2015 Miami Marlins minor league depth: Shortstop

With Adeiny Hechavarria holding down the shortstop position at the big league level, Miami Marlins fans seemingly have nothing to worry about. His 2014 campaign earned him a .323 BABIP with 10 triples (2nd in NL) and a ranking as the second best defensive shortstop in the MLB behind the Atlanta Bravesshortstop Andrelton Simmons. If Hechavarria can continue to swing the hot bat we saw in the second half of last season, then the Fish might have just found their shortstop of the future. Making highlight reel plays on defense and driving the ball to the gaps at the plate have slowly started to become part of Hech’s M.O.

With that being said though, should Hechavarria struggle at the plate like he did in 2013 – slashing .227/.267/.298 – on a team that is in need of offense in 2015, or go down with an unforeseen injury, then the Marlins will most likely look to fill the position with stop-gap Triple-A options Miguel Rojas, Reid Brignac and Jordany Valdespin, receiving aid from Donovan Solano off the bench occasionally as the Marlins homegrown ultra-utility player.

Should those options dissatisfy you as a Marlins fan, don’t worry, hope is not lost. The Marlins have a bevy of minor league talent at the shortstop position, so let’s take a look at the Best of the Rest.

Best of the Rest

Austin Nola

You’re looking at the next best minor league option not in Triple-A. Drafted out of LSU in 2012 in the 5th round by the Miami Marlins, the 6’0″ 192 lbs. right-handed hitting Nola had gotten off to a slow start in his first season of professional ball. He ended the 2012 campaign at Low-A Greensboro with a .247 BABIP in 205 plate appearances. Nola quickly rebounded though in his first full season of professional ball in 2013 with a .295 BABIP in 489 plate appearances at High-A Jupiter. He started 122 games at shortstop with a .974 fielding percentage – statistics that ranked him within the Marlins Top 20 organizational prospects heading into the 2014 season. When you look at his 2014 statistics at Double-A Jacksonville, you see the continued improvement at the plate:

Austin Nola

After turning 25 years-old this off-season, Nola will have to continue his year-in-year-out improvements to stay atop the many other talented shortstop prospects in the Marlins minor league system if he hopes to be the next shortstop in the minor league system to crack the Marlins major league roster. Even with a healthy Adeiny Hechavarria holding down the shortstop position at the big league level, Nola could find time playing behind either he or Dee Gordon at second base – where he was showcased playing with the Marlins in spring training. At his late age though, it’s unclear how much more leash the Marlins will be willing to give Austin Nola, but if he can carry over his Arizona Fall League plate approach where he finished with a .311 BABIP in 59 plate appearances while striking out just three times, then the Marlins will be hard pressed not to find a spot for him in future major league lineup cards.

Justin Bohn

What can you say about the Miami Marlins MLB.com’s #20 prospect? He hasn’t registered a BABIP below .300 since his promotion to Low-A Greensboro at the end of 2013 season.  To be honest, there really isn’t much to say at all. Drafted in the 7th round by the Miami Marlins in 2013 out of Feather River Junior College in California, the 22 year-old 6’0″ 180lbs. shortstop has done nothing but make contact with the baseball at an alarming rate – shown in his 2014 statistics below:

Justin Bohn

Bohn also carried that same smooth swinging stroke from 2014 into the Arizona Fall League, where he finished with a .391 BABIP in 66 plate appearances for the Rafters, helping him regain his advanced approach at the plate after seeing a raise in his strikeout percentage – a jump from 17.2% in Low-A to 20.7% in High-A. MLB scouting analysts have described his play as:

“Bohn has a solid approach at the plate and knows how to work a walk. His simple swing enables him to make consistent contact, though he doesn’t produce much power. He’s a capable defender and gets rid of the ball quickly, but doesn’t stand out and may eventually end up in a utility role.”

These are all true facts when assessing Justin Bohn’s play up to this point in his minor league career. He won’t burn the opponent on the base paths and won’t wow you with web gem plays up the middle. However, if he can continue to consistently perform at the plate and make the easy plays look easy in the field, we should see Bohn promoted as high as Double-A Jacksonville this season – barring any unforeseen injuries.

J.T. Riddle

As Mr. Baseball in Kentucky in 2010, Riddle turned down the Red Sox in that year’s MLB draft out of Western Hills High School, KY, and took his game to the University of Kentucky. Kentucky was where he was eventually drafted in the 13th round by the Miami Marlins in the 2013 MLB Amateur draft after his junior season. A draft choice the Miami Marlins organization couldn’t be happier about. He uses every inch of his 6’3″ 175 lbs. wiry left-handed hitting frame to attack pitches at the plate with an aggressive approach – something that was showcased in his first full season of professional ball at Low-A Greensboro:

J.T Riddle

He was also able to showcase his defensive versatility. Labeled primarily as a second baseman coming out of college, the Marlins have had Riddle playing all over the infield – primarily on the left side seeing time at third base, but mostly at shortstop. Riddle started at shortstop in 58 games for the Greensboro Grasshoppers in 2014, flashing his strong arm while finishing with a .958 fielding percentage. This should convince the Miami Marlins front office and prospect gurus that with a little more growth and development in the minors this year, MLB.com’s Miami Marlins #21 prospect J.T Riddle, in just his second full season of pro ball, could be heading for a breakout season in 2015 – right behind the Marlins highly touted infield prospect Justin Bohn.

Justin Twine

The three-sport star that is Justin Twine brings a tremendous amount of athleticism to the shortstop position. Drafted by the Miami Marlins in the 2nd round of the 2014 MLB Draft, this 5’11″ 205 lbs. right-handed throwing and hitting middle infielder owned the baseball field as well as the track his senior year in high school, winning three gold medals – for the long jump and two relays – at the 2014 Texas State Championships. He also owned the football field as well, as a duel-threat quarterback for his high school football team, leading him to eventually turn down several Div. I offers for football to sign with the Miami Marlins. Based on his 2014 Gulf Coast League numbers fish fans are glad he did:

Justin Twine

Despite having a .327 BABIP in 179 plate appearances, there is still a lot of room for development in Twine’s game defensively as well as offensively with his approach at the plate. Striking out 52 times and only walking 6 while continually fine tuning his craft at shortstop, makes him more of a project prospect than a fast-track prospect in the Marlins minor league system at the early age of 19 years-old. Although, if Twine can use his exorbitant amount of athleticism to quickly master the shortstop position, with his already solid build and raw talent potential he could quickly dash the “project” tag and put himself on the prospect fast-track to the Marlins major league roster.

Other Notable Shortstops to Watch

Javier Lopez/6-foot-3 185 lbs./Signed with the Miami Marlins at 17 years-old in 2012 out of San Gregorio de Nigua, DR.
Danny Black/6-foot-3 180 lbs./Drafted by the Miami Marlins in 2010 (14th round) out of the University of Oklahoma.

Jason Tate reports on the Miami Marlins minor league system at http://www.fishstripes.com. Follow him @MarlinsRising on twitter or at http://www.marlinsrising.com. Make sure to view this article in its original form at http://www.fishstripes.com/2015/4/9/8373697/2015-miami-marlins-prospects-shortstop

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