|Original Published Date: Nov. 5, 2013|
While the big November 2012 trade reminded us how volatile the ownership group in Miami can be, the trade actually made a lot of baseball sense. It not only brought in significant talent to an already fairly deep minor league system, but as important, it opened up playing time on their big league roster.
We saw the fruits of that strategy in 2013 as the Marlins promoted Jose Fernandez, Christian Yelich, Marcel Ozuna, and Adeiny Hechavarria who not only gained valuable experience but also contributed significantly to the big club. In Jose Fernandez’s case, all the way to NL Rookie of the Year honors.
While the Marlins aggressively promoted players, there is still talent down of the farm. At the top of the list is 2012 first round pick, lefty Andrew Heaney, who has the upside of a number two starter. Jake Marisnick is the top ranked positional player and while he struggled in his brief major league debut, he profiles as a power/speed threat that can play an above-average center field.
Two additional lefties: Justin Nicolino and Adam Conley have ceilings of mid-rotation starters and could see time in Miami in 2014. 2013 first-round pick Colin Moran, has a mature approach at the plate and should move quickly with the opportunity to contribute in Miami in 2015.
|2014 Age: 22||Ceiling: #2 starter|
|Ht: 6-2 Weight: 190||Bats: Left Throws:Left||ETA: 2014|
While Jose Fernandez and Christian Yelich were distracting the Marlins prospect community, Andrew Heaney was quietly putting himself on the map as one of the best left-handers in the minors.
Selected with the ninth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Andrew Heaney combines a top-shelf arsenal with smooth mechanics to give him a ceiling of a number two. His fastball sits 90-92 MPH and he is able to spot it to both sides of the plate allowing the pitch to move up a grade. The command is actually quite impressive and he is therefore able to get plenty of swings and misses with the pitch. The slider is another plus pitch that sits 83-84 MPH.
When I had a chance to see him in the Arizona Fall League for three innings, both the fastball and slider were working very well as he notched six strikeouts. However, the pitched that made me stop and shake my head was his change-up. I had heard it was inconsistent and still emerging. However, for those three innings, it was impressive. If he can find consistency, that’s three potential plus pitches with very good command.
The numbers back-up the scouting report as Heaney dominated High-A with a 0.88 ERA in 61.2 innings with over a strikeout an inning and less than 2.50 walks per nine. His strikeout rate regressed in a small sample size of 33.2 innings in Double-A, but he still managed a 2.5 K/BB rate with a decent ground-ball-to-fly-ball ratio.
The Marlins were aggressive with many of their prospects in 2013 and that could continue with Heaney in 2014. While I expect him to start the season in Double-A, he could also begin the season in Triple-A with a promotion to Florida sometime during the season.
Fantasy Impact: Now is the time to acquire Heaney in a Dynasty League before the rest of the Fantasy world figures it out. His ceiling is 8+ strikeouts per nine with very good ratios as he keeps the ball down in the zone. While wins could be hard to come by in 2014-15, the Marlins are quickly improving and even that should turn positive. Invest!
|2014 Age: 23||Ceiling: Role 6
|Ht:6-3 Weight: 225||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2013|
Jake Marisnick was one of the key prospects in the big November 2012 trade that sent Jose Reyes, et al. to the Blue Jays. While you never know the emotional aspect of a player getting traded, Marisnick had to be thrilled when the Marlins promoted him to Miami for his first taste of major league action on July 23rd.
Marisnick is a terrific all-around ball player with above average tools across the board but no one tool that truly stands out. Sources are mixed on his ability to hit, as his swing is long with an exceptionally aggressive approach. While his slash line of .294/.358/.502 indicated that Marisnick was ready for the next step, the batting average was fueled by a .349 BABIP and masked his 74% contact rate and 6% walk rate. The result: in 109 big league at-bats, he had a slash line of .190/.231/.248. Unlike Christian Yelich, Jake Marisnick was clearly overmatched and should have spent more time in the minors honing his craft.
The ceiling is still there for Marisnick, it’s just going to take more time. The Marlins should consider working with him to shorten up his swing and to use his combination of premium bat speed and plus running speed to drive balls to all fields. With his size of 6-foot-3 and 225 pounds, he’ll still have above average power potential, but by improving his approach and making better contact, he’ll have a better chance of achieving that ceiling.
Fantasy Impact: Marisnick is the perfect player in which to buy-low in a Dynasty or keeper league. Stress with other owners the one home run and sub .200 batting average, as: “a guy who has been over-hyped”. While I think 2014 will be another development year, the ceiling is still a role 6 player capable of 20/20 with a .270 batting average.
|2014 Age: 22||Ceiling: #3 starter|
|Ht: 6-2 Weight: 190||Bats: Left Throws:Left||ETA: 2014|
21-year-old Justin Nicolino was the second major component in the November Blue Jays trade and while he doesn’t have the same upside of Jake Marisnick, he’s a premium prospect that could be pitching in Miami some time in 2014.
Nicolino’s arsenal consist of an 89-92 MPH fastball, a slow mid 70’s curve that is a classic 12 to 6 offering and a plus change-up that I think is his best pitch. While his stuff is good, it plays up because he throws strikes. In 142 innings across High-A and Double-A, he walked 30 batters. The problem is his stuff doesn’t miss a lot of bats as his 6.02 K/9 rate and 152 hits demonstrated. While the change-up will get swings and misses, his curveball and fastball are just average.
While many will simply throw out the traditional “command and control lefty” label on Nicolino, I actually think his upside is one grade above that. His fastball will sit in the low-90’s early in the game with good movement and the ability to generate ground balls. He’s also able to keep the ball down in the zone to limit damage via the long ball (6 home runs in 142 innings).
His pitching mechanics are solid, although he does throw across his body which will provide some deception and allow his fastball, which can get flat at time, to play-up. However, there is always fear that a cross-fire delivery will put undue pressure on his shoulder and lead to arm troubles down the road.
Fantasy Impact: As he did last year, Nicolino should sneak into the back-half of our Top 100 Prospect List. While the ceiling is a number three, given his ability to throw strikes and have a plan on the mound, I like the chances of him reaching that ceiling above a lot of other similar profiled prospects. Expect slightly better than league average ratio with a 6-7 strikeouts per nine.
|2014 Age: 21||Ceiling: Role 5-6
|Ht:6-4 Weight: 190||Bats: Left Throws: Right||ETA: 2015|
Colin Moran was as good as advertised in his first taste of professional baseball as he posted a .299/.354/.442 slash line in 254 at-bats in Low-A with an 84% contact rate and 9% walk rate. While the contact and walk rate might not excite you, I think it’s just the beginning as he posted a 25K/63BB in 71 games in his junior year of college. That’s a 91% contact rate and a 21% walk rate. The guy can flat out hit!
Before the Arizona Fall League, I had not had a chance to see Moran live. Based on his college and early professional production, I was expecting to see a beautiful left-handed swing in the mold of Christian Yelich. With pencil, pad, and iPad in hand, I moved to the third base dugout to get a good look and was in a word, perplexed. The swing is far from smooth with a noisy setup and an extended stride to get what I assuming is more leverage. I say that because it’s A-typical of a batter using a toe-tap to get his timing down. However, after watching numerous at-bats and seeing balls hit hard with nearly every swing, you have to conclude it works. That said, he could eventually have problems adjusting to premium inside velocity given the swing mechanics. It’s something to watch.
I’m unsure of how much power Moran will eventually develop. He has premium bat speed and with his size, the scouting book says he should develop above-average power. However, there isn’t a lot of loft in his swing as his swing is more contact oriented. The end result could be 15-20 home runs with a .300 batting average and .370 OBP, which is a first division starter with all-star upside.
Fantasy Impact: Assuming Moran stays at third base, he has a ceiling of a first division starter with a future projection of 15-20 home runs and a .300 average with a high on base percentage. That’s the profile as a number two hitter, but based on his size and position, most managers will bat him down in the order. Moran is a below average runner now and will only lose speed as he fills out.
|2014 Age: 24||Ceiling: #3 starter|
|Ht: 6-2 Weight: 185||Bats: Left Throws:Left||ETA: 2014|
The third premium lefty prospect in the Marlins organization is 23-year-old Adam Conley. While he’s ranked after Heaney and Nicolino, his 2013 performance was every bit as good, if not better.
Selected in the second round of the 2011 draft, Conley has primarily a fastball/change-up arsenal. He throws both a two and four-seam fastball that both play-up because of his ability to throw strikes with some deception in his delivery. The pitch is good enough to get a lot of swings and misses and makes his above-average change-up look even better. His breaking pitch consist of an 82-84 MPH slider that he struggles to throw for strikes. Plus, it’s a bit flat and is simply using it as a show-me pitch for now.
Conley has a lot of natural arm speed in his delivery that generates really good momentum to the plate. Because he’s so quick with his delivery, it adds deception as the ball just jumps out of his hand. He also hides the ball well and has a little cross-fire to his delivery. The balance is not great but I believe that’s a by-product of his violent delivery. Bottom line, it’s not text book, but it works.
In general, you like to see a pitcher have three above average pitches in order to profile as a starter at the highest level. However, a pitcher with a great fastball/change-up that can throw strikes can still be successful as a starter. Plus, I’m not going to totally rule out him developing a slider, although he turns 24 in May, so time it ticking.
Fantasy Impact: Conley has a live arm and should make it to the big leagues. However, from a fantasy standpoint, it makes a huge difference whether he’s a starter or reliever. While I’m bullish on the arsenal and command, I can only draft him in a deep Dynasty League. For re-draft leagues, particularly the NFBC draft-and-hold format, I’m drafting him for 2014 in one of the last rounds.
|2014 Age: 24||Ceiling: #3 starter|
|Ht: 6-2 Weight: 195||Bats: Right Throws:Right||ETA: 2014-15|
One of the lessor known prospects involved in the Jose Reyes, et al. trade was Anthony DeSclafani. He is an intriguing arm that can at times totally dominate and then in the next outing, get hit hard. For example, in July he pitched 4.1 IP and gave up 7 ER with 2K/2BB, followed by seven shutout innings with 9K/0BB, followed by another four inning stinker.
The arsenal is solid with a fastball that he can run up to the mid-90’s and a nasty plus slider that gets a lot of swing and misses. The change-up is lagging behind and I would grade it out as fringy. However, sources have told me that it’s getting better and could eventually grade out as average. If it does, he could stay a starter and if not, he might be a candidate to move to the bullpen.
The pitching mechanics are solid with nice balance and posture with the ability to repeat his delivery. This is all supported by a 1.71 BB/9 in 252 minor league innings. His momentum is not great to the plate and this could be one of the reasons he’s giving up more hits than innings pitched. His fastball is likely loosing life and batters are able to square up his pitch, despite his plus velocity.
Fantasy Impact: Some fantasy sites allow you to put players on a scout team or watch list; that’s what I’m doing with DeSclafani. There’s something there and he could contribute to the Marlins as early as next year. I have his ceiling as a number three starter.
|2014 Age: 23||Ceiling: Role 5
|Ht:6-1 Weight: 205||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2014-15|
Lauded as one of the better defensive catching prospects in the minors, I really thought that J.T Realmuto’s offensive game would take a step-up in 2013. Unfortunately, he posted similar offensive numbers in Double-A with a slash line of .239/.310/.353.
After playing quarterback, shortstop, and wrestling for his high school team, the Marlines drafted Realmuto in the third round of the 2010 draft for above-slot money. After signing him, they moved the athletic Realmuto to catcher to take advantage of his plus-arm and his perceived leadership ability. The move has clearly worked and makes you realize the astuteness of certain organizations to match the unique skill set of a player to a position.
While the performance is not showing growth, the bat speed is still there as is the ability to make contact (82%) and take a walk (10%). Additionally, the 21 doubles is also showing that he is driving the ball and it might just take additional time for the power to develop. Plus, he’s still showing that athleticism by stealing nine bases and only being caught only once.
Fantasy Impact: Realmuto is not going to be Johnny Bench but I still like him as solid catcher going forward. I have his ceiling as a solid regular who can hit double digit home runs and bat .250-.260 with a .330 OBP while also stealing a handful of bases at the highest level.
8. Jose Urena (RHP)
Signed out of the Dominican in 2008 for $50,000, Jose Urena is starting to mature as a pitcher and at this time next year, you could be asking why I had him so low on this list. I had a chance to see him pitch in 2013 and his fastball is a force. It sits 92-94 MPH and topped out at 97; all with a lot of movement. The slider was also working that day and was getting plenty of swings and misses. His pitching mechanics are decent and he’s able to repeat his delivery and posted an excellent walk rate of 1.74 in 2013 and 1.89 in 2014. On his delivery, he does expose the ball and therefore doesn’t have a lot of deception.
There’s a lot to like with Jose Urena and another Marlins pitcher in which to keep an eye on.
9. Trevor Williams (RHP)
Selected with the 44th overall pick in the 2013 draft, Trevor Williams was a safe collegian pick with a ceiling of a back-of-the-rotation innings eater. The arsenal is primarily fastball/change-up with the change-up being a real swing and miss pitch. The slider is an under-whelming pitch without a lot of hard break. While the change-up is a plus offering, the fastball is just ok as the velo is averaging 89-92 MPH without a lot of movement. The lack of movement can be traced back to his mechanics as he aims the ball instead of using his mechanics to drive the ball.
10. Nick Wittgren (RHP)
I generally avoid putting relievers on Top 10 lists, but I think Nick Wittgren profiles as a closer and could get a chance in the Marlins pen as early as 2015, particularly if they decide to make a move with Steve Cishek at some point next year. Wittgren doesn’t have a great fastball as it sits in the low-90’s but he has a lot of funk in his delivery and is able to throw strikes. The stats are a thing of beauty: 89 innings over two-years with 110K/15BB with a sub one ERA and WHIP and 39 saves.
2014 Emerging Prospect
Avery Romero (2B)
Taken in the third round of the 2012 draft, Avery Romero has started the past two years in short season ball and has shown the ability to make good hard contact (84% in 209 at-bats in 2013). He has good bat speed which should give him above average power down the road. I fully expect him to start the year in Greensboro and start to make a rise in the Marlins Top 10 next year.