Miami Marlins

Original Published Date: November 11, 2014

The Marlins have graduated several significant players over the past two year and while the big league team has been the beneficiary, their minor league system is currently a little thin. That said, there’s still talent and some of it is nearly big league ready.

Andrew Heaney got a taste of the big leagues in 2014 but did not fare well. However, he has legitimate stuff that should translate into a nice number two behind Jose Fernandez. J.T. Realmuto is another prospect that is nearly ready for the majors and in fact, got a cup of coffee this year and performed well. He’s extremely athletic and could challenge Jarrod Saltalamacchia for playing time over the 2015 season. After Heaney and Realmuto, there are a plethora of pitchers that have mid-rotation starter upside. In particular, I like two Dominicans; Domingo German and Jose Urena who have better than average stuff and are strike throwing machine.

Finally there is the number two overall pick in the 2014 first year player draft: 6-foot-5 flame thrower Tyler Kolek. The stuff is elite and while he was just in high school last June, don’t be surprised if he hitches a ride on the Jose Fernandez fast train to Miami.

1. Andrew Heaney (LHP) – Traded to the Los Angeles Angels

2015 Age: 23 Ceiling: #2 starter
Ht: 6-2 Weight: 185 Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2014
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2014 AA,AAA 137.1 120 50 11 2.36 9.37 3.28 1.14

When Andrew Heaney was promoted to the big leagues on June 19th, I wasn’t convinced he was ready. After an impressive inaugural game against the Mets where he gave up one earned run over six innings, I thought maybe I was wrong. However, things went south in his next three starts and Heaney found himself back in New Orleans.

Heaney isn’t a flame thrower as his fastball sits 90-92 MPH. However, 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.  His curve ball is his bread and butter pitch that has great movement and shape and had a 26.61% whiff rate in his 29.1 innings in the majors. The change-up is behind the other two pitches but I’ve seen it flash plus and gives hope to a third above average pitch.

Heaney’s athleticism works very well in his pitching mechanics. The delivery is very smooth with excellent balance on the landing which is helping him repeat his delivery. His career 2.36 walk rate per nine shows his ability to throw strikes.

Fantasy Impact: The Marlins play in a huge ballpark that benefits pitchers. While Heaney has a solid number three starter profile, it should play up a grade given his home field and league. You can expect close to a strikeout per inning with excellent ratios given his ability to throw strikes and the chance for above-average win totals given the offense the Marlins are assembling. He’s a top 50 prospect that should graduate to the major in 2015.

2. Tyler Kolek (RHP)

2015 Age: 19 Ceiling: #2 starter
Ht: 6-5 Weight: 260 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2017-18
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2014 R 22.0 22 11 0 5.32 7.36 4.50 1.59

Tyler Kolek was in the mix for the top overall pick in the 2014 first year player draft but went number two to the Miami Marlins. At 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds, it’s hard to believe that Tyler Kolek is only 18-years-old and potentially still growing.

With immense physicality also comes tremendous velocity as Kolek hit triple-digits multiple times as an amateur but sat in the 94 to 96 MPH range and scraping higher as a professional. The fastball has natural sink and when combined with tremendous downward plane, should translate into tons of ground balls. His secondary pitches are still a work in progress but his hard slider shows the most promise and could turn into a real weapon. He also throws a traditional curve ball, which with work, could also be an above average pitch.

At his size, you would think Kolek would be big and awkward. He’s not and in fact, he has a very athletic delivery with good fundamentals and great momentum to the plate. The delivery is clean and Kolek is able to repeat his delivery, although he did struggle to throw strikes during his 22 innings in the GCL.

There is an elephant in the room when discussing Kolek. First, there really has never been a talent like him in the draft – an 18-year-old kid with his size who can throw into the triple digits. Secondly is the guidance given by the medical profession, particularly Dr. James Andrews that pitchers should limit their velocity to a threshold of 80 to 85 MPH while pitching under the age of 18. Kolek probably blew through that when he was 16. Is it a concern? Is he more likely to blow out his elbow? Perhaps, but given the recent rash of elbow surgeries, there might be a 50/50 chance of any pitcher needing Tommy John Surgery before they turn 23.

Fantasy Impact: Kolek has top-of-the-rotation potential with a plus-plus fastball and secondary pitches that should generate a lot of strikeouts. At 6-foot-5, he has plane and plenty of sink on his pitches which should result in producing tons of ground balls. He’s young and raw but it could come together quickly and if it does, the Marlins have a history of moving pitchers quickly through the minors. Even when considering the possible injury risk stated above, I’m bullish and will rank Kolek as a Top 50 prospect.

3. J.T. Realmuto (C)

2015 Age: 23 Ceiling: 1st Div
Ht:6-1 Weight: 215 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2014
2014 AA 375 66 8 62 18 .299 .369 84.3 9.7 .333

I was traveling internationally the week that J.T. Realmuto was promoted and was both excited and stunned by the call-up. Then again, the Marlins don’t follow the development handbook (like there’s one…) and promote players when they believe they are ready or there is a need.

I’ve always been a huge fan of J.T. Realmuto, even ranking him in our Top 100 back in 2013 when most people had not heard of the athletic 6-foot-1 catcher from Oklahoma. Prior to signing with the Marlins in 2010, Realmuto started as both a shortstop and quarterback in high school, receiving significant interest from major college programs to play football.

Realmuto has above average skills on both sides of the ball. Defensively, he has a plus arm with pop times in the 1.78 to 1.85 range and given his athleticism, does a very good job of moving behind the plate to put himself into favorable catching positions. His 39% caught stealing percentage only tells half of the story as the arm stops players from even attempting to steal a base.

Offensively, there is also a lot to like. He does a great job of controlling the strike zone with an 84% contact rate with nearly a 10% walk rate in 375 at-bats in Double-A. The power has yet to develop primarily because of his swing path, which is more level and lacks leverage and loft. Finally, and particularly for fantasy owners, he stole 18 bases in 2014 while only being thrown out five times. While I doubt we’ll see 18 to 20 stolen bases at the highest level, 10 to 12 is a reasonable target.

Fantasy Impact: While the Marlins signed Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a three year contract in the winter of 2013, I’m confident that Realmuto will find playing time in 2015 or at the latest in 2016. His value will depend on his ability to develop power but if he does, he has Top five fantasy catcher potential with a slash line of .270/.340/.460 with 12 to 15 home runs and 8 to 10 stolen bases.

4. Domingo German (RHP)

2015 Age: 22 Ceiling: #3 starter
Ht: 6-2 Weight: 175 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2014 R,AA 123.1 115 33 6 1.82 8.25 2.41 1.14

Best known as the guy who struck out Kris Bryant and Joey Gallo in the 2014 Futures Game, Domingo German and the Miami Marlins hope that is just the start of great things to come.

German has been making slow progress through the minor leagues since being signed by the Marlins in 2009. However, that has likely changed as 2014 was the breakout the Marlins were hoping for from the 6-foot-2 Dominican. Still only 21-years-old, German dominated the Sally League by posting a 2.41 ERA which was sixth best in the league (minimum of 70 innings) while striking out nearly a batter per inning. He also demonstrated pinpoint control as he walked only 25 batters in 123.1 innings.

The arsenal is electric with a heavy sinking fastball that sits 93 to 94 MPH and can top 96 MPH as he did against Bryant in the Futures game. The heavy sinker generated a ton of ground balls to the tune of a 2.06 ground-ball-to-flyball ratio. His best secondary pitch is his change-up that Sally Leagues could not handle. The slider is behind the change-up but looked pretty good to Bryant as he struck out on an 83 MPH slider with nasty biting action.

Despite the success he had in 2014, accented by the Futures Game, the Marlins chose to keep him in the Sally League for the entire year. That will change next year as he’ll start in the Florida State League with a good chance to see the Southern League if he continues to pitch well. There are whispers that German could be moved to the bullpen. In looking at his delivery and arsenal I think the Marlins will give him every chance to stay in the starting rotation. The delivery is free and easy, almost too easy, and while there is some balance issues on the landing, he’s able to maintain his release point.

Fantasy Impact: Dynasty League owners are always looking for sleepers. Well…here you go. German did have the exposure of the Futures Game but it didn’t seem to stick in fantasy circles. He throws hard, throws strikes, and is a ground ball machine. If the slider continues to develop, the ceiling is a Top 50 fantasy pitcher with high strikeout totals pitching in a park that suppresses offense.

5. Justin Nicolino (LHP)

2015 Age: 22 Ceiling: #4 starter
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 190 Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2014
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2014 AA 170.1 162 52 10 1.06 4.28 2.75 1.07

It seems like we’ve been talking about Justin Nicolino for years now. In fact, we have.

Nicolino was selected in the second round of the 2010 first year player draft by the Toronto Blue Jays and went on to completely dominate the college-heavy Northwest League the following year by posting a sub 2.00 ERA while striking out over 11 per nine and walking less than two per nine. That type of performance will give you a ton of helium.

Nicolino has never been able to duplicate his early success but he has been making steady progress through three levels of the minors. As he’s matured, he’s become less of a strikeout pitcher and can be best labeled a command a control pitcher; but with slightly better stuff than a classic C&C pitcher.

His 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 170.1 innings in Double-A, he walked 20 batters.  The problem is his stuff doesn’t miss a lot of bats as his 4.28 K/9 rate and 163 hits demonstrated.  While the change-up will get swings and misses, his curveball and fastball are just average.

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: A couple of years ago when Nicolino was striking out a batter an inning, he looked like a possible impact fantasy asset. However, the performance has caught up to his modest scouting report and now he’s only ownable in deeper Dynasty Leagues. He throws strikes and knows how to pitch, but even with the benefits of Marlins Park and it’s suppression of home runs, Nicolino is a back-of-the-rotation fantasy starter.

6. Jose Urena (RHP)

2015 Age: 22 Ceiling: #4 starter
Ht: 6-2 Weight: 195 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2015-16
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2014 AA 162.0 155 60 14 1.61 6.72 3.33 1.14

Signed in 2008 for a modest $50,000, Jose Urena could see Miami next year. When that happens, the Marlins should take the scout who signed him out for dinner, maybe multiple dinners. Urena has good stuff with a fastball that he can run up-to 95 MPH and a knock out change-up that has great fade and deception. His slider is still a work-in-progress and it’s debatable whether it will be ever be more than an average pitch.

The skill that will get Urena to the big leagues is his ability to throw strikes. In 632.0 career minor league innings, he has walked 1.91 batters per nine. He improved that ratio in 2014 to 1.61. It’s not all perfect for the 6-foot-2 Dominican as he also gave up 14 home runs. While the home run to innings-pitch ratio is acceptable at the major league level, you like to see the number lower in the minors. While he keeps the ball down, the problem has been more pitch location and the command of his fastball. Both of which should improve as he continues through the development process.

Fantasy Impact: Urena will likely see Miami in 2015 and could have some immediate success given his ability to throw strikes. However, the strikeout rate is holding him back from being a potential significant fantasy asset and that could change if his slider improves a grade. For now, he should only be rostered in a mix league fantasy league that has at least 300 minor league players.

7. Brian Flynn (LHP)

2015 Age: 25 Ceiling: #4 starter
Ht: 6-7 Weight: 250 Bats: Left Throws: Left ETA: 2013
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2014 AAA 139.2 169 63 13 3.22 6.70 4.06 1.56

6-foot-7 lefties don’t grow on trees and therefore Brian Flynn will be given every opportunity to carve out a major league career. He was having an outstanding year in 2013 and the Marlins rewarded him with four September starts where he posted an 8.50 ERA while walking 13 in 18.0 innings. The hangover effect lasted in 2014 where his control went backwards and his fastball was not staying down in the zone.

When he’s right, Flynn throws both a two and four seam fastball that sits 90-92 MPH. He complements his fastball with a slider that can miss bats and a change-up that is improving. Both his change-up and slider sit 81-83 MPH but the lack of velocity separation degrades both pitches. His command has always been a problem and continues to plague him. However, as it improves, success should come with the ceiling of a number four starter.

Fantasy Impact: Flynn became a sexy Dynasty League pickup last year after his excellent performance in Double and Triple-A. However his major league stumble and his statistical down year in Triple-A has sent him back to the waiver wire. For me, there’s something there with Flynn and I’m not ready to give up on the 6-foot-7 lefty. He lacks command that is partially born out of trying to get his long levers to work in sync. If he resolves that, he has the upside of a number four starter, but more given where he’ll pitch.

8. Anthony DeSclafani (RHP)

2015 Age: 25 Ceiling: #4 starter
Ht: 6-1 Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2014
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2014 AA,AAA 102.1 93 43 6 3.78 8.53 3.78 1.21

On May 14th the Miami Marlins purchased the contract of 24-year-old Anthony DeSclafani and presented him with the assignment of facing the Los Angeles Dodgers. Six innings, two runs and seven strikeouts later, Mr. DeSclafani won his first major league game. Easy…right? Six days later he faced the Philadelphia Phillies and gave up five earned runs in 5.1 innings and was sent back to the minors.

Later in the year, DeSclafani got additional spot starts and the New Jersey native was inconsistent. He has good stuff with a fastball that sits 92-94 MPH with an above-average curve ball and a workable change-up. While the fastball has nice velocity, it’s fairly straight and he does pitch up in the zone with it. The result in his limited big league exposure was a .346 batting average against and a .582 slugging percent with a 40% fly ball rate. He also throws a two-seamer that runs into arm-side batters that he might want to consider throwing more.

DeSclafani turns 25 in April next year and is nearly a finished product and needs repetition at the big league level. Marlins Park is a great place for his profile as the size of the park will help limit the damage as he works on his pitch sequencing and improving his change-up. There is a number four ceiling if it all comes together.

Fantasy Impact: Despite DeSclafani poor start to his big league career, there is more in the tank than what he showed in 2014. His ceiling is 7.5 strikeouts per nine and slightly better than league average ratios; or a number five fantasy starter.

9. Avery Romero (2B)

2015 Age: 22 Ceiling: 2nd Div
Ht:5-8 Weight: 190 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2016-17
2014 A-,A+ 466 63 5 56 10 .320 .367 87.1 6.3 .357

Drafted in the third round of the 2012 first year player draft, Avery Romero split time between Low-A and High-A on his way to an excellent year where he posted a .790 OPS. He actually started the year off in the Sally League, got promoted in July but finished off the year back in Greensboro to help the Grasshoppers in their final push to the playoffs.

Romero can really hit with the ability to make hard contact to all fields. His 88% contact rate was indeed impressive and his plate discipline improved as well. He did manage to hit five home runs and while his swing is currently more contact oriented, he could eventually hit 8 to 10 home runs annually.

Fantasy Impact: Romero doesn’t have a lot of fantasy friendly tools but he can hit and that should at least get him to the major leagues. He’s only rosterable in NL-Only formats.

10. Trevor Williams (RHP)

2015 Age: 23 Ceiling: #5 starter
Ht: 6-3 Weight: 230 Bats: Right Throws: Right ETA: 2015-16
Year Class IP H ER HR BB/9 K/9 ERA WHIP
2014 A+,AA 144.0 160 50 5 2.19 6.50 3.13 1.35

Trevor Williams is yet another mid-rotation arm moving his way through the Marlins system. Drafted in the second round of the 2013 first year player draft, Williams is a fastball/change-up pitcher that lacks a consistent curve ball. The fastball sits 92-94 MPH and can touch higher but it’s his ability to throw it for strikes that is providing his success. The change-up is the better of the two off speed pitches and can miss bats. His curve ball is still a work in progress but has improved since he was drafted.

Fantasy Impact: While Williams can throw strikes, the arsenal is not yet to the level that he can consistently miss bats. He can be ignored in all mixed league fantasy formats.

2015 Emerging Prospect

Brian Anderson (3B/2B)

Brian Anderson was one my favorite players coming into the 2014 first year player draft and I was surprised that he dropped to the third round (pick 76).  Anderson can flat out hit with a college batting average over three seasons of .318 and an on-base percentage of .418.  He also has plus bat speed that points to the ability to hit for above-average, if not more power.  While he was drafted as a second baseman, the Marlins smartly moved him to third upon his promotion to the Sally League to let his plus-plus arm play. I think he’ll move quickly and is a player to watch carefully.

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