get extended. A naturally pull-happy hitter, Dean could use to garner a better knack to cover the outside of the plate via more advantageous barrel extension, leading to the ability to go to his opposite field. It’s one of the few things holding Dean back but it could be a major catalyst for his success as a major leaguer as pro pitchers and coaches could negate his strengths by way of quality stuff on the outer half and possibly an infield overshift.
Should Dean, who has come out victorious in every battle he’s faced so far on his way up, be able to fill that small hole in his game, he’s a quality corner outfielder with a ceiling around our old buddy Jeff Conine a career .285/.347/.443 bat. With further success in AA this year, he’s a candidate to receive his MLB debut sometime in 2018. At the very least, he is a shoe in for a 40-man roster spot next year and a favorite for at least a bench spot in 2019.
2017 (A-A+) – .272/.350/.481, 21 HR, 51 XBH, 139/43 K/BB, 27 SB
The main accompanying piece in the Christian Yelich trade with the Brewers, Harrison is a power hitting threat who is a bit immature in his approach but who holds extreme upside. Between A and A+ last year, Harrison hit .272/.350/.481 and topped he 20 homer mark for the first time in his career. As impressive as his .209 ISO and 133 wRC+ were, those figures came at the expense of a 143/39 K/BB. His 27% K rate last season equaled his 27% career K rate. That said, if Harrison, still 22, can find more discipline, there isn’t much more he needs to do to be both a top prospect and major league ready.
With elite bat speed by way of flashy wrists and a line drive swing which, coupled together, create plus launch angle and plus plus exit velocities, the 6’3”, 220 pounder is also a ridiculous 4.12 runner first to home, quite surprising for a guy his size and a testament to his athleticism. He rounds out his skillset with a throwing arm that receives an 80 grade on the 20-80 scale.
Undoubtedly, there’s massive upside here and after the acquisition of Brinson turns the Yelich return from good to gold. If Harrison is going to realize his full potential, there’s still work to be done both mentally and mechanically but considering he was able to turn in a great 2017 regular season followed by a .283/.333/.604, five homer performance in the Arizona Fall League after he missed much of 2016 due to injury, there’s reason to be very excited about his future. With no pressure on him whatsoever, I wouldn’t expect any sort of Major League action before next season at least as Harrison works on his few hitches. However, a complete Monte Harrison will be well worth the wait and a franchise cornerstone type piece. Pay close attention here. There’s special five tool type talent being kindled.
A 28th round pick from 2016 after a .328/.425/.528 collegiate career between community college in Gainesville, FL and Division 2 Lander University in South Carolina, Lusignan is a piece who has come almost literally out of nowhere and proven to be quite the power hitting commodity.
After a .325/.429/.591 singular season at Lander with an OBP that ranked 10th in the conference and with its seventh best SLG and ninth best OPS (1.020), Lusignan hit .319/.422/.469 in the Gulf Coast League and got a look at short season Batavia to finish his 2016 season. The next year, Lusignan began the year in Greensboro. After hitting nine homers but slashing just .243/.315/.414 with a 34.72 K rate, the 23-year-old was nevertheless fast tracked to A+ Jupiter.
Just 113 ABs into his pro career and sporting a .251 BA and 33% K rate, the challenge seemed a bit over Lusignan’s head. However, the 6’4”, 230 pounder was somehow able to respond to the task by completely tearing the pitcher friendly Florida State League apart. In 46 games and 201 PAs, he hit .285/.348/.453 with six homers, 18 XBH, a .168 ISO and a 134 wRC+. He also showed improved patience as his K rate even fell more than 10 points to 23.9 and his walk rate rose to 8.5.
This season, just two years removed from playing ball at a Division 2 school, Lusignan faces his next challenge: playing against competition just shy of the major league level.
A lefty hitter, Lusignan has successfully gained a better knowledge for the zone as he’s flown through the Marlins’ minor league system. Looking at spray charts, Lusignan has mastered the art of opposite field hitting, relying on his ability to get extended and making the most out of his lefty’s advantage. He’s also always shown a good knack for going straight up the middle. Recently, Lusignan is also using his strength advantageously to go pull side on pitches on the inner half, showing a good ability to stay inside the ball, cutting down on his swing and miss totals. When he times pitches right, gets his feet down and barrels up on his classic uppercut swing, the ball flies.
If Lusignan can continue to show that kind of aptitude and bat control, he will close his only plate coverage gap, become a complete power first threat vs righties and make a huge improvement vs fellow lefties who love to take his eyes and arms away by jamming him inside. Though the K will probably always be part of the power hitter’s game, Lusignan has improved so much is such a short amount of time. One of if not the biggest rags to riches story in the entire organization, Lusignan, who saw time with the big league club in spring training, is a one more good showing in the upper levels away from a Major League call.
While that’s easier said than done and while he probably isn’t going to push Justin Bour for playing time anytime soon if ever, for a guy who has responded well to every challenge put to him, making it to the upper minors in just two short seasons, an unprecedented feat, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility for this offensive minded 25-year-old first baseman who has improved his balance and timing with each jump he’s made to acquire a roster spot and be used as a lefty power threat off the bench. Lusignan who came from modest beginnings in a small town in central Florida and never played above D2 before being drafted, deserves a hat tip for what he’s been able to accomplish so far and considering his level of focus and drive to succeed, likely isn’t done yet. Remember the name. You’ll could be seeing it in a Marlins lineup soon.
Brigham is a 6’, 200 pound righty out of the University Of Wisconsin. In a three year career there, he posted a collective 3.71 ERA, a 1.24 WHIP and 1.65 K/BB over 174.2 IP. His standout season occurred in his junior year when he went 7-4 with a 2.90 ERA, 11th best in the PAC12 via a 1.13 WHIP and 1.96 K/BB. That year pushed Brigham up into the top five rounds on draft boards. Ultimately the Dodgers selected him in round 4. He signed for $396K.
After finishing out his draft year season cutting his teeth in pro ball with the short A Ogden Raptors (32.2 IP, 3.58 ERA, 1.47 WHIP), Brigham skipped single A and joined the A+ Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. After 17 games and 69 innings, the assignment proved to be too difficult for the 23-year-old’s developing to-contact arsenal and he was demoted to single A Great Lakes. He appeared in just two games there, tossing seven innings before the Marlins came calling at that year’s trade deadline.
On July 30, 2015, Brigham along with Victor Araujo and Kevin Guzman were traded to the Marlins for Mat Latos and Michael Morse. Upon his change of scenery, the Marlins gave Brigham a shot at redemption at the A+ level assigning him to the Jupiter Hammerheads. Brigham responded well, tossing 33.2 innings for Jupiter and recording three straight quality outings from August 16-28, a string of outings where he allowed just one total earned run.
In 2016, Brigham once again began the season in A+. After just two starts though, he landed on the DL with a back strain. Though he was able to return a week later, Brigham wasn’t back to pitching pain free until mid June. This fact shown true in his numbers: from April 22 through May 31, Brigham went 32.1 IP with a 6.73 ERA and 1.56 WHIP.
Though he was able to avoid making another trip to the DL, Brigham didn’t make another start until June 12. Over that two week span, he appeared in just one game throwing a single inning out of the bullpen. The time off was exactly the medicine Brigham needed. Over his last 15 appearances of the season, Brigham threw 82.2 innings and held down a 2.41 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. This included a fantastic month of July in which Brigham managed a 0.33 ERA and 0.90 WHIP in five outings and 27.2 IP as well as a 3.13 ERA and 1.09 WHIP string of starts from August 13-29.
Last season, Brigham began a third season with the Hammerheads. He was performing masterfully, tossing to the tune of a 2.68 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in his first 10 starts, six of which were quality starts and all of which lasted at least five innings and contained four earned runs or less. During a 5 IP, 6 H, 1 ER outing on June 30, Brigham struck out a career high nine. Rolling along and undoubtedly making sure to keep his phone charged and close, Brogham was derailed on July 25 when during a start, he suffered an oblique strain in his throwing arm. The injury would cost him the rest of the season. These unfortunately weren’t untested waters for Brigham. In 2012, he missed nearly his entire freshman year of college after undergoing Tommy John.
After resuming throwing mid-offseason, despite another injury to an already surgically repaired arm, Brigham showed up at camp this season and was a mirror image of the pitcher he was eight months ago, maintaining his 94-96 mph velo and his outpitch slider while continuing to rebuild his changeup. Despite the missed time, coaches saw enough to start Brigham off in AA this season.
From his rocker step delivery and high 3/4 slot, Brigham has consistently flashed a good moving two-seamer with good sinking life down in the zone and an even better hard and snappy 86-88 mph slider with lateral run to his glove side that can get downright nasty when he’s ahead in the count and hitting his release point. Alternatively, the immaturity of Brigham’s changeup is what has held him back as a prospect. Last season though, the pitch looked to take a huge leap forward as he gained a better feel for the grip and gained the ability to let the pitch float off the tips of his fingers, adding spin and depth. Mixing it in much more rather than just using it as a waste pitch, it complimented his inside-out fastball/slider combo perfectly. While he still doesn’t have the consistency to pitch off the changeup, he’s using it with much more confidence and shows the ability to hit spots all around the plate. If he shows more dependable control of the change this season and manages to stay healthy, the 26-year-old Brigham could become a Major League ready starter, something I commonly found within the Marlins very young organization this season.
Duval is a massively built righty that had quite the whirlwind start to his baseball career, playing all over the country and making the shift from an offensive first to defensive first player. After attending community college in San Luis Obispo, California, Duval played Division 1 ball at the University Of Hawaii. In 2012, the infielder hit .186/.255/.271. For Duval, the subpar season was disheartening considering how much work he would put in and how much of an infatuation he had with swinging the bat.
“I loved hitting. And when I say “loved”, I mean that in college, there was nobody that would spend more time in the batting cage than me,” Duval said. “It was therapeutic for me. But no matter how hard I worked, I struggled in games.”
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Christian Yelich got exactly what he wanted: out. At the end of the offseason, Yelich became the last victim (or, if you ask Christian himself, benefactor) of the Marlins’ latest firesale, getting shipped off to Milwaukee for a package of prospects.
Yelich’s relationship with his new bosses started off rocky and quickly deteriorated. After the Giancarlo Stanton trade, Yelich publicly stated that the relationship between he and the team was “irrevocably damaged“. He even threatened to miss a fan-friendly event to which he was contractually obligated. The lay of the land being what it was, there was a very good possibility the Marlins — even though they controlled Yelich until 2023 — were going to be forced to settle for improper value, especially after Yelich, who was expected to compete for last season’s batting title, had a bit of an off year, slashing .282/.369/.439 and posting a 3.9 WAR, down from 5.3 in 2016. Not only did that not happen but Yelich fetched the Marlins a better haul than each of Stanton, Dee Gordon and Marcell Ozuna.
Lewis Brinson – OF
2017: AAA – .331/.400/.562, 13 HR, 39 XBH, 62/32 K/BB, 11 SB
The centerpiece of the return is former Brewers’ top prospect, 2017’s #13 overall prospect and undoubtedly new Marlins’ number one prospect, Lewis Brinson. In being traded to the Fish, Brinson returns to his childhood home where he will play for the team he grew up watching. When he wasn’t at Sun Life Stadium, Brinson spent his days at Coral Springs High School where he quickly made his name well known, hitting .473/.623/.872 in his junior year, numbers which earned him district Player Of The Year honors in 2011. At the time, head coach Frank Bumbales saw in his center fielder what has since become evident to the entire baseball world.
“He leads by example,” Bumbales said. “He gives 100%. He’s a really special kid.”
Brinson continued to lead by example in his senior year, hitting .394/.516/.732 in 91 plate appearances, once again leading the Colts to their third straight district title. He graduated with four school records which still stand today: career runs (92), career RBI (95), doubles in a season (13) and RBI in a game (8).
Talking with Brinson’s former teammates, they echo their coach’s sentiments, saying their center fielder was a leader both on and off the field.
“Even though I only played with him for one year, I can honestly say he was one of the best players I’ve ever played with because he knew how to hit homers but he also knew how to find gaps and get around the bases,” Joseph DeMicco said. “But as good as a hitter that he was, he was even better on defense. With he speed, he could get to anything, no matter where it was hit. Anything. And his arm was explosive. Definitely a five tool type guy. I really think Marlins fans are going to like him.”
Dylan Ebel who has known Brinson since middle school praises him for his positive attitude and what he is capable of bringing to a team’s intangibles.
“I first played with him in 8th grade so to see how far he progressed has really been spectacular,” Ebel said. “He always kept his head down and put the work in to get better each and every day. That type of grind and work ethic rubbed off on others on the team, made people just want to be better, play harder and always doing it with a smile.”
Upon graduating as the 16th best overall player and sixth best center field draft prospect nationally as well as the fifth best overall and third best positionally statewide and garnering first team All-American and All-Region honors in 2012, Brinson forwent a four-year commitment to the University Of Florida when he was selected 29th overall by the Texas Rangers.
“I’ve been a Marlins fan growing up, and I still am, but I’m a bigger Texas Rangers fan now,” Brinson said at the time.
Now, Brinson and his fandom are coming home, just in time for his first full Major League season.
Brinson comes to the Marlins after hitting .287/.354/.502 over 2,134 minor league ABs, including .331/.401/.562 in 300 AAA chances last year before making his Major League debut. Once described by scouts as projectible but very raw, Brinson jumped at least one level in each of his minor league seasons and enters spring training as MLB’s 27th best prospect and as a shoe-in candidate to start for the Marlins in center field.
Standing 6’3″, 170, the Tamarac native used to swing from a straight front leg upright stance which caused him to fall off to his left side, limited his plate coverage and made him succeptible to pitches on the outer half. After a 96/33 K/BB season in 2014, Brinson made the adjustment to his current stance, a much more closed approach in which he stays much farther back in the box, his back foot nearly touching the back of it. Since the adjustment, Brinson’s K rate has fallen from 25% to 18% last year. His swing will still get a bit long on quality pitches on a low and outer black but his new stance has improved his plate vision and extension.
What Brinson is yet to acquire in body mass he makes up for with his superior bat speed which allows him to generate easy power. He will occasionally find the fences but will more frequently hit the gaps and from there, let his speed — grade 60 on the 20-80 scale and alotting him a 4.25 second-to-home-to-first time — go to work for him. Brinson still has some work to do, especially in the swing-and-miss department, in order to realize his full potential but recent production has alotted him to surpass boom-or-bust status and enter elite prospect maturation. Place Brinson’s ceiling at Andrew McCutchen-lite and his floor somewhere around Shane Victorino. This year’s PECOTA rankings favor the latter that assessment. Where McCutchen was a 2.5 WAR player last year (and a career 2.5 WAR player), they predict Brinson to hold a 2.8 WAR this season, highest among rookie outfielders. Needless to say, this hometown hero should be a fun player to watch and should be leaned on heavily by the franchise.
Monte Harrison – OF
2017 (A-A+) – .272/.350/.481, 21 HR, 51 XBH, 139/43 K/BB, 27 SB
The main accompanyment to Brinson is Monte Harrison. While being two levels lower than Brinson, a fellow outfielder, Harrison proved last year that he is also a potential fellow 20-20 threat and quite possibly is a threat for even more power. Playing between A and A+, Harrison slashed .272/.350/.481 with 21 long balls and 51 total XBHs. He also tore it up on the basepaths to the tune of 27 swiped bags. Much more the physical specimen than Brinson, Harrison stands 6’3″, 220. Still, with a career 87-15 SB/CS (85%), 27 of which came this past year, Harrison manages to be quite nimble on his feet. As phsyically imposing yet still athletic as he is, with a career 28.55 K% and 3.08 K/BB, there’s a lot of work to be done in the upper levels of the minors here. With an inconsistent timing trigger, poor pitch recognition and equally poor plate discipline, he needs to improve top down in his approach. While it’s conceded that he will never be a for-average hitter, Harrison has plenty of projectible talent in his raw power and superb bat speed. If he can learn the zone, improve his vision and gain the ability to hit to his opposite side more often, negating the shift and improving plate coverage, there’s realistic potential for Harrison to become a member of the 30/30 club someday.
Harrison translates his power profile at the plate into a power arm in the outfield. He runs good routes via good reads and a good first step to the ball off the bat and he has more than enough speed to cover any outfield position, disallowing bloop hits and holding virtually anything hit in front of him to a single base. While he’s been a center fielder most frequently in his MiLB career, Harrison projects best as a future every day right fielder. For a ceiling comparison, look somwhere between Yasiel Puig and Justin Upton. Needless to say, Monte Harrison will be the man to watch in Jacksonville this season.
Isan Diaz – SS/2B
2017 (A+) – .222/.234/.376, 13 HR, 33 XBH, 121/62 K/BB, 54 RBI
Diaz is a 2017 second round prep draft pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks out of Springfield, Massachusetts. Diaz moved to the Division I high school to garner more draft attention in his junior season. In his senior year, he did that and more. After a .492/.625/.898 campgaign, he was named Western Massachusetts’ baseball Player of the Year for 2017. Infinitely humble, Diaz gives credence to those closest to him for allowing him to burst onto the national scene that year and take a huge step closer to making his childhood imagery come to life.
“I have to give credit to my supporting cast: my family, my teachers and everyone who helped me. Without them, I wouldn’t have continued to strive to get too where I wanted to get to,” Diaz said. “The constant reminder of making my dream come true and what was in front of me helped a ton.”
After breaking into pro ball as a 17-year-old, Diaz had similar immediate success, charging out of the gate his first three seasons, hitting a combined .291/.377/.515 between the Arizona Fall League and Pioneer League. He then parlayed that into a .264/.359/.469 first full pro season with the Wisconson Timber Rattlers, Milwaukee’s low A affiliate in 2016, his first with the Brewers’ organizaion after he was involved in a trade. These accollades, combined with a total 36 homers and 129 RBI allotted Diaz to climb up to the fifth ranked prospect in the Brewers’ deep system entering 2017, just his age 21 season. That was when Diaz, for the first time in his baseball career, failed to exceed expectations, hitting just .222/.334/.376 with a career hih 26.48 K rate. However, Diaz doesn’t look on last season with feelings of failure. Rather, he chalks it up to a positive part of the maturation process.
“I honestly believe last year was a great learning experience for me, knowing how it feels to have success and how it feels to fail. It’s always fun to succeed but when you fail that’s when you have too still be the same player and still be a great teammate as you were when you were having success,” Diaz said. “I believe I’ll be ready for this season and whatever comes to the table, trying to help the team and be the best teammate I can be both on and off the field.”
You wouldn’t guess it by looking at his 5’10”, 185 pound frame but one of Diaz’s best tools is his power capacity. By getting his entire body involved in his swing, showing good repetition in balancing his load and getting his barrel extended, Diaz has a career 3.12 home run percentage and a career 43.02 XBH percentage. According to Diaz, extra bases aren’t at the forefront of his mind when he’s in the box; it’s just something that occurs on its own.
“I believe that the power is something that comes out naturally,” Diaz said. “I don’t ever try to hit home runs; my main focus is always to reach base and hit the ball hard wherever it’s pitched.”
Unfortunately for Diaz, the good power numbers have come at the cost of a lot of K’s. In each of his last two seasons, he’s racked up over 100 strikeouts. This issue stems from a hole in his approach common to hitters like Diaz who thrive when they can get their arms fully extended and struggle when they get jammed and their eyes are taken away: the inability to cover the up-and-in pitch. Though he concedes strikeouts are something he needs to work on, Diaz still plans on being himself at the plate and keeping his game simple.
“I know it’s something I have to try my best bring down, but I’ve learned that by thinking about strikeouts and trying to not strikeout that’s when you strike out more,” Diaz said. “So my approach stays the same, the only difference now is knowing with two strikes I’m still trying to driving the ball.”
Even though he does have some work to do in the K department, the high numbers in that category shouldn’t be indicative of his plate vision. Instead, refer to Diaz’s nearly equally high walk totals and career walk rate of 12.3%. A good pitch identifier with equally good vision and timing, if Diaz can get his K total in check and continue to improve against lefties (he hit .255 and OPSed .734 against same-side pitching last year despite hitting it at just a .245 BA, .696 OPS in 2016, figures which were aided by a .386 BABIP), there will be nothing working against him reaching his 20/20 type ceiling.
Just four years into his professional baseball career, this is the second time Diaz has been involved in a trade and had his offseason interrupted in order to relocate. However, this time, it’s a small price to pay in exchange for him being much, much closer to his east-coast based support system.
“I’m very excited to be a Marlin and I can’t wait to see this team in a few years to come,” Diaz said. “Playing on the same coast is great you know closer to home, closer to family and just excited to be here and excited for all those who came over in trades as well.”
Overall, Diaz is a very sought after commodity — a power first middle infielder who has above average speed and plays at least average defense. While there is some question as to how Diaz is going to perform after suffering a hamate bone fracture that ended his season last year prematurely and while he will have to repeat single A advanced in Jupiter this season, if he comes back 100%, his swing is unaltered and he learns to cover the upper inside half of the plate a bit better or at least lay off of it and continue to improve against same-side pitching, Diaz could reach his ceiling of Dan Uggla — a player of extremes in the K/BB department but also in the power categories and cornerstone starting second baseman (and fellow jersey number 6) — by 2021, his age 23 season. He will be an interesting prospect to follow.
Jordan Yamamoto – RHP
2017 (A+) – 111 IP, 9-4, 2.51 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 113/30 K/BB, 3.77 K/BB, .280 BABIP
The final return piece in the Yelich trade is righty Jordan Yammamoto, a Hawaiian native, the second in Marlins history after Charlie Hough. He was also the second Hawaiian selected by the Brewers in the 2014 MLB Draft. In the first round that year, Milwaukee selected Yamamoto’s island mate and highly touted lefty Kodi Mederios who at the time of his selection, was already drawing comparisons to Madison Bumgarner. However, when the two met in the Hawaii High School Athletic Association Division I baseball tournament, it was the northerner and Honolulu native Yamamoto who shined brighter.
“It was a high-tension game because Kodi is a great pitcher and I was up for the challenge,” says Yamamoto who threw a two-hit complete game shutout. “It was a game that I think I will hold against him as a friendly joke.”
Through the pair’s first three years in professional ball, despite being drafted eleven rounds later than Mederios, the story has been the same: it’s been Yammamoto who has grown up quicker. Where Mederios has mustered a 5.19 ERA, a 1.51 WHIP and a in 324.1 IP, Yamamoto has held down a 4.19 ERA, a 1.33 WHIP and a 3.60 K/BB in his first 329 IP. However, for Yamamoto, his career hasn’t been trying to outdo anybody. Rather, it has been about learning from his squadmates, letting them learn off of him and most importantly, beinh himself.
“When [Mederios and I] got drafted, it became a helping situation and all we did was push each other to be better. We were roommates for many years and we would try to help each other through it all.” Yamamoto said. “It’s all about staying within myself and not overdoing anything. Be the same pitcher. As in the last years and letting my defense back me up because I believe in my teammates that they will have my back through thick and thin.”
After cutting his teeth in rookie ball in 2015, Yammamoto entered his first full pro season with the low A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in 2016. After coming out of the pen in six of his first nine appearances, Yammamoto transitioned to the rotation full time in mid June. Rather than being snakebitten (pun intended) by the increased workload and amount of innings, a common downfall for many young players in their first full season, Yammamoto didn’t seem to be bothered by either factor. In fact, some of his best work was done in his final four starts of the season, three of which were quality starts and amounted to a total of 23 IP, a 0.78 ERA and a 0.57 WHIP. Collectively that year, Yammamoto held opponents to a minuscule .223 BA and .661 OPS by way of the second most Ks in the Midwest League (152) and its best K/BB% (21.8). His ERA wound up at 3.82, 12th best in his league and his WHIP at 1.20, 7th best. All of this occurred while he was working against the league’s second highest BABIP, a very tough-luck .342.
This past year, Yamamoto jumped up to A+. As his BABIP normalized down to .286, his ERA not only shrunk down to what it should have been last year — proven by his 2.53 FIP in 2016 –, he was even slightly better in disallowing runs, as it came to rest at 2.51, lowest in the Carolina League by more than half a point. Once again, Yamamoto relied heavily on the strikeout, fanning 111 (or 25.2% of his opponents) and his excellent control and command as he gave up walks to just 30 (or 6.7% of his hitters). As much as the strikeout has been a key to his success so far, Yamamoto says he doesn’t go into at-bats looking for a strikeout but rather to induce weak contact. However, if he works himself into a favorable count, Yamamoto says it’s strikeout or bust because as has been the theme throughout his pro career this far, he wants to take the chance he’s obtained through hard work and run with it.
“I do not look for strikeouts; I look for contact because my mentality is that hitters will get themselves out 7/10 times. I do not have overpowering stuff so I just pitch to contact and let my defense back me up because they got my back,” Yamamoto said. “But when I get hitter 0-2/1-2 I tell myself that the hitters can’t get a hit because I worked for this count and I will have to make the most of this opportunity.”
Last year, Yamamoto proved that he can successfully limit contact and damage, his a-priori when a hitter steps into the box. Along with a WHIP that stood at 1.09, third lowest in his league, he stranded 79% of the runners he allowed to reach base, another top mark amongst Carolina League hurlers.
Yamamoto’s arsenal consists of a 92-94 MPH fastball that he can ramp up a bit higher when necessary. It is by far the crux of his arsenal and his most frequently used pitch. It shows good run to both sides of the plate, especially to Yamamoto’s glove side where he flashes his best command. Despite limited size, Yamamoto planes dthe pitch well and can get some sink on it. His first breaker is a 85-88 mph power slider which has good late movement and gives hitters fits when he’s spotting it on the outside corner and. He piggybacks it off his fastball well and will throw both pitches in any count, keeping the opposition guessing. His distant third pitch is an 84-86 MPH changeup. The pitch flashes plus at times with late fade low in the zone. However, Yamamoto will need to develop a better feel and his command over the pitch as he gets ready to enter the upper minors.
Even though it seems Yamamoto was thriving in the Milwaukee system, he finds himself as the receiver of a change of scenery, relocating to South Florida, about as far away as he could possibly be from his home in northern Hawaii. Though he admits that some things will be different now, Yamamoto expresses good understanding for the industrial side of the game and that he can only control what he can control. Despite the relocation, Yamamoto says his effort and drive to improve will be the same in a Marlins’ uniform as it was in both his high school and Brewers uniforms.
“Nothing will be easy from here on out but I will do my best to make the most of the opportunity that has been presented to me,” Yamamoto said. “It is a great place for me. It is a business and like any other jobs, the boss will do what he/she thinks is best for the company. And if they have the belief in me that I can help this organization, then I will do everything in my power to help this organization.”
Look for Yamamoto to begin 2018 in A+ with the Jupiter Hammerheads and possibly be a quick promotee to AA Jacksonville.
Despite the situation with Yelich going bad to worse to getting to the point where they were insufferable from Yelich’s perspective, a fact which he wasn’t afraid to point out to the media, Mike Hill, Derek Jeter and the Marlins surface from the debacle not only getting all they could out of Yelich (especially after a down year statistically), they got an even better return out of him than they got out of the Stanton and Ozuna trades. For coming away with a surefire fan-favorite MLB ready five tool center fielder, a not-too-distant-future 30/30 professional threat, a powerful middle infielder and a ceiling 3-5 starter, this trade passes the grade with flying colors.