Over the coming weeks, Jason and I will be taking a look at some of the more relevant prospects in each of the 30 MLB organizations. We won't be looking at each prospect in every organization, but rather to provide brief profiles of players that are either expected to make an impact as soon as next season, or are worth watching in dynasty and keeper formats. In general, they will be sorted in the order of when they are anticipated to be in the Majors, even though it is no guarantee that they will get there.
Our goal is to speak more to each prospect's fantasy value, so while we do look at a player's defense, it is really only in the context of where they will end up when they get to the Majors, and how that may affect their long term outlook. We will be going roughly in alphabetical order, and planning to have the series completed by the end of the year.
While the much maligned trade that sent the better portion of their major league team up North was devastating to Marlins fans, and a blemish for the commissioner, it did infuse the system with some sorely need talent. The Marlins had one of the best prospect combinations in baseball in 2011 draftee Jose Fernandez and outfielder Christian Yelich, but lacked depth behind him. There were certainly some interesting names, but promotions from the last few years and a few misses on early picks had robbed the Marlins of the pipeline of talent that had fed them these recent seasons. The trade addressed some of that, though I'd still hesitate to put them in the top ten farm systems in baseball.
Graduates in 2012
AAA or Higher in 2012
These are prospects who reached either AAA New Orleans or the Majors in 2012. Generally they are expected to see the Majors in 2013, potentially for a significant amount of time.
Following the trade of John Buck, Brantly should have a clear path to a starting gig in Miami. The Marlins did receive Jeff Mathis in the deal, and he has some sort of odd persuasion over major league managers but I'd still bet on Brantly here. Brantly has excellent contact skills and the ability to post a well above average batting average for a catcher. His power is below-average and his home park won't do him any favors in that category. That being said, he's going to get a full slate of at-bats and has the contact skills to help you in average. The counting stats won't be in his favor with the Marlins...revamped? lineup, but he could do in a pinch. He's worth owning in deep mixed leagues or NL-Only leagues, as someone who has an every day job.
Adeiny Hechevarria (BBRef Statistics)
Honestly, I hesitate to include him on this list, but Hechevarria has enough name value to address. He posted impressive numbers in the launching pad that is Triple-A Las Vegas, but has struggled offensively outside of the Pacific Coast League. Brought over in the trade with Toronto, I would expect more offensive struggles from Hechevarria in the less hospitable Miami environment. He won't hit for much average, and his on base skills might be worse. He's got a little pop in his bat, but he's someone to avoid in fantasy. Reports have him playing shortstop, with Yunel Escobar at third base while in Miami, and while that helps in terms of positional scarcity, it's not enough to save him. He is a plus fielder, and that combined with the lack of other options should give him a full season of at-bats, but I fear he would do more harm than good in an everyday role in a fantasy lineup.
Just a small note, since most information is in the profile linked above. His outlook changes favorably with his trade to Miami in that there is less of an obstacle toward playing time at the major league level. I don't know who would want to acquire Yunel Escobar, but I also don't see him lasting a full season with Cox knocking on the door and Escobar's ability to play shortstop.
AA in 2012
These are players who reached the Marlins' Southern League affiliate in Jacksonville in 2012. They could see time in the Majors in 2013, but are more likely to arrive during the 2014 season.
Jake Marisnick (BBRef Statistics)
Marisnick was one of the two big names to be acquired by the Marlins in the Jose Reyes/Josh Johnson/Mark Buehrle deal. The rare five-tool player, Marisnick rates average-to-above in each area. Marisnick put up a middling .263/.349/.451 slash line as a 21-year old in Hi-A, but that impressed the Blue Jays enough to give him a mid-season promotion to Double-A New Hampshire. The numbers dragged there, as might be expected, resulting in a .233/.286/.336 slash line in 247 plate appearances. Marisnick has shown the ability to take a walk, and generally manages to keep his strikeout rates in check. Some scouts have lauded the hit tool, while others have questioned the bat speed and future utility of the hit tool. When he does make contact, you know it as the ball is loud off of his bat. There is some concern that the flaws in his swing will be exploited as he makes his way up the chain, though as a middle of the diamond player, with above average power, even an average hit tool would make him a valuable product. At best you're looking at an upper end first division talent, at worst it appears that he could be a second division player. Marisnick should return to Double-A as the Marlins aren't exactly in a window of contention and unless he continues to get eaten up by Double-A pitchers, Marisnick should retain his upper level prospect glow. He may have lust some luster relative to last year, but he still has the skills to be an impact player in real life and a substantial contributor in fantasy. I've never been a Marisnick touter, but I don't question the talent. He's someone I would treat like a stock, and move as soon as he went on a hot streak because I think he will end up higher on prospect lists than is representative of his (future) value in fantasy.
High-A in 2012
These players reached the Marlins' Florida State League affiliate in Jupiter, and are likely to be at least 2 full seasons away from contributing in the Major Leagues.
Jose Fernandez (BBRef Statistics)
When drafted, Fernandez was known for his mid-90s heat and a hard, two-plane slider. Since then he has shown the ability to dial up the fastball even more, touching 99 MPH in his futures game performance. Fernandez began the year at Greensboro, but proved too much for Lo-A hitters to handles, as he racked up an incredible 99 strikeouts in 79 innings to go with his sparkling 1.59 ERA. He didn't slow down much upon a promotion to Jupiter, registering a 1.96 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 55 innings. He dominated hitters with his heavy fastball and can put them away with his plus slider. He's been working on a change up that remains in development. He earns rave reviews for his poise and make up, no surprise as he had to attempt multiple times to defect from Cuba as a teenager. Impressive as his 2012 season was, I think he'll find some challenges in the upper levels of the minors unless he refines his change up to give him a third offering. He's got ace-potential, but he needs a third pitch to reach it. He could fall short of that potential and still be a highly effective major leaguer without the change up, making him a very desirable asset in fantasy as an elite prospect with both floor and upside. Assuming he starts the year at Double-A, the Marlins will have a very talented Jacksonville squad, featuring Marisnick, Fernandez and a couple of the names below.
Christian Yelich (BBRef Statistics)
Though he may have been surpassed as the system's top prospect by Jose Fernandez, Yelich had a season to remember in his own right, posting a .330/.404/.519 slash line. Yelich might not have the athleticism to stay in center field (though he's not a bad athlete), and probably doesn't have the arm for left, meaning he could end up a left fielder or a first baseman one day. That's not something the Marlins have to worry about right now though, as they should slot him in the outfield along with Marisnick and Ozuna and let them work the positions out themselves. Moving down the defensive spectrum would put more of an onus on Yelich's bat, though he has enough thunder in his bat to be successful at any position. Over-the-fence power might not be present at the moment, but he's learning to turn on inside pitches and extend through the ball, as he's projected to hit 20+ homers at his peak. Speed is an aspect to his game though not a huge one, as he stole 32 bases in 2011 and pilfered another 20 in 2012. Yelich shows a good eye at the plate, registering consecutive years of double digit walk rates. He kept his strikeout rate barely under 20% for the second year in a row, something that will need to continue if he doesn't develop his power. Yelich is a phenomenal pure hitter, and one of the better hitting prospects in the minors regardless of position.
I've long been a fan of Ozuna and his raw power, but even I must admit he has his flaws. First the good stuff. Ozuna can hit the ball out of the yard. He's posted three straight minor league seasons of 20+ home runs (24 in 2012), and has absolutely decimated the ball in the Dominican Winter League. Consistency seems to be a strength for Ozuna, as he posted remarkably similar slash lines between 2011 (.266/.330/.482) and 2012 (.266/.328/.476) as well as strikeout (21.9% in 2011 and 21.5% in 2012) and walk rates (8.3% in 2011 and 8.2% in 2012). As you can see by the averages, Ozuna isn't a one tool wonder, though it's his only plus (it's plus plus, really) on the hitting side. He has a cannon for an arm and shouldn't have a problem sticking in right field. Speed is a small part of his game, with only 8 stolen bags in 2012 but 17 in 2011. He can move well under way, but isn't exactly what you'd call a threat. He should reward fantasy owners with around 25 home runs per year, but he won't arrive quickly as the Marlins seem content to hold him to a level per year, probably a good move for his development.
Low-A in 2012
These players reached the Marlins' Midwest League affiliate in Greensboro, and are likely to be at least 3 full seasons away from contributing in the Major Leagues.
Justin Nicolino (BBRef Statistics)
The other prize in the deal that sent the relevant majority of their major league team to Toronto, Nicolino was often referred to as part of the Lansing three - along with fellow Blue Jays' prospects Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard. Nicolino is generally seen as a safer talent, with extreme pitchability allowing his stuff to play up and for him to post dominant numbers in the lower minors. While this is true, he's not exactly a soft-tosser, as he can bring it as hard as 93 MPH from the left side. Nicolino posted an unreal strikeout to walk ratio of 5.67, built largely on his stingy 1.5 BB/9. Nicolino is a future 3 at best for me, and not someone I'm eager to own as a prospect, though that's more due to my preferences in prospects than it is due to any particular flaw in Nicolino himself. Nicolino's fastball isn't anything to look down upon, but it's his change up that sets him apart. It's an above-average pitch at the moment, but could be a plus-plus pitch down the line. His curve is a work in progress that flashes above-average but lacks consistency. For more information on Nicolino and how I (and Bret Sayre) value him - check out our hour long conversation.
Andrew Heaney (BBRef Statistics)
Popped with the 9th overall pick, Heaney blew away college hitters from the left side with a pitch mix and plenty of polish. While he was expected to be a first round pick, the Marlins raised some eyebrows by snagging him in the top 10. Heaney features plus-plus command and control on all his pitches and can dial up 93 MPH on his fastball, though he generally pitches below that. He also throws a slider that can be average, though needs more consistency and a change up that has flashed average. While there isn't a ton of projection here, he should be a quick mover, at least through the lower minors.
Others of Note
J.T. Realmuto (BBRef Statistics)
Not a ton of production in Realmuto in 2012, though he did drop his K% by 10%. He only produced a 664 OPS as a 21-year old in Hi-A, but he has the tools to be an above-average catcher offensively and defensively. What does this mean for fantasy owners? One day he could be relevant due to the traditional lack of depth at the catcher position, but for now he can be safely ignored unless you play in a deep deep mixed or an NL-Only league. His upside is a catcher with 15-18 home run power, but he's got a lot of work to do to get there and you can probably let him develop as a free agent or on someone else's bench before he makes enough adjustments to be fantasy relevant.
Cabrera was acquired by the Marlins in the deal that sent Heath Bell to Arizona. While he received $1.25 million as a second rounder in 2010, Cabrera has failed to develop as a hitter. He's posted consecutive years of a sub .300 OBP and hasn't hit for power either. He's a decent lottery ticket as he might still etch out a career as a utility player thanks to his defensive abilities, however there isn't much offense to speak of and he can be roundly ignored by the fantasy community until that changes.
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