|Original Published Date: November 13, 2018|
The Marlins system was difficult to write. It’s just not very good and I found myself over-writing, looking for things to say when in the end, there wasn’t a lot of things to say. Sometimes, it’s best to shut your yap and move on, but of course, I didn’t. Sure, they just signed Victor Victor Mesa and Victor Jr., but that doesn’t excuse the poor trades the organization completed. I understand the need to dump salary, but getting so little in return for the 2017 NL MVP and the 2018 NL MVP Player, just wasn’t enough in my opinion.
With that rant over, there is talent, much better talent than in 2017. At the top of the list is Victor Victor Mesa. He has a chance to be an impact player but let’s not forget, he was not able to stay healthy while in Cuba. Monte Harrison is next but his 37% strikeout rate in Double-A is a big, blinking red flag. That clearly will not play at the highest level but if he learns to control the strike zone, he could become a superstar. Sandy Alcantara and Edward Cabrera both have great arms, but there is definite reliever risk with Cabrera and there could be with Alcantara. Even their 2018 first round draft pick Connor Scott is a high risk/high reward guy. He’s tooled up with double-plus speed with questions about his ability to hit.
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1. Victor Mesa (OF)
Highest Level: DNP ETA: 2020 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 OF
Victor Mesa, or as he is better known, Victor Victor Mesa is the son of the legendary Cuban baseball player Victor Mesa. As I understand the story, Victor Victor unofficially changed his named to set himself apart from his father. However, instead of calling himself, let’s say “Bob”, he kept his father’s name to show respect and honour. When he played in Cuba, the name on the back of his jersey displayed “Victor Victor”. Obviously, in the major leagues, that will not be allowed, except if MLB decides to do another “fun day” at the ballpark.
While I’ve only seen Mesa on publically available videos, it’s easy to get excited about his athleticism. He’s a double-plus runner, an exceptional defensive outfielder with plus bat speed. At 5-foot-9, he’ll likely never display plus in-game power, but a stat line of 10 home runs and 40 stolen bases is plausible. He’s also showed an approach at the plate with the ability to make solid contact with plate patience.
At 22-years-old, he’ll likely make quick work of the minor leagues. While there will be cries from the fans to get him to Miami next season, I’m assuming the Marlins will let him spend the full year in the minor leagues before a possible promotion in 2020.
2. Monte Harrison (OF)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2019-20 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 OF with extreme risk
When the Brewers drafted Monte Harrison in the second round in 2014, the ceiling ranged from a superstar outfielder to a kid who would not make it out of Double-A. He’s a gifted athlete with plus speed, plus bat-speed and raw power with the ability to run everything down in the outfield. But, in 136 games in Double-A last season, he struck out 215 times while walking 44 times. The 215 strikeouts equate to a 37% strikeout rate which will just not work going forward.
Why is everyone so high on him? He also hit 19 home runs and stole 28 bases. He definitely had a power spike but perhaps that came at the expense of his contact. In 2017, he had a 27% strikeout rate, which isn’t great, but at least it’s in the ballpark of acceptability – 37% is not.
So, what do we do? Well, we have him as the number two prospect in Miami because the upside is crazy high. We said that about Lewis Brinson last year and well, that didn’t go well. And, Brinson makes much better contact than Harrison. I think fantasy owners have to be patient and hope that he improves his pitch recognition skills. He is now 23, so I understand that at some point owners will have to fish or cut bait. However, as with Brinson, who we are still waiting on to produce, you have to exhibit extreme patience when rostering a raw talent like Harrison.
3. Sandy Alcantara (RHP)
Highest Level: Majors ETA: 2018 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
For a guy that can run his fastball up to triple digits, it’s odd that Sandy Alcantara only struck out 6.5 per nine in the minor leagues last season. I’ve seen him pitch multiple times and have clocked him at several 100.x but the ball comes out fairly straight and batters get good looks. Yes, it’s the secondary stuff that usually dictates the strikeout rate, but if you can’t get to them because hitters are jumping on your fastball, it’s a problem. It probably also explains the high hit rate.
That said, not everyone can throw triple-digits and it’s easy velocity. Therefore, Alcantara still maintains a number three starter profile. Plus, his control improved from 2017 where at times it appeared he had no idea where the ball was going. I do understand that in his 34 big league innings he walked 23, but prior to that, he was showing improved control.
So what do we have? A young kid who can bring easy gas that batters currently do not have any trouble with. While his control has improved, there is still work left. His command is poor and hitters are punishing him for those mistakes. Will he be a star or frustrate owners over the next three years. I think it’s the later.
4. Connor Scott (OF)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF
In the 2018 MLB Draft, the Marlins drafted high school outfielder Connor Scott. Hailing from the same high school as Kyle Tucker, unfortunately, that is where the similarities end. They are completely different players. While Tucker is a potential five-tool player with plus power and a potential plus hit-tool, Scott’s carrying tool is his top-shelf speed with hopefully enough contactability to get on base at a high clip.
While he showed some plate patience in his introduction to pro ball, he struck out 30% of his time in Low-A and looked overmatched. He didn’t play particularly well in rookie ball, so I’m not sure what the Marlins were thinking in the promotion.
From a fantasy perspective, the plus speed is the intriguing skill. There could be 30 plus future stolen base potential. While he has good bat speed, I doubt he contributes more than average power at best. That could make his ceiling as a fourth outfielder at the big league level. However, at least for now, we will keep the dream alive and put his ceiling as a Top 45 outfielder in fantasy baseball.
5. Victor Mesa Jr. (OF)
Highest Level: DNP ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 OF with extreme risk
While a lot is known about Victor Victor Mesa, Victor Mesa Jr. is another story. After all, he’s only 17-years-old and never played beyond the 18-U Cuban National team. In that league, he played well showing plus speed and an innate ability to make contact.
Like his brother, he’s very athletic with plus speed, an advanced approach with good bat speed. As a Dynasty League owner, he should be a target in the mid rounds of rookie drafts. While he’s likely five years away from the majors, his bloodlines and athleticism give him a very high upside with, of course, considerable risk.
6. Edward Cabrera (RHP)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2021-22 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP or Closer
Edward Cabrera is the most intriguing prospect on this list. He has big-time stuff with a fastball that he can run up to triple-digits, a solid curveball that will miss bats and a feel for a change-up. He struggles at time with his control as he doesn’t always repeat his delivery, but when he’s on, he can be dominant.
I caught him in Kannapolis where he pitched six innings of one-run ball with eight strikeouts. He looked that evening to be a number three starter, perhaps even more. He has size and the athleticism you like to see in a starter and clearly has the stuff. If the control never materializes, just as with Jorge Guzman, the Marlins could put him in the bullpen and move him quickly to the big leagues.
7. Trevor Rogers (LHP)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP
The Marlins selected Trevor Rogers with the thirteenth overall pick in the 2017 MLB Draft and he finally got on the mound nearly a year later for the Greensboro Grasshoppers in the Sally League. His performance was mixed. While he struck out over 10.5 per nine, he also walked over 3.3 per nine and gave up well over a hit an inning.
At the core of his development is improving his secondary pitches. He has a good fastball that he can throw for strikes but his secondary pitches are below average. His slider needs to get tighter and his change-up is definitely a work-in-progress. Despite being a high school draftee, he enters the 2019 season at 21-years-old with 72.2 professional innings under his belt. While the ceiling is still a number three starter, he needs repetition to work on all aspects of the game. Therefore, I’ve downshifted the ceiling to a number four starter.
8. Jorge Guzman (RHP)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2020-21 Fantasy Ceiling: Closer
Jorge Guzman has one of the highest velocity on his fastball in all of baseball. I’ve personally clocked him at 102 in 2017 but have heard that he’s touched 103. But, man cannot live on fastballs alone. His slider is still a work-in-progress and he has yet to show a feel for a change-up.
Throughout his career, Guzman has struggled with his control. It appeared he figured things out in 2017 as he posted a 2.43 BB/9 in 13 starts in the NY Penn League. Unfortunately, it didn’t last. In 21 starts last season, he walked 64 or 6.0 walks-per-nine.
While it’s easy to fall in love with Guzman’s raw stuff, there are enough warning signs out there to suggest a move to the bullpen is in order. Remember, he turns 23 before the 2019 season and has yet to pitch above A-Ball. I think the slider will develop and that combined with his 100 MPH fastball could make him a force at the back-end of the bullpen. Having seen him, I believe the slider develops quickly. If that happens, I further believe that the Marlins should then move him to the bullpen and get his arm to the major leagues.
9. Isan Diaz (2B)
Highest Level: Triple-A ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Middle Infielder
As with most of the top prospects in the Marlins organization, Isan Diaz made his way to the organization via a trade. While he has flashed intriguing skills with some bat speed and foot speed, he hasn’t proven he can make consistent contact. Last season was more of the same. He struck out 27% of the time across Double-A and High-A while adding 13 home runs and 14 stolen bases. He did walk 14% of the time but until he makes better contact, I see him more as a middle infielder in fantasy and not as a starting second baseman.
10. Tristan Pompey (OF)
Highest Level: High-A ETA: 2021 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF with extreme risk
I fell hard for Dalton Pompey a few years ago. I saw a power-speed guy who could hit and really run it down in the outfield. He got his chance to begin the 2015 season in Toronto, but when he didn’t hit immediately and Kevin Pillar did, he was demoted. Several injuries later and Dalton’s career is hanging in the balance. Like many guys, he needs a change of scenery as I refuse to believe the tools I saw back in 2014 just evaporated.
And now…we have his brother. Tristan Pompey was drafted last year in the 3rd round and based on their draft position, is considered a much more significant talent than his brother. First, he played college ball in the SEC, hitting .321 in his three years with 24 home runs. At 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, he’s got the big athletic body that teams love to mold. The best news is he has an idea of what he’s doing at the plate. In 52 games as a pro, he hit .299/.408 with 47 strikeouts and 32 walks.
I’ll admit to being wrong about Dalton, at least for now…but I believe Tristan could be a player as well. The ceiling is a Top 45 outfielder with 20 plus home run potential and a .270/.340 average. He is a below-average defender so the chance of a move to first base is possible.
11. Nick Neidert (RHP)
Highest Level: Double-A ETA: 2019 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 SP
Nick Neidert was acquired in the Dee Gordon trade and arguably had the best season of all Marlins pitchers. Pitching the entire season in Double-A, he pitched to a 3.24 ERA striking out over a batter an inning and walking less than two. The one blemish was the 17 home runs he gave up in 152.2 innings.
So why do I have his ceiling as a number four starter?
It comes down to stuff and physicality. At 6-foot-1, he doesn’t get a ton of plane on his pitches. With that in combination with a fastball that I clocked last year at the California League All-Star game at 89 to 91 MPH, he’ll get hit hard. It partially explains his high home run total. He does have a good change-up but lacks a quality breaking pitch so I’m also not buying the high strikeout total. Now, given his ability to throw strikes and paint the corners, that should negate some of the reduced stuff.
You add it all up, and I put his ceiling as a back-of-the-rotation starter.
12. Braxton Garrett (LHP)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
The Marlins drafted Braxton Garrett in the first round of the 2016 MLB Draft and he currently has 15.1 innings on his baseball card in three years. In his draft year, the Marlins held him back from action to let him ease into the game. In 2017, he made four starts and then exited with elbow soreness to eventually have Tommy John surgery and has yet to make his return.
13. Davis Bradshaw (OF)
Highest Level: Short-Season ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 60 OF
Davis Bradshaw was taken in the 11th round in last June’s draft and got off to a blistering start to his professional career. In 46 games in the GCL and NY Penn League, he hit .354 with 20 stolen bases. He also showed good contact and some plate patience.
Bradshaw’s skill-set and draft position indicate his ceiling is likely a fourth outfielder in the big leagues. However, I had a source who saw him in the NY Penn League. He told me that Bradshaw had some of the most exciting tools in the entire league. While he didn’t hit a home run, I was told he showed good pop in batting practice and had enough bat speed to eventually hit low double-digit home runs.
14. Will Banfield (C)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Backup catcher
The Marlins drafted Will Banfield in the second round of last year’s MLB Draft. He has two plus tools in his raw power and arm strength but his hit tool is very raw. His swing is long with a definitive pull-side approach.
The Marlins started him off in the GCL where he played ok slashing .256/.330/.378 and then promoted him to Low-A for the last two weeks of the season. He was overmatched, batting .208 in 15 games but he did hit three home runs. If he can tone down the swing to get to his raw power, he could be a typical low-average, 15 to 20 home run catcher. Otherwise, the ceiling is a backup catcher
15. Osiris Johnson (SS)
Highest Level: Low-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS with extreme risk
Osiris Johnson was selected in the second round of the 2018 MLB Draft as a raw athletic shortstop. He played the entire season as a 17-year-old that included an aggressive late season assignment to Low-A. While he had no trouble with Rookie Ball, he really struggled in Low-A hitting only .188 with nearly a 40% strikeout rate.
The Marlins do have a history of promoting their top draft picks aggressively but in Johnson’s case, it appeared to be too much too quickly. The approach and pitch recognition are very raw and the difference in GCL pitching and A-Ball pitching is significant. That said, he has upside with good speed and a swing that should allow him to make contact.