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November 20, 2008

Future Shock

Marlins Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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top 11 prospects

Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart

Five-Star Prospects
1. Cameron Maybin, CF
2. Michael Stanton, RF
3. Matt Dominguez, 3B
Four-Star Prospects
4. Logan Morrison, 1B
5. Kyle Skipworth, C
6. Jose Ceda, RHP
Three-Star Prospects
7. Sean West, LHP
8. Ryan Tucker, RHP
9. Chris Coghlan, 2B
10. John Raynor, LF
11. Gaby Sanchez, 1B

Just Missed: Brett Carroll, OF; Scout Cousins, OF; Ike Galloway, OF

Ranking Challenges: I think Maybin and Stanton are a step ahead of Dominguez and Morrison, but you could flip those four in any order and still make an argument for each scenario. For me, two years and a positional difference create a decent gap between the pair I rank up ahead of the other two. Skipworth and Ceda are on their own island right behind that quartet, and then seven through 11 are all very close to each other.

1. Cameron Maybin, CF
DOB: 4/4/87
Height/Weight: 6-4/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round (Tigers), 2005, T.C. Roberson HS (NC)
2008 Stats: .277/.375/.456, .266 EqA at Double-A (108 G); .500/.543/.563 at MLB (8 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 1

Year in Review: The biggest name acquired in an off-season blockbuster with the Tigers recovered from a slow start to put up good numbers at Double-A, then began his Florida career in style by going 9-for-11 in his first three games for the Marlins.
The Good: Maybin's raw tools rate with those of any other prospect in the game. He's a big, loose athlete with enough speed and power potential to become a consistent 30-30 type. He has a good feel for the strike zone, and tremendous bat speed generated mostly by remarkable wrist strength. He's a very good center fielder with plenty of range and an above-average arm.
The Bad: Maybin has put up some big strikeout totals throughout his career, including 124 in 390 at-bats last year. His swing has a pronounced trigger in it, which makes it difficult for him to adjust on pitches in flight, often forcing him to flail badly. Some scouts see it as somewhat fixable, others see it as part of the package and not something you'd want to try to fix if it would risk breaking him.
Fun Fact: Maybin's BABIP during his eight big-leagues games was .667; if you're new to the stat, that's a ridiculously high number.
Perfect World Projection: He's a bigger, healthier Eric Davis minus a tick of power and speed, but with plenty of both nonetheless.
Glass Half Empty: Too many strikeouts could make him more of a Mike Cameron clone.
Path To The Big Leagues: The Marlins don't bother keeping their arbitration-eligible players, so there are no roadblocks. That said, the Marlins' primary center fielders in the past three years have been Cody Ross, Alfredo Amezaga, and Reggie Abercrombie, so they're more than a bit desperate.
Timetable: Maybin goes into spring training with the center-field job come Opening Day his to lose; he should be a solid Rookie of the Year candidate.

2. Mike Stanton, RF
DOB: 11/8/89
Height/Weight: 6-5/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2007, Notre Dame HS (CA)
2008 Stats: .293/.381/.611, .270 EqA at Low-A (125 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: He was not on many prospect radars entering the year, but this second-round pick led the Sally League in nearly every power category in what was the absolute definition of a breakout campaign.
The Good: There are a good number of teenagers out there with 80 raw power, but to find one who can already translate it to in-game situations is quite rare, and he doesn't have to make perfect contact to drive it out of the yard. Just as exciting, Stanton isn't merely a one-dimensional slugger; he's a solid athlete who can play center in a pinch, has average speed, and a plus arm.
The Bad: Stanton needs to hone his plate coverage, as his solid walk rate (51 UIBBs in 468 at-bats) is more a reflection of how often he was pitched around. He needs to learn how to shorten his stroke and adjust when behind in the count; 153 strikeouts is something of a concern. Few believe that he'll be able to stay in center as his massive frame fills out.
Fun Fact: When leading off an inning in 2008, Stanton slugged 13 home runs in just 84 at-bats.
Perfect World Projection: He becomes a classic right fielder with 40-plus home runs annually.
Glass Half Empty: He has enormous power, but an enormous number of strikeouts keep his average down and limit his value.
Path To The Big Leagues: The Marlins will always find room for a young talent, especially one like this.
Timetable: Stanton moves from a great hitters' park to the tough offensive environment of the Florida State League, where we'll learn just how much of this is real.

3. Matt Dominguez, 3B
DOB: 8/28/89
Height/Weight: 6-2/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2007, Chatsworth HS (CA)
2008 Stats: .296/.354/.499, .233 EqA at Low-A (88 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 3

Year in Review: Even though he was the 12th overall pick in last year's draft, Dominguez nevertheless exceeded all expectations in his full-season debut, finishing fourth in the league in slugging percentage.
The Good: Dominguez has a remarkably quiet swing with little step or trigger, and the bat flies through the zone quickly, allowing him to make consistent, hard contact. Marlins officials believe he's just beginning to find his power; he was recovering from mononucleosis early in the season, and ended up pounding out 10 home runs in his final 22 games. Despite being just a teenager, his defense is big league-quality right now, and he has Gold Glove potential with outstanding instincts, great hands, and a strong, accurate arm.
The Bad: Dominguez can be a hacker, and he often puts himself in bad hitting counts. He's not a clogger on the basepaths, but he is a well below-average runner. There is some concern that the home park played too large a role in his numbers, since he hit just .246/.296/.392 on the road while putting up a 1000-plus OPS in the friendly confines of Greensboro.
Fun Fact: In high school, Dominguez was arguably part of the second-best left side of an infield in the history of high school baseball, playing third while Royals slugging prospect Mike Moustakas was at short. Prizes in the comments section for whoever can name the best-those employed by professional scouting departments are not eligible.
Perfect World Projection: He'll become a healthy, right-handed version of Eric Chavez.
Glass Half Empty: The home park makes him look better than he is, and combined with plate-discipline issues, he'll end up a merely average player.
Path To The Big Leagues: That was a great year by Jorge Cantu and all, but it's not like he'll be around when Dominguez is ready.
Timetable: Dominguez will join Stanton at High-A Jupiter to begin the 2009 season.

4. Logan Morrison, 1B
DOB: 8/25/87
Height/Weight: 6-2/215
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 22nd round, 2005, Northshore HS (LA)
2008 Stats: .332/.402/.494, .294 EqA at High-A (130 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: He followed up his solid full-season debut with a breakout campaign in the Florida State League, where he won the batting title and led the circuit in on-base percentage while finishing fifth in slugging.
The Good: Morrison is easily the best pure hitter in Florida's system. He has an advanced approach with a downright pretty swing and fantastic plate coverage. He has average to above-average power against right-handed pitchers, and he rarely misses when he swings. He's a good athlete for his size and has soft hands at first base.
The Bad: Morrison doesn't have the power normally associated with the position he plays, and he sells out nearly all of his power against left-handers, as he focuses on contact against that side. He needs to improve his positioning and footwork around the bag.
Fun Fact: He played a bit of outfield now and then in the Arizona Fall League, but when he was in his comfort zone playing first base, he went 28-for-58 (.483) at the plate.
Perfect World Projection: He should develop into an impact-level first baseman who makes up for below-average power for the position with high batting averages and on-base percentages.
Glass Half Empty: He might only be Lyle Overbay.
Path To The Big Leagues: Being a young player in the Marlins system is a good thing, and they just traded Mike Jacobs.
Timetable: After a strong performance in the AFL, Morrison could be on the fast track if he can get off to a quick start at the Marlins' new Double-A affiliate in Jacksonville.

5. Kyle Skipworth, C
DOB: 3/1/90
Height/Weight: 6-3/195
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, Patriot HS (CA)
2008 Stats: .208/.263/.340 at Rookie-level (43 G)
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: The top high school catcher in the draft was selected sixth overall by the cost-conscious Marlins, and then struggled in his pro debut.
The Good: Skipworth's strong, athletic frame and outstanding tools provide much to hope for. He has plus-plus raw power and a good feel for hitting, moves easily behind the plate, and has a well above-average arm. He gets high grades for his work ethic and leadership, and had no trouble taking control of the pitching staff on the GCL Marlins.
The Bad: Skipworth needs to understand when to shorten his swing; his power-only approach and his difficulty laying off early-count breaking pitches hampered his progress. While he has all of the tools to be an above-average defensive catcher, he's not there yet, and he needs to work on his blocking and catch-and-throw skills.
Fun Fact: Skipworth is the first player ever drafted out of Patriot High School in Riverside, but that's not saying much-the school did not open until 2007.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be an All-Star-caliber catcher.
Glass Half Empty: There may be too many holes in his game, and it may not all come together in the end.
Path To The Big Leagues: There's nothing to lose sleep over at this time.
Timetable: The Marlins believe that Skipworth's pro debut was just a case of the standard initial struggle that often occurs with players who end up being superstars. They're quite confident that he'll put up big numbers at Low-A Greensboro in 2009.

6. Jose Ceda, RHP
DOB: 1/28/87
Height/Weight: 6-4/275
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2004 (Cubs)
2008 Stats: 4.80 ERA at High-A (54.1-41-28-53), 7.17 DERA; 2.08 ERA at Double-A (30.1-26-14-42), 2.89 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: 4 (Cubs)

Year in Review: The former third-ranked Cubs prospect is the first player to make two lists, after recently being traded to Florida for Kevin Gregg. The top closer prospect in the system began the year as a starter in order to work on his overall game, and returned to his dominating ways when moved back into the closer's role at Double-A.

The Good: Ceda brings presence to the mound with the size, stuff, aggressiveness, and intimidation factor of a shut-down closer. He has the classic closer's combination of fastball/slider, both knockout pitches, with the fastball sitting at 94-97 mph and touching 100, while the power slider features plenty of depth and tilt.
The Bad: Ceda overthrows both of his pitches at times, which can lead to control issues, as can his arm-heavy mechanics, which involve a significant amount of grunting. He experimented with a changeup while starting, but it was never any more than a show-me pitch, and nobody argues with the fact that he's a reliever. His size is a bit of a concern, and he started to put on some soft weight last year.
Fun Fact: When pitching in the ninth-inning or later for Double-A Tennessee, Ceda allowed just two runs over 16 innings while striking out 28.
Perfect World Projection: He should become a dominating closer.

Glass Half Empty: Unless his control problems become a constant, or something else unpredictable happens, it's hard to not see Ceda pitching in the late innings.
Path To The Big Leagues: Ceda has closer potential, and the Marlins just traded away their closer for most of the last two seasons to get him. Interesting...
Timetable: While he's now the Marlins' closer of the future, he'll likely begin the year at Triple-A New Orleans.

7. Sean West, LHP
DOB: 6/15/86
Height/Weight: 6-8/200
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2005, Captain Shreve HS (LA)
2008 Stats: 2.41 ERA at High-A (100.2-79-60-92), 4.95 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: 6

Year in Review: After missing all of 2007 recovering from labrum surgery, the former top prospect in the system returned, showing good stuff with improved mechanics.
The Good: West is an imposing figure on the mound who backs it up with equally imposing pitches. He has well-above-average velocity for a left-hander, and was sitting at 91-94 mph while touching 96 consistently by the end of the season. It's not a pure sinker, but it generates a good number of ground balls with the downward plane created by his height. He flashes a plus slider with good depth and tilt, and has a good feel for the changeup. One scout who saw West both before and after the surgery credited Florida's staff for creating a much cleaner delivery without altering his core mechanics.
The Bad: Command and control remain West's biggest bugaboos. Like many tall, young pitchers, he has a lot of arms and legs in his delivery, and suffers from inconsistent release points as his arm drifts both up and down. He needs to find more consistency with his secondary pitches, though both do have potential.
Fun Fact: Left-handers facing him in 2008 did not manage a single extra-base hit in 105 plate appearances.
Perfect World Projection: An above-average big-league starter, he'll end up as at least a number three.
Glass Half Empty: Control problems and labrum surgery are two big red flags for a pitcher so young.
Path To The Big Leagues: Repeat after me: this is the Marlins... no one gets blocked.
Timetable: West will need to throw more strikes against the more advanced hitters at Double-A in order to repeat his success from 2008.

8. Ryan Tucker, RHP
DOB: 12/6/86
Height/Weight: 6-2/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2005, Temple City HS (CA)
2008 Stats: 1.58 ERA at Double-A (91-64-37-74), 2.32 DERA; 8.27 ERA at MLB (37-46-23-28), 7.86 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: 7

Year in Review: Owner of the best pure arm in the system, Tucker got off to a tremendous start at Double-A, but struggled in the majors both starting and relieving before returning to the Southern League to finish the year.
The Good: Tucker can certainly bring it, with a fastball that sits between 92-95 mph and can touch 97. His arm action is clean and his mechanics are sound. He's an intense competitor who backs down from no challenge, and who was not overwhelmed in any way by his big-league experience or his struggles there.
The Bad: Tucker is a bit of a one-trick pony, or, as the old scouting joke goes, he pitches off his fastball to set up his fastball. He has a changeup that flashes as plus at times, but it's inconsistent, and he's struggled throughout his career to find a dependable breaking ball, finally settling on a slider than tends to flatten and sweep.
Fun Fact: Batters facing Tucker with runners in scoring position and two outs went just 5-for-50 (.100) against him in Double-A, but big leaguers in the same situation hit .353 with a .500 on-base percentage.
Perfect World Projection: If he can find a way to expand his arsenal, Tucker has the mechanics and durability to be a good big-league starter.
Glass Half Empty: Just put him in the bullpen, and stop trying to make him something he's not.
Path To The Big Leagues: I don't know how many ways I can say this: young talent always has a chance with the Marlins.
Timetable: The Marlins sent a signal when Tucker remained in the bullpen following his return to Carolina, and he'll compete for a relief role in spring training, but more likely he'll begin the year at Triple-A.

9. Chris Coghlan, 2B
DOB: 6/18/85
Height/Weight: 6-1/195
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2006, University of Mississippi
2008 Stats: .298/.396/.429, .259 EqA at Double-A (132 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 9

Year in Review: He's a classic polished college product who delivered a good year at the upper levels and participated in the Futures Game.
The Good: Coghlan is a pest on offense who works the count well and combines excellent contact with the ability to drive balls on occasion. Once he gets on, he's a plus runner who likes to steal bases. He's played a solid second base after moving there from third, which was his position in college.
The Bad: Coghlan doesn't have any one tool that really lights up the scouting reports. He's still a bit rough around the edges defensively, and there's not much projection left in him; he is pretty much is what he is.
Fun Fact: While the University of Mississippi has a solid baseball program in the always-tough SEC, only three players drafted out of the school have more than 100 major league hits: David Dellucci, Steve Dillard, and Chris Snopek.
Perfect World Projection: He becomes a solid, grind-it-out style middle infielder who helps you more than he hurts you.
Glass Half Empty: He winds up as a utility player at second and third who provides on-base skills coming off the bench.
Path To The Big Leagues: Rumors of Dan Uggla's departure have been flying around...
Timetable: ...but for now, Coghlan is scheduled to begin the year at Triple-A, as new acquisition Emilio Bonifacio has first dibs on the second-base job should Uggla depart (or simply move off of second).

10. John Raynor, LF
DOB: 1/4/84
Height/Weight: 6-2/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 9th round, 2006, University of North Carolina at Wilmington
2008 Stats: .312/.402/.489, .266 EqA at Double-A (126 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Just Missed

Year in Review: This relatively obscure ninth-round pick was last year's Sally League MVP, and made a two-level jump up to Double-A but kept on producing, leading the Southern League in runs (104) and stolen bases (48).
The Good: Despite his draft status and age, Raynor does have some nice tools, beginning with plus-plus speed and an aggressive style that turns singles into doubles, and makes him a threat to run in any situation. He's also an adept hitter who works the count well, utilizing a line-drive swing and occasionally stinging one into the gaps.
The Bad: Raynor is a little rough in the outfield and has a weak arm, and he projects as more of a left fielder than someone who can play center every day. He's aggressive early in the count and can press at times when behind, leading to higher strikeout totals than one would normally see with this kind of profile. He absolutely mashes left-handers, while being merely good against righties.
Fun Fact: Of the 16 position players drafted out of UNC Wilmington over the last four decades, none have reached the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be an everyday left fielder who fits in perfectly as the number-two hitter in a good lineup.
Glass Half Empty: He doesn't produce enough offense for a left fielder, but he's a great bench outfielder.
Path To The Big Leagues: Seriously, who is the Marlins left fielder right now? Even the depth chart on their official site is blank.
Timetable: Raynor has an outside shot at earning a job in spring training, but he's more likely bound for Triple-A to begin the year.

11. Gaby Sanchez, 1B
DOB: 9/2/83
Height/Weight: 6-2/225
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 4th round, 2005, University of Miami
2008 Stats: .314/.404/.513, .269 EqA at Double-A (133 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: This talented offensive prospect rebounded from a disappointing 2007 season to pace the Southern League with 42 doubles, finishing among the league leaders in several offensive categories.
The Good: Few have any qualms about Sanchez' stick. He has a good approach, excellent contact skills, and at least average power. After moving all around the field, he's finally found a defensive home at first base, where he now projects as a solid defender with a very good arm that's somewhat wasted on the position. He runs well for his size, and shows consistent effort.
The Bad: His ticket to the majors is his bat; it's really his only plus tool. That said, there are questions as to whether it will be enough to make him an everyday big leaguer. He absolutely crushes left-handers (.374/.456/.680 in 2008), but is merely average against righties, and his power is below-average for his (new) position. He's 50 pounds heavier than he was during his freshman year in college, and he has a big, thick frame that most feel will reduce his speed and athleticism down the road.
Fun Fact: Sanchez hit .388 (47-for-121) in the first two innings of his games for Double-A Carolina with a .644 slugging percentage, but hit only .289 and slugged .468 from the third inning on.
Perfect World Projection: He should be an average first baseman in the big leagues.
Glass Half Empty: He becomes a platoon player with power off the bench whose ability to mash lefties gives opposing managers problems going to a southpaw from the pen.
Path To The Big Leagues: Mike Jacobs is now with the Royals.
Timetable: The Marlins enter the season without a first baseman, so Sanchez will have every opportunity to earn a job in the big leagues this spring.

The Sleeper: Acquired recently in a trade with Washington, second baseman Jake Smolinski has had trouble staying healthy in the pros, but he's a surprisingly advanced hitter for a teenager from the north (Illinois), with a very quick bat.

Top 10 Talents 25 and Under (as of Opening Day 2009)

1. Hanley Ramirez, SS
2. Cameron Maybin, CF
3. Mike Stanton, RF
4. Josh Johnson, RHP
5. Matt Dominguez, 3B
6. Chris Volstad, RHP
7. Logan Morrison, 1B
8. Kyle Skipworth, C
9. Jose Ceda, RHP
10. Anibal Sanchez, RHP

The Marlins are flush with young talent, but a look at the overall list poses more questions than answers. Ramirez is fantastic-that's a given-and I'm still a big believer in Johnson, who looked good after surgery and could be poised for a breakout. I am not, however, a big believer in pitchers of Volstad's type, and I think he'll have some problems the second time around. Sanchez still has some upside, and while he struggled upon his return, he did miss bats. Two players highly regarded in some circles who did not make the cut are Jeremy Hermida (Ben Grieve disease) and Andrew Miller, who has been a consistent disappointment since being rated as the best college pitcher in the 2006 draft. His stuff still grades out very well, but he just doesn't know what to do with it, and he pitches scared at times.

Summary: The Marlins system took a tremendous step forward this year with the emergence of Stanton and Dominguez as two of the top teenage prospects in the game. They need to continue to find more, based on their current strategy of heavy turnover at the big-league level.

Up next: the Houston Astros


Today on BP Radio, BP's Kevin Goldstein talks about the biggest fish in Florida's pond with Brad Wochomurka.

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Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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