Earlier today, Kiley McDaniel published his consummately researched and demonstrably authoritative prospect list for the Miami Marlins. What follows is a different exercise than that, one much smaller in scope and designed to identify not Miami’s top overall prospects but rather the rookie-eligible players in the Marlins system who are most ready to produce wins at the major-league level in 2015 (regardless of whether they’re likely to receive the opportunity to do so). No attempt has been made, in other words, to account for future value.
Below are the top-five prospects in the Marlins system by projected WAR. To assemble this brief list, what I’ve done is to locate the Steamer 600 projections for all the prospects to whom McDaniel assessed a Future Value grade of 40 or greater. Hitters’ numbers are normalized to 550 plate appearances; starting pitchers’, to 150 innings — i.e. the playing-time thresholds at which a league-average player would produce a 2.0 WAR. Catcher projections are prorated to 415 plate appearances to account for their reduced playing time.
Note that, in many cases, defensive value has been calculated entirely by positional adjustment based on the relevant player’s minor-league defensive starts — which is to say, there has been no attempt to account for the runs a player is likely to save in the field. As a result, players with an impressive offensive profile relative to their position are sometimes perhaps overvalued — that is, in such cases where their actual defensive skills are sub-par.
5. Arquimedes Caminero, RHP (Profile)
Caminero is part of a small collection of minor-league pitchers whose fastball has been identified independently as hitting 100 mph or higher. It’s possible to fail even with that sort of velocity, but the margin of error is larger. Caminero hasn’t thrown quite that hard in limited major-league exposure, sitting more at 95-96 mph. But he’s generated sufficient whiffs both with that and his changeup to compensate for a relative paucity of strikes.
4. Kendry Flores, RHP (Profile)
Acquired from San Francisco in the deal that Casey McGehee to the Giants, Flores has recorded strikeout rates of about 25% each of the past two seasons. He’s done so, however — according to Kiley McDaniel, at least — largely on the strength of his above-average command and pitchability, as opposed to raw stuff. It’s not impossible to succeed like that, of course — and, in fact, Flores’s major-league projection is encouraging in light of how he’s never pitched above High-A. It’s just, attempting to win with below-average velocity places even more pressure on the other aspects of pitching.
3. Jarlin Garcia, LHP (Profile)
As with Flores, Garcia’s arrival in the majors isn’t imminent. Indeed, it’s probably not a great sign for the Marlins that two of their most major-league-ready prospects according to the projections remain some distance from the parent club. That doesn’t mean he lacks promise as a prospect, however. Garcia’s projected strikeout numbers aren’t excellent right now, but that’s a function of translation from A-ball to the majors. He appears capable of sitting in at least the low-90s from the left side and features a slider decent enough to whiff the batter with the lowest strikeout rate in affiliated baseball last year.
2. Justin Nicolino, LHP (Profile)
The left-handed Nicolino’s strikeout rates have dropped from 24.0% over most of a season of Class-A ball in 2012 to just 11.8% last year at Double-A. That’s not an excellent trend; however, his walk rates have remained characteristically low at the same time. His projected 5.8% walk rate for 2015 would have placed him among the top half of qualifiers in 2014. His ceiling would appear limited by a lack of swings and misses. Still, he enters just his age-23 season projected to produce wins at something better than replacement level.
1. J.T. Realmuto, C (Profile)
Realmuto has exhibited impressive contact skills over the last couple years, and that manifests itself in his Steamer forecast: his projected 16.8% for 2015 is more than three percentage points — or roughly one standard deviation — better than the league-average strikeout rate among non-pitchers in 2014. That ability, in tandem with an average defensive projection at catcher, renders him the top prospect for the Marlins in terms of present true talent. With Jarrod Saltalamacchia signed through 2016, however, it’s not immediately clear how Realmuto will find big-league playing time.
Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.