Miami Marlins Top 20 Prospects for 2015
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 2015 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders for the book, so order early and order often!
All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS
Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least 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.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for the full analysis 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) Tyler Kolek, RHP, Grade B+: Age 19, probably the fastest high school fastball of the draft era and perhaps since Bob Feller, clocked as high as 102. He did not throw that hard in pro ball, reportedly limited to 91-95 by a minor back injury and mechanical glitches. Posted 4.50 ERA with 18/12 K/BB in 22 innings in rookie ball. Could become a number one starter, or a terrific closer, or Jeff Juden, or a Colt Griffinesque Jungian archetype nightmare of scouting directors in the year 2020.
2) J.T. Realmuto, C, Grade B/Borderline B-: Age 23, excellent defensive catcher, hit .299/.369/.461 in Double-A, .241/.267/.349 in 29 major league at-bats. I totally believe in the glove but am not 100% sold on the bat, more like 79.27% sold. Heading to Triple-A, should be ready in 2016.
3) Jose Urena, RHP, Grade B-: Age 23, 3.33 ERA with 121/29 K/BB in 162 innings in Double-A, 155 hits. Low/mid-90s fastball, good change-up, breaking ball still draws mixed reviews but I would not write him off as a starter by any means, although that is apparently a minority view.
4) Justin Nicolino, LHP, Grade B-: Age 23, 2.85 ERA with 81/20 K/BB in 170 innings in Double-A, 162 hits. Call me a fascist but I do worry about the lack of strikeouts. Extremely good control, of course, fastball, curve, change-up. Profile reminds me of Allan Anderson, who led the American League in ERA in 1988. Does anyone remember him?
5) , 2B-3B, Grade B-: Age 21, a year from now this may look too low, third round pick from University of Arkansas, hit .314/.378/.516 in 153 at-bats in Low-A. Can handle second base but could have enough power and glove for third as well, really strikes me as underrated. Power is real, good swing, runs well, throws well, might suffer from Boring Name Syndrome and get overlooked a bit.
6) Avery Romero, 2B, Grade B-: Age 21, eight days younger than Anderson, hit .320/.367/.420 with five homers in 466 at-bats between Low-A and High-A, good pure hitting skills, not huge power but more pop than typical for a 5-8 player, glove getting better. Lacks range for shortstop.
7) Trevor Williams, RHP, Grade B-: Age 22, posted 2.79 ERA with 90/29 K/BB in 129 innings in High-A, 6.00 ERA with 14/6 K/BB in 15 innings in Double-A. Arizona State product drafted in second round in 2013, low-90s sink, change-up, slider, curve. Nothing spectacular but throws strikes and eats innings.
8) Austin Dean, OF, Grade B-/Borderline C+: Age 21, hit .308/.371/.444 with nine homers, 38 walks, 72 strikeouts in 403 at-bats in Low-A, was 20 last year and slightly young for the Sally League. Scouts worry that arm strength and mediocre speed could make him a tweener but his bat has been steadily improving. I like him more than other people do but he seems like a sleeper to me, if he can tap his power a bit more often which seems plausible.
9) Jarlin Garcia, LHP, Grade C+: Age 22, posted 4.38 ERA with 111/21 K/BB in 134 innings in Low-A, 152 hits. Hittable but interesting, low-90s fastball with assortment of secondary pitches with promise, have to like the K/BB ratio and he is physically projectable.
10) Michael Mader, LHP, Grade C+: Age 21, second round pick out of Chipola Junior College, posted 2.00 ERA with 28/16 K/BB in 45 innings in New York-Penn League. Another low-90s arm, sometimes faster, good curveball, other pitches need work, a fact reflected in low strikeout rate to this point. That said, he may have more broad-based potential than any pitcher in the system not named Kolek.
11) Austin Brice, RHP; Grade C+: Age 22, posted 3.60 ERA with 109/55 K/BB in 127 innings in High-A. Often viewed as future reliever due to erratic command and problems finding a third pitch, but the fastball and curve are impressive and his walk rate showed sharp improvement last year. Some breakout potential remains.
12) Adam Conley, LHP, Grade C+: Age 24, bothered by elbow problems costing him both stuff and command, posted 5.92 ERA with 50/28 K/BB in 65 innings in Double-A/Triple-A, 74 hits. I liked him heading into 2014 but this was not a good year, lost four MPH on fastball and slider deteriorated. Could rebound if healthy but skeptics who projected him as a reliever and not a starter were probably right.
13) Arturo Rodriguez, C, Grade C+: Age 23, signed out of Mexican League where he hit .373/.414/.611 with 15 homers, 20 walks, 50 strikeouts in 324 at-bats for Tijuana, threw out 40% of runners. Very interesting player, this grade and ranking are a placeholder really until we see what he can do this spring. Mexican League is officially classified as Triple-A but is more of a High-A/weak Double-A league strongly tilted to offense.
14) Isael Soto, OF, Grade C/Borderline C+: Age 18, hit .251/.302/.426 with seven homers in GCL last year at age 17, jumping to US without any experience in Dominican Summer League, signed for $310,000 in 2013. Power played well in the big spring training parks, certainly a nice sign. Swing draws praise, strong arm, speed decent, needs tighter strike zone but he performed well considering the circumstances and the tools are intriguing.
15) Justin Bour, 1B, Grade C/Borderline C+: Age 26, Rule 5 pick from the Cubs system where he usually hit well but was overshadowed by other prospects. Hit .306/.372/.517 last year for Triple-A New Orleans, .284/.361/.365 in 74 at-bats for the Marlins. Huge guy at 6-5, 270, but has legitimate left-handed power and has closed up eye and feel for the strike zone. Should be a workable role player.
16) Nick Wittgren, RHP, Grade C/Borderline C+: Age 23, posted 3.55 ERA with 56/14 K/BB in 66 innings in Double-A, 73 hits, 20 saves. Middle relief profile with low-90s fastball, slider, deceptive delivery.
17) Zach Sullivan, OF, Grade C/Borderline C+: Age 19, hit .280/.389/.398 with nine steals in 10 attempts in Gulf Coast League. The Marlins drafted several toolsy high school outfielders last year: Sullivan out of high school in New York in 14th round, Casey Soltis from California in fifth round, Anfernee Seymour from the Bahamas by way of Florida in the seventh round, Stone Garrett from Texas in the eighth. Sullivan got the least pre-draft attention but showed the best early skills, has power/speed potential and outplayed the guys who were supposed to be more polished.
18) Andrew McKirahan, LHP, Grade C: Age 25, Rule 5 pick from Cubs will get bullpen trial, posted 2.08 ERA with 57/14 K/BB in 65 innings last year between High-A and Double-A, 10 saves. Good slider, low-90s fastball, throws strikes, should be a workable LOOGY at least and perhaps more.
19) Matt Ramsey, RHP, Grade C: Age 25, another relief candidate, posted 1.47 ERA with 80/30 K/BB in 61 innings, 35 hits in Double-A, traded from Rays last year for bonus pool money, another low-90s fastball with a nice breaking ball, erratic command but good middle relief possibilities.
20) Colby Suggs, RHP, Grade C: Age 23, supplemental second round pick in 2013 from University of Arkansas, posted disappointing 5.09 ERA with 47/25 K/BB in 58 innings in High-A. Threw as high as 98 in college, not as hard last year due to some mechanical issues though he pitched better late in the season. Yet another relief arm who could contribute.
OTHERS: Blake Anderson, C; Justin Bohn, SS; Luis Castillo, RHP; Mason Davis, 2B (sleeper to watch); Grant Dayton, LHP; Brian Ellington, RHP; Kendry Flores, RHP; Stone Garrett, OF; Ben Holmes (Wetzler), LHP; Austin Nola, SS; Viosergy Rosa, 1B; Chris Sadberry, LHP; Anfernee Seymour, OF; Casey Soltis, OF; Sean Townsley, LHP; Justin Twine, SS.
The winter trades of Andrew Heaney, Anthony DeSclafani, Domingo German and Brian Flynn cost Miami four of their best prospects and have thinned out the ranks. As it stands the system lacks depth with impact potential, but they still have an array of decent pitching prospects.
The strength is pitching, and even with Heaney, DeSclafani, German and Flynn gone there are still arms of note. The most interesting one is 2014 first-round pick Tyler Kolek, who hit 102 MPH in high school but didn’t show that as a pro. He could turn into Roger Clemens or Colt Griffin or any spot in between. While Kolek carries the upside banner he is a long way from the majors. Closer to the Show we find potential middle/back-end starters like Justin Nicolino, Trevor Williams, and Jose Urena, plus an assortment of future middle relievers with good arms. Strike-throwing lefty college products Sean Townsley, Ben Holmes, and Chris Sadberry are sleeper types. There is material to work with here, enough that the Marlins were comfortable trading off young arms without emptying the system of mound talent.
Hitting is not nearly as impressive. J.T. Realmuto is the closest impact talent to the majors and should have a long career due to his defense, although his hitting track record is up-and-down. Rule 5 find Justin Bour should be a good role player. and Avery Romero provide notable infield bats, although unfortunately neither has the range for shortstop. Former LSU stalwart Austin Nola and Feather River JC product Justin Bohn do, but Nola’s bat will limit him to the utility role and Bohn needs to prove his .296 season in A-ball wasn’t a fluke. Another potential first base contributor is Vio Rosa.
The lower levels are populated with recent toolsy draftees/signees Isael Soto, Justin Twine, Blake Anderson, Casey Soltis, Anfernee Seymour, Stone Garrett, and Zach Sullivan. These guys all get good scouting reports but so far only Soto and Sullivan have done much to live up to their notices. None of them will be ready any time soon.
Overall, the depth on the mound is helpful but more bats are needed.