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January 31, 2010

Future Shock

Marlins Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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top 11 prospects

Five-Star Prospects
1. Mike Stanton, RF
2. Logan Morrison, 1B
Three-Star Prospects
3. Matt Dominguez, 3B
4. Chad James, LHP
5. Ryan Tucker, RHP
6. Jhan Marinez, RHP
7. Scout Cousins, OF
8. Marcell Ozuna, OF
9. Kyle Skipworth, C
10. Jake Smolinski, 3B
Two-Star Prospects
11. Tom Hickman, OF

Four More:
12. Ike Galloway, OF: Galloway did very little in his pro debut, but his tools remain impressive.
13. Gaby Sanchez, 1B: He has a good bat, but it's not good enough to play every day, and he's limited defensively.
14. Arquimedes Caminero, RHP: He has a massive arm with plus-plus velocity, but Caminero turns 23 in June and has yet to solve a full-season league.
15. Jose Ceda, RHP: Ceda could move way up if he can overcome shoulder issues.

1. Mike Stanton, RF
DOB: 11/8/89
Height/Weight: 6-5/240
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2007, Notre Dame HS (CA)
2009 Stats: .294/.390/.578 at High-A (50 G); .231/.311/.455 at Double-A (79 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 2

Year in Review: This top-notch power prospect wasn't slowed down at all in the Florida State League, but he scuffled at times against the more advanced pitching of Double-A.
The Good: Stanton's raw power is a pure 80, but it's his ability to consistently showcase it in games that makes him so special. His power goes to all fields, and he's one of those rare players who doesn't have to make full contact to drive it out of the park. He's much more than just a pure slugger, though, as he's a fine athlete with good instincts in the outfield, an above-average arm, and average speed that increases to a tick above once he gets going.
The Bad: While Stanton's high strikeout rate is unavoidable due to the crazy power, he does need to hone his approach. His inability, or perhaps his unwillingness to shorten his swing with two strikes-or even just when he's behind in the count-led to some extended slumps at Double-A, and experienced pitchers with good breaking balls were able to feast on him at times. Due to his massive size, there are some concerns as to how long he'll be able to maintain his speed.
Ephemera: Five of Stanton's 12 Florida State League home runs came in his first at-bat of the game.
Perfect World Projection: Stanton will be a massive slugging right fielder, and he's arguably the one prospect in baseball most likely to hit 50 home runs in a season.
Path to the Big Leagues: Cody Ross is a nice little player and all, but he's hardly a roadblock.
Timetable: Stanton will try get his batting average back up to snuff with a return to Double-A in 2010, but he could be in the big leagues by September if he continues to perform.

2. Logan Morrison, 1B
DOB: 8/25/87
Height/Weight: 6-3/245
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 22nd round, 2005, Northshore HS (LA)
2009 Stats: .273/.333/.364 at High-A (3 G); .277/.411/.442 at Double-A (79 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 4

Year in Review: An on-base machine, Morrison came back from a thumb injury with a good showing at Double-A.
The Good: Morrison's approach is well above average, even by big-league standards. He never swings at a bad pitch, and when he gets one he can hit, his inside-out swing launches rockets to all parts of the park with average to plus power. He's a solid defender at first base, and he earns high praise for his effort and leadership skills.
The Bad: There is plenty of debate over Morrision's ultimate power ceiling, as while he's massive physically, his swing mechanics generate little loft or backspin. He's a well below-average runner, but he doesn't clog the bases. While his on-base skills remain against left-handers, he rarely drives the ball against them.
Ephemera: Morrison was the 666th pick of the 2005 draft. Ryan Franklin (1991) and Alan Newman (1987) are the only players drafted with the devil pick to make the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: He's an everyday first baseman, maybe in the mold of John Olerud, but with less defense.
Path to the Big Leagues: Morrison's upside is significantly higher than Gaby Sanchez, although the team has tinkered with him in left field.
Timetable: Depending on the numbers game and the possibility of a move to the outfield, Morrison will begin 2010 at either Double- or Triple-A, but he should be in the big leagues sometime this year.

3. Matt Dominguez, 3B
DOB: 8/28/89
Height/Weight: 6-1/210
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2007, Chatsworth HS (CA)
2009 Stats: .262/.333/.420 at High-A (103 G); .186/.292/.320 at Double-A (31 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 3

Year in Review: Dominguez, an excellent defensive third baseman, was finally picking it up with the bat before a promotion to Double-A led to major struggles.
The Good: Dominguez is one of, if not the best defensive third baseman in the minors. He has outstanding instincts, soft hands, silky-smooth actions, and a plus arm. He has a good approach at the plate and average raw power.
The Bad: Dominguez looks for fastballs and often guesses wrong, leading to him flailing at breaking balls and off-speed pitches. He's not especially athletic, and he's a 40 runnner on the 20-to-80 scouting scale.
Ephemera: Dominguez was a teammate of Royals prospect Mike Moustakas at Chatsworth High in Southern California, the same school that graduated former Red Sox great Dwight Evans.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be an everyday third baseman with 15-20 home runs and fantastic defense.
Path to the Big Leagues: Should he develop as expected, there's nothing in the way of Dominguez being the Marlins' third baseman of the future.
Timetable: Dominguez's time in Jacksonville showed that there is still a ton of work to be done offensively, so he'll return there in 2010.

4. Chad James, LHP
DOB: 1/23/91
Height/Weight: 6-4/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2009, Yukon HS (OK)
2009 Stats: Did not play
Last Year's Ranking: Did not qualify

Year in Review: One of the late risers in the draft, James surged up draft charts with some late-season performances in front of throngs of scouting directors.
The Good: James is the rare high school arm with a full arsenal. His fastball sits at 90-92 mph, and it was touching 95 consistently by the end of the spring. His slow curveball features heavy downward break, and his changeup is highly advanced for his age.
The Bad: James' delivery has a lot of moving parts, with scouts believing that smooth mechanics could take some of the torque off his arm while improving his average-at-best command and control. He has little experience against top-notch competition, and he'll need to work on setting up hitters as a pro.
Ephemera: James' older brother, Justin, was a fifth-round pick by the Blue Jays in 2003. Justin spent six years in the minors, reaching as high as Triple-A.
Perfect World Projection: James projects to be a good third starter, and maybe a bit more.
Path to the Big Leagues: He's yet to throw a professional pitch, so let's not get ahead of ourselves.
Timetable: Despite signing too late to make his pro debut, the Marlins believe that James' game is mature enough for him to begin 2010 in a full-season league. He'll start at Low-A Greensboro.

5. Ryan Tucker, RHP
DOB: 12/6/86
Height/Weight: 6-1/205
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2005, Temple City HS (CA)
2009 Stats: 2.25 ERA (8.0-5-2-7) at Rookie-level (2 G); 8.04 ERA (15.2-18-14-7) at Triple-A (4 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 8

Year in Review: Looking like he'd no longer be a prospect after spending a significant amount of time in the big leagues, Tucker had all but a lost season due to knee surgery.
The Good: Tucker's arm remains among the best in the system. He has a low-to-mid 90s fastball that touches 98. He'll flash a solid slider at times, and his changeup has developed into a third usable offering. His sturdy frame and smooth arm action should allow him to eat up plenty of innings as a starter.
The Bad: Tucker is often reduced to being a one-pitch pitcher, as his secondary offerings are highly inconsistent. While his heater can light up a radar gun, it's also a bit straight, and he tends to groove the pitch down the middle when he needs a strike.
Ephemera: Former Royal Mark Gubicza is the only player drafted 34th overall to reach triple-figures in career wins. He had 132.
Perfect World Projection: Tucker projects as a solid starter or late-inning reliever, but the jury is still out.
Path to the Big Leagues: If he can return to form in the minors, it shouldn't take long for Tucker to get back to Florida.
Timetable: Barring a monster spring, Tucker will begin 2010 at Triple-A, but he shouldn't last long there.

6. Jhan Marinez, RHP
DOB: 8/12/88
Height/Weight: 6-1/165
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2006
2009 Stats: 3.14 ERA (43.0-28-20-42) at High-A (29 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: A lanky Dominican, Marinez was the official "Who's This Guy?" of the Florida State League, with multiple scouts turning in big scouting reports on him.
The Good: When Marinez is on, he can be nothing short of overpowering, as he has a plus-plus fastball that gets up to 98 mph and an explosive slider. His delivery is clean and is almost effortless. He made some progress in honing his changeup, even in a relief role.
The Bad: Other than his velocity, Marinez can be highly inconsistent, often overthrowing his secondary pitches and losing movement and command. While he offers considerable upside, he's still an unproven commodity who has never thrown more the 50 innings in a season.
Ephemera: As statistical proof of his inconsistency, Marinez had an ERA under one in May and July, but marks over five in June and August.
Perfect World Projection: He's some kind of power arm.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Marlins are toying with the idea of seeing if Marinez could start, which would be a slow burn. As a reliever, he could move quickly.
Timetable: Marinez will likely begin 2010 back at High-A Jupiter. His role will be determined this spring.

7. Scout Cousins, OF
DOB: 1/22/85
Height/Weight: 6-1/195
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2006, University of San Francisco
2009 Stats:.263/.323/.448 at Double-A (130 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Just missed

Year in Review: A toolsy outfielder, Cousins had a steady year at Double-A, but it wasn't the breakout many anticipated.
The Good: Cousins has the tools to make scouts sit up and take notice. He has a quick bat with at least average power, and he's a 55-60 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale. He's an excellent corner outfielder who can carry his own in center, and his arm is outstanding.
The Bad: Cousins' tools and performances rarely match. He's been consistently old for his level, having just turned 25, while having yet to put up big numbers. His swing has a bit of a loop to it, generating a lot of weak contact, and he can get overly aggressive at the plate as well.
Ephemera: While five players have combined for 116 at-bats, no played drafted out of the University of San Francisco has ever hit a big-league home run.
Perfect World Projection: Cousins has the tools to be an every day outfielder in the big leagues, but he needs to start performing. Quickly.
Path to the Big Leagues: While a quick start at Triple-A could get Cousins on the fast track to the big leagues, Stanton and Cameron Maybin should have a strong grip on two of the three Florida outfielder slots for a long time.
Timetable: Cousins will begin 2010 at Triple-A New Orleans, where it's time for the stat sheet to start matching the scouting reports.

8. Marcell Ozuna, OF
DOB: 11/12/90
Height/Weight: 6-2/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2008
2009 Stats: .313/.377/.486 at Rookie-level (55 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: Signed for just $49,000, Ozuna's stateside debut was as eye-opener in terms of both numbers and scouting reports.
The Good: Ozuna has a classic profile for a right fielder. His swing is smooth, with rapidly developing power, and he has a good approach at the plate considering his youth and inexperience. His has the potential to be a good outfielder, and his arm is above average.
The Bad: There is still some rawness to Ozuna's game. His swing can get a bit long, and his routes in the outfield need to improve. He's not a big-time athlete, as he's as average runner at best right now and will likely lose a step or two as he fills out.
Ephemera: Ozuna was born on the same day Tim Berners-Lee published his more formal proposal for the World Wide Web.
Perfect World Projection: He projects to be a corner outfielder who hits for average and power.
Path to the Big Leagues: It's a very long one.
Timetable: Ozuna will try to prove this spring that he's ready for a full-season assignment, as opposed to a trip to extended spring training until the New York-Penn league begins.

9. Kyle Skipworth, C
DOB: 3/1/90
Height/Weight: 6-4/205
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, Patriot HS (CA)
2009 Stats: .208/.263/.348 at Low-A (70 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 5

Year in Review: The Marlins' top pick from 2008 had one of the system's more disappointing performances in his full-season debut.
The Good: Scouts still see plenty to like in Skipworth. He can put on an impressive display in batting practice, as he has well above-average power and impressive bat speed. While his season was a borderline nightmare at the plate, he made great strides defensively, with many scouts who once doubted his ability to stay at the position now projecting him as nearly average.
The Bad: Skipworth's pitch recognition was his undoing at Greensboro. He swings at eye-level fastballs, sliders in the dirt, and everything in between. He had trouble controlling the running game, but that might have been a result of an elbow injury that bothered him much of the year.
Ephemera: Rarely getting off to a good start, Skipworth went 9-for-66 (.136) with 23 strikeouts when batting in the first two innings of a game in 2009.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an everyday catcher with plus power, but there's a lot of risk involved at this point.
Path to the Big Leagues: It has slowed considerably.
Timetable: Skipworth has yet to earn a promotion with his performances, so he'll likely return to Greensboro to begin the year.

10. Jake Smolinski, 3B
DOB: 2/9/89
Height/Weight: 5-11/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2007, Boylan Catholic HS (IL) (Nationals)
2009 Stats: .283/.379/.448 at Low-A (77 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: Acquired from Washington in the Josh Willingham/Scott Olson deal, Smolinski impressed with the bat when he wasn't sidelined with injuries.
The Good: Scouts are intrigued with Smolinski's offensive potential. He has one of the best approaches in the system, with many projecting that a good number of the 25 doubles he smacked in 279 at-bats will turn into home runs down the road. Once a top high school football star, he brings a gridiron mentality to the game and an infectious all-out style.
The Bad: Smolinski has yet to find a defensive home. He lacked the range to stick at second base, and after making 17 errors in 55 games at the hot corner last year, some wonder if his future lies in left field. He's in danger of getting a reputation of being injury prone, having played just 182 games since being drafted in 2007.
Ephemera: Smolinki might be a big fan of the sunshine, as he hit .371/.473/.565 in 19 day games last year.
Perfect World Projection: Smolinski could be an above-average offensive player, but he may end up in left field.
Path to the Big Leagues: If he gets healthy, his timetable could be accelerated.
Timetable: Despite the fact that he's heading to the pitcher-friendly High-A Florida State League next year, some feel 2010 could be a breakout year for Smolinski.

11. Tom Hickman, OF
DOB: 4/18/88
Height/Weight: 6-1/180
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 2>sup>nd round, 2006, Pepperell HS (GA)
2009 Stats: .273/.333/.500 at Rookie-level (6 G); .129/.274/.229 at High-A (23 G); .322/.440/.678 at Low-A (28 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not ranked

Year in Review: An oft-injured outfielder, Hickman got off to a miserable start at High-A before getting hurt, but he finished with a flourish during the final month of the season back in the Sally League.
The Good: Hickman's power ceiling is significant, as his broad shoulders and strong wrists provide significant pop to his bat, while he does a good job of incorporating his lower half into his swing. He has an excellent batting eye, waiting for pitches he can drive, and rarely going after chase pitches.
The Bad: Hickman's swing is complex and difficult to repeat, with a trigger mechanism that often slows his swing, making it difficult for him to make in-swing adjustments. While he still has youth on his side, Hickman needs reps, and constant injuries have limited him to just 158 games over the last two years. Speed and arm strength that both rank a tick below average limit him to left field.
Ephemera: During his month with Low-A Greensboro, Hickman batted 10 times in the third inning of games, delivering a single, two doubles, a triple, and a pair of home runs.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a classic power-hitting left fielder.
Path to the Big Leagues: He needs to stay healthy and make more contact before worrying about getting to the big leagues.
Timetable: Hickman will get another shot at High-A Jupiter in 2010, and while it's not quite a make-or-break season, it's close.

The Sleeper: A ninth-round pick out of Nebraska in 2008, lefty reliever Dan Jennings reached Double-A in his full-season debut thanks to a good heater and an even better power breaking ball.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (Born 4/1/84 or later)

1. Mike Stanton, OF
2. Chris Coghlan, OF/2B?
3. Cameron Maybin, CF
4. Logan Morrison, 1B
5. Chris Volstad, RHP
6. Sean West, LHP
7. Rick VandenHurk, RHP
8. Matt Dominguez, 3B
9. Chad James, LHP
10. Ryan Tucker, RHP

Coghlan had a Rookie of the Year campaign in 2009, and while he may never be a true impact player, he should be consistently good. Maybin still has a higher ceiling than Coghlan to be sure, but he obviously comes with considerable uncertainty, and the steps he made in 2009 to cut down on his strikeouts also took away a significant amount of his power. Like Coghlan, as long as one isn't expecting greatness from Volstad, they shouldn't be let down, as he should be a consistent innings-eater/ground-ball machine. West was rushed to the majors and doesn't have the heavy power stuff from his pre-surgery days, but it's still above average. VandenHurk misses bats, but he still remains highly inconsistent in terms of command and control. Missing the list are Andrew Miller, who has been given more than enough big-league opportunities without earning many more, and infielder Emilio Bonofacio, who doesn't deserve 500 plate appearances in a single season again.

Summary: The Marlins' ability to consistently surprise in the standings is a tribute to both their scouting and player development departments, but the talent well is starting to run a bit thin: after the big offensive guys of Stanton and Morrison, the drop in talent is significant. That could lead to trouble for an organization with no ability to bring in talent by any other means.

Next up: the Houston Astros.

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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