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January 3, 2012

Future Shock

Miami Marlins Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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Previous Rankings: 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008

System In 20 Words Or Less: The system finds some depth and star power in Yelich, but there is still an overall lack of elite-level talent.

Five-Star Prospects
1. Christian Yelich, OF
Four-Star Prospects
2. Jose Fernandez, RHP
Three-Star Prospects
3. Marcell Ozuna, OF
4. J.T. Realmuto, C
5. Chad James, LHP
6. Matt Dominguez, 3B
7. Jesus Solorzano, OF
8. Jose Ceda, RHP
9. Jose Urena, RHP
10. Rob Rasmussen, LHP
11. Noah Perio, 2B

Nine More:
12. Austin Brice, RHP: Big, athletic righty with well above-average velocity and lots of projection.
13. Adam Conley, LHP: 2011 second-round pick has outstanding velocity for lefty, but secondary offerings need work.
14. Mason Hope, RHP: Fifth-rounder was overshadowed by big-name Oklahoma arms, but fastball and curve are both above-average.
15. Chris Hatcher, RHP: Marlins have dreams of converted catcher being the next Jason Motte. Good command of mid-90s heat.
16. Scott Cousins, OF: Left-handedness all but assures him of fourth outfielder work; has ability to turn into second-division starter.
17. Kyle Skipworth, C: Sixth overall pick in 2008 still has plenty of raw power, but approach is a mess and defense has not improved.
18. Kyle Jensen, OF: Put up big numbers in the Florida State League, but is an older corner outfielder who has to keep hitting.
19. Mark Canha, 1B: Another Jensen type, Canha has very real power, but as a 22-year-old first baseman in Low-A last year, he was supposed to mash.
20. Alejandro Ramos, RHP: Wipeout slider has missed plenty of best as A-level closer, but scouts wonder if he has enough of a fastball for it to work in the upper levels.

1. Christian Yelich, OF
DOB
: 12/5/91
Height/Weight: 6-4/189
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2010, Westlake HS (CA)
2011 Stats: .312/.388/.484 at Single-A (122 G)
Tools Profile: Hitting ability and power, but he can run too.

Year in Review: 2010 first-round pick improved throughout the season, and was among the most dangerous hitters in the minors in the second half, batting .354/.423/.568 after the All-Star break.
The Good: Yelich can flat out hit. He has a smooth, downright pretty swing from the left side, has plenty of bat speed, and is learning how to extend his arms for power, projecting for 20-25 home runs annually. He works the count well and should hit for average with a high on-base percentage as well. Scouts were almost shocked at his athleticism, as he's a 55-60 runner who stole 32 bases and has good instincts on the base paths.
The Bad: Yelich can get tied up by left-handers who work him inside, and he'll need to improve against them. His jumps and routes need to improve in the outfield, where he is just an average left fielder with a 40 arm, thus requiring even more from his offense, long-term.
Ephemera: Yelich hit just .243 (26-for-107) in the sixth and seventh innings of games in 2011 but .333 in all other at-bats.
Perfect World Projection: Star-level outfielder with a high batting average and 20/20 potential.
Fantasy Impact: Yelich has the potential to be an early pick who fills every category.
Path to the Big Leagues: Yelich will begin the year at High-A Jupiter, and if he can build on his second-half surge, he could be less than 1,000 at-bats away from the big leagues.    
ETA: Late 2013.

2. Jose Fernandez, RHP
DOB
: 7/31/92
Height/Weight: 6-3/215
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2011, Alonso HS (FL)
2011 Stats: 0.00 ERA (2-1-1-3) at Rookie (1 G). 19.29 ERA (2.1-4-3-4) at Low-A (1 G)
Tools Profile: Power frame, power stuff.

Year in Review: Cuban émigré pitched his way to becoming the third high-school pitcher in the draft, where he signed for a $2 million bonus.
The Good: Fernandez certainly looks the part. He has a widely-built power frame and features a low-to-mid 90s fastball with explosive late left down through the zone. He gets plenty of two-plane break on a hard slider and has some feel for a changeup. He earns raves for his makeup and is unfazed on the mound, having dealt with far more hardship than any challenges baseball can provide.
The Bad: Fernandez's ultimate upside will depend on his command and control. He has a tendency to rush his delivery and fall to his left, losing his ability to locate his pitches. His breaking ball can get slurvy at times, and while he also has a curveball, scouts think the slider will serve him better as a pro. His size is a good thing for now, but he's thick in the lower half, and conditioning will need to be monitored.
Ephemera: Fernandez spent 15 days in a Cuban jail at the age of 14 when caught trying to defect. His mother was thrown from the boat trying to escape Cuban waters and he jumped in to save her.
Perfect World Projection: Good number-three starter with the upside of a two.
Fantasy Impact: The development of his command and control will ultimately define his value.
Path to the Big Leagues: Fernandez will make his full-season debut at Low-A Greenboro, but his debut might be delayed by some extra time in extended spring training to manage his workload.
ETA: 2015.

3. Marcell Ozuna, OF
DOB
: 11/12/90
Height/Weight: 6-2/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2010, Dominican Republic
2011 Stats: .266/.330/.482 at Single-A (131 G)
Tools Profile: Classic right field combination of power and arm strength.

Year in Review: Streaky outfielder had more ups than down, finishing in the Sally League top five in runs, home runs and total bases.
The Good: Plus-plus raw power is Ozuna's calling card. He has bat speed, strength, outstanding wrists, and can drive balls out of any part of the park. He's an average runner who can steal a base when pitchers forget about him and a very good outfielder with one of the best arms in the system.
The Bad: Ozuna pays the price for his power by getting pull-conscious and adding too much of an uppercut to his swing. His numbers are brought up by his ability to crush left-handers, but he hit just .251/.322/.433 against righties in 2011. He need to slow down the game better and work the count at the plate, while avoiding rushing his outfield throws.
Ephemera: Ozuna hit just two home runs in a 55-game stretch from May 27 to July 2. He hit 21 home runs in his 76 remaining contests.
Perfect World Projection: Number-four or -five hitter in the lineup but always more of a slugger than a hitter.
Fantasy Impact: Lots of home runs and a decent contribution in the stolen base department, but find batting average elsewhere.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Florida State League will provide a real challenge to Ozuna's power in 2012.
ETA: 2014.

4. J.T. Realmuto, C
DOB
: 3/18/91
Height/Weight: 6-1/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2010, Carl Albert HS (OK)
2011 Stats: .287/.347/.454 at Single-A (96 G)
Tools Profile: The rare athletic catcher

Year in Review: 2010 third-round pick was converted from shortstop to catcher, and the results were more than encouraging.
The Good: Realmuto is a catcher with tools. He has a quick bat and can jump on fastballs, with the potential to hit as many as 15-20 home runs per year. His plus-plus arm led to the conversion behind the plate, and he worked hard to learn the position while shutting down the running game.
The Bad: While he made progress, Realmuto still needs plenty of work behind the plate, as he often stabs to receive pitches and has trouble digging balls out of the dirt. He's an aggressive hitter, at times to his own detriment, as he finds himself behind in the count.
Ephemera: Realmuto's high school is named after the Speaker of the House from 1971-1977—the highest political office ever held by an Oklahoman.
Perfect World Projection: Above-average backstop, both offensively and defensively.
Fantasy Impact: One of those players who does a little bit in every category as opposed to putting up big numbers anywhere, but that's awfully valuable for a catcher.
Path to the Big Leagues: Realmuto has breakout potential, but the pitching-friendly environment of High-A Jupiter will make that difficult in 2012.
ETA: 2014.

5. Chad James, LHP
DOB
: 1/23/91
Height/Weight: 6-3/185
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed
: 1st round, 2009, Yukon HS (OK)
2011 Stats: 3.80 ERA (149.1-173-51-124) at High-A (27 G)
Tools Profile:
A lefty with power, but not the kind of power he showed in high school.

Year in Review: 2009 first-round pick isn't a high-upside pitcher anymore, but he sure looks like a big leaguer.
The Good: While James has never thrown as hard as he did in high school, he still has above-average velocity for a left-hander, parking his fastball in the low-90s while touching 93-94 mph. He'll flash a plus slider and have an average changeup and generally throws strikes.
The Bad: James has no real weakness but no overwhelmingly good pitch either. He has good control but is still learning command and can be guilty of grooving pitches when he needs a strike.
Ephemera: Seven players have been selected out of Yukon High, and the only one to reach the majors is Chad's older brother Justin, who did not sign as a sixth-round pick in the 2001 draft by the Red Sox.
Perfect World Projection: Number-three starter
Fantasy Impact: Solid across the board, but rarely spectacular.
Path to the Big Leagues: James will get his first taste of the upper levels in 2012 but could still be two full years away from the big leagues.
ETA: Late 2013.

6. Matt Dominguez, 3B
DOB
: 8/28/89
Height/Weight: 6-1/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2007, Chatsworth HS (CA)
2011 Stats: .167/.250/.167 at High-A (4 G). .133/.316/.133 at Double-A (4 G). .258/.312/.431 at Triple-A (87 G). .244/.292/.333 in MLB (17 G)
Tools Profile:
The glove remains well ahead of the bat, to the point where it's becoming a concern.

Year in Review: The Marlins hoped Dominguez would earn a big league job in 2011, but his bat didn't get going until the second half.
The Good: Many scouts believe that Dominguez is the best defensive third baseman in the minors. He has outstanding hands, tremendous instincts, range to both sides, and a plus arm with strength and carry. He has average raw power and could hit 15-18 home runs annually in the big leagues.
The Bad: Dominguez has never advanced as a hitter and still struggles against off-speed pitches. He crushes left-handers but can look lost against righties, and some wonder if he'll ever be even an average hitter. He does not run well.
Ephemera: Dominguez made the most of his nine plate appearances with the bases loaded for Triple-A New Orleans, making just three outs and driving in 14 with a walk, two singles, two doubles, and a grand slam.
Perfect World Projection: Pedro Feliz had an 11-year career.
Fantasy Impact: Some power, but that's about it. If there are leagues out there that count defense, he becomes more interesting.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Jose Reyes signing created a series of falling dominoes that point to Dominguez returning to Triple-A in 2012. If he gets a shot, it's looking less likely that it will come with the team that drafted him.
ETA: 2013.

7. Jesus Solorzano, OF
DOB
: 8/8/90
Height/Weight: 6-0/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Venezuela
2011 Stats: .299/.355/.454 at Rookie (51 G)
Tools Profile: Lots of tools in a small package.

Year in Review: Speed-based outfielder impressed in his stateside debut.
The Good: Solarzano is loaded with tools. He's not a pure burner but is a 65-70 runner who should being able to steal 40-plus bases annually. He makes excellent contact but can also surprise with his ability to drive balls, featuring gap power and double-digit home run potential. His speed serves him well in center field, and his arm is plus.
The Bad: Solorzano is a bit behind in the development curve, as he is 21 years old and has yet to play in a full-season league. His contact ability works against him at times, as he swings at too many pitches and needs to learn how to work the count better in order to fit at the top of the order.
Ephemera: While Solorzano primarily hit third for the GCL Marlins in 2011, he had a healthy .419/.455/.774 line in 33 plate appearances when leading off an inning.
Perfect World Projection: Valuable center fielder and leadoff hitter
Fantasy Impact: Average, stolen bases, and a little bit of power too. What else do you want?
Path to the Big Leagues: Solorzano will make his full-season debut at Low-A Greensboro, and his talent will dictate his timetable from there.
ETA: 2014.

8. Jose Ceda, RHP
DOB
: 1/28/87
Height/Weight: 6-4/275
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2005, Dominican Republic
2011 Stats: 1.36 ERA (39.2-30-13-53) at Triple-A (36 G). 4.43 ERA in MLB (20.1-16-12-21)
Tools Profile: Late-inning reliever with size and two power pitches

Year in Review: Once a top closer prospect, Ceda returned from shoulder issues to dominate Triple-A and missed plenty of bats in his first extended big league look.
The Good: Ceda is an intimidating presence on the mound who draws physical comparisons to Lee Smith. While he's lost a bit of velocity from his prime, he still sits at 92-96 mph and can touch 98 when he reaches back for more. He adds a slider than can range from average to plus.
The Bad: Ceda's control has never been a strong suit, and there is considerable effort in his delivery with little feel. He has to the potential for ninth-inning work if he can refine his slider, but there has been little progress with the pitch over the years.
Ephemera: Triple-A batters facing Ceda in 2011 with runners in scoring position went 4-for-34 (.118)
Perfect World Projection: Late-inning reliever, possibly picking up some save opportunities here and there.
Fantasy Impact: Limited without the saves.
Path to the Big Leagues: Ceda will compete with many power arms for a spot in the Miami bullpen.
ETA: 2013.

9. Jose Urena, RHP
DOB
: 9/12/91
Height/Weight: 6-3/172
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2008, Dominican Republic
2011 Stats: 4.33 ERA (72.2-74-29-48) at Low-A (15 G)
Tools Profile: Currently just an arm-strength guy, but there's a lot of potential here.

Year in Review: Teenage Dominican showed some of the best upside among pitchers in the New York-Penn League.
The Good: Everything about Urena screams projection. He’s tall and skinny with long levers and a silky-smooth delivery, sitting in the low-to-mid-90s with his fastball touching 97. He throws strikes and is very aggressive on the mound, working quickly and challenging hitters.
The Bad: Urena struggled to miss bats in 2011, as his fastball is his only pitch of note, and he has a tendency to overthrow it at times, causing it to straighten out. He shows some ability to spin a breaking ball and has a show-me changeup, but both offerings need significant improvement.
Ephemera: Nearly 40 percent of Urena's runs allowed came in the first inning, as he had a 3.26 ERA after that frame.
Perfect World Projection: Urena offers a lot to dream on, but he's eons away.
Fantasy Impact: Potentially huge, potentially non-existent.
Path to the Big Leagues: Urena will make his full-season debut in 2012, but the anticipated breakout might take a while based on how much work he needs to do.
ETA: 2015.

10. Rob Rasmussen, LHP
DOB
: 4/2/89
Height/Weight: 5-10/155
Bats/Throws: R/L
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2010, UCLA
2011 Stats: 3.64 ERA (148.1-140-71-118) at High-A (28 G)
Tools Profile: Undersized southpaw with impressive stuff

Year in Review: 2010 second-round pick had up-and-down year in the Florida State League.
The Good: Rasmussen has a deep arsenal that features two plus pitches with a low-90s fastball and a hard, biting slider. He has a solid-average curveball that is distinct from his slider and keeps hitters off balance. His delivery is simple and he maintains his stuff deep into games.
The Bad: Scouts are confused as to why Rasmussen isn't better, considering his stuff. He hurts himself with too many walks, and his lack of height causes his fastball to be a bit flat. His changeup has good velocity separation but lacks movement and deception.
Ephemera: Rasmussen's uncle Neil Rasmussen was the 12th overall pick by the Astros in the 1971 draft but never got above Double-A.
Perfect World Projection: Innings-eating starter.
Fantasy Impact: The use of the term 'innings-eating' should not exactly inspire confidence.
Path to the Big Leagues: Rasmussen will move up to Double-A in 2012, and more strikes could quicken his arrival in the majors.
ETA: 2013.

11. Noah Perio, 2B
DOB
: 11/14/91
Height/Weight: 6-0/170
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 39th round, 2009, De La Salle HS (CA)
2011 Stats: .295/.323/.406 at Single-A (119 G)
Tools Profile: No massive tools, but plenty of athleticism.

Year in Review: Was a solid all-around contributor in his full-season debut.
The Good: Perio has no real weakness tools-wise, with one scout adding, “You have to see him many times to appreciate how good he is… he grows on you.” He has excellent hand-eye coordination and a knack for contact with gap power. He's a tick above-average as a runner and plays a solid second base. He brings a lot of intensity to the game and plays with a lot of energy.
The Bad: Perio is an impatient hitter who has many quick at-bats and rarely works the count to his advantage. He has a tendency to rush his footwork and throws in the field. He has below-average power and little projection in that department.
Ephemera: Perio was a star wide receiver in high school at one of the most successful football programs in the country. The Spartans have won several mythical national championships and produced a list of NFL players that spans into the double digits.
Perfect World Projection: Good everyday second baseman.
Fantasy Impact: Provides a little bit of everything, as long as on-base skills aren't counted.
Path to the Big Leagues: Perio will be another part of one of the most interesting High-A teams around next year.
ETA: 2015

The Sleeper: Scouts aren't completely ready to write off outfielder Ike Galloway, who had 16 home runs and 17 stolen bases in 110 games but still has one of the game's worst approaches.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/86 or later)
1. Mike Stanton, OF
2. Logan Morrison, OF/1B
3. Christian Yelich, OF
4. Jose Fernandez, RHP
5. Chris Volstad, RHP

6. Marcell Ozuna, OF
7. J.T. Realmuto, C
8. Chad James, LHP
9. Matt Dominguez, 3B
10. Jesus Solorzano, OF

Stanton is an absolutely terrifying talent who has as much raw power as anyone in the game, made significant improvements in 2011 in his pure hitting, and is still years from his prime. Morrison proved he can hit for average in 2010, proved he can hit for power in 2011, and now needs to prove he can do both. He has the talent to do it, but his Twitter ability is highly over-rated. Volstad is a fantastic sleeper selection for 2012 as he learns how to be a groundball pitcher. His ERA was up in 2011, but his walks were down, his strikeouts were up, and there is still a ceiling there.

Summary: Along with their name change, the Marlins have transformed from a prospect-dependent team to big spenders in the free agent market, making some of their prospects expendable in future deals. While the last two drafts and their international work could pay dividends, this is still a middle-of-the-road organization that could improve dramatically with the addition of one of the big name Cuban imports once Yoenis Cespedes and Jorge Soler are eligible to sign.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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