Not even 48 hours into the Minor League Baseball season, outfielder Jesus Sanchez and first baseman Lewin Diaz are lighting up stat sheets and proving they are on their way to big things in their MLB careers which could (re)commence in the not-too-distant future.
On Tuesday night at 121 Financial Ballpark in Jacksonville, Diaz, hitting second, homered on the second pitch he saw. An inning later, Sanchez struck a well-hit RBI single to left field, plating two runs. Five innings later, Diaz doubled to center and Sanchez connected for a three run bomb. The pair’s 4-10, 2 HR, 8 RBI barrage accounted for eight of the Jumbo Shrimp’s 11 runs and rout of the Norfolk Tides.
Less than 15 hours later, Diaz and Sanchez were at it again. Both back in the lineup for Wednesday’s 1:05 start, the two top 30 organizational prospects once again led the way in an impressive offensive barrage, combining for seven hits, eight RBIs, two homers and four XBH in Jacksonville’s 10-7 win.
Diaz, Fish On The Farm’s seventh ranked organizational prospect, had a busy winter and spring. After taking part in the Dominican Winter League where he hit .207/.301/.354 with three homers and 12 RBI against competition more than four years older than him on average. More so than the stats, the most impressive attribute to Lewin was the improvement in his physical build.
“I was eating well, I was hitting the gym a lot, I gained some muscle mass. I feel perfect right now,” Diaz told us this spring. “I feel like I’m hitting the ball a little harder.”
Through his first two games, Diaz is hitting the ball hard in virtually every AB. Diaz rode the opportunity to stay fresh and get bigger back home into spring training where he was among the most frequently used players, appearing in 16 of the Marlins’ 19 games. He went 5-22 with two doubles and a 5/4 K/BB. More important than the stats though was the experience and the ability to further prepare.
“I’m planning ahead this year,” Diaz said through a translator in early March. “I’m working on swinging at good pitches and getting good at bats so that I can go back to the major league level and stay there for a long time.”
Through two games, Diaz’s plans seem to be coming to fruition very early. Via extremely soft hands, excellent vision and insurmountable plate coverage, Diaz already looks locked in at the plate. Showing the ability to get to virtually any pitch and hit it hard, Diaz has already had a couple of “how did he do that?” moments.
Handling his newly added size with grace and ease, Lewin looks to have made the most of his winter league experience where he said he tried to learn as much as possible from guys veterans Robinson Cano and his spring training experience where he faced off against big league arms on the regular.
During spring, Don Mattingly told us it is “definitely possible” we see Diaz back with the Marlins sometime this season. If this early production persists, that possibility will be a foregone conclusion for the Marlins’ first baseman of the future.
While Diaz was getting reps and experience on the field for much of spring training, Jesus Sanchez was doing quite the opposite. After just eight ABs, Sanchez suffered a groin strain which kept him out of action for the rest of the Grapefruit League tenure and eventually saw him placed on the 10-day IL. This Tuesday, in his first AB in 64 days, Sanchez did this:
Despite missed time, Sanchez has flown out of the gates this year and is getting to pitches rarely seen touched, let alone hit for extra bases. His amazing raw strength is to thank for that. As he proved this week when he golfed a pitch out of 121 Financial Park, any pitch Jesus Sanchez gets under has a chance to leave the park. In his minor league career so far though, with a career ground ball rate around 50% and a ground ball/fly ball rate of 1.36, the consistency on which he’s been able to hit the ball in the air has been a bit of an issue and it is the main culprit keeping him from his 50-grade game power tool. If Sanchez has figured that out and if he can stay on the field, the 23-year-old slugger should be another one of the first promotees to the big leagues, especially with three expiry contracts currently manning the Marlins’ outfield.
For now, enjoy the show, Jacksonville.
Jumbo Shrimp Welcome Back Fans
While the other three Marlins MiLB affiliates started their seasons on the road on Tuesday, the gates of 121 Financial opened to fans for a Minor League Baseball game for the first time in 617 days.
“I was overfilled with excitement,” Jumbo Shrimp emcee and in game host Jordan Price said about walking back into the park. “You miss seeing the season ticket holder fans and interacting with them. They become like family so you miss the game day conversations. The fans make the ballpark come alive and adding baseball back is icing on the cake.”
Jumbo Shrimp fans weren’t in their seats very long. Not even ten minutes after the national Anthem, Lewin Diaz took a ball deep for the first Shrimp homer of the season. It was far from the first time Shrimp fans rose to their feet. Jacksonville put on an offense clinic, banging out eleven runs in route to victory, the first Shrimp win since August 26th, 2019. The sell-out crowd wasn’t only treated to fireworks on the field during the game, they got to take in a postgame fireworks show as well, the perfect ending to a great first night back out at the ballpark.
“You could tell the fans have been waiting patiently for this game,” Price said. “They were so enthusiastic about every little detail that was happening within the game from the players being announced, the play ball kid, the National Anthem and even booing the umpires as they walked out. Everything the fans did, they did it with more enthusiasm.”
Jumbo Shrimp play-by-play announcer and director of media relations Scott Kornberg described the climate as a playoff atmosphere.
“Jacksonville has great fans to begin with. To be honest, it’s one of the very few places that actually gets LOUD. So we’ve felt that energy for months now, and even that extraordinary build-up did not exceed the actual moment,” Kornberg said. “From the instance the gates opened, you could tell everyone felt lucky to be there, myself included. It was one of the very, very surreal things I’ve been able to experience.”
Straight out of minor league spring training, the Shrimp as a whole looked to be in mid season form. After starter Braxton Garrett worked into the 4th inning, reliever Brett Eibner threw 2.1 scoreless innings behind an offensive explosion which included a five run 2nd inning and a four run 8th. Kornberg believes the fans played a big part in the players’ performance.
“These players have gone from either not playing at all in 2020 or playing in front of no fans. And they’re all aware upon coming to Jacksonville of what the atmosphere in the stands is like,” Kornberg said. “They all say it the first day they get here, how much they’ve heard about how great it is to play here. So for them, it was special, and then you add in our crowd? I think there was no question those guys love playing in front of our fans to begin with, and the atmosphere last night only added to it.”
The excitement surrounding the return of baseball in Duval county was far from exclusive to Opening Day. On a Wednesday afternoon, 121 Financial was close to allotted capacity. That crowd took in another Jacksonville victory. This weekend, a ticket to a Jumbo Shrimp game will be hard to come by.
“We are sold out pretty much every home game through this homestand,” Kornberg said.
Even without baseball in 2020, the Shrimp stayed active in the community and worked diligently with health and safety officials and county leadership to stay involved in the community and keep the gates of 121 Financial open. Through that work, the organization was able to host a variety of socially distanced events such as movie nights and bingo nights. Undoubtedly, that continued community involvement is a harbinger for why Duval continues to rally around the Shrimp organization.
“I think them being involved kept them top of mind with the fans and giving hope that things will be back to normal eventually,” Jacksonville fan Stoffer Cochran said. “I love Minor League Baseball and I’m proud of the Jumbo Shrimp.”
Max Meyer Debuts
On Wednesday night, 2020 third overall pick Max Meyer made his professional ball debut at AA Pensacola. He did not disappoint. The 23-year-old lefty worked five scoreless innings allowing just two baserunners (one hit, one walk) and striking out five. He needed just 65 pitches, 42 of which were strikes.
Meyer came as advertised, pumping up to 97 with his fastball (sitting 94). His famously sickening slider, labeled the best pitch in the 2020 MLB Draft, was on full display. Four of five of his strikeouts were finished with that pitch, including this one which, per the Mississippi Braves’ broadcast, had a spin rate of 2539. Major League Baseball’s average slider spin rate this season is 2453.
Meyer didn’t need his changeup at the collegiate level and he didn’t really need it in this start either, but he did show it a bit. It sits in the 84-86 mph range and Meyer flashed the ability to locate it similarly to the heater. It has some nice late plane, giving it ability to have some tunnel off the heat leading up to the wipeout slider.
While we need to see more than the few he threw in this start, it was encouraging to see Meyer mix it in and throw the changeup with conviction for strikes.
So how did Meyer, pitching in his first pro game and l for the first time in a game at any level in over a year, fly out of the gates in this fashion at such a high level? Postgame, manager Kevin “Smoke” Randel likened it to mixture of ability and blissful ignorance.
“He doesn’t know any better,” Randel said. “He’s never pitched in the Florida State League or even the (New York-) Penn League or low A. So it’s just the minor leagues to him. He feels like he needs to be up in the big leagues. He’s got the best stuff. That’s just how he pitches.”
Meyer’s next start should come next Tuesday in the Blue Wahoo’s home opener against the Birmingham Barons.
After years of broken promises and shattered hearts, regime change has the Marlins and their fans on the brink of the fate they’ve long looked forward to and deserved: a competitive home grown club and a sustainable winning culture. Home to Major League Baseball‘s most improved minor league system, fresh new colors, a new coat of paint on their Little Havana ballpark and enhanced community outreach methods, Miami is well on its way to success both on and off the field. Leading the way in that effort is a wave of youth acquired via the draft and offseason trades almost exclusively over the last two years.
Delving into the group of young men who will give the Marlins a more-than viable shot to end their 17-year playoff drought, we present to you our 2020 Top 20 Prospects list.
This year, we asked our followers on Twitter (@marlinsminors) to assist us in our rankings, combining their consensus opinion with our own findings. We thank everyone who participated in our polls.
1. RHP Sixto Sanchez
2019 (A+/AA) – 114 IP, 2.76 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, 103/21 K/BB
Six in his name, ace in his veins.
The center return piece in the JT Realmuto swap with Philadelphia, Sanchez is a Dominican native who came to the affiliated ranks in 2015 via a $35,000 signing bonus. A converted shortstop, Sanchez made his pitching debut for the Phillies’ Dominican Summer League squad in 2015.
After spending 25.2 innings getting acclimated to the affiliated ranks overseas, a 16-year-old, Sanchez made the stateside transfer in 2017. There, in 11 GCL starts (56 IP) he began to dominate. Among pitchers with at least 50 IP, Sanchez’s audaciously low 0.50 ERA (he gave up just 3 earned runs) far and away led the circuit as did his 0.76 WHIP. His 18.6 K/BB% ranked third.
In 2017, Sixto made quick and easy work of his first full-season ball assignment, tossing 61 IP to the tune of a 2.41 ERA via a 0.82 WHIP and a 21.5 K/BB%. Those exports earned him the right to end the season in A+ (27 IP, 1.30 WHIP, 9.3 K/BB%).
An A+ resident armed with 95+ MPH heat and more-than-budding breakers at age 19, Sanchez entered 2018 as the Phillies’ top prospect (according to John Sickels). He spent eight starts and 46.2 IP proving himself worthy of that title as he threw to a a 2.51 ERA by way of a 1.07 WHIP and 18.1 K/BB% for the Clearwater Threshers. However, in early June Sanchez’s fiery velo and the Phillies’ feeding him so many innings early in his career paved the way to a season-ending elbow injury. He did not throw for the franchise again.
After the offseason trade, Sanchez arrived at Marlins Minor League camp in Jupiter like nothing ever happened. His velo was completely intact and, as Fish Stripes pointed out, it was being backed by polished mechanics. This leads to the belief that the Phillies’ complete shutdown of him a year previous was done mostly out of precaution in order to preserve his arm strength, not rescue it. The Marlins still erred on the side of caution, withholding Sanchez’s organizational debut until early May, but when it was finally time, he didn’t disappoint. In his upper minors debut, Sixto twirled a quality start on just one hit and two walks while striking out seven. It was the precursor to a career year — 103 IP, 2.53 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 97/19 K/BB. Amongst Southern League competition, his ERA and WHIP each ranked fourth and his 19% K/BB% ranked ninth. Once again, this was during a comeback from a lengthy injury while making the often-difficult jump to AA.
You don’t have to watch Sixto long in order to realize he’s a next-level talent. He throws his fastball two different ways and both pitches produces different results. His four-seamer sits at 95 MPH and runs to his arm side with late action, inducing a hearty amount of whiffs. When necessary, he can ramp up past triple digits. The Sanchez two-seamer is his anchor when he’s behind in counts due to its late sink induces toms of weak contact and easy ground ball outs. He owns two breaking offerings: a mid-80s slider and an 89-91 MPH changeup. What sets Sixto apart from other top pitching prospects is the fact that his command of all four of his pitches is quickly catching up to his velo. Originally a converted infielder who would get on the mound and simply throw the ball at the glove as hard as he could, Sanchez now has a plan regarding how to attack hitters and can adjust said plan in order to keep them off-balance. He’s garnered that ability in just two and a half short seasons in the minors and he’s still growing.
With plus-plus velo, an already solid arsenal and armed with the knack to command inside the zone and still live right around it when he misses, Sanchez lines up as a future ace with a ceiling comparable to Johnny Cueto. He could get his call as early as the second half of this year.
2. OF JJ Bleday
2019 (A+) – .257/.311/.375, 3 HR, 11 XBH, 19 RBI, 29/11 K/BB
The first draft pick of the Jeter era is here and he’s perfect.
— Fish On The Farm (@marlinsminors) July 20, 2019
A native of Danville, PA, Bleday began his baseball career at nearby Titusville High School where he won back-to-back regional championships before transferring to A. Crawford Moseley High in Panama City Beach, Florida where he won two more regional titles as well as two district crowns. A letterman in all four of his secondary school seasons, Bleday slashed a combined .350/.468/.490. He also held down a 2.99 ERA via a .192 BAA in 68 innings pitched as a hurler. Bleday put his natural athleticism on full display for potential college suitors by setting six school records and lettering seasons in swimming at as well as lettering two seasons in golf at Titusville. He rounded a complete package out in the classroom where he was a 3.9 GPA student.
Following his senior year, Bleday played for the Padres scout team. With fastball help in the 92nd percentile with plus command of the zone and a good foundational curveball, Bleday was drafted as a pitcher by San Diego in the 39th round, but he forwent the pros in favor of honoring his verbal commitment to Vanderbilt.
Bleday used his three-year career with the Commodores to rise to first-round-pick worthy. As a freshman, Bleday proved he needed to adjust to playing outfield and hitting every day as he averaged just .256 in 164 ABs. However, he also flashed the beginnings of his plus plate vision, walking more than he struck out. In his sophomore year, Bleday was limited by a mid-season oblique injury which kept him out a little over a month, but that didn’t stop his bat from exploding. In 39 games, Bleday slashed .368/.494/.511, leading Vandy in all three categories. He recorded at least one hit 82% of the time he took the field. His fantastic vision persisted as he once again recorded more walks than strikeouts (23/31 K/BB).
Last season, a fully-healthy Bleday put it all together and led the Commodores to a national championship and himself to an eventual first round draft selection. He did so by not only leading his squad in batting but by appearing in the top 10 nationally in various stat categories including total bases (192, 1st),runs (82, 4th), hits (95, 5th), walks (61, 6th). He led the Southeastern Conference with 27 homers, a Commodores’ single season program record. Bleday reached base in all but one of his 98 games played, including his last 51 straight in a Vanderbilt uniform and he continued his yearly trend of walking more than he struck out (53/54 K/BB). Overall, he hit .350/.464/.717 and was a six-time first-team All-American and Golden Spikes Award finalist (he was edged in the vote by the first overall pick, Adley Rutschman).
Upon being selected by the Marlins 4th overall, the fourth highest picked Commodore in program history after David Price, Dansby Swanson (1st overall) and Pedro Alvarez (2nd overall), Bleday was tasked with making his professional debut in A+ Jupiter. In 38 games in a pitchers’ haven league, he hit a respectable .257/.311/.379 with his first three pro dingers and 19 RBI. Probably most encouraging about Bleday’s tenure in Jupiter: the transition to wood bats didn’t appear to affect him much. Using the same plus-plus knowledge of the zone, the same polished short to the ball approach, the same knack to barrel up and the same ability to create lift via an advantageous upper-cut swing plane that maintains leverage, Bleday’s average exit velo was 88 MPH (right at league average) and reached as high as 109 MPH, according to FanGraphs.
On top of his offensive skills both natural and learned, Bleday is also armed with a canon from right field that holds the same plus-plus velo he showed while pitching in high school. Able to line up his throws and ramp up to 95 with good carry after good route running, Bleday rounds out an overall skill set that holds 4/5 tools. With a ceiling comparable to Nicholas Castellanos, Bleday should begin 2020 back in A+ but should be pushed pretty aggressively through the system. It is possible he receives one of two September call-ups later this year, but we foresee his MLB debut coming midsession 2021.
3. – OF Jesus Sanchez
2019 (AA/AAA) – .260/.325/.398, 13 HR, 29 XBH, 63 RBI, 100/39 K/BB
One of the Marlins’ newest prospect acquisitions via the Trevor Richards trade with Tampa in late 2019, Sanchez is a 22-year-old outfielder who has absolutely raked since his arrival in pro ball.
The 27th-ranked international prize in 2014, the Rays acquired Sanchez via a $400K signing bonus in 2014. At the time, talent evaluators lauded Sanchez’s ability to hit for power without sacrificing average at such a young age. In his first year of affiliation with the Rays, Sanchez put those gifts on full exhibition. In a full slate of DSL games (62), 17-year-old hit .335, tied for 12th on the circuit with a .498 SLG, 8th and a .382 OBP. He drove in 45 runs, tied for 10th in the league. 24 of Sanchez’s 80 hits were of the extra base variety (four homers, 13 doubles, seven triples) equating to a 30% XBH%.
In 2016, Sanchez proved that type of prowess wasn’t exclusive to the Caribbean. While making the transition stateside still in his teenaged years, Sanchez first played in 42 games for the GCL Rays where he hit .323/.341/.530 before ending the campaign by collecting 17 hits in 49 ABs (.347) for the short season Princeton Rays.
The results kept coming for Sanchez in 2017. Spending the entire year with the full-season A Bowling Green Hot Rods, he became the pitcher-friendly Midwest League’s batting champion by hitting .305 with a .378 OBP, 17th in the league and a .478 SLG, tied for sixth. He belted 15 homers and drove in a league-most 82 runs. Sanchez accomplished all of this as a 19-year-old, over two years’ younger than his average competition and he was named the Rays’ MiLB Player of the Year.
Heading into 2018, Sanchez was the third-ranked prospect in the Rays organization. He showed why by hitting .301/.331/.462 in his first 90 games with the Charlotte Stone Crabs of the Florida State League, another offense limiting circuit. He spent his last 27 games of the ledger getting his feet wet in AA hitting .214/.300/.327 in 27 games. Last season, Sanchez returned to AA as the 9th-ranked outfield prospect in all of Minor League Baseball. Back in Montgomery, Sanchez sloshed .275/.332/.404 with eight homers, 20 XBH and 49 RBI in 78 games earning him the call to AAA. Eighteen games into his tenure with the Durham Bulls, Sanchez was traded to the Marlins. He lived out 2019 in the PCL hitting .246/.338/.446 with the Baby Cakes. Sanchez will come to spring training with Miami this season as a member of a 40-man roster for the first time in his career.
Drafted as a tall, wiry teenager out of the DR, Sanchez has advantageously transformed into a 6’3”, 230 pound specimen. He has come by his power numbers both naturally and by way of his plus-plus bat-to-ball skills, stemming from a incredible bat speed. Timing his cuts well via a high front-foot trigger, Sanchez drives into the ball with active hips and wrists which should allow him to continue to hit for both average and power against high velo at the next level.
Where Sanchez will need to improve as he polishes off his MiLB career is in being more selective early in counts, especially against MLB-caliber breaking pitches. Sanchez will also struggle with pitches in on his hands, often leading to weak contact and/or whiffs, especially when he’s behind in the count, a trait that lent itself to his high K rate last season, despite pretty good pitch recognition. If Sanchez can learn to be more selective with cuts, limit swings and misses against offspeed stuff, improve his walk rate and learn to shorten up a bit better to cover the inner half protecting his hands all while continuing to mash heat and maintain his elite outer-half plate coverage, he profiles as a special middle of the order corner outfielder (more of a left fielder than a right fielder), capable of both power and average against both sides at the MLB level. A guy who made it to AA at age 20 and to AAA before age 22, the lefty hitter has a Hunter Pence-ish ceiling: .280/.335/.462, 23 HR, 59 XBH, 90 RBI 162-game average. He should start the year in AAA and, given the amount of outfield depth in the organization, end it there before getting his true shot at a starting job next season.
4. SS Jazz Chisholm
2019 – .220/.321/.441, 21 HR, 38 XBH, 16 SB, 147/52 K/BB
Jazz is a 21-year-old Bahamian native who has the ability to make sweet, sweet music for the Marlins’ franchise for years to come.
Jasrado Hermis Arrington Chisholm was a Diamondbacks’ international signee back in 2015. In his first 62 pro games competing against guys nearly three years his elder on average, Jazz hit an impressive .281/.333/.446. One talent evaluator candidly described the 5’11, 165 pounder this way:
“When you initially see him, he’s not very big. But I saw him hit a bomb in spring training and I’m like, ‘Damn, he’s got some bat speed,’ and he looks very hitter-ish in the box, very comfortable.”
After being limited to just 29 games due to a meniscus injury with the DBacks’ single A affiliate in 2017, a 20-year-old version of Chisholm held his coming out party in 2018. In 76 Midwest League games and 26 California League (A+) contests, Jazz hit a combined .272/.329/.572 with 25 homers and 17 RBI. He also added on 17 steals in 21 attempts. Jazz rounded out his spectacular 2018 calendar year by going 19-43 with three homers in the Arizona Fall League.
Headed into 2019, Jazz was regarded as the DBacks’ top prospect and a top-50 prospect in all of baseball. AA ball proved to be a challenge for the aggressive swinger as he hit just .204/.305/.427 with a 123/41 K/BB in 89 games for the Jackson Generals. However, Chisholm ended his season on a positive note. Upon his change of scenery that occurred when he was dealt to the Marlins in the trade that sent Zac Gallen westward, Jazz slashed .284/.383/.494 with a 24/11 K/BB as a Jumbo Shrimp. He kept his craft fresh as he participated in the Puerto Rican Winter League where he hit .286/.333/.457 in 11 games.
— Fish On The Farm (@marlinsminors) February 17, 2020
It’s hard to imagine for someone of his 5’11”, 165 pound build, but Chisholm’s future will be built on his power potential, an ability he comes by via a beautifully violent swing. Like his new organization mate, Sanchez, he comes by his power tool via elite bat speed but, unlike Sanchez, the still physically immature Chisholm shows room for improvement when it comes to bat control and especially when it comes to selecting swings. A slugger trapped in a catalyst’s body, Ks will probably always be part of Chisholm’s game, but if he can grow his pitch recognition and command the barrel better as his frame matures, Jazz, who dazzled on the base paths with 60-grade speed and shows good instincts in the field with a 45-50 grade glove, is capable of a .250/.320/.450+ ceiling. He has the potential to be Didi Gregorious with more speed.
5. OF Monte Harrison
2019 (A+/AAA) – .270/.351/.441, 9 HR, 18 XBH, 74/25 K/BB, 23/2 SB/CS
Harrison is the center return piece from the Marlins’ 2018 blockbuster trade with Milwaukee, the one responsible for making Christian Yelich a Brewer. A second-round pick out of his Missouri high school alma matter in 2014, Harrison spent his first three seasons bouncing around between rookie ball and low A before his breakout season in 2017. Spending nearly equal time between A and A+, Monte hit .272/.350/.481 with 21 homers, 51 XBH and 27 steals in 31 attempts. He also hit two bombs in the Midwest League All-Star Game, powering his team to the W and earning MVP honors. Harrison rounded out his calendar year by hitting .290/.383/.348 with five more homers and five more steals in the Arizona Fall League.
Following such a star-studded campaign, Harrison arrived in Miami as the organization’s consensus top prospect for 2018. Monte lived out the entire season in AA Jacksonville. Though the transition to the upper minors wasn’t without rigor proven by his 215 strikeouts, most in all of Minor League Baseball, Monte still posted a respectable .240/.316/.399 line. The power and speed tools both persisted as he slammed 19 homers, 42 XBH and stole 28 bags. Harrison ended his first season with the Marlins by taking part in his second Arizona Fall League campaign. There, in 19 games, he hit .290/.383/.348 and was selected to participate in the Fall-Stars Game.
Last season, Harrison had appeared to make the adjustments necessary to remedy what ailed him in his initial call to the upper minors by hitting .284/.372/.479 in his first 50 games in AAA, earning him his third career All-Star selection, this time to the MLB Futures Game. However, before the All-Star break, a different sort of ailment befell him. On June 27th, Harrison suffered a wrist injury while diving for a sinking fly ball in the outfield. The injury kept him out of action for two full months. Upon his return and two rehab games in Jupiter, Monte returned to New Orleans. He ended his season on a good note, going 5 for his last 16. This offseason, Monte used the Venezuelan Winter League to recondition and make for lost time. In 16 games, he hit 300/.397/.380.
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) February 22, 2020
Standing 6’3”, 220, Monte is a startling physical specimen as he stares down his opposition. From a straight away stance, Monte stands completely vertically, expanding his strike zone but also making the most of the intimidation factor. He loads up via a huge front leg kick that puts all of his weight on his back leg. The kick is both a plus and a minus: the trigger which be begjns pre-pitch allows him to generate maximum power but it also leads to even more whiffs due to him being late getting his front foot planted. Up until last season, Monte’s hit charts had always favor his pull side, but last year, albeit in limited time, he began to show the ability to go oppo. Via better extension, 35% of Monte’s contact was to right field, by far a career high (discounting his first 50 games in affiliated ball).
Harrison has always been and will always be a true power hitter who discounts average and strikeouts for power. That being said, his 70-grade muscle stemming from both natural strength, elite bat speed and good upper half mechanics on top of 60-grade speed makes Monte, at his current level of maturation, a 20-20 threat at the MLB level. Also armed with a 60-grade gun in the outfield, Harrison has the ability to stick in right field.
As long as he shows no lasting effects from the wrist injury that cost him much of the season last year and as long as he can continue to make modest but important adjustments to his hit tool, the infinitely-athletic Harrison profiles as an annual .250/.340/.460+, 25+ homer, 20+ stolen base threat at the MLB level as early as next season. We place his ceiling somewhere between Jayson Werth and fringe Hall Of Famer Torii Hunter. Despite great depth in the Marlins’ outfield, he should make his debut at Marlins Park sometime this season.
6. RHP Edward Cabrera
2019 (A+/AA) – 9-4, 96.2 IP, 2.23 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 116/31 K/BB
Cabrera is a Marlins’ 2015 international signee via a $100,000 signing bonus out of the DR. Despite some shaky stats in the lower levels of the minors, Miami still had the confidence in Cabrera’s stuff to jump him a level with each passing season. This past season, that confidence paid off.
Coming off a 100 IP, 4.22 ERA, 1.465 WHIP season in Greensboro, Cabrera began last season in A+ Jupiter. That’s where Edward started awarding Miami’s belief in the progression of his craft. In 58 innings as a Hammerhead, Cabrera held down a 2.02 ERA via a 0.95 WHIP and a 73/18 K/BB. Among Florida State League pitchers with at least 50 IP, Edward’s ERA ranked 12th, his WHIP ranked 6th and his 24.4 K/BB% ranked sixth. After being named to the FSL All-Star Game, the Marlins gave Cabrera another promotion, RBIs time to AA Jacksonville. Despite the jump in level to a more hirer friendly environment and despite the fact that he was playing against competition nearly four years his elder, Edward continued to dominate. In 38.2 IP, he tossed to a 2.56 ERA by way of a 1.06 WHIP and a 19.2 K/BB%.
Here’s a look at ALL 13 strikeouts thrown by Edward Cabrera in Wednesday’s night victory!
He tied the single-game Jupiter Hammerheads record for strikeouts by a pitcher in just 6 2/3 innings. #HammerDown
— Jupiter Hammerheads (@GoHammerheads) May 2, 2019
Looking at Cabrera’s career stats, he seemingly flipped a switch. However, the ability was always there; he was just missing one thing: consistency. As the plus-plus velo became a regular thing that he held late into starts, Cabrera discovered a new comfortable grip and arm angle on what once was a blend-in to his slider without much differentiation, giving it 11-3 curveball action with late dive. The pitch now dips all the way into the high 70s and is the perfect precursor and/or out pitch to his heat. He will still also still use the high-80s slider as a mix-in.
In addition, Cabrera also found a better feel for his changeup which showed improved fade. With polish on the repeatability in his release, Cabrera’s command tool rose to at least 55-grade. He is still ironing out his fluidity and is susceptible to flying open at times and missing a spot which will hurt him at the next level, but he has plenty of time to round out. Considered a high risk piece two years ago, Edward has already shed a lot of that worry.
A bulldog on the mound, Cabrera comes right at his opposition and dares them to hit, living in and all around the strike zone. This past year, he was almost always the victor in whatever battle approached him. Usually, we would temper expectations after a breakout season, but given the fact that Cabrera accomplished his in the upper minors at just 21, this kid, filled with electricity and emotion on the mound, has us stoked. Like many members of the organization, there is no reason to push Cabrera and the Marlins won’t, likely giving him another full season in the minors. With continued success, Cabrera could battle for a rotation spot next spring. After shedding most of his “high risk” label, Cabrera profiles as a floor back-end starter with the ceiling of an unquestioned four-pitch power ace, ala Stephen Strasburg.
7. LHP Braxton Garrett
2019 (A+/AA) – 106.2 IP, 3.54 ERA, 1.275 WHIP, 119/40 K/BB
Garrett is the Marlins’ 2016 first round pick out of his high school, Foley High, in Alabama. Lauded for his advanced mechanics and repeatability in his delivery, Brax arrived on the professional scene in 2017. However, after just 15.1 IP at the full-season A level, Garrett befell a very unfortunate fate: Tommy John surgery. The second in a group of three straight Marlins’ first round prep picks to fall victim to the procedure due to overuse and overthrowing from immature mechanics at the high school level, Garrett missed the rest of 2017 and all of 2018.
💪 start from #Marlins 2016 1st-rounder Braxton Garrett, who is sporting a 3.10 ERA in his return to the mound after missing nearly two years due to Tommy John:
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) May 16, 2019
The 18U National Champion from 2015 and 0.65 ERA, .107 BAA, 266/26 career high schooler made a much anticipated return to the mound last season. Showing no ill effects from his surgery or from the fact that he didn’t pick up a baseball in nearly a year, Garrett was plenty solid. In 105 innings, Garrett struck out 118 batters. His 27% K rate led the circuit. Because he was feeling out his changeup, Garrett also walked batters at a 8.5% rate, third highest in the league but by inducing ground balls at a rate of 53%, Braxton stranded 72% of his runners and held down a respectable 3.34 ERA.
The 6’3”, 190 pound Garrett earns high praise from evaluators for his simple yet sound mechanics which he repeats with fluidity and minimal effort. More of a control than command artist with his breakers right now, Garrett isn’t afraid to go out of the zone in order to garner swings and misses, but is forced to come right after hitters with his fairly average 92-94 mph heat when he gets too deep into counts. Garrett’s best pitch is a power 11-3 curve with good depth and hard bite and downward action that generates whiffs in excess. When it’s on, the plus-plus pitch allows him to expand the zone and stay far away from barrels.
Garrett’s future projection will hinge on the development of his changeup. Though the pitch flashed plus, it currently lacks consistency and it appears he doesn’t have an overall great feel for it. At its best, the pitch shows good fading action, but it’s more or less a mix-in right now. If Garrett can clean up the spotting and release on the pitch, he profiles as a future ace. Given his peripherals which include his aforementioned fluid mechanics leading into an extremely repeatable wind-up and delivery allowing him to mask well pitch to pitch as well as an overall great knowledge of the craft, we like this still only 22-year-old’s odds of reaching his ceiling as a 2-3 starter at the big league level by 2021.
8. LHP Trevor Rogers
2019 (A+/AA) – 136.1 IP, 3.83 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 150/33 K/BB
Rogers is another in the aforementioned trio of high school standouts turned Marlins first round draft picks who succumbed to Tommy John surgery early in the season before bouncing right back a year later.
Following a very similar career path as Garrett, Rogers had a ridiculous 0.73 ERA via a .138 BAA and struck out 325 while walking just 52 in 182 prep innings pitched. Much of Rogers’ success occurred during an 11-0, 0.33 ERA, 134/13 K/BB senior year in 2017 after which he was named an All-American for the second time. That season solidified Rogers as the best lefty in that year’s MLB Draft and all but guaranteed him a mid-late first round selection. The Marlins called his name at 13th overall.
The day Rogers signed his first professional contract, Garrett underwent his Tommy John procedure and Rogers took over as the top prospect in the Marlins’ organization. Not even a month later, Rogers went under the knife. He missed the rest of 2017 and half of 2018. He finally made his pro debut in Greensboro, 344 days after being drafted.
After using 2018 to shake off rust and get acclimated to life in affiliated ball, Rogers came to Jupiter in 2019 and showed his true potential, defending the rapport and the noise he made as a prep despite hailing from a part of the country that is not frequently heard from, especially when it comes to lefty pitchers. In 18 starts as a Hammerhead, Rogers tossed 110.1 IP and held down a 2.53 ERA, third lowest in the Florida State League. That marker came by way of a 1.10 WHIP, also third lowest and via the highest K/BB% in the FSL, 21.5%. As the season winded down, the 21-year-old FSL All-Star cracked AA and recorded his first quality start in the upper minors, a two-hit, 10 K, one walk seven inning shutout performance against Tennessee. This season, Rogers will put the Shrimp uniform back on and try to repeat that day each time out.
Infinitely fluid in his mechanics especially for a guy of his 6’6”, 185 pound build, Rogers goes through his simple delivery pitch after pitch and comes home with minimal force and exertion. He uses his long limbs to shorten the distance to the plate while also throwing everything on a downhill plane, messing with the opposition’s vision and creating tons of deception.
Rogers won’t blow you away with his velo or stuff (at least not yet) and he’s currently trying to find a third pitch. The Rogers fastball sits in the 90-94 range and holds a bit of arm side run. It’s his most frequently commanded pitch and he’s able to put it on the lower half pretty regularly, inducing weak contact. He could add a few more miles per hour as his body fills out. Rogers’ best secondary is his slurvy slide piece that sits 83-87. Current movement on the pitch varies but Rogers hits his spots with it regularly and it should carry its swing-and-miss potential to the next level as it gains polish. After struggling to gain a feel for the changeup, Rogers set out the blueprints for a cutter, an 86-89 mph offering that plays off his fastball well in that he’s able to work both arm and glove side, adding another layer to his deception. Rogers began using the cutter in place of the changeup regularly late last year.
From moving cross country to undergoing major surgery to spending almost a full year outside the game, Rogers has been forced to grow up very quickly mentally since being drafted. While still in the nascent stages of his development on the mound, Rogers has proven he has the strength and to adjust on the fly to whatever comes his way. An extremely heady pitcher with plus-plus body control, advanced mechanics and a young but budding repertoire, Rogers, still 21 and already arguably the best control pitcher in the organization, has more than enough time to reach his ceiling as a mid-rotation starter.
9. SS Jose Devers
2019 (Rk-A+) – .322/.391/.390, 17 XBH, 26/14 K/BB
The cousin of Red Sox standout Rafael Devers, Jose was a Yankees international signee in 2016. He came to the Marlins as part of the Giancarlo Stanton trade in 2018. Upon joining the organization, Miami tasked the then-18 year old with his first full season, sending him to single A Greensboro out of camp.
After hitting a combined .244 in 53 games for two Yankees rookie league affiliates in 2017, Devers hit .273 in 85 games for the Grasshoppers. Last season, Devers appeared to have taken another huge step forward. In his first 33 games of the season in A+, Devers was on track to win the Florida State League batting title (no easy task). However, after his appearance on May 20th, while hitting .325/.385/.366, Devers sustained a groin injury that would cost him nearly three full months. He would not return to the Hammerheads. Instead, he spent 11 games rehabbing with the GCL Marlins. He also appeared in three games in the Midwest League playoffs with the LumberKings (5-11, 2 2B, 2 RBI) before shipping off to Arizona to join the Salt River Rafters. He went 11-42 and stole five bases.
Modestly built and wiry, the 6’, 155 pound baby face is as youthful as can be and he just missed a ton of time due to injury. However, Devers has thus far made a career of succeeding against older competition. He’s done so by way of a streamlined splashy singles approach, incredible bat speed and plus speed. A contact-first hitter that lets his natural tools, including plus speed, to go to work for him afterward, Devers is built for a catalytic, average heavy, game disrupting ceiling. Even though he will never be much of a power threat, Devers will need to add physical strength in order to compete against Major League caliber velo, but still just 20, he has plenty of time to fill out. Devers’ best tools are put to use on the other side of the ball. With good reads off the bat and a quick first step to the ball, Devers goes both ways equally well and flashes tons of leather. With quick wrists and even quicker feet, Devers should more than be able to stick at short throughout his career.
With a whiff-limiting hack and slash singles approach coupled with good speed and terrific defense, we like Devers to approach a ceiling somewhere near Jose Iglesias, a career .273/.315/.371 bat and annual 1+ dWAR glove.
10. 1B Lewin Diaz
2019 (A+/AA) – .270/.321/.530, 27 HR, 60 XBH, 76 RBI, 91/33 K/BB
The 10th-ranked international prospect in 2013, Diaz was signed by the Twins for $1.4 mil. After a breakout .310/.353/.575, 26 XBH campaign in rookie ball in 2016 and subsequent .292/.329/.444, 56 XBH fill-season debut in 2017, Diaz was dealt to the Rays.
After being limited to just 72 A+ games due to a broken right thumb in 2018, Lewin returned to the Florida State League last season and wreaked his revenge. In 57 games with the Fort Myers Miracle, he slashed .290/.333/.533 with 13 homers and 24 XBH. At the halfway point, the 22-year-old was promoted to AA where, despite the jump, his success persisted as he hit .302/341/.587 with 23 more XBH, including six more bombs.
On July 28, just before the trade deadline, the Marlins acquired Diaz in return for the expiring contract of reliever Sergio Romo. In 31 games for the Jumbo Shrimp, Diaz hit eight more homers, bringing his season total to 27.
Diaz made up for his lost time in 2018 by spending this offseason in the Dominican Winter League. Competing against players who were on average nearly five years his elder, Lewin slashed .275/.331/.422 with three homers and 20 RBI. Across all levels last year, Diaz hit .271/323/.508 with an even 30 dingers and 96 RBI.A sizable 6’4”, 225 pound specimen, the 23-year-old carries an offensive acumen capable of both average and power. From a straight-away stance, Lewin remains completely upright without much weight on his back leg while performing a middle-high leg kick in which his front knee nearly touches his left elbow. From there, Diaz reaches back and strides with long limbs into an explosive uppercut swing. What Lewin lacks in a polished power-loaded lower half approach he makes up for with great raw strength and plus-plus bat speed. In addition to good mechanics in his arms and elbows which he uses to reach back for the most advantageous leverage, Lewin also exhibits great plate vision and strike zone knowledge and management. With the ability foul off tough breakers, wait for his pitch, wherever it’s located and drive it due to great plate coverage and equal parts extension and shortening, Lewin has the ability to go to all fields via barrel contact and plus exit velo rates. Despite being limited to only first base defensively (though he’s shown plenty of athleticism around the bag, including a good stretch and the ability to play at a replacement level pace) Lewin is a guy who limits Ks, contacts nearly everything, and is beginning to tap into his 60-grade power tool. Accordingly, there are plenty of reasons to rally behind Lewin as the Marlins’ first baseman of the future.
Due to his ability to limit whiffs, promote hard contact and reach any area of the park, we place the lefty-hitting Diaz’s ceiling pretty high; around former Marlin, Kevin Millar, a .274/.358/.452, 19 HR yearly threat.
11. RHP Nick Neidert
2019 (A-AAA): 54 IP, 4.67 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 46/27 K/BB
Neidert was a second round pick by the Mariners out of his high school in Suwanne, Georgia in 2015. Following two years with Seattle in which he fatefully spent time with the now Marlins’ affiliated Clinton LumberKings, Neidert joined Miami in 2018 in the trade that sent Dee Gordon westward.
Coming off a ridiculous 104.1 IP, 2.76 ERA (league low), 1.073 WHIP (another league low), 109/17 K/BB (no typo, league best 22.1 K/BB%) showing in the California League, Neidert joined the Shrimp to begin his Marlins career. There, organization’s eighth-ranked prospect put together a 152.2 IP, 3.24 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 154/31 K/BB campaign against AA hitters who were on average over three years older than him. An organizational All-Star, Neidert headed into 2019 as a favorite to make a huge impact on the big league club sooner rather than later and was viewed by many as the club’s best pitching prospect not named Sixto Sanchez.
This past season, Nediert’s development hit a snag in the road when he was stricken by a meniscus injury that would wind up costing him three months of the 2019 season. After a nearly month long rehab stint in Jupiter with the GCL squad and the Hammerheads, Neidert returned to New Orleans in time to turn in three straight quality starts, including a six inning, four hit, 10 K shutout on August 20.
Though he may have been hopped in pitcher prospect rankings by the likes of Cabrera, Garrett and Rogers, Neidert has quite possibly the most complete arsenal in the organization. He won’t light up the gun or wow you with his breakers, but with the ability to locate and command four pitches and with the IQ to mix them fortuitously, Neidert is the most mature pitcher amongst the Marlins’ core.
The Neidert two-seamer ranges between 92-95. What he lacks in velocity he makes up for in location, living exclusively on the lower half and inducing ground balls via late tailing action to both corners. Because of his free-and-easy low effort repeatable wind and release, he masks the pitch well and earns high grades for deception. Neidert’s best and most often used second pitch is his changeup. The velo (86-89) doesn’t differ much from the fastball and, with good shape and equally good location down in the zone, plays extremely well as a partnership piece which he will use in tandem. Despite being a distant third pitch, Neidert’s 11-5 slurvy low-80s slider still has a 50-grade ceiling and he will throw it in any count. Unlike his other two offerings, there’s more control than command here and he will get hurt when he leaves it up, but when he’s spotting it, the pitch plays up and is a 50-grade tool.
Neidert’s stuff isn’t the story here and it likely never will be. Instead, his confidence and his ability to mix, attack and especially locate are what set him apart. Neidert knows himself and his stuff very well and doesn’t attempt to do any more or less. A guy you will never catch overthrowing, Neidert is extremely coachable. A heady, crafty and impressionable hurler who is short on words and high on focus, he limits pitch counts and just gets outs. There should be no issue with him sticking as a starter at the next level. If his breaking ball makes the jump from average to plus, we are looking at 2-3 starter potential. More realistically, he will be a back end rotational piece who could get the call as early as this season.
12. OF Kameron Misner
2019 (Rk-A) – 42 G, .270/.388/.362, 2 HR, 11 XBH, 24 RBI, 42/30 K/BB, 11 SB
Misner is the second overall pick of the Jeter era, selected 35th overall in the competitive balance portion of last year’s draft. A .422, eight homer, nine triple, eight double, 29 steal monster in his senior year of high school, the All-American honorable mention, All-Central second team player and number three prospect in the state of Missouri was drafted by his hometown MLB squad, the Royals at the end of the 2016 Draft. Instead, Mizner fulfilled a childhood dream to play for the University of Missouri.
In his first season at Mizzou, Misner honored his commitment to the black and gold’s baseball program by becoming the best freshman player it had ever seen. His .282 BA was the highest by a freshman ‘15, his seven homers were most by a first-year player since ‘07 and his 34 RBI were most by a one since ‘10. Overall, Misner hit .282/.360/.446 with 20 XBH and 17 steals. Misner’s sophomore calendar year didn’t end at earning Freshman All-American honors. At the summation of the collegiate season, he took part in 38 games in the New England Collegiate League where he hit .378/.479/.652 with eight more homers, 13 more doubles and 17 more steals.
All signs pointed to Misner blowing up in 2018. And he did — for 34 games. However, hitting .360/.497/.576 and leading the nation in walks 125 ABs in, a foot injury forced him to miss the final six weeks of the season. Misner used the injury and missed time as fuel to come back stronger than ever last season and have a career year, parlaying his first round selection. In 57 games, he hit .286/.440/.481 with double-digit homers, 32 RBI and 20 steals.
All in all, Misner was a .301/.424/.489, 21 HR and 56 XBH hitter with a 139/109 K/BB and a 50/13 SB/CS in three seasons in the prestigious SEC. That work was honored when Misner’s name was called by the Marlins on June 3rd. That announcement eventually came with a $2.1 million signing bonus.
Misner made his pro ball debut on July 21st. He spent nine games in the GCL before reporting to A Clinton. In 34 games with the LumberKings, he hit .270/.368/.362 with two homers, a 42/30 K/BB and 11 steals.
As Misner’s stats have perpetuated his entire career, he’s a patience-first, contact-inducing lefty hitter capable of both average and power. Approaching from a wide semi-split stance with his front foot angled toward first base, Misner steps toward contact with a toe tap trigger before executing a leveraged swing with great speed and median uppercut action. Able to cover the plate and adjust his swing to promote line drive contact depending on pitch location, Misner’s elite plate vision takes over and is the catalyst that makes him a 60-grade hit tool.
On top of plus-plus mechanics built for both power and on-base potential, Misner is a plus runner. With an excellent first step towards first and equally superb acceleration speed, Misner has shown the ability to beat out fairly routine plays and turn hits that don’t get past outfielders into extra bases. If he is limited to a single, opposing pitchers would be ill-advised to discount Misner, despite his 6’4” 215 pound build. Arguably his best overall tool at Missouri, Kam used his jets to steal 50 bases. He was only caught 13 times. Due to the foot injury, the Marlins limited Misner to light duty on the base paths last season (he still stole 11 bags and shut opposing catchers out, not getting caught a single tome). That leash should be removed this coming season.
A pitcher in high school who flashed 80+ mph velo, Misner’s aforementioned speed and good reads off the bat give him another plus tool: defense. He is of playing all three spots but he is a natural center fielder and that is most likely where he will stay as he grows and comes to fruition.
There are very little knocks on Misner’s skill set and potential. If anything, the only negative here is that he can sometimes be TOO patient with the stick, a very rare trait. However, Misner is a very rare five-tool talent. If he can be coached to be slightly more aggressive without discounting the use of his vision as he progresses through the minors, there is beastly potential here as 30 homers and 30 steals are not out of the question. Add in plus range, a good overall feel for all three outfield positions and an above average arm, Misner’s ceiling is sky high. Health and aggressiveness permitting, Misner is a guy who could one day be the second coming of Christian Yelich, a fellow lefty and of a very similar physique. Misner will set his sights on fulfilling that potential this coming season most likely for the Hammerheads, but he shouldn’t get too comfortable in Jupiter. At 23, he should be pushed pretty aggressively and could be packing his bags for Jacksonville as early as the start of the second half.
13. Jerar Encarnacion
2019 (A/A+) – .276/.331/.425, 16 HR, 43 XBH, 71 RBI, 140/40 K/BB
Encarnacion is a Marlins’ 2015 international signed out of Bayaguana, DR, a 339 square mile province on the east side of the island. Including Jerar, it has only berthed 10 affiliated ball players, none of which have made the majors and only one of which has played above A ball. That is all about to change.
Not a hugely overhyped international prospect at the time of his plucking from DR, Jerar signed with the Marlins for $78K. After participating in 14 games in the DSL back home (.218/.232/.345), he was brought stateside. In his first year in America, Encarnacion hit .266/.323/.448 and led the GCL Marlins in homers with five. A year later, Jerar took his talents to short season Batavia.
There, he showed the ability to make more consistent contact even if it wasn’t the over-the-fence type and hit for a plus average (.284). This past season, Encarnacion put everything together in a huge first half with Clinton. As a LumberKing, he hit .298/.363/.478. Among hitters with at least 200 plate appearances, his BA ranked 10th and his slugging percentage ninth. His 143 wRC+ also placed 10th.
After putting a cherry on top of his breakout performance in Clinton by home ring in the Midwest League All-Star Game, Jerar was promoted to Jupiter. There, he hit .253/.298/.372 with six more homers, a plenty respectable line for a one-unheralded prospect playing against competition a year and a half older than him in the offense-limiting Florida State League.
Encarnacion ended his calendar year of 2019 by earning a second All-Star nod this time in the Arizona Fall League. The .269/.315/.433 hitter provided some of the most exciting moments of the Salt River Rafters’ championship season including hitting a grand slam in the league title game.
— Fish On The Farm (@marlinsminors) February 24, 2020
Despite being hampered by a few minor injuries that cost him valuable playing time early on in his development, Jerar has been able to fight through, staying consistent and growing advantageously into what is now a 6’4”, 219 pound frame. Still just 22, he has room to grow into even more raw power as he fills out, giving him the potential for a ridiculously high power ceiling. A 70+ grade primary tool ceiling is entirely possible here.
Clearly, there is unquestioned power potential here. When Jerar barrels up, you hear a sound very rarely heard in the baseball world, a tone limited to a few very special players. The biggest query surrounding Jerar is how consistently will he be able to make contact. This past regular season, Jerar answered that in the positive as his K rate fell to 25%, down from a collective 39% in his earlier showings. There are also a few mechanical fixes Jerar could use to make, namely getting his lower half more involved leading to a better power load and better plate coverage via a better stride into contact. Another issue Jerar will need to rectify as he fills out has been noticed by Don Mattingly this spring: his ability to go opposite field.
“Jerar is off the charts. When he hits ‘em, they stay hit,” Mattingly said “His thing is the oppo power. He’s got middle of the field and right field which is always a great place to start.
Mattingly sees an easy fix to the holes in Encarnacion’s game: more reps.
“He’s coming quick,” Mattingly said. “Just let him play.”
In his debut spring training game, Encarnacion provided encouragement regarding his ability to go oppo by doing this, with the wind blowing straight in:
Jerar Encarnación showed big league pop in his first big league Spring Training game 🤩 pic.twitter.com/Gxj1mC3WbM
— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) February 22, 2020
Watching Encarnacion mash in BP sessions both live and paced, it is very easy to rally around the potential for 30-40 homers on top of a plus outfield arm that will be able to stick in right field. Given the current state of the Marlins’ outfield situation though, Jerar could also be taught to play first base.
This 22-year-old still has a bit to prove and some adjustments to make if he hopes to reach his full potential but after last year, he holds a high ceiling as a low-average, power-heavy corner outfielder and/or corner infielder with a floor similar to Wil Myers, (.252/.320/.422, 24 HR annually) and a ceiling Giancarlo Stanton lite. With a huge developmental year approaching him this season, he will be extremely fun to follow.
14. RHP Jorge Guzman
2019 (AA) – 138.2 IP, 3.50 ERA, 1.204 WHIP, 127/71 K/BB
Jorge (pronounced George) is an Astros 2014 international signee out of the Dominican. He got his feet wet in affiliated ball for two different Houston squads in his home country before making the move stateside full time in 2016. After splitting time almost evenly laccruing a 4.02 ERA via a 1.15 WHIP and 54/17 K/BB for two different rookie league affiliates in the GCL and App State League, Guzman joined the Yankees as part of the trade that sent Brian McCann to Houston. In a single season with New York, Guzman enjoyed a 66.2 IP, 2.30 ERA, 1.035 WHIP, 88/18 K/BB coming out party in short season ball.
On December 9th, 2017, Guzman, a top 50 organizational prospect, came to the Marlins as the centerpiece of the Giancarlo Stanton trade. In his first season with his third organization in under three years, Guzman managed a 4.03 ERA by way of a 1.54 WHIP and 101/64 K/BB with the Hammerheads. Last season, the 23-year old joined AA. In his most extensive season, Guzman held down a 3.50 ERA with a 1.2 WHIP and 127/71 K/BB. A member of the 40 man, he will likely jump up to AAA this coming year.
Guzman’s calling card is explosive velocity that sits 96-98 but which he can pump up as high as 102. Even when he isn’t reaching all the way back and going full bore, there is a lot of effort to his wind and release. Though he is able to hold velo late into starts, there is little to no command here and it is a complete blow-it-by-you power pitch that plays perfectly to a late relief role. Further leading to the belief that Guzman is destined for a bullpen role at the next level is the fact that he only has one other pitch: a 60-grade power curveball that sits in the 84-88 MPH range and plays off his fiery heat very well. Guzman throws the pitch with similar arm speed as the fastball and the ability to bury the 11-5 hook but much like his heat, struggles to locate it consistently.
What sets Guzman apart is his velocity, his quickness to the plate and his fearlessness to challenge his opposition. What will limit his ceiling is his very inconsistent command and lack of a third pitch. A max-effort thrower more than a crafty hurler, Guzman’s MLB ceiling should be limited to late relief/closing duties. That said, he could play very well in that role.
15. OF Connor Scott
2019 (A/A+) – .248/.310/.359, 5 HR, 38 XBH, 41 RBI, 117/42 K/BB, 23/10 SB/CS
Scott is the Marlins’ first round pick, 13th overall from 2018 out of Plant High in Tampa, the same alma matter that produced the likes of Hall of Famer Wade Boggs. A .526/.640/.929 hitter in his senior year of high school with 91 MPH velocity from the mound, Scott signed his entry level contract with the Marlins for over $4 million.
After breaking into pro ball by hitting .218/.309/.296 for two Marlins affiliates, Connor made his full-season debut with the LunberKings out of camp last season. There, in 95 games, the 12th youngest player in the league hit .251/.311/.368 with 24 doubles, 32 XBH and 21 steals in 30 attempts. Scott ended the year by participating in 27 games for the Hammerheads as third youngest player in the Florida State League. There, he hit .235/.306/.327. Scott should return to Jupiter to start 2020.
There’s no question about it: Scott has clear and present potential five tool talent. 6’4”, 180, Scott approaches from a straight away stance that leads with his front leg halfway through the box. In his young career, Scott has shown the ability to drive pitches in the middle of the zone and to shorten up on pitches on his hands, allowing him to at least make contact. However, he struggles to cover his outer half, and doesn’t make the most of his extension potential. Another knock against Scott’s career so far is that a lot of his success has been BABIP-reliant. He has never posted a BABIP under .300.
That said, all of those caveats should be taken with a grain of salt. Still physically immature, still growing into the game and already showing plus plate vision, a flashy swing, an approach in which he is extremely short to the ball, 70-grade speed and good defensive instincts, there are plenty of peripherals in place that point to Scott becoming at least a four, potential five-tool talent. While he will need to tweak his approach a bit and get both his lower and upper extremities more involved in order for that to happen, the recently turned 20-year-old has time on his side. While there is still a high level of uncertainty surrounding a player of Scott’s upbringing, the fact he is seeing the ball, limiting K rates, using his understanding of sequencing in order to lay off tough pitches and get good jumps on the base paths as well as utilizing his speed to both steal bags and cover advantageous ground in center field, Scott has already conquered many of the most difficult aspects of the game. With pro coaching, training staffs and facilities at his disposal, Connor should be able to grow his body advantageously and naturally turn into a guy that can take over games as a plus WAR, multi-tool talent.
Accordingly, the ceiling here is very high. By way of body growth leading into harder contact and mechanical adjustments leading to better zone coverage, we like Scott to approach a ceiling near Nick Markakis, a .288/.358/.424 lefty threat.
16. RHP Jordan Holloway
2019 (A+) – 95 IP, 4.45 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 93/66 K/BB
Another prep pitching draft pick by the previous regime, Holloway was selected in the 20th round of the 2014 Draft out of Ralston Valley High in Colorado. A massive physical presence even then, Holloway used his size to deceive, shortening length to his opposition via a long stride to the plate and exhibiting 96 mph velo on a downward plane. Along with the blueprint for a plus primary secondary pitch, a 86-88 power curve, Holloway had scouts flocking to his starts as early as the mid-way point of his senior year.
In addition to splitting time between the diamond and the gridiron, Holloway also split time between the mound and third base in his final prep season, He tossed to a 2.6 ERA via allowing just 41 hits in 43 IP and managed a 50/26 K/BB. In addition, Jordan also hit .419/.532/.806, solidifying himself as an all-around top prep prospect. That year, the Marlins gave Holloway’s name a call in the late rounds of the MLB Draft. Due to the Marlins overwhelming him with a very well over-slot bonus, Holloway forwent his commitment to the University Of Nebraska and signed with Miami. Admittedly, Holloway didn’t even think he was going to be selected, let alone sign his first pro contract as a teenager.
“It was really encouraging. At that point in the draft, I didn’t even think I’d be drafted and kind of accepted I’d go to college and try my best to make it from there,” Holloway told Fish Stripes last year. “Then my agent called. I think it was a Sunday, and I was just watching a movie with my family and he said the Marlins were going to go ahead and draft me in the 20th for money that only me and him talked about. I was going to live out my dream at 17, and not many people get to experience that.”
Upon joining Miami, Holloway quickly began pitching far beyond his level of experience. After finishing 2014 by breaking into pro ball with 26.2 IP in the Gulf Coast League, the-19-year-old tossed to a fairly high 1.41 WHIP but was able to keep runners off the plate leading to an impressive 2.91 ERA. Seemingly primed for a breakout year in 2016, the still physically immature Holloway began suffering from elbow discomfort 11 games into his first year in full-season ball. Not long after, it was revealed he would require Tommy John. He missed the rest of 2017 and nearly all of 2018.
After the Marlins made some tough decisions but ultimately chose to protect Holloway from rule 5 eligibility, Jordan returned to the mound as a member of the Jupiter Hammerheads last season. There, he enjoyed a fantastic first half, tossing to a 2.62 ERA by way of a 1.23 WHIP and 51/30 K/BB in 44.2 IP, earning himself a FSL All-Star Game selection. Rough months of June and July hampered Holloway’s second half stats, but he was able to finish the year strong with a 2.25 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 20/4 K/BB August.
Even after his surgery, Holloway is still being prized for his huge velo which sits 96-98 but has the potential for triple digits when he’s going full bore. A downhill thrower, Holloway is able to naturally change the eye level of his opposition. His best offspeed pitch is a curveball which drops off at least 15 mph, sitting low 80s, capable of 83-84. When it is on, the pitch has a tight arc and hard biting downward action to his spot.
There is no doubt Holloway is capable of a big MLB ceiling as a starter. However, there are currently two huge things hampering it: consistency and lack of a third pitch. Inasmuch as he’s shown flashes of dominance, Hollloway has also shown extended bouts of wildness and inability to repeat his release. Jordan also lacks much of a third pitch. The closest he has is a changeup that ranges between 89-91 but it is very much in the nascent stages and is currently nothing more than a waste pitch. At 23 with a stuff tool that is still pretty raw, with spotty control that limits his feel for the zone and with tons of competition following him, Holloway could be destined for a bullpen role. With the reigns taken off of his heat, Holloway could become a dominant mid-late reliever. We place his high-risk ceiling at that of a four-five starter. He owns a more realistic floor of a primary pen option.
17. RHP Sterling Sharp
2019 (Rk-AA): 58.2 IP, 3.68 ERA, 1.295 WHIP, 52/15 K/BB
Sharp is the Marlins’ Rule 5 pick from the Major League portion of this year’s draft. A 14-2, sub-1.8 ERA starter in his final two years of high school, Sharp earned All-District, All-County and All-Area honors before being recruited by Eastern Michigan. After a 56.1 IP single season in the MAC, Sharp transferred to Drury University. After another single season at another college, Sharp was on the move again, this time to the pros as the Nationals, recognizing that great coachability and minimal effort finesse peripherals trumped rawness, selected him in the 22nd round. Sharp is the second player in Drury program history to ever have his name called by an MLB team. The first, Sharp’s ex-staff mate Trevor Richards made this same list two years ago.
If nothing else, Sharp definitely racked up some serious frequent flier miles as a member of the Nationals. In his career with Washington, Sharp never stuck with one team for an entire season. Given his age at the time of his selection, the Nats understandably pushed Sharp hard. While the overall results were mixed, the level-hopping hurler turned in his best campaign last year, holding down a 3.53 ERA across three levels, including a 3.99 ERA via a 45/14 K/BB in AA. Sharp completed his calendar year by participating in the Arizona Fall League. In six starts and 24 IP, he managed a 1.50 ERA by way of a sub-1 WHIP (0.917) and 24/11 K/BB.
Despite all of his success on the field though, arguably Sharp’s most exciting moment came in the offseason when he heard the Marlins call his name at the rule 5 draft, bringing him into the employment of his childhood hero Derek Jeter and ensuring his MLB debut in 2020.
A starter most of his way through the minors, Sharp will likely transition to a swingman role in the majors with most of his innings coming in relief. Sharp’s delivery is far from crisp as it has a ton of moving parts but he repeats it well, aiding in his ability to deceive. After a high leg kick, Sharp stretches high and wide before coming home on a downward plane and releasing from a low 3/4 slot. He hides his grip well and mixes his exclusively offspeed fastball, changeup, curveball arsenal that rarely reaches above 90 advantageously. He will occasionally miss up which is where he runs into trouble, but on the more regular occasion that he is commanding the lower half of the zone, he is very tough to barrel up. In place of a high K rate, Sharp has racked up audacious ground ball rates throughout his years at every level of the minors. His ability to limit his pitches and get quick outs makes him an innings-eating, jam-ending first man out of the pen.
18. SS Jose Salas
2019 – Did not play
One of the youngest players to ever don a Marlins’ uniform, Salas, 16, was an international pick out of Venezuela last year. The 12th-ranked overseas prospect signed with Miami for $2.8 million.
While Salas has yet to hit the field despite being assigned to the DSL Marlins last year, he’s shown plenty of promise during workouts, including one at Marlins Park last season. Despite his immature build, the switch hitter is already showing plenty of pop from both sides of the plate stemming from plus barrel speed. Scouts currently cap Salas’ power ceiling at a 50 grade but that could easily increase once Salas makes his affiliated ball debut. Overseas reports on Salas also laud him for strike zone recognition and patience beyond his years. Viewed as the best hitter in his draft class (again, at 16), Salas could grow into double-plus hit tool. Now we get to Salas’ highest graded tool at the time of his selection, his speed. Via good instincts, a good first step out of the box and quick acceleration, evaluators already place his speed ceiling at 55. Again, expect that to rise as he gets into games. Salas rounds out his skill set in the field where he flashes good hands, a quick glove and a 55-grade arm. He is plenty equipped to stick at shortstop but could also play either second base or center field.
There is a obviously very long way to go for the Caracas native and there are questions for him to answer. However, the pedigree is certainly there for there for this already 5’11”, 165 pound third-generation player to accomplish big things. Salas compares his game and style of play to Francisco Lindor. That kind of potential is alive here.
19. OF Peyton Burdick
2019 (A-/A) – .308/.407/.538, 15 HR, 35 XBH, 72/34 K/BB, 7/7 SB/CS
Burdick is the Marlins’ third round pick out of Wright State University where he will one day undoubtedly have his jersey retired.
One of the most advanced players in program history, the 6’, 210 pounder hit .349/.465/.585 with 28 homers and a 41/9 SB/CS and recorded more walks than strikeouts over an elite three year collegiate career. A .407/.538/.729, 15 homer, 72 RBI, 35/60 K/BB redshirt junior campaign in which he had the seventh highest BA in the country (four points off of 1/1 Adley Rutschman) the fourth highest OBP (one point off of 1/3 Andrew Vaughn) and the 11th highest SLG (two points off Adley) and in which led his team to a league title earned Burdick some prestigious decorations: second-team All American and Horizon League MVP. If not for the injury that cost him his entire 2017 season, Burdick would’ve undoubtedly been a first round pick. He fell to the Marlins at 82 overall. He only cost the Marlins $397,500 to sign, nearly a $350,000 discount off his slot value.
Burdick arrived in the professional ranks on June 14th of last year. Relocation? Wood bats? Tougher competition? No problem. After going 2-2 in his debut, hitting his first homer in his third game and going 7-22 with Batavia, Burdick joined the LumberKings. There, he went 10 for his first 27 with his second career homer. Days passed, scouting reports came out and Burdick just kept hitting. He finished the year by hitting .337/.458/.632 with six homers in a gargantuan month of August. Overall in Clinton, he hit .306/.408/.542 with 10 bombs. Burdick is already in camp with the Marlins in Jupiter. He can probably unpack all of his bags and settle in as he should begin 2020 with the Hammerheads.
— Ian Smith (@FlaSmitty) February 27, 2020
Burdick stands a stout 6’ even but weighs 210 pounds. By exhibiting Herculean raw strength, he proves most of his weight is muscle. On top of his natural clout, Burdick owns plus-plus bat speed and barrel control, leading to 60-grade power potential. Peyton negates his limited reach by standing in on top of the plate, allowing him to extend and cover the plate. Via a split stance, he steps toward the ball and into contact with a compact front-foot trigger and sprays the ball all over the field. He also exhibits good patience, making him a great mix of pesky and dangerous. He can also do damage on the base paths where he owns above-average speed. In the field, Burdick owns an at least average arm with room to grow. He can potentially play either corner but profiles best as a left fielder, especially in a crowded Marlins’ organizational outfield.
While talent scouts limited Burdick’s ceiling because of a run-of-the-mill showing in the Cape in 2018, his first wood bat experience, Burdick, one of the first players to show up to Marlins camp this season, is clearly out to make the most of his opportunity. With a great pedigree, solid peripherals and a fantastic disposition all while exhibiting an approach and swing built for a good mix of average and power, Burdick is building towards a skill set that could approach the five-tool label. At 23, he will be challenged and pushed fairly aggressively. He will start 2020 in Jupiter where he will face older competition for the first time in his career. With positive results, he should end it in Jacksonville. Response pending, Burdick holds a contact happy, gap finding, wall hopping, plus dWAR ceiling, ala Andrew McCutchen, a .286/.378/.480, 24 HR, 19 SB annual presence.
20. SS Nasim Nunez
2019 (Rk/A-): .200/.327/.238, 6 XBH, 48/35 K/BB, 28/2 SB/CS
Nunez is the Marlins’ second round pick out of Collins High in Suwanne, Georgia. The third ranked overall prep prospect in his state and the 18th ranked high schooler nationwide, Nunez forwent a verbal commitment with Clemson to sign with the Marlins for $2.2 mil, $600,000 over his slot value.
After signing and working out at Marlins Park for the first time (as a member of the organization), Nunez, who said he had hoped the Marlins were the team to select and ink him, spent his entire first pro season (save three games) in the GCL. There, Nunez proved his hit tool is still rather raw (.211 BA) but he also proved his patience is mature beyond his years as he posted a 34/43 K/BB. Nunez also showcased his plus-plus speed, stealing 28 bags in 30 attempts. The teenager’s hands and glove are just as quick if not quicker than his feet and he uses all three in tandem to wow on the defensive side of the ball. With tremendous range to both sides and good vision off the bat, he has a big league future at short.
The only question is how often will Nunez see the field? Because of his limited size, evaluators limit Nunez’s offensive ceiling, leading them to believe his most likely MLB role will come as a pinch runner/defensive replacement. However, if Nunez grows with his body and if his patience and plate presence persist as he graduates up the MiLB ladder, we like this switch hitter to approach a well-balanced ceiling reminiscent of Andrelton Simmons, a .268/.316/.380, 27.3 dWAR career fixture.