1. Cameron Maybin, CF
2. Chris Volstad, RHP
3. Matt Dominguez, 3B
4. Brett Sinkbeil, RHP
5. Gaby Hernandez, RHP
6. Sean West, LHP
7. Ryan Tucker, RHP
8. Hector Correa, RHP
9. Chris Coghlan, 2B
10. Eulogio De La Cruz, RHP
11. Jai Miller, OF
1. Cameron Maybin, CF
Drafted: 1st round, 2005, Roberson HS (NC)
2007 Stats: .571/.667/.571 at Rookie-Level (2 G); .304/.393/.486 at High-A (83 G); .400/.538/1.050 at Double-A (6 G); .143/.208/.265 at MLB (24 G)
Year In Review: When not sidelined with shoulder problems, the elite-level prospect impressed in the Florida State League, hit four home runs in six Double-A games, and spent the last six weeks with the big-league squad, where he rarely played and rarely produced before moving to Florida in the biggest deal of the Winter Meetings.
The Good: When it comes to tools, Maybin is Home Depot. He has outstanding size and athleticism, projecting to hit for average and power, while also being a total burner. He effortlessly covers ground in center field, and his arm is outstanding. He’s shown a solid approach at the plate, has great instincts on the base paths, and backs up his natural ability with a strong work ethic.
The Bad: Maybin has accumulated lofty strikeout totals so far in his career, and his swing can get long at times. He understands the strike zone well enough, but needs to improve his pitch recognition, as he’s prone to chasing breaking balls out of the zone, a weakness that big-league pitchers picked up on quickly and exploited.
Fun Fact: During his week at Double-A, Maybin stepped to the plate five times with runners in scoring position, resulting in two walks, two singles, and a home run.
Perfect World Projection: A transcendent star who puts fannies in the seats.
Timetable: Maybin is clearly the Marlins‘ center fielder of the future and a key to the future of the franchise, but he’ll have to earn a big-league job in spring training, and the Marlins are not averse to sending him back to Triple-A for more seasoning.
2. Chris Volstad, RHP
Drafted: 1st round, 2005, Palm Beach Gardens HS (FL)
2007 Stats: 4.50 ERA at High-A (126-152-37-93); 3.16 ERA at Double-A (42.1-41-10-25)
Year In Review: The first high school pitcher selected in 2005 held his own at Double-A before his 21st birthday.
The Good: Volstad paints the strike zone with outstanding command of a three-pitch mix. His fastball sits at 89-91 mph and features a little bit of sink and a heavy downward plane because of his big frame, which also allows him to maintain his stuff deep into games. Both his curveball and changeup are above-average pitches, and he approaches his craft with the maturity of a veteran.
The Bad: Volstad is a bit of a mismatch; a finesse pitcher in a power pitcher’s body. As effective as he can be, he doesn’t have a true swing-and-miss offering, and it’s hard to project him as any kind of star because of it. He focuses a bit too much on throwing strikes at times, and some feel he could be more effective by occasionally mixing in chase pitches.
Fun Fact: While there are a number of Palm Beach Gardens alumni in the minors, the only major league pick out of the school is Zach Miner.
Perfect World Projection: A valuable pitcher who delivers 200+ innings annually with above-average productivity.
Timetable: Volstad will return to Double-A to begin 2008, but the Marlins feel that he could continue to move quickly and be ready for a rotation role in 2009.
3. Matt Dominguez, 3B
Drafted: 1st round, 2007, Chatsworth HS (CA)
2007 Stats: .100/.136/.100 at Rookie-level (5 G); .189/.211/.324 at Short-season (10 G)
Year In Review: One of the top high school players in California was overshadowed at Chatsworth by the record-breaking performance of teammate Mike Moustakas, but Dominguez still showed enough to be selected twelfth overall.
The Good: Dominguez has the tools and potential to be an All-Star third baseman. He has bat speed and the strength to hit for power, as well as an impressive fluidity and consistency to his swing. He really shines defensively, with some believing him to possess Gold Glove potential due to his outstanding instincts, soft hands, and cannon for an arm.
The Bad: Dominguez struggled during his pro debut, and was prone to chasing pitches, so he’ll need to tighten up his approach. The Marlins are working on shortening his swing by removing some of the triggers in his mechanics to get his bat into the hitting zone quicker.
Fun Fact: In the third, eighth, and ninth innings of games as a pro, Dominguez went 0-for-18.
Perfect World Projection: A third baseman who delivers average offensive contributions, but one with tremendous defensive value.
Timetable: Despite his initial struggles, Dominguez is ticketed for a full season at Low-A Greensboro.
Year In Review: The franchise’s first-round pick from the previous year had an injury-plagued pro debut, but he got good reviews for his strong showing in the Hawaiian Winter League.
The Good: Fittingly enough, Sinkbeil generates plenty of ground balls with a low-90s sinker that he locates extremely well. His slider is also a plus pitch, and his changeup is solid. He has exceptional control, and the Marlins raved about how hard he worked to return from his elbow and back problems.
The Bad: Sinkbeil has a long history of injuries, which is beginning to bring up questions as to how well he can handle a big league workload. His changeup can get inconsistent at times, and he loses confidence in it now and again. Like Volstad, he doesn’t miss many bats.
Fun Fact: Right-handed hitters facing Sinkbeil in Hawaii went 7-for-50 with 17 strikeouts.
Perfect World Projection: A mid-rotation starter.
Timetable: Sinkbeil is lined up for a Double-A assignment to begin 2008; provided he stays injury-free, he should be ready for the big leagues at some point in the following year.
Year In Review: The former Mets prospect continued his one-level-at-a-time progression with a solid but unspectacular showing at Double-A.
The Good: Hernandez has average velocity, but he can dial it up to 95 at times, and his fastball has excellent life. His power curveball is his best offering and a true out pitch at times. He’s big, athletic, and durable, with no history of arm problems and easy mechanics.
The Bad: Hernandez’s inconsistency is both baffling and incredibly frustrating, as he can look big league-ready in one start, and then got rocked in the next. He needs to improve his changeup to make him more effective against left-handers, and he tends to make bad innings worse by getting into funks where he overthrows and loses command.
Fun Fact: Hernandez’s ERA jumped from 3.54 to 4.22 in his final two starts of the year, as he gave up 16 runs in 6 1/3 innings.
Perfect World Projection: A rotation workhorse.
Timetable: Hernandez will get the difficult assignment of pitching in the high-octane environment of Triple-A Albuquerque in 2008, but should make his big-league debut at some point during the season.
6. Sean West, LHP
Drafted: 1st round, 2005, Captain Shreve HS (LA)
2007 Stats: Did not pitch–injured.
Year In Review: A top prospect entering the year, West went down with labrum surgery in March, which sidelined him for the entire season.
The Good: When healthy, West was an intimidating presence on the mound. Built more like a defensive end than a pitcher, he consistently threw in the low 90s and could touch 96, with many projecting additional velocity as he grows into his body. He gets a good downward angle on his pitches, and has an excellent ground-ball ratio.
The Bad: West needed to improve his secondary offerings, but had shown some promise on both his slider and changeup in the past. Command was also problematic at times due to an inconsistent release point–a common issue with big, young pitchers. Because he hasn’t pitched for a year, nobody can be quite sure just how good he’ll be when he returns to the mound.
Fun Fact: Captain Shreve High’s most notable baseball alumnus is Twins pitcher Scott Baker.
Perfect World Projection: West still has more projection than any pitcher in the system, but the shoulder injury will be on everyone’s mind for at least two years.
Timetable: West is expected to be ready for spring training, and ready for an assignment to the Marlins’ High-A Florida State League squad.
Year In Review: The best pure arm in the system continued to frustrate the organization, this time with a so-so showing at High-A Jupiter.
The Good: Tucker gets excellent leg drive and consistently pumps out mid-90s gas, touching 98 at times. He has a remarkably quick arm and a powerful frame that allows his fastball to park at those velocities throughout the game. His command has improved dramatically since signing, and he earns high praise for his makeup.
The Bad: Tucker’s secondary offerings still lag well behind his fastball, as his slider tends to flatten out more often than not, and his changeup is rudimentary. Many wonder if he could be far more effective in a bullpen role, believing that he could sit at 97-98 mph if he only had to throw 15-20 pitches per outing.
Fun Fact: Tucker made just eight of his 24 starts at home, but had a 2.13 ERA in those outings.
Perfect World Projection: For now, the Marlins will keep him as a starter, knowing that significant innings are required for Tucker to work on his off-speed pitches. If those come around, he has more potential than many pitchers above him. If not, he’s bullpen-bound.
Timetable: Tucker will begin 2008 in the Double-A rotation, and everyone will know more about his future role by the end of the year.
8. Hector Correa, RHP
Drafted: 4th round, 2006, Lorenzo Caballes Gandia HS (FL)
2007 Stats: 9.29 ERA at Low-A (31-55-16-20); 3.22 ERA at Short-season (58.2-61-13-83)
Year In Review: A promising young arm, Correa he got hammered to open the season at Low-A, but he then made adjustments during the year and struck out 12.7 per nine when moved down to the New York-Penn League.
The Good: Correa is one of the most projectable arms in the system. He already throws in the low 90s and can touch 95, while his long, lean frame and loose mechanics have many believing there’s still more to come velocity-wise. He shows plenty of arm-speed deception on his plus changeup, and throws plenty of strikes.
The Bad: Correa doesn’t have much of a breaking ball, as his slider sweeps across the plate on a single plane, and he has little confidence in it. He needs to add some kind of horizontal or vertical aspect to his pitches in order to avoid getting tagged as a future reliever. He can be guilty at times of throwing too many strikes and needs to set up hitters better.
Fun Fact: During Correa’s eight-start nightmare to begin the year, Sally League right-handed hitters went 34-for-81 (.420) and slugged .728 against him.
Perfect World Projection: An above-average big-league starter.
Timetable: Correa will begin 2008 with a second chance at full-season Low-A.
9. Chris Coghlan, 2B
Drafted: 1st round, 2006, University of Mississippi
2007 Stats: .325/.419/.534 at Low-A (81 G); .200/.277/.331 at High-A (34 G)
Year In Review: A 2006 supplemental first-round pick, Coghlan made a seamless transition to second base from his more regular position of third base in college, but struggled mightily with the bat following a promotion to the Florida State League.
The Good: Coghlan has the most advanced approach in the system, with excellent pitch recognition and a keen understanding of the strike zone. His line-drive swing sends balls to all fields, and he has shown the ability to occasionally turn on a ball in his wheelhouse. He’s a gritty, gutsy type who plays with an infectious energy, and most of his tools play up a bit based on his level of effort.
The Bad: Coghlan’s contact-oriented approach does not lend itself well to power, which will likely remain gap-only during his career, and his second-half slump left some to wonder if he makes enough hard contact to project as a high-average hitter down the road. He still needs to improve his reads on balls coming off the bat at second base, as well as his positioning.
Fun Fact: Coughlan went 3-for-29 (.103) against left-handers in the Florida State League, but hit well over .300 against them in both the South Atlantic and Arizona Fall Leagues.
Perfect World Projection: An average second baseman and ideal second-slot hitter in the lineup.
Timetable: Coghlan rebounded from his Jupiter performance with a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League, and he’ll get an opportunity in spring training to prove that he is ready for Double-A.
10. Eulogio De La Cruz, RHP
Acquired: NDFA, 2001, Dominican Republic (Tigers)
2007 Stats: 3.41 ERA at Double-A (66-54-19-57); 3.52 ERA at Triple-A (38.1-41-18-25); 6.75 ERA at MLB (6.2-10-4-5)
Year In Review: The hard-throwing Dominican righty put together some dominating starts at Double-A, and spent a couple of weeks in the big league bullpen before going back down to a relief role in Triple-A. He was included in the package that went to Florida for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis.
The Good: De La Cruz’s stuff has always far surpassed his statistical results. His heat sits consistently in the 93-96 mph range, touched 98 this year, and has hit triple digits in the past. His hard-breaking curve gives him a second plus pitch, and he has an acceptable changeup.
The Bad: De La Cruz’s fastball will never be as effective as his velocity would indicate, as the pitch comes in on a flat plane because of his smallish stature, features little movement, and is often elevated. He prefers to break his curveball into the dirt, and more advanced hitters know to lay off the pitch and sit on the heater.
Fun Fact: In three big-league road games, De La Cruz retired eight of the nine batters he faced. At home, 13 of 23 reached base.
Perfect World Projection: A quality late-innings reliever, but not a closer.
Timetable: De La Cruz will compete for a relief job in spring training, but could easily get lost among the bevy of young arms in the bullpen and end up starting the year at Triple-A.
Year In Review: Always among the toolsiest players in the system, Miller began to blossom at Double-A, hitting .278/.382/.497 in the season’s second half.
The Good: Miller offers a lot to dream on, beginning with a big, athletic frame, plenty of raw power, and above-average speed. He’s made slow but continuous improvement in his approach at the plate, to the point that he’s average. Defensively, he’s good enough to stay up the middle, and his arm is strong.
The Bad: Despite the fact that he’s entering his sixth pro year, Miller remains raw in many aspects of the game. He still lunges at pitches that he should lay off, and will always have high strikeout totals. His jumps and route running need improvement in the field, and he’s yet to develop enough base-stealing instinct to take advantage of his speed.
Fun Fact: One of the best prep athletes in Alabama history, Miller was lined up to play football and basketball at Stanford before signing with the Marlins.
Perfect World Projection: Mike Cameron offensively, although nowhere close defensively.
Timetable: Miller’s development will continue at Triple-A in 2008, but he’s now blocked by Cameron Maybin, and maybe not enough of an offensive force to play everyday in a corner.
The Sleeper: A 25th-round pick last June who received $120,000 to be swayed away from college, right-hander Kyle Kaminska has a projectable frame and good arm action.
The Big Picture: Rankings Combined With Non-Rookies Under 25 (As Of Opening Day 2008)
1. Hanley Ramirez, CC
2. Cameron Maybin, CF
3. Jeremy Hermida, RF
4. Andrew Miller, LHP
5. Scott Olsen, LHP
6. Anibal Sanchez, RHP
7. Rick Vanden Hurk, RHP
8. Chris Volstad, RHP
9. Matt Domiguez, 3B
10. Brett Sinkbeil, RHP
It might not be a very good minor league system, but the Marlins’ collection of young talent is among the best around. Ramirez is already one of the game’s great young talents, while Hermida could achieve the same status if he can stay healthy. Many saw Miller as the top arm in the 2006 draft, and while he reached the majors quickly, he’s yet to leave the same strong impression with the pro scouts, who see significant inconsistency with his command and especially his slider. Olsen has had some off-field problems, and still needs to refine his craft, but there are few left-handed pitchers in the game who can match his raw stuff. Sanchez offers plenty of promise, but like Sean West is coming back from shoulder surgery, so the jury is still out. Vanden Hurk was a surprise contributor at the big-league level in 2007 and will compete for a rotation job in spring training–he’s an incredible raw talent, but the emphasis is still on “raw” in that label.
Some poor drafting, as well as a complete unwillingness to go over the MLB-recommended slots in the early rounds, have left the Marlins’ system in a bit of a shambles, especially when it comes to position players. The good news is that the big league squad won’t need an infusion of youth any time soon.
Next: The Houston Astros star in Quest For Eleven.