Third baseman Matt Dominguez of the Florida Marlins plays against the New York Mets at Sun Life Stadium on September 7, 2011 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Miami Marlins Top 20 Prospects for 2012
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine of course. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2012 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don't make it at all.
A major point to remember is that grades for pitchers do NOT correspond directly to grades for hitters. Many Grade A pitching prospects fail to develop, often due to injuries. Some Grade C pitching prospects turn out much better than expected.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise coming from me, and some C+ prospects turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
1) Christian Yelich, OF, Grade B+: Pure hitter with decent power, surprising speed, ex-first baseman adapted well to outfield defense. Class of the system. Grade might go higher if he resolves problems against left-handed pitching.
2) Marcell Ozuna, OF, Grade B: Some risk here with plate discipline issues, but power/speed upside is excellent and he made progress last year with contact. Good throwing arm and range as well.
3) Jose Fernandez, RHP, Grade B: Highest-upside arm in the system, could be a rotation anchor although some think he'll be a closer. 2011 first-round pick who hasn't pitched much yet.
4) J.T. Realmuto, C, Grade B-: Borderline B. Good athleticism and power potential, needs some work with the strike zone and defensive polish. If he adds those, could be much higher next year and one of the best catching prospects in the game.
5) Matt Dominguez, 3B, Grade B-: Glove looks terrific, both on paper and in person. He has some power, but is not going to hit for average and doesn't draw walks. Still young enough to improve, but at this point has more value for a real team than a fantasy one. Comp: Pedro Feliz.
6) Rob Rasmussen, LHP, Grade B-: Slow start last year but pitched better as season progressed. Needs to get the walks down. Projects as number three or four starter.
7) Chad James, LHP, Grade B-: Velocity was down a bit last year, but he threw more strikes. Also projects as a number three or four starter. Gave up a lot of hits and will face important adaption to Double-A but is still young at 21.
8) Adam Conley, LHP, Grade B-: I like him, another lefty who could be number three or four starter if his breaking ball improves to match his fastball and changeup. Could return to closing if it doesn't.
9) Noah Perio, 2B, Grade C+: Line drive hitter with gap power, some speed, athleticism, potential to be a fine defender although he isn't yet, young at age 20. Low walk rate is a hindrance.
10) Mason Hope, RHP, Grade C+: Overshadowed in Oklahoma high school ranks by teammate Arizona first round pick Archie Bradley and Orioles first round pick Dylan Bundy, but this fifth rounder has a live arm and threw strikes in rookie ball. Aggressive ranking but this is a thin system.
11) Jose Ceda, RHP, Grade C+: Age 25 now but still counts as a rookie. Plus velocity, but command issues limit him to middle relief. Could get a shot as a closer if Heath Bell implodes.
12) Charlie Lowell, LHP, Grade C+: Wichita State ace lasted until the sixth round despite second-round buzz pre-draft. Throws hard, command needs some work, but could rank much next year.
13) Kyle Jensen, OF, Grade C+: Fits into the Jerry Sands/Casper Wells category: power bat, good numbers, big guy, scouts have doubts about his swing but has better tools than his reputation. Let's see how he hits in Double-A/Triple-A.
14) Mark Canha, 1B-OF, Grade C+: Advanced college bat from University of California showed power in the Sally League but we need to see him at higher levels.
15) Kevin Mattison, OF, Grade C+: Speedy outfielder added to 40-man roster, drew notice after strong Arizona Fall League. Good glove, hustles, plate discipline is spotty and he gets too power-conscious at times, could be good fourth outfielder if he stays within himself, but never hit before this year, which makes me cautious.
16) Grant Dayton, LHP, Grade C+: Fanned 99 in 72 innings in the Sally League. Auburn product throws hard, could move quickly as relief asset.
17) Jose Urena, RHP, Grade C: Throws hard and drew notice from scouts in the New York-Penn League. High ceiling, but secondary pitches need a lot of work and he fanned just 48 in 73 innings.
18) Jesus Solorzano, OF, Grade C: Toolsy type, hit .299 and stole 18 bases in Gulf Coast League. Good glove, needs better plate discipline, power potential draws mixed reviews.
19) Scott Cousins, OF, Grade C: Still a rookie. Average power, average speed, good throwing arm, hits left, perfect fourth/fifth outfield profile.
20) Chris Hatcher, RHP, Grade C: Converted catcher, adapted quickly to mound work, hits mid-90s, still refining secondary stuff but reached majors in first year of full-time pitching.
OTHERS: Pete Andrelczyk, RHP; Austin Barnes, C; Michael Brady, RHP; Austin Brice, C; Kevin Cravey, RHP; Ramon Del Orbe, RHP; Jacob Esch, RHP; Isaac Galloway, OF, Dan Jennings, LHP; Kyle Kaminska, RHP; Scott Lyman, RHP; Matthew Montgomery, RHP; Jobduan Morales, C-1B; Joey O'Gara, RHP; Omar Poveda, RHP; Ryan Rieger, 1B; Jose Rodriguez, RHP; Kyle Skipworth, C.
This system isn't empty, but it is pretty thin. Yelich and Ozuna give some hope for the future outfield, with Yelich showing a good balance of skills in his full-season debut. Ozuna's tools stand out and he made progress refining them last year, but he still carries significant risk. Realmuto will rank much higher in a year if he can polish up his defense. Everybody knows about Dominguez: great glove, but will he hit? It looks like role players beyond this group with few guys who project as regulars.
On the mound, Fernandez is the only one who looks like someone you build your rotation around, and we don't know how his skills will translate to pro ball yet. I like Mason Hope a lot, but again, we need to see him pitch. Rasmussen, James, Conley, and Lowell could all develop into mid-rotation starters if they max their talent out, but all four come with serious question-marks too. Will Rasmussen's K/BB improve? How will James adapt to Double-A? How will Conley and Lowell transition from college to the pro ranks?
There is some future material for the bullpen, with Ceda the best of the group.
Overall, this is not a very exciting system.