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.
Every spring, key pieces of the Marlins’ future come to spring training to give a small sneak peak at what is coming for the organization. This year, we will get much more than a small sneak peak. Last Monday, the Marlins announced their 18 non-roster invitees for spring training and by so doing alerted us to the fact that many highly touted prospects will be on the big league roster for the Grapefruit League session. The list includes five of Fish On The Farm’s top 20 prospects, seven of our top 30 and our 31st and 32nd ranked players. There will be a lot to watch in the second half of Marlins’ spring training games beginning later this month. Here are the guys we are most excited to see get their much deserved chance to strut their stuff on the main fields this spring.
OF Peyton Burdick
2019 (A-/A): .308/.407/.542, 11 HR, 35 XBH, 64 RBI, 72/34 K/BB, 7/7 SB/CS
Edmund Peyton Burdick is a Marlins’ 2018 third round pick and one of two Miami picks from Wright State University in that draft. All Peyton did in college was hit .349/.465/.585 and propel WSU to two league championships. He also threw in a .252/.351/.435 showing in the wood bat summer leagues. Burdick signed for all of $397,500 well under slot value. The Ohio native, Peyton jumped all over the chance to make his career in South Florida.
“We went down there for a workout and their stadium was unbelievable,” Burdick said of the region. “The Sunshine State, you can’t beat it.”
All Peyton has done since signing is hit .308/.407/.542 with 11 bombs, four triples, 20 doubles and a 72/34 K/BB. He also stole seven bases in 14 attempts and drove in 64 runs, all mostly as a member of the Clinton LumberKings who made the Midwest League championship.
Not long after the completion of the 2019 MiLB season, Burdick was named the Marlins’ low A MVP and invited to take BP with the big league team. He recently talked recently about that experience, labeling it invaluable.
“I don’t think there was one moment where I didn’t have a smile on my face,” Burdick said of big-league BP. “You get to see how the big-leaguers are living and take batting practice with them and hang out. We got to see Juan Soto hit because they were playing the Nationals. You want to play against those guys one day and it just feels good to be in that moment.”
This spring, Burdick will get to be in that moment on a daily basis. Considering how he made the most of that experience and considering how he hasn’t let the lost MiLB season deter him from getting his work in — he has been adhering to a strict training regimen both in the gym and on the field back home — there is little doubt Burdick is going to reap the benefits of his invite to spring training.
Based off his history, Burdick is an ultimate competitor who is used to winning and has the tools to further ensure whatever team he is on be it collegiate or MiLB, does so. He stands just 6’, 205 but with great bat speed, a very advanced approach, good plate vision and the ability to get his entire body involved in his swing that shows fantastic bat control and the ability to stay all the way through the ball on top of plus speed, Burdick, in his second year pro, comps well to Justin Upton, a .264/.345/.474, 147/58 SB/CS, 33.9 WAR similarly built 6’1”, 215 pound righty stick. Upton is a four time All-Star and three time Silver Slugger.
With the background and ability to see the ball which has translated well to the affiliated ranks, an absolutely explosive swing when he engages it, plus speed and a good outfield arm all despite the fact he went through Tommy John which cost him a full season in 2017, Peyton could wind up being one of the biggest steals of the 2019 Draft, especially considering the price tag. We fully expect him to put on a show this spring before starting 2021 in A+. With similar results, he should get a quick promotion to AA. Along with JJ Bleday, Kameron Mizner and others, Burdick is a huge piece of the Marlins’ not-too-distant future outfield.
There will be many prospects that are part of both the 40 man roster and this NRI group to keep tabs on this spring. But if you were to ask us to pick just one, Peyton Burdick would be our pick.
RHP Max Meyer
2018-2020 (NCAA): 46 G, 148 IP, 2.68 ERA, 0.939 WHIP, 187/41 K/BB
Meyer is the Marlins’ highly heralded first round pick out the University of Minnesota from the abbreviated 2020 MLB Draft. The third overall pick, Meyer enjoyed a fantastic collegiate career both coming out of the pen in his freshman season (43.2 IP, 2.27 ERA, .870 WHIP16 SV, 54/13 K/BB) and after making the near-full-time move to the rotation in his sophomore year (16 G, 11 GS, 76.2 IP, 2.11 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 87/20 K/BB). He was off to a similarly great start to his junior year (27.2 IP, 1.95 ERA, .083 WHIP, 46/8 K/BB) before COVID wiped out the collegiate season. If not for the pandemic, Meyer may have been in the discussion for first overall. Projected to go eighth overall by Jonathan Mayo, the Marlins took Max at number three. While Asa Lacy, whom the Marlins were favorites to receive with their selection, signed for slightly over slot value, Max signed for slightly under value. With the saved funds, the Marlins signed their second pick, high schooler Daxton Fulton, away from his college commitment.
#Marlins select righty Max Meyer out of Minnesota at number three.— Fish On The Farm (@marlinsminors) June 10, 2020
A surprise pick for sure but it’s hard to argue with a triple digit fastball and this slider.#305OnTheRise | #MLBDraft pic.twitter.com/qNb57lfLMj
Meyer’s stuff is absolutely electric. He’s up as high as 101 with the heat and down to 88-90 with his wipeout power slider. He also has a third pitch changeup that’s on the rise. Numerous scouts say Meyer’s fastball is already 70 grade (with the ability to get even better). The slider has very little vertical movement but thanks to off-the-charts spin rates, has ridiculous late horizontal movement leading to his equally ridiculous whiff rates and the ability to make the opposition look silly fishing for the pitch out of the zone without even having to challenge with it. The third pitch changeup is definitely not anywhere near as advanced as his other two pitches but considering how good those two offerings are, that isn’t a knock on the pitch whatsoever. Considering how he masks each of his pitches with the same exact arm speed, the changeup, which shows good fade back to his arm side, tunnels extremely well off the heat. If he can get the spin rate on the changeup to approach anywhere near where his other two pitches are in that department, Meyer, who was very tough for metal bat Big 10 hitters to barrel up, would be equally tough — if not tougher — for wood bats to damage.
The biggest knock on Meyer is the fact that he is not your typical pitcher’s body, just 6’, 196 at age 23. However, considering his collegiate pedigree, his fiery velo, the repeatability in his mechanics including matched arm speed on all three pitches and his ability to hold each of those things throughout his starts, Meyer comes to the Marlins system, including the tutelage of Mel Stottlemyre Jr and Co. this spring not too far from a finished product. If he continues to impress this spring and to start the year in AAA, Meyer could make his Marlins debut in pretty short order. For a comp, look to the similar size and equally fiery arm of Johnny Cueto.
OF JJ Bleday
2019 (A+): 38 G, .257/.311/.379, 3 HR, 11 XBH, 29/11 K/BB
Another first rounder, Bleday is the Marlins’ 2019 fourth overall pick and one of 17 Vanderbilt College World Series champions to be selected that year. Bleday was the brightest shining star (among many other twinkling ones) among that Commodores team ending his three year collegiate career with a .347/.465/.701, 27 HR, 58/61 K/BB junior season. He also threw in two summer league showings equating to a .286/.375/.484, 7 HR, 37/27 K/BB stat line.
Bleday, the SEC’s player of the year who led the circuit in most categories, came to the Fish and was immediately assigned to A+. In a pitchers’ league, he hit .257/.311/.379 in his first 38 pro games. He was invited to spring training for the first time in 2020 where he really impressed.
The owner of four of five tools, Bleday has some of the simplest and most balanced plate mechanics of anyone in the entire Marlins organization. Approaching from the back of the box and from a straight through stance, Bleday doesn’t exhibit much of (if any) of a timing trigger but rather relies on plus plus plate vision and fantastic bat speed to execute a mostly straight through swing with slight uppercut action that comes by high percentages of barrel contact, regular doubles power and the ability for 20+ homers annually. With the ability to hit for both average and power due to his knowledge of the strike zone and advanced plate discipline, Bleday is a guy who will work counts, force pitchers into mistakes and use his standout approach and swing mechanics to collect extra bases very frequently. He lines up as a guy who will hit for both average and power at the next level while also limiting strikeouts.
Bleday definitely has the tools, the pedigree, the work ethic and the will to succeed. We just need to see it show at the next level and his affiliated career is off to a great start based off where he started and what he was able to accomplish. If Bleday can show out in AA Pensacola this coming season, he could be MLB bound to begin 2022.
We view the southpaw Bleday, the owner of 55 grade hit, power, arm and field tools with the capability to bump most of those up to 60 as he gains polish, to comp to a physically bigger version of Andrew Bennintendi, a stingy lefty hit-over-power tool threat that smacks regular doubles and is an annual 20/20 threat. Bennintendi has hit .273/.353/.435 so far in his five year career.
OF Kameron Misner
2019 (Rk/A): 42 G, .270/.388/.362, 2 HR, 11 XBH, 24 RBI, 42/30 K/BB
Misner is another member of that stellar 2019 draft orchestrated by Michael Hill, DJ Svihlik and company. Kam attended the University of Missouri where he was a .301/.424/.489 bat over three seasons. He also added in an absurd standout performance in the wood bat New England Collegiate Baseball League in 2017 after his freshman season: .378/.479/.652 with eight homers and a 20/28 K/BB. A 2017 Freshman All-American, a 2018 second team All-SEC selection and a member of 2019 Golden Spikes watch list, the highly touted outfielder came to the Fish at number 35 overall.
Misner had a very short eight game stint in the GCL before being called up to low A Clinton. In a 34 game stint with the LumberKings, Mizner impressed hitting .276/.380/.373 in 134 ABs. The lefty showed good bat-to-ball skills and good speed, stealing eight bags in eight chances. He also doubled seven times and homered twice.
Pro scouting reports on Kam are as encouraging as they come. Labeled one of the most toolsy players in the 2019 Draft, Misner is said to have better raw hit, power and fielding than the Marlins’ first round pick from the same draft, Bleday and he adds in plus speed. The major difference between Bleday and Misner though is the current level of development. While the swing is gorgeous, the power is surprisingly predominant for a guy of his lanky 6’4”, 215 build and while his physical mechanics are simple and repeatable from top to bottom, Kam can be a bit too tepid at the plate especially early in counts, letting hittable pitches pass him by and putting him at the mercy of the pitcher. While patience are a good thing, he’s historically been a bit TOO patient and pitchers at the upper levels will exploit that. Kam has the capability for all five tools necessary to be a standout top-tier performer in the big leagues. We don’t say it often about guys at this level of development, but heading into his age 24 season, we want to see Kam be a bit more aggressive at the plate and trust himself. The results should come naturally: he should put more balls in play and his speed and baserunning prowess will be at his disposal more often.
The lack of aggression is the only thing holding Misner back from a very high ceiling. If a bump in plate vision and more confidence in his own abilities can be coached out of him, Kam could approach a ceiling reminiscent of Christian Yelich, a similarly built lefty bat who with annual .300/.375/.450, 30/30 HR/SB annual potential. He should start 2021 in A+ Beloit and with success, could rise up to AA by mid season. Regardless, 2021, including spring training, will be a big year for Misner’s development and for the Marlins, a measuring stick of the ceiling he hopes to reach. We will be watching him closely.
3B Joe Dunand
2019 (AA): 130 G, .242/.314/.333, 5 HR, 31 XBH, 42 RBI, 119/38 K/BB
Dunand is a Miami native and the nephew of Yankees legend Alex Rodriguez who attended the renowned baseball factory Gulliver Prep as a high schooler where he hit nine home runs in a span of five games in his graduating year. He then attended college at NC State where he had a .268/.334/.476 three year career. He also threw an impressive 34 game 326/.372/.511 Cape Cod Summer League showing in in 2016.
Dunand came to the Marlins as their second round pick in the 2017 Draft. Not long after his selection, Dunand suffered an injury and didn’t begin his big league career until August of that same season. Between the GCL and A+, he got in eight games. He started 2018 back in Jupiter where he performed well in the first half, well enough to get the call up to AA.
Joe has been playing at that level ever since. The results: pretty average. 191 games, .233/.302/.345, 12 HR, 190/54 K/BB. The reason behind his first invite to Marlins spring training was the way Dunand put on a show in the Dominican Winter League this offseason.
Joe Dunand go-ahead HR! 💪— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) November 22, 2020
Good week for him in winter ball pic.twitter.com/EYnCFtPohK
Playing against competition over three years older than him on average, Dunand in 21 games hit .319/.398/.542 with three homers, seven doubles, 12 RBIs and a 25/9 K/BB. He also played some stellar defense at third base. Like his uncle before him, Dunand can also play shortstop but his future is at the hot corner.
He’s also doing stuff like this frequently on the other side of the ball. pic.twitter.com/NVdTT1JDQa— Fish On The Farm (@marlinsminors) December 7, 2020
It was a small sample size but it was extremely encouraging for the Marlins front office to see Dunand play some great all around innings in wake of the lost MiLB season and his average performance at AA the last time he was on the field stateside. It speaks to the work ethic, athleticism and tools (albeit late to bloom tools) of Dunand and you cannot argue with the pedigree considering he grew up very close with to his uncle. Looking at Dunand in Jacksonville in 2019 vs Dunand in the Dominican this year, there are some noticeable differences.
The first thing to notice is that Dunand is setting up lower in his stance. The toe tap trigger he was using in 2019 has been traded for an elevated front foot trigger. His elbows are also slightly higher and away from his body, aiding in his reach. Finally, Dunand appears to have added quite a bit of bulk. Each of these improvements should aid Dunand in continuing to hit for power to his pull side which he’s always favored while also allowing him to reach more more areas of the field and above all, reach base more often. That’s what the Marlins hope to see out of Dunand this spring. He should start the year in AAA, but with a good showing in spring and success back in Jacksonville, now the AAA affiliate, Dunand could join the Marlins as a bat off the bench and much needed current depth at third base.
Continue to follow Fish On The Farm here, on social media (@marlinsminors/@danieldevivo) and via our podcast Swimming Upstream, available via Apple Podcasts and Spotify all spring long and leading into the return of Minor League Baseball.
The MLB Draft. Usually a 40-round marathon in which countless hours of scouting, interviewing and program research done simultaneously by each team all over the country come to fruition when 1200+ young men have their baseball dreams come true. This year, circumstances beyond control turned that marathon into a short sprint: five rounds and 160 picks, six of which belonged to the Marlins. So who are the lucky few? Who are they, how did they get to this point and why Miami? Herein, we examine.
1/3: RHP Max Meyer, Minnesota
With what was one of of not the most crucial draft picks of the Marlins’ rebuild, Michael Hill took the vow that the club would not gamble.
#Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill in pre-draft interview w/ @Kyle_Sielaff and @GlennGeffner: “We’ve always drafted best player available, and that’s something that we won’t change here.”
— Jordan McPherson (@J_McPherson1126) June 10, 2020
After the Orioles surprised by selecting Heston Kjerstad second overall and opened up the board, it appeared as though the Marlins had a decision to make between two guys: righty Asa Lacy and third baseman Austin Martin? But before the Orioles picked and likely even before the draft began, DJ Svihlik, Michael Hill and the Marlins had already agreed with their guy: Minnesota righty Max Meyer.
— Joe Frisaro (@JoeFrisaro) June 11, 2020
Meyer is a 6’, 200 pound righty who had the consensus best pitch in the entire draft: his high 80s power wipe out slider that is just absolutely deadly. He can plane it anywhere inside the strike zone, place it on the back foot or bury it in the dirt for whiffs. But that’s far from all there is to the kid. Despite the limited size, Meyer throws absolutely blistering heat which sits at 97 and he can ramp it all the way up to triple digits. Both of Meyer’s primaries are already 70 grade offerings. But wait, there’s even more. He also mixes in a changeup that holds a current 55-grade value and with a bit more feel, has the ability to become another plus plus pitch in the future. He pounds the entire strike zone with all three pitches, comes right after hitters with a bulldog mentality, works ahead in the count regularly and can get swings and misses both in and out of the zone with 55-grade command.
Meyer has unquestioned ace potential. The only caveats to him reaching that potential lay in his unfavorable size for a starting pitcher and the fact that he only started 15 games in college. 2020 was going to be a tell-tale junior season for him, but he was only able to get four games under his belt before the entire world, including the sports world, shut down due to COVID-19. A physically limited high stress, max effort hurler, the biggest question surrounding Max will be can his arm hold up through the toil of a full slate of rotational innings? If it can, he is drawing favorable comparisons to Tim Lincecum and Sonny Gray with stuff resembling Noah Syndergaard’s.
2/40 – LHP Daxton Fulton, Mustang High School (OK
Where Lacy would’ve made and probably will still make over slot value, the Marlins will ink Meyer for well under the $7,221,200 price tag assigned to the third overall pick. Michael Hill and Co. will use the money saved to sign this pick away from his college commitment. Clearly, Svihlik and the scouting department had a target on Daxton and a plan to get him signed, conceding Lacy. They really wanted this kid and it’s easy to see why.
Daxton Fulton three pitch K sequence featuring all three of his pitches. He was the consensus top ranked high school lefty in #MLBDraft and here’s why.
— Fish On The Farm (@marlinsminors) June 12, 2020
At age 18, Fulton, the consensus best lefty prep in the draft, is 6’6”, 225. He already shows good knowledge for his body, featuring a smooth wind and release and a very pronounced downhill stride. But the size isn’t the only thing that’s way beyond his teenage years. His arsenal features four useable pitches and two plus offerings, low 90s heat with slight arm side run and his best pitch, a high 70s 12-6 curve with tight arc late bend to his spot. The pitch moves on both axes and he can fool with the grip and release a bit to shape it in different ways, giving him a few different looks with the same pitch. Fulton will show a bit more effort in his delivery when throwing the fastball which is something he will need to rectify against pro hitters to keep from tipping it, but that should be a fairly quick fix under the tutelage of pro coaches. The curve, which has an MLB-grade spin rate of 2,600, already ranks as 60-plus offering and the fastball is grading at 55-plus. Those two pitches create a future lights out combo at the next level. He also has a changeup that sits 82-84. Fulton lacks a consistent release point and overall feel for the pitch, but at its best, it has good late fading action and two-plane break. Scouts say it plays up to a future 50-grade ceiling.
Just 19 with already two plus pitches with a third in the making and a plus command tool and a great starter’s build with the ability to even more velo, there is a very high ceiling here. The next time he takes the mound will likely be in 2021 (COVID aside), so this is a slow-pace project who, as a second round pick coming off the surgery, the Marlins will take it extremely easy with as he builds back his arm strength. He enters the system as a top 20 prospect (no easy task considering all the Marlins have starting pitching wise) who will be a guy to follow closely leading up to his projected MLB debut in 2023. Jumping Evan Fitterer from last season’s draft, he is the new head of the Marlins’ high school class.
CBB2/61 – Kyle Nicolas, Ball State
Nicolas is a 6’4”, 225 righty out of Ball State University. A two-time letterman as a high schooler, he had a decorated senior season. 8-0 with a 0.50 ERA and 78 Ks in 46 IP, he won his league’s player of the year award and was a first team all-state selection. His tenure at Ball State was a lot less statistically impressive: serving in a swing man capacity, he has a 5.12 ERA, a 1.53 WHIP and a 174/102 K/BB. So how did he earn this draft slot? After showing improved stuff in the Cape Cod League including added velo on the fastball (sitting 94-96 and up to triple digits), according to scouts, Nicolas did a ton of work in the offseason. He worked tirelessly with coaches to simplify his delivery, leading to much more fluidity, much easier repetition and added deception. That was on display during Kyle’s first four starts of 2020 during which he held down a 2.74 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in 23 IP. The most paramount and encouraging product of Nicolas’ offseason work was his huge improvement in command. His 8.3% walk rate fell to just under 3%. One of Kyle’s final starts at the collegiate level was a 17 strikeout performance in which he only allowed two hits.
A comparison of #Marlins CBA2 pick Kyle Nicolas’ delivery circa 2019 next to his improved delivery from last year.
— Fish On The Farm (@marlinsminors) June 16, 2020
Nicolas’ crutch pitch is his aforementioned 70-grade fastball which has natural downward plane and good run. When at his best, he will pound the zone with it and outmatched collegiate hitters. Nicolas’ best secondary is an 86-88 power slide piece which he has really begun to tunnel, again due to the improvement in his mechanics and command. The pitch holds good late bite and from his higher release point and much shorter stride, is masked well against the heat. Because of his recent adjustments, the pitch takes the jump from 50-grade to 60-grade.
Kyle’s work ethic and his ability to vastly improve over the course of just one offseason is very impressive. However, if he is to reach his ceiling as a back-end rotational piece he will need to continue to grow into his newly refined delivery while further developing his distant third pitch, the changeup. Currently, the Nicolas changeup is just average and he’s in the nascent stages when it comes to the release and overall feel for it but at its best, it shows good shape and flashes of becoming a plus pitch.
If he continues to put polish on his newly refined mechanics and continues to advantageously develop the changeup. Not set to turn 22 until a month before next spring training, there is a lot to like about a guy with extremely projectable size and two plus-plus pitches who shows the ability and willingness to make positive adjustments joining a developmental system like the Marlins’.
3/76 – RHP Zach McCambley, Coastal Carolina
McCambley is a 6’1”, 215 pound righty who was recruited to Costal Carolina after being named his high school conference’s MVP and an All-American honorable mention and being rated the 108th best RHP in that year’s Draft. As a Chanticleer, McCambley had a 3.89 ERA and 1.40 WHIP with a 158/59 K/BB in 141 IP. He was primed for a tell-tale junior year and began it advantageously holding down a 1.80 ERA by way of a 1.08 WHIP and 32/7 K/BB in four starts and 25 IP before the COVID shutdown. Had the season played out and had those brand of results stagnated, McCambley could’ve gone much higher. Instead, he entered the Draft as the 80th ranked RHP. The Marlins pulled the trigger on him at number 75. Clearly, Svihlik and Co. had their chips in on McCambley’s last season rather than his subpar 2019 regular season campaign. It’s easy to see why the Marlins bought in and took him over his predraft ranking: on top
of being a great student, Zach had a a very impressive showing against wood bats in the Cape Cod League last summer, holding down a 1.74 ERA with a 1.06 WHIP and 24/7 K/BB in 20.2 IP. Based off his overall collegiate numbers, McCambley wasn’t a sure thing. However, he’s another guy exactly like Nicolas: despite a limited showing of just 40 IP, he showed a ton of improvement from his 2019 regular season up to the present, especially in showing more consistent command. That’s what the Marlins are buying in to.
— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) June 12, 2020
McCambley owns two plus pitches, a 92-95 MPH fastball with good riding action and sink to the lower half and his best pitch, a curveball which he developed as a child and which usually sits 79-81 (making it more of a slurve). However, he can take more off of it by slowing down his arm speed, creating a higher arcing 12-6 offering.
A plus to-contact fastball and wipe-out primary breaker thrown multiple ways are a great start, but if he is to succeed as a rotational piece, McCambley will need to develop his changeup (again, like Nicolas). Presently, the McCambley change sits 86-88. He lacks a current overall feel for the pitch causing it to blend into the fastball, but he does show flashes of it becoming a plus pitch with good fade. Along with the improved command he showed this canceled season, that’s the potential that will need to pronounce itself for Zach to succeed as a starter. Currently a two-pitch guy with limited size, we place McCambley as a higher-floor, lower-ceiling guy at the next level.
4/104 LHP Jake Eder, Vanderbilt
Eder is a local guy, born October 9th, 1998 in Fort Lauderdale and an attendee of both Delray Beach Atlantic and Calvary Christian Academy. A letterman in all four of of high school seasons, Eder was the earner of a an All-American selection in his junior year and he was a key cog in his team earning a state semi-finals berth as a senior. He was drafted by the Mets in round 34 of the 2017 Draft but chose to continue his education both mentally and athletically at Vanderbilt. As a Commodore who played on two of the same teams as JJ Bleday, Eder served in a swing-man capacity and held down an overall 4.00 ERA, 1.30 WHIP and 105/57 K/BB in 92.1 IP. He did much better in limited showings as an exclusive pen piece in 2018-19. Eder began 2020 in the Vandy rotation posting a 3.60 ERA via a 1.45 WHIP prior to the shutdown.
6’4”, 210, Eder has a solid pitcher’s frame but he is consistently inconsistent. His windup is quirky and has a lot of moving parts which he struggles to control. Eder’s initial motion is a front foot step back to the third base side leading into a cross-body leg kick without much weight on the back leg before a whip-through half arm circle delivery from a mid-3/4 slot. The length of his stride will differ and, considering the effort he puts into his release, it will lead to an-off balance finish in which he winds up on his front heel. He is much, much better from the stretch, leading to the belief that he will be a future pen piece. Stuff wise, he Hs the same issue: inconsistency. he is capable of a plus two pitch mix including a 94-96 MPH fastball and a shapely curveball but it doesn’t always show up. Even on a start to start basis, both Eder’s velo and control can completely disappear. He is also yet another guy who lacks a third pitch. He’s another step down the ladder from McCambley because of the dodgy mechanics and unreliability, further limiting the ceiling. The Marlins believe they can iron him out, make the raw stuff come out advantageously and turn him into a back end starter, but he currently profiles much better as a future bullpen piece.
5/134 Kyle Hurt, USC
Hurt is a 22-year old junior out of USC where he had a very unstable career. After a knee injury lowered his draft stock in 2017, he chose to go back to school rather than signing with the Phillies who selected him in the 34th round. His numbers as a Trojan read 172.2 IP, 5.06 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 170/107 K/BB. He has two plus pitches and two more behind it. The former combination includes a fastball that has good action and sits 94-95 topping at 97 and a depthy changeup at 85-88. Both pitches grade at 55+. Hurt backs those offerings up with a maturing slide piece grades at 50 and a less advanced curve. The two pitches can blend into one another at times. He may drop the curve at the next level.
The reason for the inflated stats in college could be attributed to one big thing: incredibly spotty command. What convinced Svihlik and the Marlins was the lineage of athleticism JM his family (his father played football at Ole Miss and his grandfather played football at the University of Tampa and one season for the Miami Dolphins), his high school pedigree, his extremely projectable size — already 6’3”, 215 — and his fantastic limited showing under a new regime at USC this canceled season. According to Svihlik, Hurt is a low-risk, high-reward type signing who he is counting on the Marlins’ fantastic development team to help continue recent positive progression.
“He was a multi-million dollar player out of high school that had an up-and-down career at USC,” Svihlik said. “We really thought that we had an opportunity to take a player that has under-performed expectations, put him with a great group of player development guys and really extract the most out of his talent. Kyle Hurt was outstanding this year. He really turned the corner with a new pitching style, with a new coaching staff at USC.”
Hurt, who turned 22 on May 30th, projects to start his big league career in low A.