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The Marlins, currently five games back of the NL East-leading Nationals and tied for the second Wild Card with the Cardinals, have been a surprise in 2016, especially when we consider that one of their best players, Dee Gordon, just got back from an 81-game suspension. Gordon will be added to an already impressive and deep lineup with a very solid bench. The bullpen, while lacking any household names outside of the recently acquired Fernando Rodney, is also very good. To top it off, the Marlins might have the best healthy pitcher on the planet right now in Jose Fernandez. After Fernandez, Adam Conley has been solid, albeit inconsistent in his first full season. After that, Miami’s starting pitching has been terrible, including the recently injured Wei-Yin Chen.
This is all to say that we understand why the Marlins traded for starting pitching. What we may not understand or what we may think unwise is the starting pitching they chose to add and the price they paid to add that pitching. Cashner has been bad this season and last season and Rea has been bad too. The cost to Miami of acquiring this heap of below-averageness was their top prospect (Naylor), one of their top 10 prospects (Castillo), three years of an effective reliever recovering off Tommy John surgery (Capps), and four years of a bad starting pitcher with some previous prospect pedigree (Cosart). This is not what many had in mind when the Marlins had planned to shoot their shot. And this is not a championship contender adding a final piece to the puzzle; this is all just to have a shot at a Wild Card game
So what happened? For starters, pitching has been an extreme sellers’ market this season. Additionally, Cashner has been very good in four of five starts since returning from injury, striking out 31 batters in 26 innings to go with just eight walks. Lastly, and most importantly, the Marlins do not seemingly value players, production, prospects, and money the same way other teams do or how we think teams should value these things. We usually assume a team is making a move because they feel it is their best chance to improve, then we analyze if they actually did what they set out to do. The Marlins, though, seemingly have different goals; those goals being (a) to make money without spending it and (b) to compete once in a while.
This is why Marlins seem to value prospects less than the industry. This, if I had to guess, is why they traded what they had for Cashner and Rea, because (a) it will cost them almost nothing monetarily—they are trading away two players heading towards arbitration and they are even getting cash in the deal—and (b) because it’s likely the best starting pitching they could get without having to spend too much. The execution of this strategy against these goals is not inspiring to watch and feels especially disappointing because there are a lot of exciting players on this team, but it makes sense. Would it be more entertaining to us as fans to watch the Marlins attempt to maximize their chances of winning in the short and long term without such heavy considerations for their profits? Yes, but it just ain’t so, so this what we got; and good on the Padres for taking advantage of this for the second time this season. —Jeff Quinton
Guerrero is a player development success story. The 6-foot-8 Colombian was signed when he weighed just 170-some pounds, not having even pitched until he was 18 years old. Now 25, he's added weight and nearly 10 miles per hour since signing, and the flame-throwing righty has raw stuff that gets scouts' attention. He's exclusively a reliever, but his fastball will sit 94-97 mph and can touch nearly triple-digits at best. It explodes on hitters with late acceleration, as Guerrero's extra-lanky limbs and fairly loose release give the illusion of some extra hop on the fastball. When he's able to extend on his slider, he flashes a swing-and-miss type of pitch with mid-to-upper-80s velocity and late action.
Unfortunately, his extra-tall frame and somewhat gawky actions on the mound take away from how much he's been able to use two raw power pitches. He has a low elbow and can push through his release at times with a small hook in the back of his arm action, and that takes away from his slider's consistency. Limiting walks has always been the main point of emphasis for Guerrero, who doesn't consistently show a good feel for throwing strikes with his fastball. That said, his control has shown improvement in recent seasons, and with his stuff, he'll never have to be overly cautious commanding the ball within the strike zone.
A Futures Game alumnus, he made his big-league debut for San Diego earlier in the month. Guerrero is at least a palatable big-league reliever, with the long-term upside of a guy who could throw in high-ish leverage middle-relief situations if his control continues to develop. The power stuff will keep him on the big-league radar, though even if the pitchability does make some improvements, Guerrero likely doesn't project to fit a true closer profile. —Adam McInturff
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Acquired 1B-L Josh Naylor, RHP Luis Castillo, RHP Jarred Cosart, and RHP Carter Capps from Miami Marllns in exchange for RHP Andrew Cashner, RHP Colin Rea, RHP Tayron Guerrero, and cash. [7/29]
Josh Naylor has a case as the best prospect in the Marlins system, depending on how one feels about Braxton Garrett, Miami’s 2016 first-round draft pick. At worst, he’d be no. 2. That’s not an indictment of the Marlins system. Oh, don’t get us wrong, it’s really bad, but there are better ways to pillory it than with ranking a potential everyday first baseman at the top.
On the field, Naylor did not look overmatched in the South Atlantic League this year, despite being the sixth-youngest player on the circuit. He has some feel for contact in addition to more-than-enough bat speed to handle major league-quality velocity. He showed off plus raw power in batting practice and is already tapping into it in games. Naylor’s fireplug physique will limit him to first base, but he’s a better athlete than you’d expect and showed soft hands and good instincts on the dirt. The body will be a continuing concern, but he should eventually be a solid hand at the position. Naylor is a long ways away from his major-league projection, but the signs so far have been positive, and he will be in the conversation for a spot on next year’s top-101 prospects list.
So the previous paragraph makes this seem like a lot for the Marlins to give up for two below-average starting pitchers, but off the field Naylor has had a checkered 2016. He was suspended by the team after what the organization described as a “practical joke gone bad” ended with him stabbing teammate and fellow prospect Stone Garrett in the hand. Garrett has been out of action since June 1, and, through his agent, strongly disagreed with the Marlins characterization of the incident. Whatever happened between the two, it wouldn’t be shocking if the Marlins decided to sell a bit low on Naylor. —Jeffrey Paternostro
Originally acquired for Casey McGehee from San Francisco, an argument could've been made for Luis Castillo to be the top right-hander in the Marlins' farm system. With Tyler Kolek down for the year following Tommy John surgery and Chris Paddack sent to San Diego for Fernando Rodney, Castillo emerged as a high-potential arm.
Castillo has a large body with a slender, but evenly built frame with some room remaining for physical projection. He pitches from a half-windup with an easy, repeatable delivery, his arm action is smooth with above-average arm speed and a quick finish from a standard three-quarter slot. His fastball is a true 80 and sat 97-99 mph and touched 101 in my viewing, although the pitch plays down slightly due to the lack of overall movement. His slider can be an inconsistent pitch for him as he often gets on the side of the pitch, which causes the pitch to become slurvy. It flashes plus at times with hard bite and plus action and tilt. His changeup has improved since I last saw him, with much better arm speed and overall action movement that it now projects as an average offering.
What stands out is that he has above-average control of his arsenal with average command of it all. If the off-speed stuff becomes more consistent then he has a mid-rotation ceiling. If not he still has enormous value as a late-inning reliever with the chance to close out games. —Steve Givarz
Did you see what the Yankees just got for Aroldis Chapman? Shut-down relievers are selling for premium packages these days, and the Padres just picked one up as a throw-in for a struggling pitcher nearing free agency and a couple of spare parts. Of course, Capps is currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, expected to return sometime next season, and by the time he makes it back to a big-league mound his crow-hop delivery could be illegal. Plus, his 2015 breakout season lasted all of 31 innings.
Then again, those 31 innings were relief pitcher dominance taken to another level. Capps struck out 49 percent of opposing hitters last season while walking just six percent, and he solved previous home run issues by allowing just two. His 2015 cFIP of 48 is 11 points lower than the aforementioned Chapman’s career mark. Capps’ fastball last season averaged nearly 99 mph, per Brooks Baseball, and thanks to the delivery–which brings Capps a good couple of feet closer to home–it comes in even hotter. Oh yeah, he also features a nasty breaking pitch that gets whiffs at a nearly 41 percent clip. Not fair.
It’s unclear whether that Capps can persist. Can he fully recover from Tommy John surgery? Will the delivery remain legal? Can his arm withstand those mechanics at that velocity (plus all those sliders)? Can he strike out 17 batters per nine for 50 or 60 innings? Unlikely, at least for a portion of those questions, but even if the Padres get Capps back to 70 or 80 percent of what he was, they should be able to spin him for a nice return when the time is right. General manager A.J. Preller has completely remodeled the farm system over the past few months, and while Capps—signed through 2018—certainly doesn’t qualify as a prospect, he should give the Padres a further minor-league boost once he’s dealt from Preller’s deck. —Dustin Palmateer
The Padres need someone to start games for them for the remainder of this season, not to mention 2017. Staff ace Tyson Ross’ strained shoulder rehab was recently derailed by a twisted ankle while James Shields, Drew Pomeranz, Andrew Cashner, and Colin Rea have all been dealt within the past two months. The current starting rotation consists of Rule 5 pick Luis Perdomo, Christian Friedrich, and Edwin Jackson. Enter Jarred Cosart, a guy who can start major-league baseball games.
At first glance, the age (26) and career ERA+ (105) look encouraging. Most everything else doesn’t. Cosart has a career strikeout-to-walk ratio of 1.31, and it’s trending in the wrong direction, as he’s walked 16 and struck out 11 in four starts this season. Even in 2014, his breakout year, Cosart’s 4.60 DRA ranked 103 out of 149 full-time starters, tied with Jordan Lyles. On the plus side, Cosart’s no. 10 PECOTA comp is Zach Britton, who was once, like Cosart, a groundballing specialist with underwhelming peripherals. Britton made the jump to the ‘pen and turned into a monster, so maybe it’s Cosart’s time. Then again, Cosart’s no. 1 PECOTA comp is Chris Archer, and the Padres need someone to start games. —Dustin Palmateer
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