Rogers Outduels deGrom
Ladies and gentlemen, the real Trevor Rogers has stood up.
After a rough first inning and premature outing his first time on the hill in 2021 at loanDepot park this past week, the 2017 first round draft pick was dominant in his second start of the season today against the Mets. Going up against perennial Cy Young candidate Jacob deGrom during the opening series at Citi Field, Rogers twirled a six inning gem, limiting New York to just three hits and two walks while tying a career high in strikeouts with 10. Speaking on his outing postgame, Don Mattingly stated Rogers’ development is clear and evident.
“We’re seeing him grow up right in front of our eyes,” Mattingly said. “You can just see the focus in his work and everything that he does.”
Mattingly said a big key to Rogers’ success has been his ability to take a lot out of his experience in the majors in 2020, building off both his successes and his mistakes.
“He’s put himself in good positions because he’s got good routines now,” Mattingly said. “I think he learned a lot of lessons last year and he used them. That’s a key: the guys that can make adjustments here are the guys that are going to be really good.”
In his first inning of work of the year in his previous start, Rogers required nearly 40 pitches to get through the St. Louis Cardinals. Ultimately, he would wind up going 4.1 innings. On Saturday, Rogers didn’t reach the 40 pitch mark until the fourth inning (during one of three strikeouts by Friday’s controversial centerpiece, Michael Conforto). For Rogers, the biggest difference from last start to this one was in how he paced himself and stayed loose.
“Last start, first inning, I kind of let the emotions and the game speed up on me,” Rogers said. “I just made sure to breathe and really take my time. I wanted to make sure I was getting down the slope and not pulling off. Just really making quality pitches.”
With his emotions in line, Rogers went right after hitters, attacking them in the zone early in the count then relying on his breakers and pinpoint command to finish them off. Rogers threw a first pitch strike to each of the first 10 Mets that stepped to the plate against him and to 15 of 22 total. Rogers said that was and always has been a key to success for him.
“That’s pretty much the foundation of how I got about guys: getting that first pitch strike and then you can just build off that,” Rogers said. “You put them in a hole right away, get them in swing mode.”
On getting to go up against one one the best in the game and getting the better of him on the ledger, Rogers credited his and the team’s ability to prepare properly but not press.
“Best in baseball, Jacob deGrom is,” Rogers said. “You really have to bring your best and then some. To see me and our whole team go out and compete with the best, it just shows you how good we are.”
One big difference in Trevor’s arrival has been the very quick build of his changeup. Still a work very nascent pitch for him during spring training 1.0 in 2020, Trevor has built that pitch up this:
Here is the mapping of that pitch in this start.
Rogers utilized the changeup within five of his 10 Ks.
When he is getting ahead in the count and mixing and locating all three pitches, Rogers is a deadly combo of velo and at the very most, weak contact. An absolutely dominant outing in his second start of the season and nonetheless on the road in a day game after the team plane did not land in to New York until around 1 AM that same morning, this was a testament to Rogers’ level of focus, athleticism and maturity. In more ways than one, he has fully arrived.
Jazz Goes Yard
Coming in to Thursday’s game, Mets ace Jacob deGrom was virtually untouchable in his career in 0-2 counts, sporting a .136 BAA and 55% career strikeout rate. He had never allowed a home run in that situation in his career. Then, in the second inning, Jazz Chisholm Jr. stepped to the plate for his first career AB against deGrom and did this:
The first home run deGrom has ever allowed in his eight year major league career came on an 100 mph fastball up and out of the zone against a guy taking his 74th career major league at bat. How did Jazz get to that ball let alone hit it out, .307/.358/.471 career hitter Don Mattingly?
“It’s not necessarily a pitch you’re gonna hit that often,” Donnie said. “You’re talking about over 100 out of the box above the zone. It’s a tough pitch to get to. But today was a day that Jazz caught that one.”
“Jazz is a guy who is nice and loose, Mattingly added “I think his hands work good and he sees the ball good.”
According to Chisholm, he viewed the opportunity to go up against deGrom as an honor and a career defining moment, but he didn’t think his 100 mph heat was as intimidating as other pitchers.
“I couldn’t have been more excited to face any other pitcher in the league. Much respect to him,” Chisholm said. “Some people’s 100 is a little lighter. I felt like his was on the lighter side.”
As Jazz rounded the bases, the entire baseball world sat with their mouths agape, wondering how Jazz got to the high cheese and via a seemingly effortless swing, deposited the ball into the upper deck right field stands. Chisholm himself though wasn’t surprised one bit. In fact, according to his ex Marlins reliever Sterling Sharp, Jazz called the shot and the reactions that followed perfectly.
After the game, Jazz was asked what he was thinking while taking his trip around the basepaths after not-so-arguably the biggest hit of his young MLB career. His answer to that inquiry was even more impressive than the moonshot itself.
“I wasn’t thinking anything crazy. It was like, “Okay, I just hit a homer off deGrom; that’s cool. But now I have to try to go do it again,” Chisholm said. “I feel like my abilities should allow me to hit a homer off anybody and my hands should allow me to get to any ball that I can swing at.”
Jazz Chisholm Jr. is here in the majors, seeing 100 mph fastballs from one of the best pitchers in the game well and doing what 595 other major league players before him couldn’t do. And afterwards, his only focus is on how can he repeat it. If you weren’t sold on Jazz yet, buy in and double down immediately.
Neidert Overcomes Early Jitters
On Thursday afternoon, Marlins prospect Nick Neidert took the mound as a starting pitcher for the first time in his career. Four and a third innings later, his start would come to an end and the events to follow would overshadow his performance. However, his work should not be discounted.
After injuries to both Sixto Sanchez and Elieser Hernandez, Neidert took the hill to start a game for the first time in his MLB career and the first time to start a game since 2019 in AAA. Understandably, emotions played their part in Neidert’s outing. After allowing a leadoff double to Brandon Nimmo, Neidert walked Pete Alonso and drew a visit from Mel Stottlemyre, Jr. During that visit, Neidert said Mel got him back within himself and back on the attack.
“It was just to get back in the zone,” Neidert said of the conversation. “Stop trying to nibble at the corners and try to make the perfect pitch.”
Neidert then retired James McCann on strikes to get back to the dugout for the first time then he threw an efficient 1-2-3 second inning. He got out of similar jams as the one he escaped in the first frame in both his third and fourth inning of work, walking two guys in each but coming back to keep the Mets off the board. He pitched into the fifth inning on 85 pitches. The only run on his line came via primary reliever Ross Detwiler allowing an inherited runner to score. Overall, Neidert’s outing can best be described as bend-but-not-break.
“I just had moments where I tried to pick at corners and ended up walking a guy. When I was in attack mode and being aggressive, it turned out really well,” Neidert said. “Overall I thought it was a solid outing. My goal every time out is to put us in a position to win. Five walks isn’t great and I put myself in some bad positions but I was able to make pitches to get out of it.”
Though his command was spotty, catcher Chad Wallach was impressed with Neidert’s ability to compete.
“He’d kind of lose it for a few batters but then he’d lock it back in for a few hitters in a row,” Wallach said. “I wouldn’t say he had his best stuff today but he really battled his butt off and pitched with some aggression and went after those guys.”
For Neidert, the biggest highlight of the day was getting the opportunity to pitch in front of live fans for the first time since a very short 2019 season in which he threw just 54 innings between two minor league affiliates and the Arizona Fall League. Neidert said he took time to soak in that experience but tried not to let it negatively affect his outing.
“Pitching in front of fans is a lot of fun. I took moments before the outing just to listen to the fans when they were announcing their lineup. Hearing fans like that, it’s incredible and the adrenaline that comes with that is great,” Neidert said. “I just tried to stay as calm as I could to go out there and make pitches and to not let it rise too high to where I was off.”
While this was definitely not a lights out performance, Neidert’s ability to rise to a big occasion, make adjustments and keep the Marlins in the game despite not having his best stuff is extremely encouraging for his maturation process. The outing should serve as a good building block for his next start which should come on Wednesday in Atlanta.
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.
Looking at the career of Nick Neidert in a nutshell, one would be inclined to question how he made the near-impossible possible. The answer to that query lies in the faith and trust the now 22-year-old top prospect holds in a power much bigger and higher than anything baseball has to offer.
At the beginning of his baseball career, Neidert was a middle infielder at Peachtree Ridge High School in Suwanee, Georgia. Then, one day, in his third amateur season, his coach tasked him with manning the mound. It didn’t take long for the PRHS coaching staff to realize the natural gifts Neidert had been endowed with by his creator. And thus, the teenager began down the path destined for him.
“In high school, I was trying to get the feel for pitching. Just trying to get the grasp on how hitters think, what kind of sequences to use, just the basic stuff,” Neidert said. “God blessed me to make the huge velo jump [in my senior year] and he allowed me to have better stuff fairly quickly, getting me on a bunch of team’s radars.”
Upon the completion of his senior year, Neidert was reaching as high as 96 MPH with both fade and run, spotting his heater at will all over the strike zone. His 86-88 MPH slider and 75-77 MPH curveball, though sometimes blending into each other, both showed plus potential and he was already starting to throw a 86-88 MPH changeup. Lauded as the 29th best high school prospect in the 2015 draft, Neidert forwent a commitment with the University of South Carolina in favor of signing for the Mariners who selected him with their second round pick.
— MarinersPR (@MarinersPR) June 12, 2015
For the second time, Neidert’s life path took a sudden turn. But once again, the newly-turned adult didn’t question things; he just went with it, trusting in faith and prayer to guide him through the maturation process both as a pitcher and a person. In his first taste of pro ball, Neidert provided a good glimpse at his potential as he held down a 1.53 ERA via a 0.96 WHIP and 23/9 K/BB.
“When I went out to Arizona, it was definitely a big change for me. I was definitely a little nervous, but I knew that that was in God’s plan and what he wanted in my life so I just trusted in him,” Neidert said. “It was a good first season. It helped me grow as a person. You gotta mature really quickly when you go away for 3-4 months. It was a great experience.”
Neidert was spectacular in 2017, pitching to a career best 10-3, 2.76 ERA, 1.073 WHIP, 107/17 showing in the A+ California League, marks which made him one of the circuit’s best pitchers. His ERA was led the league as did his 78.8 LOB%, his 6.41 K/BB ratio ranked third and his 3.39 FIP ranked second only to teammate Pablo Lopez. On top an All-Star selection, Neidert won the California League’s Pitcher Of The Year Award, a title formerly won by the likes of Felix Hernandez, Ervin Santana and Brad Penny. By way of those accolades, Neidert rocketed up prospect rankings, placing as high as number two organizationally heading into 2018.
There was little time for Neidert to reflect on his first full-season campaign as, exactly four months after he threw his final pitch, the newly-turned 22-year-old was traded to the Marlins in the Dee Gordon trade.
“It came as a shock to me because a lot of people were saying I was an untouchable prospect for [Seattle], but in my mind, nobody’s untouchable. So when I got traded, I was kind of caught off guard, but I knew God had a plan for that and I knew there was a reason behind it.”
Two months after being dealt from the only system and baseball family he’d ever known, Neidert was back at spring training on a different coast with a team in a completely different situation; with a team in the early stages of a rebuild rather than one on the verge of the playoffs. As if that weren’t enough, at the start of the year, the righty was tasked with making the full-time jump to AA, quite possibly the hardest task in professional baseball. Despite changing coasts, joining a different organization for the first time in his career and joining the upper minors full-time against competition over three years his elder, Neidert didn’t miss a beat. In a career-high 26 starts, he lasted a career-high (and Southern League most) 152.2 IP and held down a 3.24 ERA via a 1.13 WHIP, marks which placed 4th and 6th circuit-wide among pitchers with at least 100 IP. His 154 Ks were second-most only to D-Backs top prospect Taylor Widener and his 20.1 K/BB ratio placed third.
According to Neidert, his ability to continue to develop positively despite joining a brand new club lay in the fact that with the recent regime change, everyone was acclimating to the Marlins’ reconstructed organization. In essence, everyone was the new kid in town.
“When I came to the Marlins, they had a whole new front office so it kind of helped me coming in because everyone else was learning a new front office, it wasn’t just me,” Neidert said. “The players and the guys, I connected with them very quick because we all have the same dream ahead of us, the same goal. So it wasn’t too bad trying to fit in.”
And, as always, despite whatever circumstance came his way, Neidert maintained his allegiance to his faith.
“Throughout all last year and throughout whatever has gone on, I’ve put my trust in God,” Neidert said. “My identity is in Him, as a child of God. So I haven’t really been too nervous or anxious on what has been going on around me and the places I’ve been because I’ve always felt He has a plan for me.”
Along the path created for him, Neidert has been the beneficiary of the expertise of many different mentors, including five pitching coaches in the past four seasons. According to Neidert, he picked up something useful from each of them.
“It’s hard pick just one,” Neidert chuckled when asked to name his most helpful mentor. “I want to say Rich Dorman because he was my very first pitching coach. He was there for me in the AZL in my very first season and taught me about how pro ball goes and how to become a pitcher who can succeed. I had Peter Woolworth after that. He taught me how to contain myself. Then this year we had Storm Davis and Dave LaRoche, both legends in the game of baseball. They taught me so much how to slow down the game and change timing, how to disrupt a hitters timing, how to change speeds and how to keep hitters off balance. Collectively, if we could combine all of them into one, that’d be incredible.”
Despite the jump in level in 2018, Neidert’s swing-and-miss potential followed him from A ball where his K rate was 26% in 104.1 IP to AA where it was 25.2% over 152.2 IP. According to Neidert, that persistence had less to do with an improvement in stuff and more to do with a better psychological understanding of his opposition.
“I’ve always been a pitch-to-contact kind of guy because I’d rather a guy ground out or pop out in two pitches because pitch count is big now; get your team back in the dugout quicker. I’ve really never tried to do much different. But just learning pitch sequencing more, learning what hitters are trying to do in every situation; that kind of stuff, just taking my knowledge and trying to apply it every single time to keep hitters messed up at the dish and to try to have more success.”
Although his stuff showed true two seasons ago, Neidert’s pitcher’s IQ has absolutely soared in that time, not only allowing him to better understand hitters but to further understand himself. Through this unique but very advantageous route, Neidert has grown into a near-MLB ready hurler in just a four year tenure in minor league ball. As we enter 2019, Neidert, the owner of a four-pitch arsenal including a changeup that he made huge strides with in 2018, catching it up to his low-mid 90s heat which he throws with both two and four seams, sits on the precipice of realizing his Major League dream.
As he has been for every other challenge that life has thrown his way, Neidert will undoubtedly be up for the jump to the Major League ranks, but for now, he isn’t concerned with when it occurs.
“I don’t look at the prospect rankings because everyone has an opportunity to make it to the big leagues. Once you’re there, you stay there. If not, you go down,” Neidert said. “I’m just working on really mixing up my sequencing, my pitches and trying to be as deceptive as I possible can be. Just to try to have the most success with the things I have. I am going to try to build off last year and try my best to work even harder and to put in even more just to get 1% better every single day.”
One of those days not too far in the future, Neidert will find himself pulling on an official “Our Colores” Marlins’ uniform. Not only is Nick a fan of the look, he’s a huge supporter of what it stands for.
“I love the new colors. It basically states that we are in a rebuild and this is a completely new organization than it has been in years past,” Neidert said. “I’ve been here since the start of the start of the new front office and I can tell you that in everything they’re doing, the Miami Marlins are going to be competing for World Series championships for years to come. The culture they’re creating in the clubhouse is absolutely incredible and the fact that one day I’ll be blessed enough to pitch in a big league ballpark, that’s equally incredible.”
As exceptional as the prospect is, Neidert isn’t concerned with the date and time of that occurrence. Rather, he is leaving that to date and living in the moment. Overall, Neidert doesn’t view himself as the driver in charge of his career, but rather as a passenger.
“I’m just along for the ride, man,” Neidert said. “Just allowing God to use me.”
Keep enjoying riding shotgun, Nick. We are thoroughly enjoying the view from the backseat.
At this time last year, despite being under new management, Marlins fans and the rest of the baseball collective were turning up their noses at the once again rebuilding Marlins, scoffing, “Same old, same old.” However, it quickly became evident that this Jeter and Co: reboot starkly contrasted the many orchestrated Loria and Co: it was being done and properly and most importantly of all, completely and thoroughly with the fanbase’s best interests in mind.
Rather than holding on to parts of failed core(s) year after year, Jeter traded away all of the Marlins’ biggest MLB assets (J.T. Realmuto pending) and began building a core of his own down in the minor leagues. Jeter ensured the best trade returns possible by not asking partners to eat bad contracts a la Loria, creating a hand-picked nucleus. Then, by doing some strategic wheeling and dealing, he capped it all off by landing the top free agent on the international market. After ending 2017 with the 28th-ranked farm system, the Marlins are now a top-15 organization. When all is said and done this offseason, they could have a top-10 system, something Loria never even got close to sniffing due to his penny-pinching and living off distant hopes and dreams.
Add to the pot the fact that they have facilitated solutions to fans’ material factors surrounding the team such as updating the logo and colors, ridding the stadium of the egregious home run sculpture and lowering prices on both tickets and concessions, in just over a year, this new regime has given the team back to Miami and created a culture that promotes the term ‘community’ in every possible way.
Nothing brings a sports community closer than winning games. And by 2020, thanks to the blueprint Jeter’s administration has laid out and executed so well in such a short time, the M stands to be flipped on a regular basis. At the forefront of those occasions will be these faces and names that Marlins fans should start getting plenty used to seeing and hearing.
Without any further ado, we present our 2019 Top Prospects list.
1. OF Monte Harrison
2019 (AA) – .240/.316/.399, 19 HR, 48 RBI, 28/9 SB/CS
Harrison, who came to the Marlins in what wound up being one of the biggest moves of this past offseason, the deal that sent eventual NL MVP Christian Yelich to Milwaukee, was a Brewers draftee in 2014. Considered one of, if not the best athlete in that year’s draft, it cost the Brewers a pretty penny, $1.8 million, to sway Harrison to sign with them rather than honoring a two-sport commitment with the University of Nebraska.
Harrison had a rough start to his professional baseball career, breaking his tibia and fibula while running the bases in his first season in 2015 which limited him to just 76 games. Harrison was understandably slow out of the gate in 2016, hitting just .163/.245/.209 in his first 39 games before he began to settle in game 40. From May 26th-June 17, Harrison went 24-79 (.303) with six homers, showing the Brewers his true potential for the first time. Then, Harrison went under the knife again, this time for a broken hamate bone in his dominant hand. Despite missing almost two month’s worth of action, Harrison returned on August 11 and finished the season by going a respectable 17-59 (.288).
This past season was a turning point for Harrison in more ways than one. First up on a long list of happenings for Harrison was his trade to Miami in exchange for Christian Yelich. Accompanying Monte to the Marlins were Lewis Brinson who just graduated prospect status and the duo of Isan Diaz and Jordan Yamamoto, each of whom will appear in the top ten in these rankings (spoiler alert).
While some pundits have stated that the Marlins didn’t get enough back in this trade, they have done so as they have stared directly at the accomplishments of Yelich while simultaneously turning a blind eye to Harrison’s athletic pedigree and the nature of the two hard-luck injuries, one suffered on a hustle play and one on a hit-by-pitch, that stunted his growth as Brewers property. In his first year as a Marlin, Harrison was able to wholly avoid the injury bug and make up for lost time. Positive adjustments began to reward Monte late in the season as he went 23-70 in his final 22 games. He ended the regular season with a .240/.316/.399 slash line with 19 homers, fourth in the Southern League.
This winter, Harrison participated in the Arizona Fall League. There, as a Salt River Rafter, Harrison perfected the changes in his approach he showed late in the regular season campaign, including a much more closed stance and a much smaller front leg timing trigger. These changes have allowed Monte to keep his head and shoulders stationary and via a shorter swing that better employs his plus bat speed, cover much more of the plate much more advantageously. This re-tooled version of Harrison promotes much better contact rates and drastically lower K rates than the MiLB-leading 37% factor he posted during the regular season. In 19 Arizona Fall League games (81 PAs) against competition a half a year older than him, Harrison hit .290/.348/.343 with a 19/10 K/BB. The only thing glaringly missing, both in the month of August and in Arizona, from Harrison v. 2.0’s potential five-tool game was the over-the-fence power prowess that was his calling card as a younger prospect. However, now that he has been properly coached to simplify his plate work, prolong counts and use his elite bat speed properly, Harrison, who has always owned good hands and horizontal movement in his elbows as well as an uppercut swing plane that promotes barrel contact and lift, he is much closer to realizing his five-tool type ceiling than he ever has been. By being coached to step into the ball in sync with his downward swing slope and by adding torque to his presently fairly stationary hips, he can get all of his power back and then some, creating a near-complete offensive threat. That will be the 22-year-old’s focus as he begins 2019 at the upper-most level of the minors as a New Orleans Baby Cake. With similar output that he showed at the end of last season and this fall, Harrison could be a Miami Marlin, joining his former Brewers organizational Brinson in the same MLB outfield by the All-Star break.
2. OF Victor Victor Mesa
One of the biggest free agent sweepstakes revolved around Cuba’s Victor Victor Mesa. The attention was well deserved.
Mesa began his professional playing career in the Cuban National Series as a 16-year-old in 2012. Through four seasons playing at his home country’s top level, Mesa hit .275/.334/.378 including a .354/.399/.539, and 40/10 SB/CS in 2016-17, leading to the fanfare surrounding his free agency this year. At one time, more than ten teams were rumored to be heavily involved in the Mesa sweepstakes. The Marlins has their eyes on the brothers from the start and remained focused throughout the offseason, making them a-priori. The team shrewdly began racking up bonus pool money in the middle of the season when they flipped Cameron Maybin to the Seattle Mariners for $250K in pool space and infielder Bryson Brigman. At season’s end, the Fish made a trio of trades, sending Ryan Lillie to the Cincinnati Reds for $750K in cap space and Kyle Barraclough to the Washington Nationals for $1MM. On October 16, the Marlins dealt Dominican Summer League prospects Adonis Giron and Brayan De Paula to the Astros for another $500K. The dealings vaulted the Marlins from $4MM past the Orioles, who sat at $6.7MM.
— Victor Victor Mesa (@victorvmesa) November 20, 2018
“We had to put in all our chips,” Michael Hill said, “and add chips.”
On October 22nd, 2018, the Marlins claimed their long-sought after prize, signing Víctor Victor Mesa for $5.25MM (as well as Victor Jr for an even $1MM). In addition to acquiring the special talent, Jeter told ABC News he wants the signings to set a new standard for the Marlins’ organization.
“We want Miami to be the destination for top international talent,” Jeter said. “This organization should reflect the diversity of the South Florida community.”
In Cuba, Victor Victor personified the term baseball phenom by way of a skillset that promotes all five tools. Well recognized and touted for his explosive defensive arm and plus-plus speed on top of advanced contact readability and route-running knowledge acquiescent of any of the three outfield positions, Mesa is even more ahead of the curve on the offensive side of the ball — figuratively and literally. Setting up in the back of the box via a slightly open stance to the third base side, Mesa owns a compact back leg load and vertical power transfer. Through his swing, Mesa maintains his skyward-pointed back elbow and lateral front elbow, creating natural arc and lift to his explosive swing. Though he doesn’t quite have the size or raw power to match, Mesa’s mechanics are reminiscent of Giancarlo Stanton.
Where Mesa easily trumps Stanton is in his his pitch recognition, plate coverage ability and the IQ needed to adjust mid-count and prolong his chances. While he won’t walk a ton, Mesa has an offensive skillset that promotes tons of contact. With 70-grade speed capable of 30+ steals and 60-grade defense, Mesa is a small uptick in over-the-fence power away from owning all five tools. And he’s still just 22. The only thing that keeps Mesa out of the top spot in these preseason rankings is the fear of the unknown as he breaks into full-season ball in America. That said, there Mesa shows more than enough natural talent to break in to the affiliated ranks and succeed as the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp’s starting center fielder. From there, the sky is the limit. We place Mesa’s ceiling sky high: a potential .290/.340/.430+ annual hitter with an average of greater than 20bSBs and a plus-plus dWAR.
3. RHP Nick Neidert
2018 (AA) – 152.2 IP, 3.24 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 154/31 K/BB
Neidert is a 6’1”, 180 pound righty hailing out Suwannee, GA. Seven months before the draft, in his junior year of high school, Neidert was already showing a unique brand of pitch mix, placement and deception via late movement on his already deep and well advanced four-pitch arsenal which ranged from 92-76. Already flashing a big sweeping hook, a sinking changeup and a running fastball to all parts of the zone, a 17-year-old Neidert was already well on his way to big things.
Upon being drafted by the Mariners 60th overall in the 2nd round in 2015, Neidert finished the year by making 11 starts for the Arizona Mariners of the rookie ball Arizona League. Despite somehow not earning a win (0-2), Neidert held down a 1.53 ERA via a 0.96 WHIP and 2.56 K/BB. In 2016, Neidert made 19 starts for the Clinton LumberKings but was limited to 91 innings as the Mariners nurtured his development. Still, the solid numbers persisted as Neidert posted a 2.57 ERA via a 0.97 WHIP and 69/13 K/BB.
Come 20-7, Neidert’s leash was lengthened. That factor along with the advancement of his changeup which caught up to the rest of his staff allowed him to hold down a 2.74 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 104.1 IP in the A+ California League. Most noticeably improved was Neidert’s K rate which rose from 19% a year previous to 26%. All the while, his impeccable control persisted (1.47 BB%). Among California League pitchers with at least 80 IP, Neidert’s (.41 K/BB ranked third just behind teammate Pablo Lopez (6.85 K/BB).
This past season upon joining the Marlins in the Dee Gordon trade, Neidert made his way to AA Jacksonville. There, despite the big jump in level, Neidert’s success continued as he went 12-7 with a 3.24 ERA in a career high 152.2 IP via a 1.13 WHIP and 154/31 K/BB. With a complete arsenal and equally complete head for pitching, Neidert got inside the head of hitters with four completely different looks. Despite not owning overpowering stuff, he was able to post the Southern League’s third best K/BB ratio (20.1%).
Feauturing a velo mix ranging from 93 (with the ability to reach 95 when he ramps up) via a two-seamer with arm side run, Neidert drops down to 73 with a 12-6 curve. He mixes in an 86-88 mph 11-5 slider with great delineation from the aforementioned offering as well as an 89 mph change that he masks well and which piggybacks the fastball perfectly. While he won’t overpower you or light up radar guns, Neidert is a thinking-man’s hurler that hides the ball well in his low 3/4 arm slot. Despite limited size, he maintains the same stride and arm angle when coming home with four completely different looks, making him a master of deception. A guy who has always played above his age, we like Neidert to break into the Marlins’ big league rotation not long after spring training and quickly recognize his ceiling as a 2-4 slot starter.
4. RHP Jordan Yamamoto
2018 (A-A+) – 68.2 IP, 1.83 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 85/14 K/BB
Jordan Yamamoto is another product of the Yelich trade. At the time the trade was made, he was thought to be the sugar of the deal, sweetening it on a throw-in level. A season later, Yamamoto has proven he’s much more than that.
Yamamoto is the product of St. Louis High School in Honolulu, Hawaii. When Yamamoto gets his MLB call, he will become the third man from the state capital to pitch for the organization, joining Justin Wayne and the man who threw the first pitch and earned the first win in team history on April 5, 1993, Charlie Hough. Judging by his current level of progression, that future isn’t too far away from the 22-year-old’s realization.
Yamamoto was selected by the Brewers with the 356th overall pick in round 12 of the 2014 MLB Draft. In his first 83.2 innings as a pro, Yamamto’s statistics were very becoming of a teenager taken in that kind of low-risk draft slot as he posted a 1-7 record, a ERA and a. WHIP. However, since being the unfortunate owner of a 7.84 ERA and 1.95 WHIP as a member of the Pioneer League’s Helena Brewers in 2015 and finding himself on the verge of exploring life outside of baseball, Yamamoto made a concerted effort to succeed, resulting in him becoming a top-tier pitching prospect.
The difference for Yamamato from then until now lies in the simplification of his delivery and a change in his arm slot.
The most noticeable change in Yamamoto’s pre-pitch mechanics are a smaller step back toward the first base side, the erasure of toe-tapping which served as a tip to hitters on breaking balls and a much lower 3/4 arm slot which has allowed Yamamoto to hide the ball better and to prevent himself from flying open. Coupled together, these improvements have given Yamamoto the ability to repeat his delivery much more efficiently and to place pitches much more accurately, creating more deception and more advantageous counts.
From there, Yamamoto relies on his stuff to he hitters out. And he has a very deep arsenal of plus pitches to dip into. While he is another guy who won’t blown you away with velo, he is a strike-zone resident who will wow with his secondaries. For proof, see some of Yamamoto’s latest exports from the Arizona Fall League below:
Yamamoto’s 90-93 MPH fastball holds great spin rates and is workable in every area of the zone, giving him the ability to change a hitter’s eye level and/or completely take their vision away, setting up his two plus secondaries that he commands very well on the lower half. Coupling late break on his tight 83-85 mph curveball with his 86-88 MPH changeup that runs arm-side and holds late fade to his arm side.
By making adjustments necessary to catch his command tool up to his stuff, Yamamoto has enjoyed great success of late in the minors. This past season, he pitched to a collective 1.83 ERA by way of a 0.83 WHIP and 6.07 K/BB, aided in part by his 13/0 K/BB performance on (), an outing in which he set the record for most strikeouts in a single game by a Jupiter Hammerheads pitcher. Jordan then parlayed that performance into a standout campaign in the Arizona Fall League where as a Salt River Rafter, he went 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 27/13 K/BB in 26 IP. During that time, in a pleasant bit of foreshadowing, Yamamoto was among the first few players to pull on a new Marlins’ jersey. With continued success in spring training, it won’t be very long before Yamamoto, owner of a complete three-pitch arsenal and a good mix of swing-and-miss and limited contact inducing stuff, dons the same jersey again in his first MLB game. Place his ceiling at a 2-3 starter and floor at the back end of a major league rotation.
5. C Will Banfield
2018 (A) – .238/.308/.385, 3 HR, 43/11 K/BB; 37/23 SB/CS
Banfield is the Marlins’ CBA Round B pick from 2018. Hailing out of Brookwood High School in Snellville, GA, the native of nearby Lawrenceville was highly heralded for his defensive capabilities including a 1.74 second pop time and an 84 MPH arm behind the dish. He proved his throwing arm was capable of growth by clocking in at 94 MPH velo he flashed from the opposite side of the mound. Coupling the aforementioned canon with solid glove-to-hand transfer times, a good and growing throwing accuracy and solid receiving abilities including framing prowess and the agility to go well out of the zone, Banfield was considered one of if not the best defensive catchers in the draft. It was on that basis that Marlins selected Banfield with a CBA pick at 69th overall.
This past summer, Banfield joined the GCL Marlins. In his first 22 pro games, the 18-year-old threw out 18 of 44 potential base stealers (41% CS%), allowed just five passed balls and held down a perfect fielding percentage by way of a 8.05 range factor before being called up to A Greensboro. As a Grasshopper, Banfield committed just one error while catching five of 16 potential base stealers (31% CS%). In those 107 innings catching more advanced stuff, he didn’t allow a passed ball.
Offensively, Banfield also played pretty closely to his scouting report which states that he has above-average raw power stemming from his athletic 6’1”, 210 frame with room to grow, but that he also owns just average bat speed. Banfield will need to make some adjustments in reading opposing pitchers, timing swings and shortening his stroke in order to tap in to his raw power potential, but at just 19 entering his first full professional season with pro coaching and facilities at his disposal, we see a fully-grown Banfield as an elite defender with a respectable bat capable of at least a Mendoza line average with plus power numbers. He is the franchise’s cornerstone catching prospect. Entering a big season in his developmental process, if things go well, a fully-grown Banfield could be ready for the Show by 2021.
6. RHP Sandy Alcantara
2018 (AAA) – 115.2 IP, 3.89 ERA, 1.254 WHIP, 88/38 K/BB
Alcantara is a 6’5”, 185 pound righty signed by St. Louis in 2013. Upon building his way to being named the Cardinals’ ninth best prospect by the end of 2016, he became Marlins property last offseason in the trade for Marcell Ozuna.
Alcantara spent most of 2018 in AAA New Orleans where he threw 115.2 IP and managed a 3.89 ERA via a 1.254 WHIP and 2.32 K/BB differential. Sandy accomplished all of this while throwing against competition nearly five years his elder.
Upon the MLB’s September roster expansion, his exports earned Alcantara a call to the bigs. In his first action as a Marlin, Alcantara held down a 3.44 ERA in 34 IP via a 1.41 WHIP, a .214 BAA and a 30/23 K/BB. Alcantara’s bread and butter that he used to climb up the MiLB ranks is his fiery velocity on his four-seamer which he can ramp into triple digits but which usually sits in the 96-99 MPH range. He shows the same consistent command and usage of his two-seam sinker which has great arm side action and allows him to add and subtract, keeping hitters guessing. But, while the rest of his arsenal which includes an 85-91 MPH changeup and a tight 12-6 power curveball that has sharp downward action, have shown flashes of brilliance, what his secondaries lack most is that same C word when it comes to controlling them: consistency.
If Alcantara hopes to stick as a starter, he will need to gain a better feel for his stuff, most significantly the grip and release point on his changeup which currently comes in mostly straight, and when he isn’t at his best, misses spots more than it hits them. The sharp break on his curve and the differential in velo, dropping 20 MPH lower than his heat, plays up, but he will need to refrain from overthrowing it. While these are certainly issues, they are the type which should work themselves out with age and proper coaching.
Alcantara should enter 2019 at the back end of the Marlins’ rotation. Still in his age 23 season and entering his first full season at the behest of MLB coaching, there is plenty of time for Alcantara to recognize his ceiling potential as a front end starter.
7. IF Isan Diaz
2018 (AA-AAA) – .232/.340/.399, 13 HR, 56 RBI, 140/68 K/BB
Along with Harrison and Yamamoto, Diaz is the final return piece in the Yelich trade with the Brewers and at age 21, the youngest of the trio acquired by Miami in the deal.
Diaz, a native of Puerto Rico, moved to Springfield, MA when he was four, bringing an ironic beginning to a life which has been full of quick and stark changes of scenery. When of age, Diaz began to attend Springfield Central High School where he became a two sport athlete, playing both baseball and basketball. After entering the 2014 draft as the eighth ranked infielder and the 38th ranked overall prep prospect according to MaxPreps, Diaz was selected 70th overall by the Diamondbacks in the 2014 draft. Forgoing a collegiate commitment to Vanderbilt, Diaz signed with Arizona for $750K.
Upon moving to the opposite side of the country as an 18-year-old, Diaz broke in to pro ball with the Arizona League D-Backs, hitting .187/.289/.330 in 182 ABs. After partaking in eight games in the Puerto Rican Winter League, Diaz spent the rest of the 2015 offseason under the close tutelage of pro coaches, simplifying his swing.
Through streamlining of his pre-pitch timing mechanics and some shortening of his swing, Diaz broke out in a big way in 2016. For the short season A Missoula Osprey, Diaz hit .360/.436/.640. His BA and OBP each ranked sixth while his SLG led the league. The power figure was made possible by 13 homers, second most on the circuit and a league-most 25 doubles, adding up to 174 total bases, also a Pioneer League best. Among his many highlights that year was hitting for the cycle on August 23rd.
After being named the Pioneer League’s MVP, Missoula’s first in 14 years as well as a Pioneer League All-Star, Diaz was traded to the Brewers in the deal that brought Jean Segura to the desert. In 2016, the eight-ranked Brewers prospect made his full season debut with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. In almost twice as many games as he played in a year previously in brand new surroundings, Diaz held up well, both physically and statistically hitting .264/.358/.469. He once again appeared on league leaderboards in a multitude of categories. Playing on the same circuit as baseball’s current number two ranked prospect Eloy Jimenez, Diaz’s 20 homers led the league, his 34 doubles ranked 5th, his 75 RBIs were 3rd, his .469 SLG placed 13th and his .827 OPS came in 20th. With a 149 wRC+, Diaz was named the Brewers’ minor league player of the year.
Following an appearance in the Arizona Fall League (17 G, .239/.338/.373), Diaz spent 2017 in A+ Carolina. There, a nagging wrist injury limited him to a pedestrian .222/.334/.376 slash line and 104 wRC+. On August 31, the Brewers shut Diaz down for the year, bringing an end to his season after just 110 games. The slight hiccup in Diaz’s production allowed the Marlins to buy low on the infielder as they swayed Milwaukee to include him in the three-piece deal for Yelich. On January 25, 2018, Miami became Diaz’s third organization in his young four year career.
Despite his mundane 2017 season, the Marlins challenged Diaz to take on the AA level with the Jumbo Shrimp in 2018. Back at 100%, Diaz fared well, slashing .245/.365/.418 with 10 homers and 19 doubles, not too far off the pace which resulted in his aforementioned .264/.358/.469, 20 HR, 34 2B season back in low A in 2016. His walk rate of 14.89, a career high, resulted in a 1.79 K/BB ratio, a career low. Playing second base full time, he flashed some of his best defense, collecting a career high 153 putouts and 200 assists and being part of 45 double plays. By way of a 4.30 range factor, he held down a .975 fielding percentage. Diaz spent the final 36 games of the 2018 regular season in New Orleans, getting his feet wet at the AAA level. The highlight of that tenure was a 3-5, 2 3B, HR, 5 RBI performance against Albuquerque on August 4th. In 137 ABs with New Orleans, he slashed .204/.281/.358. Despite finishing the season rather slowly (7 for his last 52), Diaz proved he isn’t far away from competing for an MLB starting job at second base. With another slight push forward in maturation and production, the realization of Diaz’s Major League dream would allow the Marlins to shed another $21 million in owed money (Starlin Castro) and possibly bring back a mid-lower level tier prospect or two and/or mid-round draft selections.
Where Diaz needs to improve for that to occur is in recognizing and identifying major league quality stuff, especially secondaries, something that should come naturally as he gets more ABs in the uppermost level of the minors. 5’10”, 185, the stout Diaz with surprising pop profiles as a lefty-hitting Dan Uggla with slightly less power, built for more doubles than homers and slightly better defense capable of manning both shortstop, second base, and, the Marlins hope third base. The team gave him a look at the hot corner this winter when Diaz partook in the Puerto Rican League. In 99 innings played at the hot corner, Diaz committed just one error. Oh, and he also hit .276/.348/.366.
An athletic gamer who is showing versatility both on the field and off adjusting to whatever circumstances come his way, we like Diaz to reach a ceiling somewhere around .260/.340/.460 with room for 20+ homers and 30+ doubles sooner rather than later.
8. OF Connor Scott
2018 (A) – .218/.309/.296, 1 HR, 24 RBI, 56/24 K/BB
Scott is the Marlins first rounder from last season and the fifth straight prep the franchise has spent their top selection on. Leading up to the draft, the first draft pick of the Jeter era drew close comparisons to his former teammate turned MLB’s fifth ranked overall prospect Kyle Tucker. If that weren’t enough, according to draft connoisseurs including Keith Law and MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo, Scott draws reminiscence of current NL MVP Christian Yelich. Watching Scott play, it’s easy to see the similarities.
In his senior year at Plant High, Scott was .526 hitter with 20 homers via barrel velocity of 89 MPH which ranked in the 57th percentile. Scott also showed off a plus arm, tossing 90-93 from the hill. Despite missing valuable playing time against top talent in the summer due to the removal of his appendix, the Marlins selected Scott as an outfielder with 13th overall pick.
— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) June 5, 2018
Upon inking his $4 million signing deal, the 18-year-old spent his first 27 pro games in the Gulf Coast League where he slashed .223/.319/.311 before joining the single A ranks in Greensboro. In 23 games as a Grasshopper he hit .211/.295/.276. His first career homer came on August 20th, 2018.
Though he is still very raw, Scott exhibits all five tools loudly. From a split stance in which he points his front foot up the first base line, the lefty hitter has a compact approach with good power load in his hands and elbows which maintain their height throughout his swing which holds great speed and through which the barrel spends advantageous time in the zone. Scott favors pull, but has already shown enough plate coverage to go to all fields. Where the teenager stands to improve is in getting his mostly stationary lower half more involved in his approach which will aid in the recognition of his power ceiling as well as in more contact to pitches on the outer half via a better step into the ball. Similarly, on the other side of the ball, Scott could use to improve his footwork leading to more power behind throws and better routes to balls. However, with already present foot speed, good bat to ball instincts and overall feel for hitting should allow Scott to bridge the gap from amateur standout to professional pretty smoothly. Scott should start 2019 with A Clinton and, with success, could move up to Jupiter sometime in the second half, but entering his age 19 season, there should be no reason to rush his development. His ceiling, although uncertain at this point in his career, could potentially be that of a .270 average hitter with 20/20 HR/SB capacity.
9. 3B James Nelson
2018 (A+) – .211/.262/.280, 2 HR, 28 RBI, 66/13 K/BB
Picked by Miami in the 15th round of the 2016 draft, Nelson hails out of Cisco Junior College in Cisco, Texas. Previously, he was selected by the Red Sox in round 18 of the 2015 draft out of his high school alma matter, Redan High in Stone Mountain, GA.
“Going to Junior college was probably the biggest and best decision I could’ve made to be honest,” Nelson told us last year. “I don’t think I got enough exposure in high school as far as seeing the pitchers I did.”
In his junior and senior seasons, Nelson hit a total of four homers. In his single JuCo season, a more physically matured specimen hit 17. The jump in power production was a major precursor for Nelson’s earlier draft slot which awarded him $75K, over $20K more than the slot Boston signed him in.
After breaking in with the GCL Marlins, Nelson spent 2017 absolutely raking in single A. Highlighted by a .372/.425/.540, 8 2B, 1 3B, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 5/1 SB/CS month of May, Nelson slashed .309/.354/.456 with 31 doubles, three triples and seven homers. His BA ranked 11th and his two bagger count ranked sixth league wide. At the end of 2017, Nelson was named the Marlins organizational Minor League Player of the Year (LINK).
After opening the eyes of those who underrated him due to his brief amateur career, the 19-year-old headed in to last offseason riding high, primed to build on a more than solid debut full season. However, just before camp began, Nelson suffered a torn meniscus, an injury that, with no past history of knee trouble, he says “just sort of happened”. The injury required surgery and kept Nelson out of action until June. Upon making his season and Jupiter Hammerheads debut on June 3rd, Nelson played in five games before he quickly landed back on the DL due to a setback. From there, it was a slow go for Nelson who went 10 for his first 71 (.140). However, by going 33 for his final 143 (.230) with at least one hit in 23 of his final 37 games, Nelson proved he was adjusting well to the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. He will likely begin 2019 back in Jupiter. With success, he could move up to AA sometime in the second half.
Approaching from a slightly split stance, the righty hitter owns a middle-high timing trigger which he uses in concert with his plus plate vision to both stay behind the ball and get extended to it. From there, Nelson executes an absolutely explosive swing that is lightning fast, short and well-leveraged, allowing him to use all fields with hard line drive contact. On the frequent occasion that he barrels up, the ball absolutely flies, giving him some of the best exit velo in the organization. Past his good plate approach and mechanics, Nelson owns 50-grade speed and a good glove at third base, one which he has quickly grown in to since beginning to learn the position upon becoming a pro. The Marlins bought in to Nelson’s future at the both offensive and defensive demanding hot corner based on his second-to-none athleticism, his already advanced offensive makeup and his growing frame which looks to have improved this offseason.
— Jupiter Hammerheads (@GoHammerheads) January 16, 2019
A guy who looks to have spent his offseason getting healthier and stronger, Nelson appears to have all the tools necessary to become a constant power threat with both gap-to-gap and over-the-fences power. Nelson should begin the 2019 season back in Jupiter and, with consistent health, looks primed to make the jump to the upper minors not too long after. Place Nelson’s ceiling at that of a .270/.320/.450, 25+ 2B, 20+ HR, 15+ SB yearly offensive threat with above replacement level defense.
10. OF Tristan Pompey
2018 (A-A+) – .299/.408/.397, 3 HR, 23 RBI, 47/32 K/BB, 10/5 SB/CS
Pompey is a Marlins’ 2018 first rounder out of the University Of Kentucky and the owner of a great baseball pedigree. Born to parents that prefer he play football rather than a sport they barely understood or even liked, both Tristan and his brother Dalton before him, opted for the diamond.
Being supporters of their dream no matter which path they chose, the Daltons’ parents learned the game along with their sons and at a young age, taught them both to switch hit. The gift bestowed upon Dalton allotted him a .279/.364/.405 Minor League career including .283/.396/.462 leading up to his MLB debut, but due to frequent injury and an overcrowding of outfield candidates in Toronto, his Major League career has been limited to just 64 games.
Now, after a standout three-year .321/.426/.521 career at the University Of Kentucky including the posting of a 1.005 OPS in both his sophomore and junior seasons, accolades which earned him multiple All-American selections and allotted him being named as high as the 14th best player in the 2018 Draft, it’s younger brother Tristan’s time to shine. After joining the Marlins upon the inking of his $645,000 signing bonus, Tristan spent just four games conditioning in the GCL before joining the full season single A ranks. But after hitting .314/.422/.430 with a 22/16 K/BB in 24 games, Pompey was quickly back on his way down to Jupiter, this time to play in the big park with the A+ Hammerheads. He spent the rest of his rookie year slashing .291/.396/.384 with a 21/13 K/BB. These loud results earned Pompey an invite to play in the Pan-American games for his home country of Canada, a pre-qualifier for the 2020 Olympic Summer Games. He is the third youngest player on the roster. From there, Pompey should begin 2019 back in Jupiter but results permitting, could be a quick mover up to the AA level.
Already the more physically mature Pompey brother, Tristan, who will turn 22 in March 23rd, still exhibits the same front leg timing trigger that caused some scouts to look down on him leading up to the draft. However, as a pro, Pompey has improved his back leg mechanics, keeping it planted and using it to drive forward into his downward planed and well-leveraged swing. He’s also closed his stance a bit and is approaching from further back in the box, allowing his plus plate vision to go to work for him on a more frequent basis.
With a great feel for the barrel from both sides of the plate via a short stroke path to the ball, a good first step out of the box and a plus-plus runner when he gets to full-stride, Pompey, who has stayed healthy most of his playing career and adjusted well to his environment with each jump in level, profiles as a future 20/20+ threat. If his throwing arm improves past it’s current grade of 45, he is on a great track to reach his ceiling as a middle-of-the-order starting right fielder.
11. RHP Edward Cabrera
2018 (A) – 100.1 IP, 4.22 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 93/42 K/BB
Cabrera is a Marlins’ 2015 international signed out of the Dominican, heavily lauded for his upper 90s velo. With just 182.1 IP under his belt, Cabrera has spent his early career learning how to pitch stateside. The Marlins have been methodical with Cabrera’s development, limiting him to 82.2 combined IP in his first two seasons. Last season, Cabrera was stretched out to an even 100 IP. Cabrera held up well both physically and statistically in his first elongated look, holding down a 4.22 ERA by way of a 1.47 WHIP, 11.6 K/BB%, and a 44% GB%.
A tall, lanky righty who weighs in at 6’4”, Cabrera gets every bit of his body involved in his delivery, nearly completely turning his back to the hitter and exploding through his 3/4 slot. His current mechanics already allow him to hold 94+ MPH velo throughout his starts, but issues repeating the delivery cause him to struggle with command, causing him to miss spots, often missing wide to his arm side where the pitch naturally runs to. Past the four-seamer, Cabrera owns the solid blueprint for a good slurvy slider that comes in at 77-80, a pitch that would both accentuate and counteract his fiery heat beautifully, but he will need to improve his release point and follow-through in order to create proper deception. Cabrera also owns an 88-90 MPH changeup, a pitch which has the prospect of being a great accompaniment to the high heat and the low bender, but it is an offering that is still very much in the beginning stages. Still many years away from the majors though and with room to grow physically, Cabrera is far from a finished product and is already quite intriguing. With a fastball that already plays up via natural plus-plus velo and a good foundation for at-least average, if not better secondary stuff, Cabrera, although still being very much a work-in-progress, has youth on his side and the work ethic needed to become a ceiling 3-5 starter.
12. RHP Trevor Rogers
2018 (A) – 72.2 IP, 5.82 ERA, 1.56 WHIP, 85/27 K/BB
Rogers is the Marlins top draft pick in the 2017 Draft, a spot and $3.4 million payday he garnered after a 26-5, 0.73 ERA, .138 BAA, 325/52 K/BB prep career at Carlsbad High in New Mexico. In 182 career innings pitched, Rogers only allowed one home run. An All-American preseason selection in his senior year, Rogers defended that honor by going 11-0 with a 0.33 ERA and 134/13 K/BB. The top ranked draft prospect out of the state of New Mexico, Rogers signed on with the Marlins for $3.4 million.
Suffering from a mild forearm strain, the Marlins, a franchise all too familiar with prep picks going awry, erred on the side of caution and assigned Rogers to the instructional league. However, that entire campaign was washed out due to Hurricane Irma, keeping Trevor sidelined. After participating in minor league camp, Rogers finally made his pro debut on May 22nd. Following a bit of an adjustment period in pitching to professional hitters and in getting back into in-game action for the first time in 364 days, Rogers went on a nice run as things began to click. From July 6th to August 18th, he went 43.1 IP while holding down a 3.13 ERA with a 42/13 K/BB. The highlight of Rogers’ rookie campaign was a 7.2 IP, 1 H, 12/2 K/BB outing in which he flirted with a no hitter on July 29th.
A 6’4” 220+ specimen, Rogers makes the most of his size on the Hill, throwing downhill into the strike zone thereby gaining an extra few ticks on his fastball which comes in in the 92-96 MPH range and stays there throughout his outings. Coming out of high school, Rogers had a quality slider but trying to take too much off of it was causing him to tip it to opposing hitters. Since then, Rogers has quickly been coached to not overthink pitches, throwing everything with the same arm speed, a modification that has worked out well in his favor, aiding his confidence and pitchability. Rogers also owns the makings of a plus curveball with 12-6 action and good late bite and an at least average changeup with good fade to the arm side.
A coachable asset with youth and projection both on his side, we like Rogers, who also impressed during the instructional league this offseason, we like Rogers to break the Marlins’ spell of high school draft picks gone wrong and, upon further growth in A-A+ this coming season, realize his ceiling potential as a top end starter come 2020-21.
13. RHP Luis Palacios
2018 (A) – 63.2 IP, 0.85 ERA, 0.60 WHIP, 62/4 K/BB
Palacios is a lefty hurler who signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican in 2016. It is there, with the DSL Marlins, that the teenager has spent the first two seasons of his professional career making a clear cut name for himself. As a 16-year-old in his debut season, Palacios worked 46.2 IP, holding down a 2.70 ERA via a 1.14 WHIP and 2.87 K/BB%. This past season, Palacios worked in the same capacity (4 starts, 11 relief appearances), lasting 63.2 IP and managing a sparkling 0.85 ERA by way of an even more dazzling 0.60 WHIP. Somehow, the 17-year-old allowed even less baserunners his previous campaign while tossing in nearly 20 more frames. While leading the league in IP, he also led it in ERA, in WHIP and absolutely blew it away in K/BB% (25.4). In 2019, Palacios, a Dominican League stud, will first participate in the Marlins’ Captains’ Camp before making his regular season stateside ball debut, likely with the Batavia Muckdogs but possibly with the full-season LumberKings.
Finally, some highlights of LHP Luis Palacios from the Dominican Summer League.
63.2 IP, 0.85 ERA, 0 HR, 62 K.
Palacios was the best baseball player in the entire organization this season. pic.twitter.com/mgvCtgHQM2
— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) September 6, 2018
After a high leg kick, Palacios, a 6’2”, 160 pound specimen, comes home with a well-balanced 3/4 delivery. His whip-through follow-through on all three of his pitches allows him to mask them all advantageously. From there, the stuff speaks for itself. His fastball comes in at 93-95 with good bite to his arm side. Palacios’ best secondary is his 88-90 MPH changeup which fades late and holds corner-painting prowess. Palacios has similar control over his 86-88 MPH power slider which owns late 11-5 run. Palacios’ stuff, which is well beyond his years, proved to be nearly unhittable for his countrymen.
This coming season as Palacios makes his US debut, he will need to improve the consistency of his release points as his pitches can sometimes get away from him. That said, Palacios is a kid who shows good feel for all three of his pitches, a trio which already good velo mix. At just 18, growing both mentally and physically, Palacios has plenty of room to add even more MPH and quite possibly a fourth pitch to his arsenal (he shows the beginnings of a big curveball).
Given how far along he is at such a young age, Palacios, who will remind Marlins fans of a miniature Dontrelle Willis, has a huge ceiling, that of a potential ace. Though still pretty far out, pay close attention to this name which is likely to rise up these prospect rankings sooner rather than later.
14. RHP Jorge Guzman
2018 (A+) – 96 IP, 4.03 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 101/64 K/BB
Guzman is an Astros 2015 international signee out of the Dominican. After learning how to pitch stateside in the pro ranks by tossing 55 IP to the tune of a 5.04 ERA and 1.68 WHIP with three different rookie ball teams that year, the 20-year-old improved his peripherals to a 4.05 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 2016. In just 40 IP, the righty struck out 54 and walked just 17. That offseason, Guzman was dealt to the Yankees along with Albert Abreu in the trade that sent Brian McCann to Houston.
Guzman spent 2016 in short season A ball compiling a 5-3 record and 2.30 ERA by way of a 1.03 WHIP and 88/18 K/BB. His 11.88 K/9 ranked second league wide. By way of that season in which Guzman flashed the beginnings of a power slider to piggyback his tremendous blow-it-by-you fastball that sits at 96 and tops at 103 that he climbed the Yankees’ prospect ranks and wound up at number 25. That offseason, Guzman became the centerpiece of the trade that sent Giancarlo Stanton to New York. Starlin Castro and Jose Devers also joined the Marlins.
Upon his arrival in Miami, the Marlins were extremely careful with Guzman’s development, not inviting him to spring training or assigning him an affiliated squad at the break of camp. Instead, Guzman, whose career high innings count was 66.2, conditioned in extended spring training. On April 28th, Guzman finally joined the Jupiter Hammerheads and made his first start. Ninety-six innings later, Guzman sported a 4.03 ERA. Judging by his extended numbers including a 4.45 FIP, a 1.45 WHIP and lowly 38.7 ground ball rate, it looks as though Guzman benefitted from throwing in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League.
Guzman’s biggest and currently only mature weapon and the reason for his prospect status is his aforementioned heat which rarely ticks below 96, hits as high as 103 and persists throughout his starts. However, Guzman has yet to show the consistent ability to harness the potential 70-grade tool. Though he shows flashes of dominance, Guzman fails to repeat his delivery and gets hurt when the mostly straight pitch misses spots, causing his walk and contact rates to rise. Moreover, Guzman’s lack of a secondary arsenal allows hitters to sit on the heat, negating his best asset even if he does hit the zone.
2019 stands to be a make-it-or-break-it type year when it comes to Guzman’s future as a starter. In order to stick in a rotational role long-term Guzman will need his curveball to play up to its 60-grade potential. An 11-5 power hook, the pitch has shown the ability to partner well with his heater but he currently lacks the feel and arm speed to throw it with any sort of consistency. Guzman began to learn a changeup last year, but that pitch is still in the foundational phase and is very little more than a waste offering. Unless Guzman takes a big jump this year, he will probably start working out of the bullpen as a closer, a role in which he could absolutely dominate.
15. OF Brian Miller
2018 (A+-AA) – .295/.338/.355, 21 2B, 5 3B, 66/32 K/BB, 40/13 SB/CS
Miller is a Marlins’ CBA pick, taken 36th overall in 2017 out of the University of North Carolina. He earned his draft spot and $1.8 million payday by way of a .332/.419/.453, 0.88 K/BB%, 55/13 SB/CS three-year career in Tarheel blue, a team he made via a glorified try-out (LINK). Add to his resume a 327/.369/.387 showing in the Cape in 2016 as well as his league-leading 77 hit, .476 OBP, 38 SB campaign in the Coastal Plain League following his rookie season, it’s easy to see the potential the Marlins saw and continue to see in Miller’s slap hitting, speed-first game that holds room for more gap-reaching growth.
“My approach is pretty simple in the box. I just try to be on time and hit a ball hard up the middle of the field. I think always staying to the middle of the field puts me in a good position to succeed because it helps me hit any pitch at any location in the strike zone,” Miller told us last year. “Also, when I mishit a ball I have a good chance of beating it out with my speed because the middle guys have to move the most and sometimes make far throws on the run.”
That skillset has been on full display in Miller’s first 185 career games in which he has matured all the way to the double A level, making him one of the quickest rising prospects in the organization. After breaking in to pro ball with a .322/.384/.416, 17 double, 21 SB 58-game campaign and being selected our Minor League Player Of The Year in 2017, Miller absolutely torched A+ pitching during the first half of last season. Upon slashing .324/.358/.398 with 13 doubles and 19 steals, the 23-year-old made it to AA Jacksonville where he hit a respectable .267/.319/.313. The owner of a career .304/.353/.374 slash line, a 76% success rate in stolen base attempts and a 20% XBH%, Miller heads into spring training this year as a member of the Marlins’ 40-man roster.
Though he isn’t the biggest name nor the most flashy prospect in the organization and even though he needs to show sustainable success against upper minors pitching this coming year, Miller is a guy who understands his potential skill-set well and doesn’t try to overdo it. A contact-first swinger who picks and chooses his quick line drive hacks well and uses his plus speed to turn virtually anything that drops into extra bases, Miller lines up well as a ceiling .280/.340/.340, 25+ SB top of the order catalytic threat and floor fourth-outfielder off-the-bench spark plug.
In 2019, Marlins minor leaguers at the A level will be crowned kings. Clinton LumberKings, to be exact. After spending over a decade affiliated with the Greensboro Grasshoppers, the Miami organization will make a westward expansion, partnering with the franchise hailing out of Clinton, Iowa.
Clinton is a township which has known baseball for a very long time. After originally beginning play in 1895, the Clinton baseball club endured through the Great Depression and two World Wars. Upon the completion of a new stadium, Ashford University Ballpark in 1937, the Clinton baseball franchise earned their professional baseball partnership, teaming up with Dodgers. On May 9, 1937, the Clinton Owls opened their new stadium and made their MLB-affiliated debut against their peers and elders from Brooklyn in an exhibition game. Appearances by future Hall of Famer Heine Manush and five-time All-Star Van Mugno highlighted the occasion. Career 4.6 WAR IF/OF Bert Haas suited up for Clinton.
Fast forward 61 years. In 1998, after Clinton spent time with many different MLB organizations including the Cubs, White Sox, Dodgers, Pirates (twice) and Giants and after it played innkeeper to the likes of Jim Leyland, Mike Scioscia, Orel Hershiser, Matt Williams, John Burkett, Royce Clayton and a host of other future stars, the team welcomed a new general manager to town: Ted Tornow. A longtime baseball man most recently known for the success he earned with the 1996 Butte Copper Kings, a season in which his team went 37-35, marking their first winning record in five years, and a year in which the club set a franchise record in total attendance, Tornow arrived in eastern Iowa to find the long-storied club in debt and their park which was built in 1937 and will become the oldest Pioneer League park this coming season, in rough shape.
“When I got here, it wasn’t good. We were given the death sentence by Minor League and Midwest League baseball,” Tornow said. “That’s when the whole concept of integrating Vision Iowa started.”
Vision Iowa (or SF 2447) was an Act passed by the Iowa General Assembly in 2000 with the purpose of providing State financial assistance, paid for by gambling receipts, to community attract and tourist (CAT) facilities. The Act created a 13-member panel which was charged with the duty of, among other things, reviewing applications and approving grant recipients based on a list of required criteria. After a few years worth of attempts, Tornow, the LumberKings and Ashford University Stadium were eventually selected to receive Vision Iowa funding of upwards of $3 million.
“It took a while but we finally got it done,” Tornow said regarding receiving government funding. “It turned out being in the $3.3 (million) range. The whole project really revitalized not only us but the entire area.”
With the gubernatorial backing plus $1.5 million of the franchise’s own, Tornow began to formulate a plan that would completely facelift Ashford University Stadium. The first thing Tornow did was enlist the assistance of HOK/Populous, a firm very well versed and world-renowned for its sports venue architectural success. HOK/Populous is the same company that crafted Joe Robbie Stadium, the original home of the Florida Marlins, in 1987 as well as Marlins Park, the current home of your Miami Marlins in 2012 They are also responsible for many other current MLB parks such as Coors Field, Minute Maid Park, Citi Field, new Yankee Stadium and SunTrust Park to name a few. Upon their arrival in Clinton, Tornow instructed HOK/Populous to proceed in a fashion that not only procured the longevity of LumberKings baseball but also promoted potential movement up the minor league ladder.
“When they came in, I told them to build it to AA standards,” Tornow said. “We didn’t know the next time the commissioner or PBA audit was going to come so we wanted to be well prepared.”
With the blueprint in place, Tornow and HOK/Populous began to work from the ground up — literally.
“The new playing surface is sand-based and it drains,” Tornow said. “We can take an inch of rain and be ready to play in an hour. It’s absolutely perfect.”
Accordingly, Tornow and HOK/Populus didn’t stop at the field surface. From there, they set their sights on getting the rest of Clinton’s facility completely in compliance with the Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA), the statute which binds minor and Major League Baseball together. The pair’s next venture became creating a better home clubhouse. To do so, Tornow and HOK/Populous chose to get creative and fashion what would become the LumberKings clubhouse out of what was originally created for the out-of-town squad.
“When I got here, we knew our limitations. The new home clubhouse is underneath where the visitors dressed and showered way back in 1937,” Tornow said. “But is is now palatial. And the visitors’ clubhouse, which was our home one, is still above PBA standards.”
Switching sides allowed Tornow and his constructionists to add a home batting cage which comes in handy during seasonal Iowa afternoons and evenings.
“The batting tunnel is 50×100; it’s lit, ventilated and heated,” Tornow said. “It’s a great clubhouse. Absolutely great.”
In their inaugural season with the Marlins in 2019, Tornow and the LumberKings will welcome many players who spent last season in Batavia, New York. Even though the Muckdogs’ original stadium, which was built in 1937 (the same year as Ashford University Stadium) was demolished and rebuilt in 1996, players have recently spoken of the horrors of the park belonging to a team that lacks an actual owner and is instead being run by the league itself. Some of those players have gone as far as to deem Dwyer Stadium unfit for professional play. It is Tornow’s ambition that those same players as well as the rest of the future Marlins he and his staff field this coming season and beyond will come to Iowa and promptly pose the question, “Is this heaven?”
“Gosh, I hope they’re gonna be happier than a pig in slop. I hope they come in here and go, “holy cow!”” Tornow said. “We’ve got a great host family situation. Believe it or not, in Clinton, Iowa, we have a great Latino connection. We’ve got great clubhouse facilities and great player amenities. We might be small but we have first class facilities.”
Those facilities are the product of what Tornow demanded from decision makers when he arrived in Clinton in 1995.
“I told my mayor and my city admin way back then that if you want to ensure the longevity of baseball here in Clinton, Iowa, we cannot skimp on it. We have to do this,” Tornow said. “And we made it happen.”
As much as the reconstruction of Ashford University Stadium helped Tornow and the LumberKings, it wouldn’t have been possible if not for the work turned in by Tornow in his earliest years in Clinton. During those first few seasons, Tornow got the team out of the red and began turning a profit for he and his partners despite battling a very crowded market.
“The renovation definitely helped but it was the success prior to that,” Tornow said. “We lost a little money in ‘99 but we made money in 2000, we made money in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005. That’s what really helped us.”
Tornow says that, in a baseball sense, he didn’t do many things differently than he believes peers around Minor League Baseball, including in nearby Cedar Rapids, Burlington, Kane County and Quad Cities, would have done. Alternatively, Tornow believes the biggest catalyst for his success in rebuilding the LumberKings was his adherence to a concept taught to every grade school child.
“Treat people the way you want to be treated and deal with them fairly and honestly,” Tornow said.
With the arrival of the Fish in Clinton, Tornow plans to honor Marlins history as well as their future on a weekly basis. His first blueprint for bringing a taste of Miami to northwest Iowa will involve a sneak peak at what Marlins prospects at the single A level could look like in a Miami uniform someday. In accordance, Tornow also wants to bring some of Clinton to South Florida at the end of the Minor League season.
“We want to do a “Marlins Monday” where we brand ourselves, maybe bring in some of your old jerseys and spring training stuff, maybe develop a new hat,” Tornow said. “Also, every Monday we want to run a progressive drawing where we draw a winner and during the final two weeks of the MLB season, take those fans that won and take them down to Miami to catch a game.”
Affiliation change aside, above all, Tornow, a longtime baseball man who was working in the park when Bo Jackson made his professional baseball debut, was present for the return of Jim Eisenriech and who housed the likes of Neftali Feliz, Gary Matthews, Jr., Jason Bay, Ian Kinsler, Grady Sizemore and most recently, Pablo Lopez and Nick Neidert, is dedicated to preserving the spirit and purity of the game of baseball in eastern Iowa.
“We play baseball. We have the game, we have a clean stadium, we treat people how we want to be treated,” Tornow said. “We have good food, cold beer, hot hot dogs and great customer service. Our advantage over other teams in the market is that we are just laid back and we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”
Tornow says that although preparations and upgrades have been made to make their players and guests comfortable and informed in the 21st century, it has deliberately been kept in moderation in order for the LumberKings to maintain the same atmosphere and aura they have been known for for over eight decades.
“We got fancy this year and got a ribbon board six feet high by 60 feet long. Out in right field we got some monitors up and WiFi throughout the stadium,” Tornow said. “But what people don’t realize that between the four jumbotrons and the interactive games that everyone has on their cellphones, iPads and everything else is that it’s still a game. Another team in the area has a fair and rides. It’s literally a circus next to a baseball game. It works for them so more power to them. But we just play baseball. That’s what works for us.”
Looking towards the immediate future and the start of their relationship with the Marlins, Tornow says an advantageous beginning to their partnership can be achieved if and when the Fish become proactive in the Clinton community.
“Seattle was big on community. It didn’t matter if you were he number 1 or 328 pick; they made you go to community events. Jimmy VanOstrand, former player, helps handle [the Mariners’] community events. He was constantly in touch with our radio guy saying these guys need to do more community work and to get them out there. Seattle was used to that so if the Marlins are anywhere close, we’ve already got a good start.”
So starting in 2019, come to Iowa. Walk out to the bleachers and sit in the shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon where you’ll sit and cheer future Marlins’ heroes. And watch the game. Ted Tornow, his staff and his park are sure not to disappoint.
With the explosion of young talent that has arrived in Miami both via offseason trades and the draft, some new Marlins stars have been born and some have even begun to go supernova. With first halves complete across baseball, here’s a look at which organizational players have shined brightest thus making up our 2018 All-Baby Fish Team, some of which could see time with the big league club during the second half.
If the surname sounds familiar, that’s because it is. After clearing some massive hurdles recentl, Austin, the younger brother of Phillies’ ace Aaron, is beginning to show the same athletic prowess and similar standout baseball abilities, the kind the Marlins foresaw in him when they selected him in the fifth round of the 2012 MLB Draft.
A .296/.387/.425 career hitter over the course of a four year career at LSU, Nola was a 2009 College World Series champion as a freshman and a major catalyst in the team’s 2010 SEC title and their #9 nationwide ranking a year prior. The patient, pesky, contact-first top of the order threat (128/115 K/BB) who also found plenty of gaps (30% XBH%) and the occasional fence (1.45 HR%), Nola, an SEC Tournament MVP, a second-team All-SEC selection, a CAS Regionals MVP and a Wally Pontiff Award winner as top scholar athlete, also manned a more than solid shortstop, most heralded for his huge arm and throw accuracy all across the diamond. Including his posting of a perfect 1.000 fielding percentage in the CWS in his freshman year, Nola posted a career FPCT over .970 during his time in purple and gold.
After posting a .968 fielding percentage in his first 5,108 innings as a professional, the Marlins decided to ride that history as well as the reputation Nola built in the collegiate ranks by assigning him to the second-most defensively responsible position on the diamond: catcher. Playing at a spot he hadn’t played since little league (link) Nola responded to the position change by tossing out 27 of his first 38 runners.
Through his first 49 games this season, Nola has allowed more SBs than he did in 75 overall games last season (38 vs 41). However, in place of an adjustment process to MLB-caliber runners, Nola has soared on offense, hitting .282/.358/.378/. Among PCL catchers with at least 100 ABs, those marks rank 11th, 8th and 19th. Additionally, Nola’s 0.64 BB/K ranks 7th.
Though the 28-year-old might be a bit of a late bloomer in realizing exactly where his future lies, he’s less than a step away of putting it all together and becoming an above average defensive catcher with an at least average offensive bat. Given his background and biological pedigree, we like Nola to make the squad, post-Realmuto or not, as the backup backstop next season after a cup of coffee is served to him this September.
A local boy makes good.
A native of Boynton Beach and graduate of Summit Christian School, Silviano attended Lynn University for a single season in 2016 after being released by the Blue Jays who drafted him in the 13th round in 2012. In that single season, Silviano hit a ridiculous .405/.528/.950 by way of 31 homers, a number which set both conference and team records and made him just the third player in Division II history to hit at least 30 long balls. In addition to his SLG, Silviano’s RBI (76) and total base tallies (190) also set Fighting Knights program records.
After hitting a subpar .212/.281/.449 while manning backstop in his first season with the organization, the Marlins gave Silviano the promotion from A to A+ and a positional switch from catcher to DH in order to focus on his offensive game. That season, the switch proved to be productive as Silviano paced the Hammerheads and placed third in the Florida State League in homers with 13. Additionally, his .172 ISO placed fourth in the league’s ranks. However this also came while Silviano had the 15th lowest BB/K in the league at 0.29, giving the Marlins reason to hold Silviano back from a promotion.
So far this season, there is very little holding Silviano back from a seemingly destined call upstate to Jacksonville. A .281/.363/.491, 12 HR first half hitter and owner of the league’s fourth best SLG and fifth most homers, Silviano has also tempered his free swing and become an 11.5 BB% presence.
Though he is another late arrival due to some early career hindrances based on a lack of confidence by a knee-jerky organization that drafted him and cut him after just 247 plate appearances as an 18-and 19-year-old in rookie ball, the now 24-year-old is very much in the cusp of cracking the upper minors and eventually touching the Majors as at least a lefty power bat off the bench spot with the ceiling to share starts as a righty-mashing platoon option at first base. So far in his career as a Marlins’ affiliated player, Silviano is hitting .277 with 29 homers against opposite side hurlers. This year, his slash line vs righties reads .305/.379/.584.
A New York Mets’ 2008 8th round pick after a .306/.391/.448 career at Boston College, Campbell rose through the Mets’ Minor League ranks, the standout seasons being a .306/.369/.467 year between A+ and AA in 2010 and a .314/.435/.475 AAA season in 2014 before he made it to the majors for the first time that same season. In his first 85 MLB games, Campbell hit a respectable .263/.322/.358. A season later, Campbell made the Mets squad out of spring training only to manage a meager .197/.312/.295 line over 71 games before being sent back to AAA. Prior to hitting .363/.493/.593 for the rest of that season, Campbell earned a second straight Opening Day roster spot for the Mets in 2016 only to hit .173/.287/.227 in 40 games that year. Campbell spent most of that season hitting .301/.390/.447 in AAA
After spending a season abroad in Japan, Campbell returns to the MLB ranks hoping to shake the audacious title of AAAA fodder. So far this season, he appears to be a step closer to accomplishing that feat. He has done so by making himself nearly impossible to not promote via exceptional offensive output. A Triple A All-Star starter, Campbell hit .326/.429/.468 in the first half, marks which ranked 9th, 6th and 31st in the PCL. Campbell’s current .891 OPS ranks 13th.
With MLB experience and good positional flexibility and eligibility at first, second, third and in left field, it’s easy to believe the Marlins will give Campbell another chance in the majors ahead of calling up their young prospects who they have no reason to rush. Look for Campbell to pull on a Marlins jersey very shortly after the trade deadline.
A Marlins’ free agent depth signing at the beginning of the year, Adames impressed this spring in extended action, hitting .333/.381/.513 with five doubles, a triple and an RBI before being assigned to AAA in favor of Yadiel Rivera, the final spot on the bench, to begin the season.
While Rivera has gotten a much longer leash than originally thought and used it to hit a very unappealing .198/.317/.248 while playing -1 DRS overall defense (though he has been rather good at shortstop, posting a +3 mark in that respect), Adames is hitting .262/.315/.366 with 20 XBHs, 34 RBI and a 46/24 K/BB along with a .970+ FPCT across three different infield positions.
While it’s taken this long for Adames to get another shot in the pros, it may not take him much longer. Look for Adames to get a look as a switch-hitting bench option sometime early in the second half.
SS Jose Devers
.272/.308/.339, 16 XBH, 21 RBI
Despite being the youngest guy to crack these rankings as well as the youngest member of the Greensboro Grasshoppers after he skipped rookie ball, Jose Devers has been one of the best and brightest stories to grace the system this season.
Another organizational player with a preceding pro pedigree in being the brother of Red Sox’ standout Rafael Devers, the Marlins acquired the Jose Devers of the Dominican in the Giancarlo Stanton trade with the Yankees. A native of Somana, DR, Jose hit .245/.336/.342 in his age 16-17-year-old seasons that marked the beginning of his pro career.
In his inaugural season with the Marlins’ organization, though he has shown that he still has room for growth in terms of strike zone knowledge by recording a 3.28 K/BB, Devers has already begun to exhibit his lauded raw elite bat speed by hitting to a .272 BA. He’s also enjoyed good success on the base paths where he is 11/16 in stolen base attempts.
A kid who has been on base in 26 of his last 29 games while also exhibiting a .973 fielding percentage via the same great speed that allows him on-base success, a fantastic first read to the ball off the bat and a flashy glove, Devers is the dark-horse candidate to become the best piece of the return for Giancarlo Stanton.
While the Marlins will undoubtedly take it easy with the kid’s progression up the ranks, we expect his name to be a mainstay among the top prospect ranks as a for-average shortstop with above average defense for the foreseeable future.
In enjoying his fantastic first half this season, second year Marlin Cameron Baranek is not only making a name for himself, he’s gaining his alma matter some deserved recognition. Miami’s ninth round selection last year, Baranek is the first ever MLB draftee from Hope International College in central California. However, that’s far from the first “first” Baranek recorded for the brand new Hope International baseball program.
The transfer from nearby Santa Ana college earned his Draft honor by setting multiple club records in his single season with HIU in its sophomore season including BA (.364), homers (14) and steals (20), flashing a five-tool skillset. In so doing, Cameron led the school to 35 wins and its first Conference title. After the season, Baranek was named the the Royals’ first NIAA All-American.
Despite playing just one season for the Royals, Baranek will forever remain a pioneering member of the HIU baseball family.
What had been potentially most impressive about what Baranek was able to accomplish in his amateur days was the fact that he was able to succeed and realize his dream of becoming a pro despite not only coming from a very young and virtually unknown pedigree but that he was able to overcome a laundry list’s worth of injuries sustained since he began high school. Since the age of 17, Baranek underwent surgery to repair three different parts of his body.
Still, he was able to stand tall (albeit on a surgically repaired knee and ankle) on June 14, 2017, as a professional baseball player. It’s hard to believe Baranek’s grind, drive and incredible ability to stay positive was lost on the Marlins.
That same mindset has remained in Baranek this far in his young career as a professional.
Prior to being drafted, Baranek broke into the professional ranks by hitting .234/.306/.351 with 9 XBH and his team’s second best RBI total (22) for the GCL Marlins last season, the 22-year-old impressed in camp and earned his initial call to full season ball to begin 2018.
This year, Baranek became one of the best hitters in the South Atlantic League, hitting .420/.453/.580 in June. Among hitters with at least 90 ABs, Baranek’s .319 overall BA ranks 9th, his .400 OBP ranks 4th and his .479 SLG ranks 16th. His wrC+ of 150 ranks 7th.
On June 20, Baranek received his call-up to A+ Jupiter and built on a 21-game on base streak by reaching in his first four games, turning it into a 25-game on base streak. He had a 30/81 with 11 walks. Over that span, Baranek had a .445 OBP.
A lefty hitter with a bit of surprising pop behind his 5’10”, 197 pound frame and quick bat speed propelled by a flashy cut with uppercut action and a strong raw throwing arm that stands to get better with improved accuracy, Baranek is a 20+ 9th round boom-or-bust draftee that should be fast-tracked through the minors. If his career thus far is any indication, he should end up on the right side of that equation as at least a fourth outfielder and/or lefty threat off the bench with the potential for more.
Chalk Baranek up to reach a ceiling of that of Nick Markakis with a more moderately adjusted expectation around Raul Ibanez, a career .801 OPS.
Like you didn’t know this was coming.
Fish On The Farm’s 2017 Minor League Player Of The year last season after hitting .322/.384/.416 in his first 57 pro games with Greensboro (he skipped through the GCL and short season), Miller began 2018 in A+ Jupiter. There, Miller continued to flaunt his for-average, gap thirsty swing and above-average speed, hitting .324 with 13 doubles and 19 steals in 25 attempts before getting the call to AA Jacksonville.
In his first 21 games for the Shrimp, Miller has answered the promotion to AA by hitting .321/.358/.417 in 21 games, reaching base in each of them and hitting in all but one of them. In other words, Miller has taken the toughest jump in the minors to take by adjusting immediately and continuing to be one of the most productive prospects in the organization despite his career being just 140 games old.
On top of good strike zone knowledge and vision, Miller’s calling card is his extremely quick bat speed that he uses to reach all parts of the plate and go to all fields. From there, Miller puts arguably the best of his four tools to work for him, his speed, to create runs. In 97 trips on base for the Hammerheads this year, Miller swiped 19 bags in 25 attempts. Trouble catching Miller has proven to be just as difficult for upper minors catchers as he has stolen seven in his first nine tries. Overall this season, Miller has an audacious 78% SB success rate (21/27).
Miller’s speed serves him just as well in the field where he owns a 2.00 range factor and .988 fielding percentage this season. Though he projects most advantageously as a center fielder Miller’s jets and good reads off the bat provide him with positional flexibility anywhere in the outfield.
A top of the order for-average on base threat who has hit at each of the three levels he’s played at in an extremely young Minor League career but one in which he has disallowed the Marlins from taking a watchful eye off of him as well as disallowing the organization from holding him back to repeat any level, we are penciling Miller in as a potential September call-up and as a shoe-in to get a long, extended look next year in Spring Training. With only one spot in next year’s Marlins’ outfield currently occupied (Lewis Brinson), Miller is the rest of the season doing exactly what he’s done his entire minor league career and a strong spring showing away from potentially appearing in an MLB Opening Day lineup. To do what Brian has done in such a short amount of time on the pro circuit can only be described in one word: wow.
From the lowest of lows to the highest of highs.
Not far from this time last season, long time Marlins farm hand drafted in 2012 Austin Dean began his way back from a knee injury suffered seven games in to the 2017 season when he collided with a teammate in the outfield. After a .283/.325/.415 second half that year, a 100% healthy Dean returned to Jacksonville this season and in his third season’s worth of work for Jacksonville, proceeded to make Southern League history.
By hitting .420/.466/.654 in the first month of the season, Dean held the best overall batting line in the month of April since at least the year 2005. Following that showing in which Dean hit in 17/22 games and at one point had a 10 game hit streak, he was promoted to AAA New Orleans. The call-up came just over one month shy of the anniversary of Dean’s return from the most serious injury of his career which occurred in the same outfield he commanded this season. Talk about coming back with a vengeance.
What is more is that Dean’s success this year hasn’t been exclusive to the AA ranks. Instead, he is exhibiting the same well balanced and timed shortened line drive swing, the same knowledge of the strike zone and the same improved bat speed and plate coverage via the same better extension across the dish to become one of the better for-average and on-base threats at the highest level of Minor League Ball. Through 64 games, his .299 BA ranks 20th and his .373 BA ranks 23rd in the Pacific Coast League.
While it may have taken him six years, almost a year and a half total of which was spent on the shelf with various ailments, it looks as though Dean has finally realized the potential the Marlins saw in him when they drafted him out of a Texas high school in 2012. A .294/.367/.409 hitter against the best of what MiLB has to offer this year, Dean is a shoe-in for a September (if not earlier) call and a lead candidate to win a roster spot next season.
SP Nick Neidert
105.1 IP, 2.91 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 110/23 K/BB, .248 BAA
Nick Neidert was the main return piece in the trade with Seattle for Dee Gordon. In his first 17 games as an organizational Marlin, the 21-year-old has proven why he was such a sought after commodity.
Neidert, a second round pick by the Mariners out of Suwannee High in Georgia, impressed in his first two seasons as a pro, holding down a 2.50 ERA by way of a sub-1 WHIP and 5.15 K/BB before being promoted to AA late last year. comes back to his home coast.
After getting a taste of the competition in the upper minors, Neidert has begun to dominate it this season, proving his success wasn’t exclusive to A ball. In 17 games, the-22-year has held down a 2.91 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP, marks which rank 3rd and 5th in the Southern League.
Neidert’s deception starts in his slow and deliberate delivery which he then speeds up at his moment of propulsion off his back foot. The sudden change in motion and acceleration makes Neidert one of the most difficult pitchers in the system to time and leads to a multitude of swings and misses and at the very least, off-balance contact when he’s hitting spots. His stuff consists of a low-mid-90s fastball with sink as well as arm-side run, a shapely changeup with good running fade and a 12-6 curve with sharp downward action. He commands all three pitches extremely well down in the zone and can spot on both corners.
Already the owner of a more than solid three pitch repertoire and great command via repeatable mechanics that deceive, Neidert stands to get a September call, fill out even more with pro coaching and be a mainstay among the top three in the Marlins’ rotation in 2019 and beyond.
According to crustacean experts, baby shrimp growth is dependent on sunlight. After absorbing the Jacksonville Suns last season, the newborn Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, led by Monte Harrison, Kyle Barrett, Colby Lusignan, Jeff Brigham and Max Duval are ready to make their mark on the Southern League.
.242/.321/.360, 86 HR, 313 XBH
1185.1 IP, 3.69 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 2.64 K/BB
In their second season, the Shrimp will once again be lead by manager Randy Ready. A graduate of Cal State East Bay, Ready was selected by the Brewers in the sixth round in 1980. After jumping a level with each passing year from 1980-83, Ready made his MLB debut with the Brewers 1983 and went on to slash .259/.359/.387 over an 11 year MLB career. His best season occurred in 1987 when he hit .309/.423/.520 in 124 games for the San Diego Padres. Needless to say, Ready knows what it takes to proceed up the developmental ladder and make it at the highest level as a professional. According to Kyle Barrett who began playing for Ready last season and rejoins him again this year, Ready, by way of his many years of experience and a solid all-around skillset especially in the minor league circuit, makes a well-rounded minor league skip.
“Ready is laid back and a cool dude for sure. He had a long career in the bigs and knows his stuff,” Barrett said. “He’s really helped me with the smaller portions of the game such as bunting and baserunning.”
Rejoining Ready is his pitching coach Storm Davis. A Jacksonville native, Davis was a high school draft pick in round seven by the Baltimore Orioles out of University Christian High School in 1979. After flying through the minors jumping a level with each passing season despite still being in his teenage years in three of four of those seasons (including a stop in Fort Lauderdale with the Miami Orioles), Davis, by way of a collective 3.56 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, cracked the majors as a 20-year-old in 1982. Despite being over eight years younger than the average major leaguer, Davis, who made the Orioles out of camp, stormed out of the gate (pun intended) and collected a win in his first MLB start on July 3, 1982 against the Detroit Tigers. He would go on to post an overall 3.49 ERA, 1.232 WHIP and 2.39 K/BB over 100 innings in his rookie year.
Davis spent the next 12 years in a similar capacity pitching both as a starter and out of the pen, collecting a 113-96 career record and holding down a 4.02 ERA and 3.80 WHIP by way of a 1.392 WHIP and 1.53 K/BB (including over 1,000 strikeouts) over 1780.2 IP. In 1983, his sophomore season, Davis contributed a 13-7 record via a 3.59 ERA, 1.218 WHIP and 1.95 K/BB to the World Champion Orioles. He collected a second World Series ring in 1989 when he ran up a career high 19 wins (19-7) and was huge down the stretch for the Oakland A’s. In the second half, he held down a 3.61 ERA and went 12-3 in 17 starts. This year, Davis is bringing his expertise back to a level which he went 14-10 with a 3.47 ERA and 1.83 K/BB at despite being four years the minor to the average competition. A guy who grew up extremely fast, enjoyed a fantastic minor league career and borderline Hall Of Fame +17 WAR major league career, Davis simply knows what it takes to get the job done on the hill, no matter the level.
Marcus Crescentini who joins Davis’ staff this year has already begun to see the positive impacts of Davis’ much apprised but quite relaxed tutelage.
“I’ve only been with Storm a couple of weeks but what I’ve noticed with him is that his knowledge is endless and he is very approachable,” Crescentini said. “He also treats all of his pitchers like men; he doesn’t micro manage and he let’s us be who we are.”
Completing Ready’s staff is hitting coach Kevin Witt. Another Duval county native and graduate of Bishop Kenny High which is a short three mile drive from his current place of employment at the Baseball Grounds, Witt hit .481 as a senior before he became a first round pick by the Blue Jays in 1994. His #28 overall draft slot placed him ahead of fellow draftees Troy Glaus and AJ Pierzynski and just behind Jason Varitek and Nomar Garciaparra. After hitting .252 over his first three seasons including a .271/.335/.426 in A+ in 1996, Witt rose to AA in the Southern League, the same league he now holds managerial status in. There, Witt hit .289/.349/.539, tied for the league lead in homers and made the All-Star team as a utility infielder. In 1998, Witt began his AAA career and enjoyed immediate success leading the Syracuse SkyChiefs in homers with 23 while hitting .273/.354/.481. He made his MLB debut in September that season and recorded his first major league hit. Witt had a similar season in ‘99, once again leading the SkyChiefs in homers (24) and placing second in OPS (.896) before hitting .206 and recording his first MLB homer late in the season with Toronto. Following a 26 homer season in AAA in 2000, the Blue Jays cut ties with Witt a year later.
After a short stint in the Padres, Witt joined the Tigers in 2003. After a .316/.391/.594 performance in AAA, Witt got a mid season call to the majors. In his most extended look at that level, Witt hit a very respectable .263/.301/.407 with ten homers over 27 ABs. Witt was signed by the Cardinals where he enjoyed his best season as a pro hitting .306/.353/.600 and earning him the Pacific Coast League’s MVP trophy. However, on a stacked St Louis team, he never got a chance with the big league squad.
From there, Witt attempted to prove his worth in Japan, a very brief experiment, before rounding his playing career out with the Rays. After a .291/.360/.577 and whopping 36 homer performance with the Durham Bulls, a total which stands as Durham’s franchise record and the Rays’ organizational record and which earned him the International League’s MVP award. Witt got called up to the pros late in the season where he hit .148 in his final 19 MLB games. Witt rounded out his playing career back in Japan where he hit .174 in his last 40 games.
A fantastic .274/.336/.502 269 HR career minor league hitter with a plus plus power tool, Witt was unfortunately a victim of circumstance who never got his full shot in the majors in his prime. Regardless, Witt is a guy who knows how to adjust and get the job done at the plate no matter the level. He is a welcome contributor as hitting coach at a level he once dominated.
According to Austin Dean, Witt has good individual relationships with each hitter on the squad and is attentive and accommodating to each of their needs and routines. Describing his relationship with Witt, Dean says it’s one of mutual respect built on Witt’s trust in his players’ judgment and his overseer approach that lets them be themselves that stands out most. All in all, Dean says that on top of great expertise, Witt brings great reverence and leadership to the locker room, creating a more positive environment to play in.
“Being with Witt has been great. He’s very knowledgeable about the game and obviously he’s had great success as well,” Dean said. “Him and I’s relationship is a little bit different then everyone else. From spring training, he and I talked about routines and things I like to do in the season. And for me I don’t like hitting a lot. I like to take a couple rounds of five off the machine and then I go and hit BP on the field that day, and that’s it for me. And he’s respected that. He’s never tried to get me to do more then I wanted or that I needed. There’s times where I might be on my first round on the machine and I absolutely demolish five balls in row and he tells me to get and go back in the clubhouse. It’s things like that, he’s very encouraging and he knows what he talking about with us, and he’s been helping, you know, not just me but everyone else on team.”
DH Kyle Barrett
2B Isan Diaz
LF Austin Dean
RF John Norwood
CF Monte Harrison
1B Colby Lusignan
3B Brian Schales
C Rodrigo Vigil
SS Chris Diaz
Barrett is a Marlins 15th round draft pick from 2015 out of the University Of Kentucky, a pick which has been part of a shopping spree of the UK system from 2013 to present. Over the last five years, Stan Meek, Mike Hill and the Marlins have selected Wolfpack members in four separate drafts: J.T. Riddle in 2013, Barrett in 2015, Dustin Beggs in 2016 and Riley Mahan last year. Its been a “stick with what’s working” type approach from the scouting department to continue to return to Lexington on the regular year after year to scout and eventually select and sign players. Each of the four players selected has successfully parlayed a great collegiate career into at least some sort of positive progression since they’ve begun wearing a Marlins affiliated uniform.
While Riddle hit .275/.318/.364 over a four year minor league career, while Mahan has gotten off to a .289/.333/.458 over his first 20 pro games and while Beggs has posted a 3.61 K/BB in his first three seasons, Barrett has been one of the most consistent players in the entire organization. Barrett garnered the Marlins’ attention after a .324/.386/.391 collegiate career at UK which included a fantastic .354/.394/443 senior season. His BA that year ranked seventh in the SEC ahead of competition such as Dansby Swanson and just behind Red Sox top prospect and () overall prospect according to Baseball America, Andrew Benintendi. His average was made possible by his 46 hits, a total which ranked third in the conference, one shy of Benintendi. Barrett’s OBP ranked 17th in the SEC, just .23 points off of Swanson’s .417 mark. Barrett showed off his prowess on the bases as well scoring 29 runs and recording three triples, both of which were good for fourth most in SEC play and collected its 13th most total bases, 62. He accomplished all of this in the conference’s ninth most ABs, 124. Upon being drafted by the Marlins, Barrett headed to short season Batavia but just four games into his pro career, he broke his right hand and missed the rest of the campaign.
Despite the injury, Barrett joined the Greensboro Grasshoppers in 2016. Despite getting off to a slow 12-72 7/16 K/BB start due to the fact that he was still not pain free in his injured hand, Barrett, ever the grinder and with a staunch refusal to quit, turned it on in late May and wound up reaching base in 55 his final 79 games. Despite the slow start, Barrett hit .282/.333/.345. Among players who appeared in over 60 games, his BA and OBP were both team highs. He also stole 17 bags in 22 attempts.
The biggest hole in Barrett’s game headed into his sophomore season was his inability to read and time professional quality pitches as well as having a tendency to get a bit over-aggressive. This was proven by his heightened 17.05 K rate and 2.68 K/BB in Greensboro.
However, the Marlins didn’t let that small hitch hold Barrett back and gave him the promotion to A+. That year, Barrett, back at 100% to start the season, rewarded the Marlins’ confidence in his projection by slashing .297/.355/.342 over his first 66 games with the Hammerheads. His BA, made largely possible by a 12 game hit streak in which he went 19-49 in late May and early June, led the team and ranked 18th in the Florida State League. He reached base via a hit in 57 of his 66 appearances. All the while, Barrett’s walk rate rose to 7.77%, his K rate fell to 14.53% and his K/BB rested at 1.87. Originally snubbed from the FSL’s All-Star Game, he rightfully made it as an injury replacement. For the second half, Barrett received the promotion to AA Jacksonville. In his first 126 ABs as a Shrimp, he hit .230/.285/.286.
“I’m a firm believer that you can’t have success until you have failed. Failure is a teaching point,” Kyle says.
Barrett has had a few of those educational experiences so far in his pro career including being bitten by the sophomore slump in college (.253/.354/.312) and the aforementioned injury stricken 2016 season in Greensboro. However, each time, Barrett, by way of putting in all the necessary work and then some, has been able to adjust and come back the next season a much better player. Following a subpar audition in AA last season, Barrett faces a similar test in 2018 but if his track record is any indication, he will use stored knowledge, his fantastic work ethic and his ability to acclimate accordingly no matter the situation or level of competition to rise to the occasion.
According to Kyle, in addition to the bump in competition level, the biggest rectification for him to make mentally during his transition from A to AA last year was being prepared to hear his number called upon at any time in any situation on any given day and not losing his preparedness just because he didn’t see his name on the lineup card.
“The transition from high A to AA is definitely an adjustment,” Barrett said. “I learned that the days I’m not starting doesn’t mean I won’t play, there’s always a pinch hit or a double switch.“
5’11”, 185, Barrett packs a ton of talent into his stout but athletic frame. Formerly a high strikeout guy, Barrett has found a nice balance between aggression and patience. He’s also improved the lateral level of his swing, allowing him to get at least some part of the bat on pitches he engages on, prolonging his ABs and forcing his opposition to beat him with a quality pitch. That said, Barrett will also often attack early in the count if he sees a juicy morsel he likes. Simply put, he’s a very tough and pesky out to get and a guy who can give opposing teams fits. Barrett owns an extremely quick snap swing made possible by even quicker hands. Approaching from the back of the box, his speedy upper half and stationary head expand his field of vision and allow him to read pitches nearly all the way to the front black of the plate. While he probably won’t put many out of the park or even over outfielders’ heads, he has a great knack for finding holes and gaps. With plus speed, the ability to read the ball off the bat and good base running instincts, he turns singles into extra bases with relative ease. He holds plus speed and makes equally good reads off the bat and flashes a strong arm in the field. He can cover all three outfield spots but he projects best as a future center fielder.
Though the Marlins’ organization suddenly finds itself with a ton of young outfield depth especially after the acquisitions of Magnerius Sierra, Braxton Lee and Monte Harrison, with success at the AA level this year, Barrett is a rounding out a unique catalytic skillset. With success via another positive adjustment this season, he could receive a look in the bigs in September and he would definitely be a candidate to make his first 40-man roster next season. As good as his long range vision is on the field though, Barrett isn’t looking that far into the future. For now, he is putting all of his focus on what is directly in front of him and nothing more.
“I can’t think about it or stress about it. All I can do is control the controllable and play my game,” Barrett said. “If I stay within myself, be confident and have fun, everything else will fall into place.”
An extremely easy guy to get into games whether it be at the top of the lineup as a fire starter, at the bottom of it as a restarter or as a lefty bat off the bench as a rally starter, the 25-year-old’s modest ceiling should be placed somewhere around Roger Cedeno, a career .273/.340/.371 hitter and 77% successful steals threat.
2017 – .291/.328/.446, 25 XBH, 3.43 K/BB
A fourth round pick out of high school from the year 2012, Dean is a name that has been around the Marlins organization for a while. Entering his sixth year as a pro, Dean’s career so far has been a proverbial roller coaster ride full of ups and downs.
Dean hails from Klein Collins High School in his hometown of Spring, Texas. Coming into the draft, Dean was heralded for his great raw power via a solid 6’1”, 185 pound build, a great ability to get extended and a quick stroke with loft. Paired with good speed (clocked at a 6.74 first to home) and a good baseball IQ as well as classroom aptitude, Dean had a verbal commitment to Texas before he chose to sign with the Marlins after being selected in the 4th round of the Draft by the Marlins, a slot which garnered him a $379,000 signing bonus.
After starting out in the Gulf Coast League post draft where he posted a .223/.337/.338 line in his first 47 pro games, Dean joined short season Batavia in 2013. There in 56 games, Dean hit a respectable .268/.325/418. His slugging percentage that came via 21 XBHs ranked 15th in the New York Penn League. At the end of the season, Dean received a cup of coffee in Greensboro where he hit .200/.346/.400 over 20 ABs.
Regarding what life was like for him as a kid who suddenly saw an after school activity engulf his entire life and asked how he was able to maintain focus under those circumstances, Dean responds that it was a stark maturation process making his way as a teenager in professional baseball but with the help of a great supportive cast of teammates and coaches, he was able to keep his focus and nurture his skillset advantageously.
“My first year in pro ball was definitely life changing. Being away from home, and being away from your family is tough. But ever since then it’s been a growing up thing. You learn how to take care of yourself and be an adult while you’re playing. I’ve definitely matured a lot since 2012 when I got drafted. On the baseball side, I’ve come across many of different coaches and players, and you tend to pick things as you go and learn different things from them. I’ve learned a lot of thing over the past six years, and I think that’s help me as a baseball player.”
In 2014, Dean appeared on the Marlins’ top 20 prospect list slotting in at #15. At the beginning of the year, stared down the first full professional season of his career in Greensboro. Thanks to three separate injuries, a left hand injury he suffered during a slide, a nasal fracture that occurred while he has rehabbing and a right groin strain that occurred while running, Dean’s season would wind up being limited to 99 games. However, the missed time and gaps between in game action did not appear to affect Dean at all. When he was on the field, he was consistently effective. After beginning the year by hitting .288/.343/.403, accolades which earned him an All-Star selection, Dean missed 22 games and the All-Star Game. Undeterred, Dean returned in early July hitting .377/.459/.500 before hitting the shelf again in early August. He returned again on August 15 and closed out a fantastic .308/.371/.444, 33 XBH, 72/38 K/BB, 128 wrC+ breakout campaign, incredible numbers especially considering his youth (1.2 years younger than the league average player) and his health woes.
In 2015, Dean received a promotion for a fourth straight season, joining A+ Jupiter. While the power hitter’s overall .268/.318/.366 slash line didn’t pop off the page, the underlying reason for it was due to his being stymied by the extremely pitcher friendly confines of Roger Dean Stadium. While he only hit .244/.298/.317 in 195 ABs at home, Dean was a .289/.337/.410 hitter in 208 ABs throughout the rest of the Florida State League. All five of his homers came on the road. Dean also successfully tempered his K rate down to 13.1%, a career low, proving he was at par in terms of making contact with A+ competition.
That offseason, Dean took part in the Arizona Fall League. In 16 games and 62 ABs against some of the top young talent in professional ball, the 20-year-old turned in a .323/.364/.452 performance, marks which ranked 12th, 24th and 27th. His .815 OPS ranked 26th. 18 of the 25 players who ranked ahead of Dean on that list are current major leaguers such as Lewis Brinson, Gary Sanchez, Aledmys Diaz and Wilson Contreras.
By leaving that impression coupled with his solid situational year in Jupiter, Dean was given yet another promotion this time to AA Jacksonville, just a step away from realizing his dream. Just seven games into his AA career, Dean suffered a demoralizing injury on a collision with a fellow outfielder. The ailment would cost Dean nearly three full months. After suffering the injury on April 12, Dean did not return to the field until June 28. Following a four game rehab stint in the GCL, he finally returned to Jacksonville on July 3.
“When I got hurt last year, it was very unfortunate but you know injury’s happen; it’s a part of the game. While I was rehabbing in Jupiter it was very slow process, and it was hard not being up in Jax and playing and being around my teammates,” Dean said. “But I worked my butt off while I was down there, I was still able to lift weights, to a certain extent. I kept my body in shape so I would be ready for when I got back. It was very tough not playing baseball for long. But it’s one of things you have to deal with sometimes and I felt like I handled everything pretty well last year.”
The ever-so modest Dean handled his situation a lot better than “well”. Upon his return, he enjoyed a .205/.347/.311 month of July. He hit in 39 of his final 55 game and reached reached base safely in 13 straight from July 28 to August 18. Overall, he was a .282/.323/.427, 4 HR, 22 XBH performer as he once again proved to hold an incredible ability to overcome adversity.
Asked how he was able to rise to the occasion of meeting and exceeding expectations in the upper minors despite missing nearly the entire first half, Dean responded this way:
“My parents last year, was you know a big help. We’d talk every day or try too, and obviously this was something new to me not being able to play. They kept me motivated, and they were very supportive as well, and I probably couldn’t have done it with out them.
Despite having far from a sunshine and butterflies Sunday drive through the minor leagues, Dean has met every challenge he’s faced and conquered it all while keeping his development proceeding in the right direction. In 540 career games, Dean has been able to close some holes in his swing that were present when he got drafted, simplify his mechanics, improve his contact rates and learn how to take what he’s given, leading to good averages and a solid doubles-first power threat. While the Marlins would like to see more over-the-fence power from Dean, there’s still plenty of time for the 24-year-old to find that as he fills out the rest of the way.
One area of concern for Dean lies in his limited ability to get extended. A naturally pull-happy hitter, Dean could use to garner a better knack to cover the outside of the plate via more advantageous barrel extension, leading to the ability to go to his opposite field. It’s one of the few things holding Dean back but it could be a major catalyst for his success as a major leaguer as pro pitchers and coaches could negate his strengths by way of quality stuff on the outer half and possibly an infield overshift.
Should Dean, who has come out victorious in every battle he’s faced so far on his way up, be able to fill that small hole in his game, he’s a quality corner outfielder with a ceiling around our old buddy Jeff Conine a career .285/.347/.443 bat. With further success in AA this year, he’s a candidate to receive his MLB debut sometime in 2018. At the very least, he is a shoe in for a 40-man roster spot next year and a favorite for at least a bench spot in 2019.
2017 (A-A+) – .272/.350/.481, 21 HR, 51 XBH, 139/43 K/BB, 27 SB
The main accompanying piece in the Christian Yelich trade with the Brewers, Harrison is a power hitting threat who is a bit immature in his approach but who holds extreme upside. Between A and A+ last year, Harrison hit .272/.350/.481 and topped he 20 homer mark for the first time in his career. As impressive as his .209 ISO and 133 wRC+ were, those figures came at the expense of a 143/39 K/BB. His 27% K rate last season equaled his 27% career K rate. That said, if Harrison, still 22, can find more discipline, there isn’t much more he needs to do to be both a top prospect and major league ready.
With elite bat speed by way of flashy wrists and a line drive swing which, coupled together, create plus launch angle and plus plus exit velocities, the 6’3”, 220 pounder is also a ridiculous 4.12 runner first to home, quite surprising for a guy his size and a testament to his athleticism. He rounds out his skillset with a throwing arm that receives an 80 grade on the 20-80 scale.
Undoubtedly, there’s massive upside here and after the acquisition of Brinson turns the Yelich return from good to gold. If Harrison is going to realize his full potential, there’s still work to be done both mentally and mechanically but considering he was able to turn in a great 2017 regular season followed by a .283/.333/.604, five homer performance in the Arizona Fall League after he missed much of 2016 due to injury, there’s reason to be very excited about his future. With no pressure on him whatsoever, I wouldn’t expect any sort of Major League action before next season at least as Harrison works on his few hitches. However, a complete Monte Harrison will be well worth the wait and a franchise cornerstone type piece. Pay close attention here. There’s special five tool type talent being kindled.
A 28th round pick from 2016 after a .328/.425/.528 collegiate career between community college in Gainesville, FL and Division 2 Lander University in South Carolina, Lusignan is a piece who has come almost literally out of nowhere and proven to be quite the power hitting commodity.
After a .325/.429/.591 singular season at Lander with an OBP that ranked 10th in the conference and with its seventh best SLG and ninth best OPS (1.020), Lusignan hit .319/.422/.469 in the Gulf Coast League and got a look at short season Batavia to finish his 2016 season. The next year, Lusignan began the year in Greensboro. After hitting nine homers but slashing just .243/.315/.414 with a 34.72 K rate, the 23-year-old was nevertheless fast tracked to A+ Jupiter.
Just 113 ABs into his pro career and sporting a .251 BA and 33% K rate, the challenge seemed a bit over Lusignan’s head. However, the 6’4”, 230 pounder was somehow able to respond to the task by completely tearing the pitcher friendly Florida State League apart. In 46 games and 201 PAs, he hit .285/.348/.453 with six homers, 18 XBH, a .168 ISO and a 134 wRC+. He also showed improved patience as his K rate even fell more than 10 points to 23.9 and his walk rate rose to 8.5.
This season, just two years removed from playing ball at a Division 2 school, Lusignan faces his next challenge: playing against competition just shy of the major league level.
A lefty hitter, Lusignan has successfully gained a better knowledge for the zone as he’s flown through the Marlins’ minor league system. Looking at spray charts, Lusignan has mastered the art of opposite field hitting, relying on his ability to get extended and making the most out of his lefty’s advantage. He’s also always shown a good knack for going straight up the middle. Recently, Lusignan is also using his strength advantageously to go pull side on pitches on the inner half, showing a good ability to stay inside the ball, cutting down on his swing and miss totals. When he times pitches right, gets his feet down and barrels up on his classic uppercut swing, the ball flies.
If Lusignan can continue to show that kind of aptitude and bat control, he will close his only plate coverage gap, become a complete power first threat vs righties and make a huge improvement vs fellow lefties who love to take his eyes and arms away by jamming him inside. Though the K will probably always be part of the power hitter’s game, Lusignan has improved so much is such a short amount of time. One of if not the biggest rags to riches story in the entire organization, Lusignan, who saw time with the big league club in spring training, is a one more good showing in the upper levels away from a Major League call.
While that’s easier said than done and while he probably isn’t going to push Justin Bour for playing time anytime soon if ever, for a guy who has responded well to every challenge put to him, making it to the upper minors in just two short seasons, an unprecedented feat, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility for this offensive minded 25-year-old first baseman who has improved his balance and timing with each jump he’s made to acquire a roster spot and be used as a lefty power threat off the bench. Lusignan who came from modest beginnings in a small town in central Florida and never played above D2 before being drafted, deserves a hat tip for what he’s been able to accomplish so far and considering his level of focus and drive to succeed, likely isn’t done yet. Remember the name. You’ll could be seeing it in a Marlins lineup soon.
Brigham is a 6’, 200 pound righty out of the University Of Wisconsin. In a three year career there, he posted a collective 3.71 ERA, a 1.24 WHIP and 1.65 K/BB over 174.2 IP. His standout season occurred in his junior year when he went 7-4 with a 2.90 ERA, 11th best in the PAC12 via a 1.13 WHIP and 1.96 K/BB. That year pushed Brigham up into the top five rounds on draft boards. Ultimately the Dodgers selected him in round 4. He signed for $396K.
After finishing out his draft year season cutting his teeth in pro ball with the short A Ogden Raptors (32.2 IP, 3.58 ERA, 1.47 WHIP), Brigham skipped single A and joined the A+ Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. After 17 games and 69 innings, the assignment proved to be too difficult for the 23-year-old’s developing to-contact arsenal and he was demoted to single A Great Lakes. He appeared in just two games there, tossing seven innings before the Marlins came calling at that year’s trade deadline.
On July 30, 2015, Brigham along with Victor Araujo and Kevin Guzman were traded to the Marlins for Mat Latos and Michael Morse. Upon his change of scenery, the Marlins gave Brigham a shot at redemption at the A+ level assigning him to the Jupiter Hammerheads. Brigham responded well, tossing 33.2 innings for Jupiter and recording three straight quality outings from August 16-28, a string of outings where he allowed just one total earned run.
In 2016, Brigham once again began the season in A+. After just two starts though, he landed on the DL with a back strain. Though he was able to return a week later, Brigham wasn’t back to pitching pain free until mid June. This fact shown true in his numbers: from April 22 through May 31, Brigham went 32.1 IP with a 6.73 ERA and 1.56 WHIP.
Though he was able to avoid making another trip to the DL, Brigham didn’t make another start until June 12. Over that two week span, he appeared in just one game throwing a single inning out of the bullpen. The time off was exactly the medicine Brigham needed. Over his last 15 appearances of the season, Brigham threw 82.2 innings and held down a 2.41 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. This included a fantastic month of July in which Brigham managed a 0.33 ERA and 0.90 WHIP in five outings and 27.2 IP as well as a 3.13 ERA and 1.09 WHIP string of starts from August 13-29.
Last season, Brigham began a third season with the Hammerheads. He was performing masterfully, tossing to the tune of a 2.68 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in his first 10 starts, six of which were quality starts and all of which lasted at least five innings and contained four earned runs or less. During a 5 IP, 6 H, 1 ER outing on June 30, Brigham struck out a career high nine. Rolling along and undoubtedly making sure to keep his phone charged and close, Brogham was derailed on July 25 when during a start, he suffered an oblique strain in his throwing arm. The injury would cost him the rest of the season. These unfortunately weren’t untested waters for Brigham. In 2012, he missed nearly his entire freshman year of college after undergoing Tommy John.
After resuming throwing mid-offseason, despite another injury to an already surgically repaired arm, Brigham showed up at camp this season and was a mirror image of the pitcher he was eight months ago, maintaining his 94-96 mph velo and his outpitch slider while continuing to rebuild his changeup. Despite the missed time, coaches saw enough to start Brigham off in AA this season.
From his rocker step delivery and high 3/4 slot, Brigham has consistently flashed a good moving two-seamer with good sinking life down in the zone and an even better hard and snappy 86-88 mph slider with lateral run to his glove side that can get downright nasty when he’s ahead in the count and hitting his release point. Alternatively, the immaturity of Brigham’s changeup is what has held him back as a prospect. Last season though, the pitch looked to take a huge leap forward as he gained a better feel for the grip and gained the ability to let the pitch float off the tips of his fingers, adding spin and depth. Mixing it in much more rather than just using it as a waste pitch, it complimented his inside-out fastball/slider combo perfectly. While he still doesn’t have the consistency to pitch off the changeup, he’s using it with much more confidence and shows the ability to hit spots all around the plate. If he shows more dependable control of the change this season and manages to stay healthy, the 26-year-old Brigham could become a Major League ready starter, something I commonly found within the Marlins very young organization this season.
Duval is a massively built righty that had quite the whirlwind start to his baseball career, playing all over the country and making the shift from an offensive first to defensive first player. After attending community college in San Luis Obispo, California, Duval played Division 1 ball at the University Of Hawaii. In 2012, the infielder hit .186/.255/.271. For Duval, the subpar season was disheartening considering how much work he would put in and how much of an infatuation he had with swinging the bat.
“I loved hitting. And when I say “loved”, I mean that in college, there was nobody that would spend more time in the batting cage than me,” Duval said. “It was therapeutic for me. But no matter how hard I worked, I struggled in games.”
Following Continue reading
Two weeks ago, Derek Jeter and the new Marlins regime began the rebuilding process by trading second baseman Dee Gordon, the final four years of his five year, $50,000,000 contract and international bonus pool cash to the Mariners for three minor leaguers.
Before we look at the pieces coming back to the Marlins, I’d like to pay tribute to one of the most exciting and likable players to ever pull on a Marlins’ jersey. A maximum effort player in every at bat and every inning, Dee leaves the Marlins as the franchise’s second best for-average hitter (.309), its fifth best triples hitter (23), its fourth best stolen base man (148) and eighth best defensive WAR player (2.7). He was also center stage for one of the Marlins’ most magical, storybook moments. On September 26, 2016, the game after Jose Fernandez‘s untimely passing, the left-handed hitting Gordon, wearing Jose’s helmet, stepped into the box right-handed and took the first pitch of the game as tribute to his friend. On the next pitch, this happened.
It is a moment that will live on forever, not only in Marlins lore but in the spirit of baseball, teammateship and the bonds of botherhood it brings forever. For that memory and the many others he brought the Fish, Dee Gordon will forever be enshrined in the minds of Marlins fans everywhere. And we are all grateful to him for that.
Now on to the return, three young men who hope to one day make their own legacy in a Marlins’ uniform.
RHP Nick Neidert
2017 (A+-AA) – 127.2 IP, 3.45 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 122/22 K/BB
The centerpiece of the return, the Mariners’ 2015 second rounder spent most of 2017 in A+ where he racked up 10 wins via a 2.76 ERA and 22.1 K/BB%, all tops in the California League amongst pitchers who tossed at least 100 innings. At the end of the year, he got his feet wet in AA which is where he should begin his Marlins career. Despite limited 6’1″, 200 size, Neidert creates advantageous deception by hiding the ball behind his plant leg and following through to the plate lightning quick. The delivery is extremely fluid, smooth and repeatable which should allow Neidert to continue to work deep into starts.
The 21-year-old has four usable pitches, all of which are either already Major League quality or show similar potential. His heat sits around 90-93 but he can ramp it up to 95 at will. Formerly a straight and narrow offering, Neidert is beginning to plane the pitch, giving it better movement and creating a fifth pitch sink piece, a great commodity for the 3/4 release point control artist he looks to be blossoming into. This past season, improved arm speed allowed Neidert’s 84-87 MPH changeup to move past his 72-76 mph curve as his best offspeed pitch but both offerings have plus-plus potential and give him a nice 20+ mph velo mix. While the 9.4 K/9% Neidert posted in A+ last year should temper a bit when he gets to the upper minors and beyond, his deep arsenal, high arm slot, and pinpoint control give him a great chance to develop into a ceiling 2-3 rotational starter by as early as 2019. Neidert should easily be ranked among the Marlins’ top 10 prospects this coming season.
RHP Robert Dugger
2017 (A-A+) – 117.2 IP, 2.75 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 116/32 K/BB
Dugger is a 22-year-old righty who began his pro career at Cisco Junior College where he was teammates for the first time with Marlins’ draftee James Nelson. He spent two years at Cisco, throwing 133.1 IP and producing a 4.86 ERA. While those numbers don’t fly off the page, he did hold down good control numbers, posting an overall 2.32 K/BB, including a 3.06 marker in his sophomore season. Those figures punched Dugger’s ticket to Texas Tech for 2016. There, against much stronger Big 12 competition, Dugger pitched in relief but also pitched much truer to his potential, holding down a 2.67 ERA over 60.2 innings. The good control persisted as he posted a 54/23 K/BB.
Upon being drafted by the Mariners in the 18th round, Dugger bounced around from rookie ball to A ball to AAA to end his year but most of his time was spent with the Everett AquaSox. There, he made six starts and threw 26.1 IP to the tune of a 5.47 ERA as he clearly went through a stark adjustment process, going from throwing 70 JuCo innings a year previous to throwing the last 38 out of a total of 99 innings against professional hitters who were on average nearly two years his elder. This past season, the Mariners returned Dugger to single A and transitioned him to the bullpen in order to reduce strain on his arm and allow him to work on pitching around the plate rather than living over it. His arsenal features a low-90’s fastball, a high-80’s changeup and a mid-70’s curve. He has a good feel for all three pitches and controls them well, though the release point on the curve is a bit inconsistent at the moment but again, he needs to develop better command if he is to make it as a starter. His biggest hinderance lies in his tendency to fall off to his glove side on the follow-through of his windup delivery. Dugger is much more effective out of the stretch where after a high leg kick, he is extremely quick to the plate. While there is still time for the bespectacled 22-year-old to work on becoming a corner painting Rembrant-style to-contact back end starter, the more likely scenario is that he is converted to a full-time reliever.
SS Christopher Torres
2017 (ROK-A) – .238/.329/.446, 69/28 K/BB, 22 XBH, 14 SB
Torres is a 19-year-old infielder out of the Dominican that had quite the interesting start to his professional career stateside. Then 16, Torres came to America with a deal in place from the New York Yankees for seven figures. However, due to severe weight gain, New York apparently backed out of the deal. The Yankees deny they ever had a deal in place with Torres. Whatever the case, Torres eventually agreed to a deal with the Mariners worth much less, $375K. Since then, Torres spent two seasons in rookie ball posting a .253/.374/.358 (with most of his success coming in the Dominican Summer League back home) before playing in short season A last year where he slashed .238/.326/.435 and placed second in the Northwest League in triples (6) and seventh in runs (44). He was also 13/16 in stolen base attempts. Clearly, Torres’ most advanced skill is his raw speed and good instincts on the bases but he will need to work at making better decisions with the bat (64/25 K/BB last year) if he is to make it as the tablesetter he projects to be. Despite weighing in at just 5’11”, 170, the switch-hitting Torres will show surprising pop when he does barrell up.
Torres earned high praise for his defensive abilities headed into the international draft. He did suffer an arm injury in his rookie season in the DSL, a contributing factor to his 34 errors in his last 88 games. Still, there is believed to be plenty of room for growth.
Combine Torres’ quick feet with a good first step towards the ball off the bat in the field, his line drive contact capabilities and the ability to turn anything that drops into extra bases, and — though it will take some time — there is five-tool potential here. Torres should slot in somewhere in the Marlins’ top 15 prospects this season.
From the outset, it looks like just another salary dump for the Marlins who rid themselves of 2015’s NL batting title winner, a perennial 50+ stolen base guy and a lockdown fielder up the middle. And while that clearly was Jeter’s goal, Miami did get back three quality pieces, one of which is a 3-5 slot starter that is but a year — if that — away from his MLB debut and one of which could develop into a cornerstone shortstop. Throw in Dugger who’s future is unknown at this point but will, barring injury, undoubtedly include MLB service time and this is an equitable return.