The Marlins are at an interesting place in their development cycle. We’ve seen them be at every stage of the spectrum, from rebuilding to contender, over the last couple decades and now they’re flipping young players for ready-made big leaguers to put around Giancarlo Stanton while he’s in his prime. It remains to be seen how much of a contender they will be in 2015, but it’s clear a switch has been flipped and that’s evident in what the system looks like.
It isn’t that top heavy and it isn’t particularly deep in tradable assets, but I liked what the Marlins did in the later rounds in the most recent draft. The club told me they had leaned to pitching in recent drafts and needed hitters. They identified a number of lower six figure prep hitting prospects to help stock the lower rungs of the system. Going under-slot in the sandwich round for prep catcher Blake Anderson helped them do that; it’ll be a few years before we know if this draft strategy will pay off.
Here’s the primer for the series and a disclaimer about how we don’t really know anything. See the links above for the ongoing series about how I evaluate, including the series on the ever-complicated hit tool.
Most of what you need to know for this list is in the above links, but I should add that the risk ratings are relative to their position, so average (3) risk for a pitcher is riskier than average risk (3) for a hitter, due to injury/attrition being more common. I’d also take a 60 Future Value hitter over a 60 FV pitcher for the same reasons. Also, risk encompasses a dozen different things and I mention the important components of it for each player in the report. The upside line for hitters is the realistic best-case scenario (a notch better than the projected tools, or a 75% projection while the projected tools are a 50% projection) and the Future Value encompasses this upside along with the risk rating for one overall rating number.
Below, I’ve included a quick ranking of the growth assets that the Marlins have in the majors that aren’t eligible for the list and Dave Cameron shares some general thoughts on the organization. Scroll further down to see Carson Cistulli’s fringe prospect favorite. I’m working on a bunch of lists at the same time, so up next in the series will be the Braves, Orioles, Nationals, Yankees and A’s, in some order as I finish them.
Big League Growth Assets
1. Jose Fernandez, RHP, Age 22, FV: 70 (Video)
2. Christian Yelich, LF, Age 23, FV: 65 (Video)
3. Marcell Ozuna, RF, Age 24, FV: 60
4. Jarred Cosart, RHP, Age 24, FV: 55
5. Adeiny Hechavarria, SS, Age 25, FV: 50 (Video)
6. Derek Dietrich, 2B, Age 25, FV: 45 (Video)
7. Brad Hand, LHP, Age 24, FV: 45
8. Carter Capps, RHP, Age 24, FV: 45
Organizational Overview by Dave Cameron
The Marlins have spent the last few years doing what the Marlins do best; making a ton of money for their owners while stockpiling interesting young talent in the process. Now, the ownership is again promising that this time things will be different, with the biggest contract in baseball history as the dangled carrot to win fans back over. But whether you believe Jeffrey Loria or not — I don’t — this team has a chance to be interesting in 2015, and the Marlins are poised to be the team most likely to take advantage of the weak NL East if the Nationals run into problems. However, their short-term success will require bad fortune in Washington, and the franchise’s history doesn’t allow one to be too optimistic about a long run of excellence.
50+ FV Prospect
1. Tyler Kolek, RHP
Current Level/Age: RK/19.1, 6’5/270, R/R
Drafted: 2nd overall (1st round) in 2014 out of Texas HS by MIA for $6 million bonus, Agency: Excel Sports Mgmt
Fastball: 60/70, Curveball: 50/60, Changeup: 40/50, Command: 40/50
Scouting Report: Kolek jumped on the national scene in the summer of 2013 after hitting 100 mph at the Area Code Games regional tryout in Texas, just after the 2013 MLB draft. He then showed up at most of the major events over the summer, where his velocity ranged from 93-98, hitting 100 mph in early innings, but sometimes would dip to the low 90’s in longer outings. His sharp low-80’s curveball would flash plus but was often just average to above, while he only very sparingly threw a nascent changeup.
Last spring, Kolek’s competition was very poor in a small town outside of Houston, and he struck out over half of the players he faced. He never had to use his changeup in games and his breaking ball got even less consistent, only occasionally flashing plus, while he fiddled with throwing both a curveball and slider, a recipe for disaster for many previous draft prospects. He regularly hit 100 mph and got even bigger, hitting 270 pounds (but not getting fat, just big), which allowed him to hold his velocity regularly in the 93-97 mph range deep into games.
After going second overall, Kolek was just okay in the Rookie-level GCL, sitting 91-94 mph and having the command/secondary/consistency issues you would expect given what he faced during the spring. It’s normal for prep arms to have their velo back up a bit after the draft, as it’s the longest season of their young careers, so no one is concerned. The Marlins prefer Kolek’s curveball, given the action, consistency to the break and his slot and they actually tweaked his grip a bit, giving it a more downward break. He’ll shelve the slider for now (though it may come back later, particularly if the curveball doesn’t improve) and focus on integrating the changeup more often in games.
I ranked Kolek 6th in my last pre-draft rankings, which was lower than almost every scout and publication I could find. I’m concerned that given the relative rawness and the absurd arm speed that Kolek will take longer to develop than many are expecting and that, if Kolek keeps throwing in the upper-90’s, the odds of a Tommy John surgery coming are pretty high. There’s obvious allure to a Texas-bred offensive tackle that lives on a farm, bales hay and throws 100 mph, but there’s some real concerns he needs to address in the next couple years.
The Marlins are aware of this and one club official said the plan is to have Kolek to throw whatever is comfortable, whether that’s low, mid or upper 90’s and more of a sinker or four-seamer. If he starts throwing for the radar gun and losing his mechanics, this could turn into a problem, but the athleticism and broad indicators in the delivery are there to stay healthy and throw strikes if the mental approach is correct.
Summation: Kolek’s 2015 assignment will be a wait-and-see situation based on how he looks in Spring Training, but the expectation is that he’ll head to Low-A. There’s enough raw talent that he could shoot through the minors if he makes quick adjustments and needs to be challenged by better hitters. I’d caution patience and expect multiple years at the A-Ball levels.
FV/Role/Risk: 55, #3/4 starter, Very High (5 on 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: Low-A, 2016: High-A, 2017: AA/AAA, 2018: AAA/MLB
45 FV Prospects
2. J.T. Realmuto, C Video: Realmuto is a classic example of both multi-sport athlete and catching conversions taking longer to develop, but he took a huge step forward in 2014 from okay prospect to Miami’s catcher of the future. He was a successful dual-threat quarterback in high school that also played shortstop and converted to catcher after he turned pro as a 3rd rounder in 2011. Realmuto was once a plus runner but is now has more average speed, but his receiving has really improved and he projects to be a solid average receiver with a plus arm. He has a very quick release and quick feet to produce pop times as low as 1.78. Realmuto is a bat over power guy that’s more focused on contact and is likely a little below average offensively, but that’s still an easy everyday guy behind the plate if everything holds up.
3. Justin Nicolino, LHP Video: Nicolino came over from Toronto in the big Jose Reyes deal and while his K rate hasn’t been quite the same, his advanced feel for pitching has remained. He works 89-91, hitting 94 mph with a plus changeup, a curveball that’s average at times and at least average command. He pitches more for weak contact and low pitch counts than strikeouts, which should help his performance translate ot the big leagues. His curveball is often below average but is slightly above average at its best; that’s Nicolino’s biggest weakness right now. He may break camp in the big league rotation, but likely heads to Triple-A for more seasoning.
4. Avery Romero, 2B Video: In high school, Romero was a stout right-handed power bat without a position; many scouts projected him for left field. He’s slimmed up and gotten a little more athletic since then and plays second base. Some clubs tried him at catcher as an amateur and most think he’ll end up at third base (especially with Colin Moran gone), but Miami isn’t in a rush to move him. Romero has the above average power and hitting ability to profile, but he has more of a line drive, gap-to-gap approach, so they’d like to keep his bat at second as long as possible since it profiles better there.
5. Trevor Williams, RHP Video: Williams showed some power at Arizona State, hitting 96 mph often, but he’s been sitting 89-92, hitting 94 mph in pro ball. His sinker is an above average pitch most night and his slider will flash above average as well. Williams also has an average curveball and changeup to go with about average command, making the former power arm more of a solid-not-spectacular back-end starter that may be ready to contribute soon.
6. Jose Urena, RHP Video: Urena has progressed steadily through the minors as a starter, one level at a time (Triple-A coming in 2015) with low walk numbers and a modest strikeout rate. He has a loose arm and a plus fastball that sits 92-94 and hits 97 mph at times, but still has some polish to add to his game before he can be a big league rotation piece. Urena’s changeup is his best off-speed pitch and is consistently solid average while his slider will flash above average at times, but is more often below, while his curveball is a 4th pitch. The feel to command enough to start is there, but his arm action is a little funky and there’s still some work to be done; his stuff likely plays up in relief, as a backup option to starting.
7. Brian Anderson, 2B Video: I was the high guy on Anderson all spring, grading him as a sandwich to 2nd round pick; the Arkansas second baseman ended up slipping all the way to the 3rd round at 76th overall, and the Marlins were surprised he fell to them. He’s played all over the field and will continue at second base, but likely ends up at third base or center field. Anderson is a 6’3/175 athlete that’s probably too tall for the middle infield but is a plus runner with a plus arm (hit 95 mph on the mound in high school) and present average raw power that projects for a tick more.
His only struggles at the plate came on the Cape last summer when he tinkered with his high leg kick, but once he went back to the high kick, he raked at Arkansas and raked in pro ball. Anderson has feel to hit and a fluid swing that could move quickly if he keeps hitting. I think teams will regret passing on Anderson; I had trouble separating him and Ti’Quan Forbes all spring and Forbes is a less proven high school prospect that got double the bonus of Anderson ($1.2 million vs. $600,000).
40 FV Prospects
8. Isael Soto, RF Video: Soto was an under-the-radar July 2nd signing for $310,000; the Marlins don’t really spend big money in that market so this constitutes a big investment. He’s 6’0/190 with short arms, so he doesn’t look physically like a corner outfield prospect, even adjusting for him playing the 2014 season at age 17. Soto generates above average raw power via bat speed and brute strength and it surprisingly showed up in his pro debut in the GCL (he skipped the DSL) with seven homers. He’s an average runner with an above average arm, so if he can make enough contact to have a 50 bat, we’re looking at a low-end everyday right fielder and even a 45 bat would be a solid 4th outfielder.
9. Jarlin Garcia, LHP Video: Garcia is a 6’2/170 lefty that will pitch in High-A next year at age 22 and has improved each of the last few years. He had some buzz as a potential Rule 5 pick, but rival clubs deemed him too far from contributing to the big leagues. Garcia sits 89-93 mph with a curveball, changeup and slider, ranked in that order and grading from solid average to fringy. There’s some projection left but also some effort to the delivery and his command will wander at times. He’ll remain a start until he can’t and there’s a real chance he turns into a #4 starter, but there’s still a ways to go.
10. Adam Conley, LHP Video: Conley was cruising along as a 6’3/215 power lefty that hits 96 mph and was on the fast track to being a big league starter. This year, his stuff backed up after he tweaked his elbow, he dialed things down a bit and tried to be too fine. Scouts outside the org aren’t crazy about his arm action or delivery and think it will only get worse. Marlins officials say he’s past the mental block and is physically fine. This season, Conley worked 87-92, hitting 93 mph with a fringy to average changeup and below average breaking ball. That pitcher is an emergency callup at best, but there’s reason to believe that the something close to the old Conley (plus fastball, strike thrower with solid average off-speed stuff) will return with a chance to pitch at the big league level in 2015.
11. Justin Twine, 2B Video: Twine checks a lot of boxes of the types of players the Marlins have drafted often in the past: a standout football player that’s a raw athlete on the baseball field from Texas/Oklahoma. He has plenty of tools to make up for some rawness at the plate: Twins is a 65-70 runner with average raw power and solid average arm strength. Twine’s hands are good enough to leave him at shortstop for awhile, but he likely settles at second base due to his hands/feet/arms all coming up just a bit short, with center field as a backup option.
12. Justin Bour, 1B Video: The massive 6’5/270 Bour was a Rule 5 pick from the Cubs last year that held his own in the big leagues, then went down to Triple-A and raked. Bour is a typical later-round power guy that slowly tightened his zone, made adjustments and got to more of his power in games. He’s now ready to contribute at the big league level, but is likely a platoon type bat long-term. He has 55 raw power from the left side and is surprisingly nimble for his size around the bag and athletically at the plate. I also feel like there’s an easy nickname here.
13. Michael Mader, LHP Video: Mader took a big step forward this year with his velocity jumping from the upper 80’s to the low 90’s and hitting 95 mph. He also flashed an above average curveball and changeup with the command to start, but would only show one or two of those four elements in any one start. Mader’s velocity was 88-91 in some starts with the diminished arm speed giving him a fringy curveball while when he pitched 91-94, hitting 95 mph, the pitch may flash plus. His changeup is a third pitch and is mostly around average, but flashes slightly above.
14. Austin Brice, RHP Video: Brice starts now but may move to relief soon as the Marlins admit that’s likely his best role long-term. He works 90-95 mph as a starter with an above average curveball that flashes plus at times, but he can’t really command it. Brice’s changeup and command are below average, but Miami wanted him to get the bulk innings to work on his stuff, which hasn’t really progressed and should play up in short stints. He’s hit 98 mph before and may be a similar prospect at a similar level to Ellington in short order.
15. Kendry Flores, RHP Video: Flores was the main return from the Casey McGehee deal and he doesn’t have big stuff or projection, but gets the job done. He works 87-91 with some life, but can run it up to 94 mph when he needs it. Flores backs that up with a solid average changeup and fringy slurve but a very good sense for sequence and commanding his fringy to average stuff. He’ll head to Double-A next year and if he can keep striking guys out, he’ll keep creeping up this list.
16. Austin Dean, LF Video: Dean doesn’t have huge tools as a 6’1/190 left fielder that has trouble getting to his power in game situations, but he can really hit. He has average raw power that could be enough to profile everyday, but his line drive approach causes the power to play down in games, which makes gives him more of a 4th outfielder projection at the moment. Dean is an average runner with a fringy arm, so he can be put in center or right if you need him, but fits best in left.
17. Arquimedes Caminero, RHP Video: Caminero already has some big league time and is already 27, but is still searching for consistency in location. He throws from a lower slot with some deception from coiling his body, sitting in the mid-90’s and regularly hitting 100 or 101 mph. Caminero’s off-speed pitches are a slider and splitter that are inconsistent as his arm slot varies, with the slider the better pitch and it flashes 55 at times. With some adjustments, Caminero could stick in the big league bullpen much of next year.
18. Brian Ellington, RHP Video: Ellington sits 94-97 and hits 98 mph with a slider that flashes 55 at at times but is more often average or solid average. He also works in a fringy splitter that flashes average but it isn’t a big factor for him, normally. There’s some length to his arm action and some funk/effort to the delivery, which explains the below average command. If Ellington can take a step forward in that area, he could be a late inning reliever but right now is more of an arm strength middle relief type to keep an eye on.
19. Casey Soltis, RF Video: Soltis went in the 5th round out of a NorCal high school last year; he wasn’t seen much on the showcase circuit and had an excuse for some rawness as he was also a standout football player. He’s an above average runner with good defensive instincts that may be able to stick in center, but his solid average arm is enough for right field if he has to move to a corner. There’s some projection to his 6’1/180 frame and he flashes average raw power from the left side with a fluid swing.
Sean Townsley, LHP
Just as there’s a dearth of obvious 40-grade talent or better in the organization, there’s a similar lack of very compelling fringe talent. Brent Keys might ordinarily be a candidate for his excellent contact skills, but he lacks power of really any description and, it would appear, the necessary base-running skills to augment his offensive profile. Justin Bohn and Austin Nola (both mentioned below) have similar shortcomings. Townsley, meanwhile, offers a notable combination of performance (recording strikeout and walk rates of 22.1% and 4.6%, respectively, this past season) and physicality (he’s listed at 6-7, 215). He doesn’t throw particularly hard, sitting in just the high-80s, but might benefit from some added “apparent” velocity given his size. Plus he throws a potentially useful curveball.
A curveball like this one:
Others of Note
Five upper level pitchers in the system are worth keeping an eye on: RHP Colby Suggs (Video 2012 2nd rounder from Arkansas it up to 98 with a 55-60 curveball at his best, but has mostly been 90-93 with a 50 curveball in pro ball; his delivery may be to blame and Miami is actively making tweaks), RHP Matt Ramsey (acquired from the Rays last season for international bonus slots, the stout righty projects for middle relief; he works 91-95 mph with a curveball that flashes 55 and he tinkers with a splitter while his command comes and goes), RHP Nick Wittgren (three pitch reliever has solid average stuff (curveball, splitter) strike-throwing mentality and aggressive demeanor that can play for multiple innings), LHP Andrew McKirahan (another Rule 5 pick from the Cubs could be 2nd lefty in MLB bullpen this year with his fastball/slider combo; Marlins think he can also get righties out) and RHP Tyler Higgins (will miss much of 2015 due to TJ, but when healthy has a 92-94 mph fastball, 55 curveball, aggressive approach and usable changeup).
There are three lower level arms from the 2014 draft to watch in the system: RHP Jordan Holloway (mostly unknown until midway through the spring, a primary third baseman for his Colorado prep team that grew from 5’9 to 6’4 in high school, Holloway went to the mound and ran it up to 94 mph with feel to spin a curve), LHP Dillon Peters (Video bulldog 5’9/185 lefty with solid average stuff for the Texas Longhorns had his elbow pop shortly before the draft and the Marlins grabbed him for a $175,000 bonus) and LHP Chris Sadberry (Texas Tech lefty was pleasant surprise after signing, flashing three average to slightly above pitches and some starter traits).
There are six prep bats to watch from the most recent draft class that I mentioned in the intro, here’s notes on three of them: C Blake Anderson (under-slot sandwich pick was lightly scouted 6’4 catcher from Mississippi with a plus arm and very advanced glove; he’s still growing into his strength and the swing is just okay, but the tools are here), 3B Brian Schales (little-known SoCal prep shortstop fits at the hot corner in pro ball and has fringy to solid average tools across the board) and C Roy Morales (former pitcher took well to his new position last year with a quick release, plus arm strength and at least average raw power from a sturdy frame).
The other three are CF Zach Sullivan (Video New York prep kid is raw and the swing needs some work, but he’s a plus runner with an above average arm, some pop/projection and some feel to hit), SS Anfernee Seymour (Video true 80 runner has some feel for the bat head and is easy to project in center field, but Marlins tried him in the infield for the first time ever at the pre-draft workout; they think he has a plus arm and fluid hands and will stick at one of the middle infield positions) and CF Stone Garrett (Video great athlete is easy plus runner with at least average raw power and above average bat speed, but his swing is a little stiff and he has trouble making hard contact).
There are six other bats to keep an eye on, spread throughout the system: SS Justin Bohn (Video nondescript guy without a big tool that’s fine at shortstop, puts the ball in play and does the little things), SS Austin Nola (Video older brother of Phillies top prospect RHP Aaron Nola also went to LSU and, like Bohn, is a solid utility type that’s just good enough at shortstop to play there for stretches while he hits liners gap to gap) and 1B Vio Rosa (some similarities to new A’s 1B Rangel Ravelo as an underpowered first baseman with some feel to hit, but a lack of pedigree; if he rakes in Double-A, he should sneak on the next list) are at the upper levels.
Three more bats to watch from the Latin program are SS Garvis Lara (the top prospect from the DSL squad is headed to the GCL in 2015; the lefty-hitting shortstop has a chance to stick at the position and has a low maintenance swing with a good approach) and RFs Anderson Castro and Christian Capellan (Video the Marlins two top 2014 July 2 signings got $600,000 and $500,000 respectively and are both big 6’4 right fielders with classic power bats/arms; if they clean up their approaches and put up numbers, they could jump onto the list).
Kiley McDaniel has worked as an executive and scout, most recently for the Atlanta Braves, also for the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates. He's written for ESPN, Fox Sports and Baseball Prospectus. Follow him on twitter.