Jose Fernandez - Peter G. Aiken-US PRESSWIRE
Miami Marlins Top 20 Prospects for 2013
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. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2013 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 reasonable 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. Some end up as role players or bench guys. Many don't make it at all.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise, and some C+ prospects (especially at lower levels) 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.
THIS LIST IS CURRENT AS OF JANUARY 15, 2013
1) Jose Fernandez, RHP, Grade A: Borderline A-. Seems like a conclusive case to me. First class stuff, good command for a young power pitcher, strong sabermetric factors, outstanding performance in A-ball at age 19/20. He's better than expected and he was expected to be pretty damn good to begin with.
2) Christian Yelich, OF, Grade A-: Borderline A. We'll have to see how much home run power he carries forward, but otherwise he'll contribute in every department and thrived in High-A at age 20. Hits for average, gets on base, has at least moderate power, swipes bags, plays well in center field.
3) Justin Nicolino, LHP, Grade B+: The most polished of the terrific rotation the Blue Jays had at Lansing last year. Superior command and control of solid fastball and curve, plus changeup. Could become number two starter.
4) Marcell Ozuna, OF, Grade B: Very dangerous power hitter had no problems hitting homers in difficult Florida State League at age 21. Will Double-A pitchers take advantage of his aggressiveness? Perhaps, but I am (for some reason) optimistic about his chances to adjust.
5) Andrew Heaney, LHP, Grade B: Strike-throwing first round pick out of Oklahoma State has good heat from a skinny frame, projects as a number three starter who could move fast.
6) Jake Marisnick, OF, Grade B-: Something of a tough grade. All the tools are here, but his swing gets tied up and he doesn't control the zone well against advanced pitching. He's young at 21 and has time to fix it, but without adjustments he will end up as a role player for his speed and glove.
7) Adeiny Hechavarria, SS, Grade B-: Glove will keep him employed for a long time. Don't expect much hitting in the short run, but he's not helpless and he could hit better than we currently expect as he gets into his late 20s.
8) Rob Brantly, C, Grade B-: Don't expect him to hit for the power he did in his first 30 major league games over a full season, but he should have a long career as a solid defender who can hit for average.
9) Adam Conley, LHP, Grade B-: Good fastball/changeup combination, still working on slider and had some command wobbles in High-A. If that improves, can be a three/four starter or a nice relief option.
10) Derek Dietrich, INF, Grade B-: Nice pickup from the Rays this week. Power is his best tool and he should be a solid defender at second base, but his plate discipline isn't great and OBP may be an issue.
11) J.T. Realmuto, C, Grade B-: Went backward with the bat in High-A, but defense remains promising and he's still young at 22 in March. Emergence of Brantly buys him more time.
12) Jose Urena, RHP, Grade C+: Nice season in Low-A at age 20, 3.38 ERA with 101/29 K/BB in 138 innings. Projectable, still working on secondary pitches but already throws strikes. Mid-rotation upside arm who doesn't get enough attention.
13) Mason Hope, RHP, Grade C+: Competitor of Dylan Bundy and teammate of Archie Bradley in Oklahoma high school ranks is a solid prospect in his own right. Will move up to Low-A in 2013 and breakout season is possible. Another mid-rotation potentiality.
14) Alfredo Silverio, OF, Grade C+: Rule 5 pick from the Dodgers, missed entire season recovering from an auto accident. Tough to rank as a result, could fit higher depending on what you emphasize. Solid across-the-board tools, had a great year in Double-A in 2011 at age 24, but his skills are rather raw and it is unclear how the layoff will impact him.
15) Avery Romero, INF, Grade C+: 2012 third round pick has intriguing bat with a nice swing, power potential, good approach at the plate. Might wind up at second or third base, but scouts expect he'll hit. Caution flag: he was one of the oldest guys in the high school class and turns 20 in May.
16) Kolby Copeland, OF, Grade C+: Tooled up outfielder with power potential looks like possible steal as supplemental third rounder who got some first round buzz last spring. Reports on bat are positive, and intuitively there's something I like about him that is hard to explain.
17) Charlie Lowell, LHP, Grade C+: Sixth round pick from Wichita State in 2011 has a live arm and dominated the Sally League when he threw strikes. He didn't always throw those strikes, but even marginal improvements will result in a breakout.
18) Grant Dayton, LHP, Grade C+: Outstanding performance record, lefty bullpen arm with good fastball/slider combination, stuff is good enough that he doesn't have to be confined to LOOGY role. Ready to help in next year or two.
19) Tom Koehler, RHP, Grade C+: Veteran minor league inning-chewer posted 13/2 K/BB in first 13 major league innings down the stretch. Older guy at age 26, but I think his stuff is a bit underrated and he could surprise as a four/five starter or reliever.
20) Austin Brice, RHP, Grade C+: Posted 4.35 ERA with 122/68 K/BB in 110 innings in Low-A at age 19/20. Low-to-mid-90s fastball and hard curve result in strong dominance ratios, but needs better command and still working on changeup. Command is erratic but has mid-rotation upside, could plausibly rank as high as 13 or 14.
OTHER GRADE C+ PROSPECTS: Austin Barnes, 2B-C; Zack Cox, 3B; Brian Flynn, LHP; Jesus Solorzano, OF.
OTHERS: Michael Brady, RHP; Arquimedes Caminero, RHP; Mark Canha, 1B; Austin Dean, OF; Anthony DeSclafani, RHP; Jake Esch, RHP; Chad James, LHP; Dan Jennings, LHP; Kyle Jensen, OF; Cody Keefer, OF; Brent Keys, OF; Braulio Lara, LHP; Joe Mahoney, 1B; Scott McGough, RHP; Edgar Olmos, LHP; Noah Perio, 2B; Kyle Skipworth, C: Nick Wittgren, RHP.
The Marlins system was thin for awhile, but trades and better drafting at the top the last few years has helped and things are turning around quickly.
On the hitting side, Christian Yelich has developed very rapidly and looks like a long-term regular with All-Star potential. There is other outfield depth beside him, and it will be interesting to see Jake Marisnick and Marcell Ozuna in the same Double-A outfield in 2013. Ozuna's power is outstanding, Marisnick offers across-the-board tools, but both have serious questions about their hitting approaches. A healthy Alfredo Silverio could be a very nice Rule 5 pickup, Kody Copeland could be a draft bargain. . .good outfield depth. Brantly was a good trade acquisition and should hold down the catching job, with J.T. Realmuto coming up behind. They could use more depth at other positions but progress has been made.
There's hope on the mound too. Jose Fernandez is one of the top pitching prospects in the game, and Justin Nicolino isn't far behind. There are very intriguing right-handers like Urena, and Hope, with Heaney, Conley, and Lowell provide some left-side balance. None are sure things, but all could end up as mid-rotation starters.
While it is very annoying for Marlins fans to have to rebuild again, the farm system is making clear progress rebuilding the organization's base of young talent.