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November 26, 2012
Prospects Will Break Your Heart
Miami Marlins Top 10 Prospects
State of the Farm: “The future still looks good. And you've got time to rectify all the
The Top Ten
1. Jose Fernandez
What Happened in 2012: Fernandez made his full-season debut and flat-out dominated in the Sally League, and then continued the trend after a promotion to High-A.
Strengths: Near elite arm strength; FB works 92-97; has shown ability to sit 95-97; explosive offering with late attack; curveball is easy plus and could end up a 7; tight pitch has tight rotation and big depth; slider flashes plus, thrown with velocity and two-plane movement; changeup projects to be at least average; shows feel for strike-throwing; intimidator on the mound; baseball rat.
Weaknesses: Still transitioning from thrower to pitcher; raw stuff is so good that he was able to dominate without pitchability; body was a question mark for a few sources; fear of adding bad weight after maturity; changeup can be too firm and deliberate.
Overall Future Potential: 7; no. 2 starter
Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; raw stuff is undeniable, but approach needs refinement; changeup needs full-grade jump; still a good bet to be impact major-league arm.
Fantasy Future: He’s going to put his team in a position to win a lot of games and he’s going to miss a lot of bats.
The Year Ahead: Fernandez is ready for Double-A, but his raw stuff is so good he might not face a real challenge until he reaches the majors. He needs to refine his command and his secondary arsenal, and his overall pitchability needs to continue its development. Not that Fernandez needs to fail in order to take a step forward, but the fastball/breaking ball combo is so electric that he can disguise mistakes and avoid exploitation, so putting himself in situations and sequences in which he is unfamiliar will be extremely beneficial. He’s among the top arms in the minors, and it won’t be long before the Cuban is pitching at the highest level.
Major league ETA: 2013
2. Christian Yelich
What Happened in 2012: Yelich jumped up prospect lists after a promising Low-A season in 2011, and his climb continued in 2012, as the 20-year-old raked in the Florida State League, improving his production across the board.
Strengths: Natural hitter; knack for centering the ball on the barrel; efficient path to the ball; 7 potential hit tool; ability to drive the ball to all fields; makes very hard contact; has a plan at the plate; recognizes well; plus athlete; solid run; solid glove; shows necessary skills for center field (at present).
Weaknesses: Debate on game power; shows some backspin and lift, but has more of a line-drive stroke than a leveraged over-the-fence swing; low-end estimate is 10-15 HR power; high-end is 20-plus; arm is a 4; very good athlete with solid-avg run, but doesn’t have ideal range for center field; looks more like a future left fielder.
Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player
Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; needs to face better pitching challenge; bat has the potential to play anywhere.
Fantasy Future: Yelich has the type of natural hitting ability to produce a .300+ average, good OBP skills, enough speed for some stolen bases, and a ton of extra base hits. He should be able to fill up the sheet.
The Year Ahead: Yelich is set to face his biggest challenge, with a jump to Double-A. He needs to face better stuff and better sequence, but the bat will continue to carry him. He will no doubt log innings in center field, and he might be able to stay at that position for a few more years. In the end, Yelich should emerge as the modern prototype for a corner outfielder, with a toolsy, athletic game that is built on hard contact and good all-around skills rather than just extreme raw power.
Major league ETA: 2013
3. Jake Marisnick
What Happened in 2012: After a decent run in the Florida State League, Marisnick really struggled with the stick in his Double-A debut, making weak contact against quality offerings and raising red flags about his offensive future.
Strengths: Excellent size/strength; very toolsy; plus speed; plus arm; can play center (at present); bat has pop and projection; high-end believers suggest 6/6 (hit/power) at maturity; plays with instincts for the game; high-floor talent.
Weaknesses: Swing mechanics can make path to the ball inefficient; needs to find consistency with mechanical approach; keep hands inside; questions about hit tool utility/game power; has struggled against quality velocity/off-speed stuff; offensive output might present tweener profile (good for CF; weak for corner); debate on level of defensive quality/projection in CF.
Overall Future Potential: 6; first division player
Explanation of Risk: High risk; Marisnick has the baseball skills to reach highest level; defensive profile to handle center (at present); secondary offensive skills; major league floor/first division ceiling; high risk candidate to reach full offensive potential.
The Year Ahead: It’s adjustment time for Marisnick, as he has seen the level of competition and must raise his game accordingly. He shows all the necessary tools to be a first-division player, but lacks any standout attribute. He has the speed and the glove to handle center field, but opinions vary as to how he projects at the position, as do the opinions on his bat and whether it would stand out in a corner. Marisnick’s career could go a number of different ways at this point, ranging from first-division center fielder, to first-division right fielder to second-division right fielder to bench outfielder; 2013 should help to narrow these outcomes, and a return to the Double-A level would be a good place to start.
Major league ETA: 2013
4. Justin Nicolino
What Happened in 2012: Nicolino was very strong in his full-season debut in the Midwest League, showing his sharp feel for command, walking an anemic 21 hitters in over 124 innings of work.
Strengths: Advanced feel for the mound/pitchability; locates his fringe-average fastball (88-91 mph); pitch plays up because of movement (good sink) and command; changeup is major weapon; wears fastball disguise; very consistent in arm speed/release; good vertical movement; can be used as primary pitch; can locate curveball and use pitch in sequence; mature approach to arsenal sequencing.
Weaknesses: Fastball lacks premium velocity; can touch 93, but works lower; shows more confidence in changeup and often pitches backwards; curveball is only average offering; can locate, but pitch lacks intense bite; often picked up early out of the hand; can miss bats (present) but lacks dominating arsenal/profile; small margin for error.
Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter
Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; advanced polish and pitchability for age; lacks frontline stuff, but knows how to use what he has; high floor.
Fantasy Future: If you like K/BB or BB/9 ratios (and who doesn’t?), you will enjoy Nicolino. He isn’t going to be a fantasy monster, but he knows how to keep hitters off-balance and how to force weak contact, so he should be a starter who can stick around long enough to win some games and log innings.
The Year Ahead: Nicolino is advanced enough to pitch at Double-A now, but the environments of the Florida State League could provide a good learning experience for the young arm; he will continue to out-craft hitters rather than blow them away. There are some scouts who look at Nicolino’s frame and arm and envision the fastball ticking up a few notches as he adds strength, which could change the discussions about his ultimate ceiling. If the fastball adds some meat, and the curveball develops into a more consistent bat-missing offering, Nicolino has the type of pitchability and changeup utility to become something nasty. As it stands now, the floor is high, but the ceiling is limited because of the intensity of the arsenal. If that intensity takes a step forward, Nicolino could jump to the top of this list.
Major league ETA: 2014
5. Andrew Heaney
What Happened in 2012: Popped with the 9th overall pick in the 2012 draft. Heaney made a strong debut showing in the Sally League, where the 21-year-old southpaw made four starts and looked like an arm that could move quickly through the minors.
Strengths: Smooth delivery; very easy arm action; fastball is a plus pitch, working in the 91-94 range with good life; curveball is a 6; big break; bat-misser; changeup plays at 5, with some sink and deception via arm speed consistency; very good feel for the mound; throws strikes; ready to move.
Weaknesses: Tinkers with arm slot and can lose release; will shorten his stride and sling the ball; can slide under the curve; loses tight rotation and gets slurvy; fastball is a table-setter offering, not a big velocity monster.
Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter
Explanation of Risk: Moderate risk; needs to add strength to handle heavy workload, but has mature arsenal and shows strong pitchability.
Fantasy Future: Should develop into a middle-of-the-rotation workhorse, with a solid-avg to plus arsenal. I wouldn’t expect massive strikeout totals, but he will miss some bats and he will collect wins.
The Year Ahead: While Heaney isn’t a finished product, his present arsenal is ready to compete at higher levels. With three pitches, a good command profile, and good overall feel, he should move through the minors very quickly, possibly starting the season in Double-A and reaching the majors at some point in 2013. He needs to add some strength and put all the arsenal pieces together at the same time, but he looks like a mid-rotation type all the way, with a slight chance for more if the loose arm and easy action allow the fastball velocity to experience a spike.
Major league ETA: 2013
6. Rob Brantly
What Happened in 2012: Brantly’s bat certainly looked the part in his 31-game run at the major-league level, showing contact ability, an improved approach, and game power.
Strengths: Good, clean stroke; gets to the ball quickly and can drive to all fields; hit tool is at least solid-average; shows some power utility; behind the plate, works well with pitching staff; some catch and throw skills; solid arm; improving receiver; leadership qualities.
Weaknesses: Lacks high-end defensive skills; arm isn’t plus; footwork needs improvement; bat lacks upside off-position; not a big power threat; approach can be too aggressive and put him behind in counts.
Overall Future Potential: 5; solid-average major-league regular
Explanation of Risk: Low risk; can stick behind the plate; bat has enough to hit down in the lineup.
The Year Ahead: Brantly will get to prove whether or not his run through the upper minors and the majors was a product of good fortune and a friendly sample size or a snapshot of what should be expected going forward. His chops behind the plate have improved, and he receives high marks for his ability to work with a pitching staff. His ability to crush right-handed pitching is a major plus, and with the improved receiving skills, could keep him in the lineup at a healthy clip. One source suggested Brantly might “only be a regular, but he’ll play at the major-league level for the next 10 years.”
Major league ETA: 2012
7. Austin Brice
What Happened in 2012: After two season at the complex level, Brice made the jump to full-season ball, making 19 starts and striking out 10 batters per every nine innings of work.
Strengths: Big arm strength; fastball is plus offering; works 91-95; has touched 97; thrown with good angle; curveball flashes plus; hard-breaking ball with good vertical dive; excellent size/present strength; room for arsenal growth
Weaknesses: Inconsistent mechanics; opens up; doesn’t finish; tendency to cast the ball; still very much a thrower; command is well below-average at present; changeup is still underdeveloped.
Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter
Explanation of Risk: High risk; big gap between present and future; secondary arsenal needs refinement; command needs several-grade jump.
Fantasy Future: Electric arm that can miss bats (strikeouts), but command profile might always be shaky (walks/hits). Has the body to log innings.
The Year Ahead: Brice has legit stuff, but he needs to learn how to utilize that stuff in order to be effective. Both the fastball and the curve can miss bats, and the changeup will flash average potential, so the arsenal isn’t an issue. Improvements in the delivery (consistency) and subsequent command will go a long way to elevate Brice’s prospect star. He will make the jump to High-A in 2013, and could reach the Southern League at some point if the command takes a step forward.
Major league ETA: 2014
8. Avery Romero
What Happened in 2012: A few sources thought Romero had enough raw power to sneak into the first round, but he fell to the 3rd, where the Marlins signed the infielder to an above-slot bonus of $700,000.
Strengths: Baseball rat; big raw; easy plus power potential, with some going to 7; plus arm; will play at hot corner; hands/actions can play at second (present); strong and physical on both sides of the ball; short, quick stroke at the plate; shows some pitch recognition ability and offensive plan.
Weaknesses: Lacks quality defensive projection; below-average speed; limited range; lower-half movements can get stiff and clumsy; mixed opinion on hit tool/utility; issues with pitches on outer-third (limited plate coverage); raw power is only standout tool; difficult profile.
Overall Future Potential: 5; solid-average regular
Explanation of Risk: High risk; offensive profile is tied to power promise; limited defense value puts all the pressure on the stick; questions about hit tool.
Fantasy Future: Could be Dan Uggla type, with enough raw power to play despite holes in overall game.
The Year Ahead: Romero should make the jump to the full-season level, where better pitching has a chance to expose a hit tool that some think is a future plus weapon, while others think it will struggle to play at the highest level. A polarizing prospect, Romero’s defensive home is also the subject of debate, with more than enough arm for third, but limited range at second base. With a strong core and almost thick lower-half, a move to catcher might enhance Romero’s overall profile, which would no doubt make that power potential in his offensive game all the more attractive.
Major league ETA: 2015
9. Jake (J.T.) Realmuto
What Happened in 2012: Slow and steady, Realmuto climbed to the High-A level, where the focus on his defensive development was paramount to his production with the bat.
Strengths: Big time athlete; one of the best in the entire system; plus run; plus-plus arm; shows promising raw power; good catch/throw skills; improving footwork and receiving skills; took big developmental strides in 2012.
Weaknesses: Not a natural hitter; swing has some length; swing mechanics can get messy and unbalanced; power unlikely to play above-average; big struggles against right-handed pitching; still new to catching, so game calling and overall feel for the position need to improve.
Overall Future Potential: 5; second division starter
Explanation of Risk: High risk; needs big development on both sides of the ball; less-than 200 career games behind the plate.
Fantasy Future: Solid backstop with average bat and good secondary skills (pop/speed); well above-average speed for the position.
The Year Ahead: Developing quality defensive catchers often requires some offensive sacrifice, which was evident in 2012 and might continue in 2013. Realmuto doesn’t have a high offensive ceiling, as his tool will be average at best and the power is unlikely to play at plus. But unlike most backstops, Realmuto is a premium athlete who can really run, which adds a dimension to his offensive game. As the defensive journey continues, the bat might stay in the shadows, but ultimately, the offensive utility is what will determine if Realmuto is a platoon type are a major-league regular.
Major league ETA: 2015
10. Marcell Ozuna
What Happened in 2012: Ozuna made the jump to the Florida State League, where his offensive production was nearly identical to the output from 2011 (Midwest League), which can either be viewed as encouraging or discouraging, depending on the source.
Strengths: Big raw power; projects to be plus-plus; already shows up in game action; arm is very strong; has the instincts and glove to handle center (present), but fits ideal right field profile; plus athlete; shows baseball IQ and excellent game awareness.
Weaknesses: Hit tool is big question mark; could limit power utility; swing gets long and leveraged; struggles with off-speed offerings; will expand zone; pitchers with a plan can get him out
Overall Future Potential: 5; second-division starter
Explanation of Risk: High risk; hit tool is below-average; pitch-recognition issues; needs multiple-grade jump to reach average; offensive game tied to power.
Fantasy Future: On paper, looks like a prototypical right fielder, with big raw power and a big arm. Hit tool will limit average and lead to big strikeout totals; speed and instincts should allow for some stolen bases.
The Year Ahead: Double-A is a make-or-break level for some young hitters, and the ones with suspect hit tools and aggressive approaches are usually the first to get exposed. Ozuna is more than just the promise of his raw power, as he is a good athlete who can play a little center field and projects to be a very good right fielder, with excellent range and a very big arm. But like most players, his destiny is in the hands of his bat, and if the hit tool can find a way to play, the impressive power and solid game speed could make him a second-division starter.
Major league ETA: 2014
Prospects on the Rise:
1. RHP Jose Urena: Projectable starter, with a loose arm and easy cheese, Urena was a late cut from the top 10 list. An immature secondary arsenal and a fastball that finds a lot of plate has allowed hitters to make steady contact, but a step forward with the slider or the change and the 21-year-old can jump up this list in 2013.
2. OF Jesus Solorzano: Four years of short-season ball can keep a player under the radar, but after a stellar New York-Penn League campaign in 2012, the 22-year-old Venezuelan is ready to take a big step forward next season. With a solid-average collection of tools and good all-around feel for the game, Solorzano is a name on the rise in the Marlins system.
3. RHP Mason Hope: Big arm strength on a prototypical starter’s frame. Hope can pump his fastball in the low-90s and touch higher and spin a quality breaking ball (curve) that projects to be a true bat-missing weapon. High school right-handers from the state of Oklahoma must be the new market inefficiency. Hope isn’t in the same class as Bundy or Bradley, but could develop into a mid-rotation horse.
Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2013
1. LHP Grant Dayton: A lefty reliever with two plus pitches (92-94 mph FB; hard slider) and good feel for execution , Dayton might only have 13 Double-A innings under his belt, but he’s a good bet to contribute to the Marlins in 2013.
2. 3B Zack Cox: Remember this guy? It was only a year ago that Cox was a highly thought of prospect in the Cardinals system, ranked ahead of blue-chippers like Kolten Wong, Tyrell Jenkins, and Trevor Rosenthal (by some publications). After a dreadful 2012 season that saw him struggle at two levels and get traded to the Marlins for reliever Edward Mujica, Cox will look to regain his first-round form, and hope to challenge for playing time at the major-league level.
3. SS Adeiny Hechavarria: You won’t find many shortstops that can match Hechavarria’s wizardry with the glove, but with big holes that exist in his game exist in his bat, and they threaten to limit his overall potential. Because of his plus-plus profile at a premium position, the 23-year-old Cuban doesn’t have to win batting title to stay in the lineup, but he does have to tighten his approach and make enough contact to avoid being labeled an empty wizard.
Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/87 or later)
The Marlins may have sold off a big chunk of last year’s spending spree, but they still own one of the game’s most exciting young players in Giancarlo Stanton. As quite possibly the best bet to pop 50 home runs in a given season, Stanton is an immense talent; one that can anchor a lineup and has the potential to be one of the game’s elite players for a very long time. Jose Fernandez and Christian Yelich could be on their way to solidifying the core of the next contending Marlins team. Fernandez looks like a top-flight no. 2 starter in the making and Yelich should hold down the left-field slot opposite Stanton. Jacob Turner, Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi look like potential third or fourth starters that should eat innings and keep the team in ball games behind Fernandez. Jake Marisnick and Justin Nicolino, while both new to the system, offer potential that is hard to ignore. Marisnick could reach the majors before the end of the 2013 season and Nicolino could move quickly as a polished lefty. Logan Morrison may be pushed aside as Yelich and Marisnick arrive in Miami, but he has a role on a major-league club. Heaney has enormous fans within the Marlins organization and he could be pushed aggressively to help create a very young and very talented rotation in the next couple of years. When you look at the list of young talent in, or poised to arrive in Miami, it makes you wonder if blowing things up and trading away veterans like Mark Buehrle, Jose Reyes and Heath Bell wasn’t actually the right move for the long term competitiveness of the team. –Mark Anderson
A Parting Thought: It’s hard to soothe the recent wounds inflicted on the Marlins fan base by selling them on a future hope, but the seeds of this organization are still quite strong, with high-impact talent sitting atop a list featuring quality depth.