Miami Marlins Top 20 Prospects for 2018
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. All of these grades are subject to change as the winter progresses. The final grades will be finished sometime in February when all 30 teams are complete.
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. 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 article was revised January 26th, 2018*****
1) Lewis Brinson, OF, Grade B+: Age 23, drafted by the Texas Rangers in first round in 2012 from high school in Coral Springs, Florida, went from Rangers to Brewers in the 2016 Jonathan Lucroy deal; hit .331/.400/.562 in 76 games for Triple-A Colorado Springs in 2017, with 13 homers and 11 steals in 299 at-bats; also hit .106/.236/.237 with seven walks and 17 strikeouts in 47 major league at-bats; broad set of tools with above-average power, speed, range, and arm strength; has made steady progress locking down the strike zone although he had contact issues in the majors; also has a history of injury but nothing left to prove in the minors, ready for MLB trial and should be Rookie of the Year contender. ETA 2018.
2) Jorge Guzman, RHP, Grade B/B+: Age 21, signed by Astros in 2014 from Dominican Republic, then over to the New York Yankees as component of Brian McCann trade; traded to Marlins in Giancarlo Stanton deal; posted 2.30 ERA with 88/18 K/BB in 67 innings in New York-Penn League; outstanding numbers matched with excellent stuff, fastball reported as high as 103 and works at 97-99; slider and change-up are erratic but his command of the fastball and the velocity was too much for most NY-P hitters; tremendous ceiling, though we need to see him at higher levels; I’m playing a hunch with this grade; ETA 2020.
3) Monte Harrison, OF, Grade B; Age 22, drafted by Brewers in the second round in 2014 from high school in Lee’s Summit, Missouri; very raw at first, he took a step forward in ‘17 by hitting a combined .272/.350/.481 between Low-A and High-A, with 21 homers, 27 steals, 43 walks and 139 strikeouts in 453 at-bats; similar to Brinson with his combination of speed, power, and defensive prowess; also like Brinson, he has a history of injuries that slowed his progress; Harrison’s hitting approach isn’t as refined and he needs a full year in the high minors to consolidate his skills but his ceiling is quite high; ETA 2019.
4) Isan Diaz, 2B-SS, Grade B: Age 21, drafted by Arizona Diamondbacks in comp round in 2014 from high school in Massachusetts, traded to Milwaukee in the 2016 Jean Segura deal; spent 2017 with High-A Carolina, hitting .222/.334/.376 with 13 homers; 2016 season in Low-A was more successful (.264/.368/.469) and he was hampered by a wrist injury for much of ’17 so he gets a partial mulligan; lefty hitter has unusual power for a middle infielder and does a decent job controlling the strike zone; adequate shortstop who will fit better at second base in the long run; ETA late 2019.
5) Brian Anderson, INF, Grade B/B-: Age 24, third round pick in 2014 from University of Arkansas; hit combined .275/.361/.492 with 22 homers, 48 walks, 98 strikeouts in Double-A/Triple-A, then .262/.337/.369 in 84 major league at-bats; batting average and OBP in the majors are exactly what should be expected, main question going forward will be homers/isolated power; solid all-around athlete who can play third base well and is also deployable at second base; ETA 2018.
6) Sandy Alcantara, RHP, Grade B/B-: Age 22, signed by St. Louis Cardinals out of Dominican Republic in 2013, traded to Marlins in Marcell Ozuna deal; posted 4.31 ERA with 106/54 K/BB in 125 innings in Double-A, 125 hits; threw eight innings of relief in MLB, with 4.32 ERA, 10/6 K/BB; hard-thrower at 95-100 MPH; both slider and change-up flash as a quality pitches but are inconsistent, as is his command; unclear if he starts or relieves in the long run; to be honest the numbers do not support a grade this high but my intuition says to give the arm strength another year; your mileage may vary: ETA late 2018.
7) Merandy Gonzalez, RHP, Grade B/B-: Age 22, signed by Mets out of Dominican Republic in 2013, traded to Marlins last summer in A.J. Ramos deal, posted 1.66 ERA in 130 innings between Low-A and High-A with 103/26 K/BB, 101 hits; although not tall at 6-0 he has plenty of arm strength, hitting 95-97 MPH at his best, while making progress with curveball and change-up; control took a large step forward in ’17; strikes me as a pitcher getting less attention than he deserves. ETA 2020.
8) Trevor Rogers, LHP, Grade B-/B: Age 20, first round pick in 2017 from high school in New Mexico; hasn’t made pro debut yet; 6-6 southpaw with mid-90s fastball at this best, though velocity doesn’t hold at that level from game-to-game; curve, slider, and change-up all exist but need more polish; reports on his overall level of pitchability differ; really hard to grade him until we see him pitch in pro ball. ETA 2022.
9) Dillon Peters, LHP, Grade B-/B: Age 25, 10th round pick from University of Texas in 2014; posted 1.57 ERA in 63 innings in A-ball and Double-A, 55/17 K/BB, then 5.17 ERA in 31 major league innings, 27/19 K/BB; retains rookie status for ’18; missed two months with a broken thumb; strike-thrower stands just 5-9 but can hit 90-95, mixing in solid-average curveball and change-up; effective arsenal when his command is on; good mound presence, doesn’t have the physical upside of the arms ahead of him but is more polished and ready to help now; ETA 2018.
10) Nick Neidert, RHP, Grade B-/B: Age 21, second round pick in 2015 by the Seattle Mariners from high school in Georgia, acquired in Dee Gordon trade; posted 2.76 ERA, 109/17 K/BB in 104 innings in High-A, then 6.56 ERA, 13/5 K/BB with 33 hits allowed in 23 innings in Double-A; fastball 89-94, mixed in with above-average slider and change-up was too much for California League but less effective in the Texas League; given his age that’s understandable but we do need to see him complete the Double-A transition; ETA late 2019.
11) Magneuris Sierra, OF, Grade B-: Age 21, from Dominican Republic, acquired from Cardinals in Ozuna trade; hit .270/.318/.363 with one homers, 27 walks, 74 strikeouts, 20 steals in 30 attempts in Double-A, hit .317/.359/.317 in 60 major league at-bats; line drive hitter with 60-65 speed; excellent defensive ability with 60 arm and terrific instincts; can get sloppy on the bases and needs to improve baserunning to make the most of his speed; lacks power and may not develop much given 5-11, 160 frame; I’ve been higher on him in the past and despite his youth, I’m not convinced he’ll show enough power to get beyond being a fourth outfielder; ETA 2018.
12) Brian Miller, OF, Grade B-: Age 22, compensation round pick in 2017 from University of North Carolina; hit .322/.384/.416 with 23 walks, 35 strikeouts, 21 steals in 233 at-bats in Low-A; impressive debut demonstrating expected 60-grade speed and solid OBP ability; also a capable outfielder despite so-so arm; main question remains power at higher levels, with more gap pop he can be a regular but if power remains marginal he might fit better as a fourth outfielder; ETA 2020.
13) Braxton Garrett, LHP, Grade B-: Age 20, first round pick in 2016 from high school in Alabama; made four starts in Low-A (2.93 ERA, 16/6 K/BB in 15 innings) until blowing out elbow and needing Tommy John; low-90s fastball and a plus curve, along with a changeup with at least average potential and solid command/control; will miss most or all of 2018 on rehab so at this point we’re in wait-and-see mode. ETA 2022.
14) Zac Gallen, RHP, Grade B-: Age 22, third round pick in 2016 from University of North Carolina by the Cardinals, traded to Miami in Ozuna deal; posted 2.93 ERA in 148 innings between High-A, Double-A, Triple-A with 121/35 K/BB, 138 hits allowed; extremely polished, featuring 89-94 MPH fastball; heater plays up due to control, command, and contrast with quality cutter and change-up; throws strikes, strong mound presence, repeatable delivery; not a gun burner but pitchers with this profile are easy to under-estimate; ETA late 2018.
15) James Nelson, 3B, Grade B-: Age 20, 15th round pick in 2016 from Cisco Junior College, hit .309/.354/.456 with 31 doubles, seven homers, 26 walks, 106 strikeouts in 395 at-bats in Low-A; you always have to look at the home/road split with Greensboro, hit .318/.351/.498 at home but .299/.358/.409 on the road; large split in isolated power due to friendly home park but even on the road he was solid; plus power potential and a quick bat but needs to improve plate discipline; strong arm, good range at third but needs to lower errors; he’s still pretty raw but has considerable upside and you can make a case as high as eighth, even fourth with some projection; ETA 2021.
16) Joe Dunand, SS-3B, Grade B-: Age 22, second round pick in 2017 from North Carolina State; got into just eight pro games but hit .370/.471/.667 with five walks, eight strikeouts, in rookie ball and High-A; hit .287/.368/.632 with 18 homers during college year; hit .326/.372/.511 with wooden bats in 2016 Cape Cod League; plus power and arm strength stand out; questions revolve around approach (his eye was erratic in college) and infield range; Marlins will reportedly keep him at shortstop for now; my guess is that he’ll continue ripping A-ball pitching but will need to make adjustments in the high minors; nephew of Alex Rodriguez; ETA 2020.
17) Edward Cabrera, RHP, Grade C+: Age 19, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2015, posted 5.30 ERA in 36 innings in New York-Penn League with 32/8 K/BB, 42 hits; fastball reported as high as 101 MPH and is consistently in mid-90s; throws strikes; secondary pitches (slider, change-up) need more polish but ultimately he may have three plus pitches; still projectable at 6-4, 175; ETA 2021.
18) Trevor Richards, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, signed as undrafted free agent in 2016 out of independent Frontier League, posted 2.53 ERA in 146 innings between High-A and Double-A, 158/30 K/BB, 121 hits; all stats impressive; fastball around 90, mixes in plus change-up, mediocre breaking ball; relies on command and deception and it work so far; maximal outcome: Kyle Hendricks; keep an eye on him. ETA 2018.
19) Braxton Lee, OF, Grade C+: Age 24, 12th round pick in 2014 from University of Mississippi by the Tampa Bay Rays, traded to Marlins last summer; hit .309/.395/.384 with 65 walks, 104 strikeouts, 20 steals in 32 attempts in Double-A; 60-speed and very respected defensive skills, draws walks as well, but lacks power; fourth outfielder type, earned spot on 40-man roster. ETA late 2018.
20) Christopher Torres, SS, Grade C+: Age 19, signed by Mariners for $375,000 in 2014 from Dominican Republic; acquired from Mariners in Dee Gordon deal; switch-hitter, produced .238/.324/.435 line in the Northwest League, 25 walks, 64 strikeouts, 13 steals; interesting combination of good speed with better-than-expected power, although contact issues will need to be addressed at higher levels; range and arm look like they should fit at shortstop however he’s been very error-prone so far with career .907 percentage; long way off but has intriguing potential on both sides of the ball; ETA 2022.
21) Brayan Hernandez, OF, Grade C+: Age 20, signed out of Venezuela by the Mariners in 2014 for $1,850,000, traded to Marlins last summer in David Phelps deal; hit .263/.309/.406 in 175 at-bats between rookie ball, short-season A-ball, and a brief look in Triple-A, two homers, 10 walks, 42 strikeouts, five steals; premium athlete with plus speed, raw power, and arm strength; plate discipline needs work and his swing does not translate his physical strength into game power yet; high risk, high reward type. ETA 2022.
22) Elieser Hernandez, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, signed by Houston Astros out of Venezuela in 2012, acquired by Marlins in December 2017 Rule 5 draft; has to stick on the roster or go back to Houston; posted 3.68 ERA with 88/22 K/BB in 73 innings between High-A and rookie ball injury rehab work for minor injury; fastball in low-90s, three pitch mix, throws strikes, nothing spectacular about him but he might play up in the bullpen, could fit as fourth or fifth starter, long reliever; he has some sleeper potential and should be watched closely in the spring; ETA 2018.
23) Tyler Kolek, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, first round pick in 2014, second overall; recovering from Tommy John surgery, threw 3.2 innings in rookie ball, walking a ridiculous 14 men; reports indicate he still has his premium velocity but secondary pitches (slider, change-up) and control have regressed and they weren’t too good to begin with; despite disappointment so far, he still has a chance given that he’s retained his arm strength; too soon to give up completely. ETA ??
OTHER GRADE C+: Jared Barnes, C: Andy Beltre, RHP; Brandon Miller, RHP; Jose Devers, INF; Robert Dugger, RHP; Jordan Yamamoto, RHP; Ryan Lillie, RHP; Pablo Lopez, RHP; Riley Mahan, OF; Ben Meyer, RHP; John Norwood, OF; Caleb Smith, LHP; Chad Smith, RHP
OTHERS OF NOTE: Dustin Beggs, RHP; Dakota Bennett, LHP; Taylor Braley, RHP; Jeff Brigham, RHP; Daniel Castano, LHP; Jorgan Cavanerio, RHP; Ricardo Cespedes, OF; Ethan Clark, RHP; Garrett Cooper, 1B; Austin Dean, OF; Miguel Del Pozo, LHP; Matt Givin, RHP; Brett Graves, RHP; Sean Guenther, LHP; Tayron Guerrero, RHP; Colton Hock, RHP; Reilly Hovis, RHP; Thomas Jones, OF; Kyle Keller, RHP; James Needy, RHP; Austin Nola, C-SS; Sam Perez, RHP; Cody Poteet, RHP; Jose Quijada, LHP; Lukas Schiraldi, RHP; Isael Soto, OF; Chad Wallach, C
The Marlins have a rather intriguing group of pitchers and considerable depth in C+ types but lack clear impact bats.
The large group of B- and C+ guys could be ranked about a hundred different ways so look at it more like tiers than firm differences from spot to spot.
I’m playing a hunch with Jorge Guzman at Number One. We’ll see if it pans out.