Category Archives: 2015 Minor League Report

2015 Miami Marlins Prospects: First Base

Despite having only one prospect listed as a first baseman within MLB.com’s Miami Marlins Top 30 Prospects for 2015, the Marlins are actually well stocked at first base. There may have been little to talk about for the Marlins last season at this position, as Garrett Jones proved to yet another organization why he is not the guy to lean on as your everyday first baseman. This season will be a different story. The big bat off-season acquisition of Michael Morse can only improve the Marlins chances of being a playoff contender this season as long as he stays healthy. Even if it came at the cost of 2014 Comeback Player of the Year Casey McGehee, the Marlins are stacked with power in the middle of the 2015 Opening Day line-up.

Should Michael Morse’s health plague him this season, we can always turn to the Miami Marlins 16th ranked prospect in Justin Bour. After being selected in the 2013 Rule 5 draft by the Marlins from the Chicago Cubs, he has done nothing but impress the Marlins organization – sporting a .319 BABIP with 18 home runs at Triple-A New Orleans in 2014 during a period of promotions and demotions from the big league roster.  He will undoubtedly find a home this season as a regular coming off the Marlins bench, while we will be watching to see if he can continue to improve at the plate and showcase the big league power that his large frame possesses. In 74 at bats for the Marlins last season he was only able to muster one home run – an upper deck blast to right-center off the Nationals Doug Fister. Marlin’s fans are hoping to see more of these this season – especially after he was named the 2014 MiLB.com Organizational All-Star for the Marlins. There is nothing else for him to prove at the minor league level, so he will continue to play the waiting game behind Morse on the Marlins depth chart.

Although Morse and Bour are already starting to become household names in Miami, there are others who play first base in the Marlins Minor league system that might prove to be hidden gems and future household names.  Let’s take a look at the Best of the Rest down on the farm at first base for the Marlins.

Best of the Rest

Viosergy Rosa

After being drafted by the Marlins in 2010 in the 29th round, Rosa played two seasons fine tuning his craft for short-season Batavia Muckdogs.  At 6’3”and 190 Lbs., the 24 year-old lefty swinging Rosa bounced back in 2013 playing the full season for Low-A Greensboro. In 549 plate appearances he registered a .289 BABIP with 23 long balls. He continued to live up to his emerging prospect hype in 2014 with High-A Jupiter Hammerheads and again after being promoted to Double-A Jacksonville, where he was named the Southern League Championship  Series Most Valuable Player-  posting a .379 batting average to go along with four home runs in just seven post season games.

VR

And just so you know, we are talking about a player who was cut from his George Washington High-School baseball team every year but his senior one. He went on to play at Odessa Junior College in Texas, where I witnessed his play. This background makes what he has done in the past two seasons in the Marlins minor league system even more impressive, not only to me and Marlins advocates but to 2014 Double-A Jacksonville’s manager Andy Barkett:

“I thought [Rosa] would be able to hold his own here, but he’s excelled. He changed the whole dynamic of our lineup with his presence and power potential. He can fatigue and stress pitchers out for the hitters coming up behind him.” said Suns manager Andy Barkett. “[Rosa] is like the perfect piece of clay to work with,” said Barkett. “I love teaching a left-handed hitting first baseman because that’s what I was. He’s got the makings of a classic power hitter…”

If he can make a believer out of Andy Barkett, he should easily be starting to make a believer out of the rest of the Marlins Organization, making him a valued organizational prospect at an aged position for the Marlins.

Felix Munoz

As I mentioned in my earlier article, Critical year for Marlins prospect Felix Munoz, this is going to be a decisive year for Munoz. Turning the all-important age of 23, Munoz will look to build on the success he has had in the Marlins minor leagues over the past two seasons. Like Rosa, 2014 was a real breakout year for Munoz. Playing in 126 games during the 2014 Season at Single-A Greensboro, more games than he had in the past two seasons combined, he put together an impressive campaign with a slash line of .300/.368/.476 in 560 plate appearances with 16 home-runs. He was able to draw 57 walks to only 79 strikeouts while driving the ball for a .326 BABIP.

FM

Boosting almost comparable statistics to Rosa, the younger Munoz will look to start the season nipping at the heels of Rosa. Munoz is projected to start the season with High-A Jupiter Hammerheads, a level behind Double-A Jacksonville where Rosa is projected to start his 2015 campaign. Should Rosa fail to recapture the hot streak from his 2014 season, you could see Felix Munoz’s stock on the rise in 2015.

Carlos Lopez

This 6’2” 236 lbs. left-handed hitting and right-handed throwing Cal State Fullerton prospect was drafted by the Miami Marlins in the 10th round of the 2013 First Year Player Draft at the late age of 24. This was the same 2013 Marlins draft class that included the recently traded Cal State Fullerton teammate Chad Wallach. It didn’t take long for Lopez to make a name for himself in the Marlins minor league system. After being awarded the 2013 Big West Co-Player of the year, Lopez signed and immediately reported to the Batavia Muckdogs in the New-York Penn League. With an impressive .366 BABIP with 71 total hits in just 61 games in his first full season with the Marlins Organization, he showcased his clutch hitting ability. Based on his 2014 statistics for Low-A Greensboro below, 2013 looked to be just a prelude to what could become a valued prospect at first base in the Marlins minor league system. Unfortunately, at the age of 25 heading into the 2015 season, his window to the big league is getting smaller.

CL

Austen Smith

Before being drafted in the 33rd round by the Miami Marlins, this 2014 Tallahassee All-Regional team choice, Baseball America’s Preseason No. 34 ranked senior and Mid-Season Golden Spikes Watch List first baseman, put on a hitting display his senior year in college. He led the Alabama Crimson Tide with 19 runs batted in and 11 walks against conference opponents, while finishing the year with a .316 batting average, 27 walks and 39 total runs batted in in 57 games started. We also can’t fail to mention the walk-off home run Smith blasted to lift Alabama over the then #11 ranked Vanderbilt Commodores. He brought this home run stroke with him to the Miami Marlins rookie level instructional league, as shown in his 2014 stats below:

AS

Smith’s collegiate prowess his senior year at Alabama, is translating well to the professional level. At age 23, Austen Smith will have more time to develop and mature physically – if that is possible for someone already at 6’4” and 240 lbs. Either way, he has opened a lot of eyes in the Marlins system with his advanced approach and thunderous power at the plate, making him a possible hidden gem that with continued success could be on the fast track to the big leagues doorstep.

Other Notable First Basemen to Watch

Eric Fisher/6-foot-3 210 pounds/Drafted 2014 by Miami Marlins (17th Round) out of Arkansas University.

Scott Carcaise/6-foot-5 236 pounds/Drafted 2013 by Miami Marlins (14th Round) out of Florida Tech.

2015 Miami Marlins minor league depth: Catcher

Yes, it’s true – Baseball Prospectus and the rest of Major League Baseball have dubbed the Miami Marlins the second to last minor league system in the big leagues. But are they wrong? The Marlins did trade away their 2013 first round draft pick (fifth overall) in Colin Moran midway through the season last year to the Houston Astros for players named Jarred Cosart and Kike Hernandez – who has since been traded away again this off-season. Hernandez wasn’t the only youngster on the move though, as the Marlins continued to back up the moving truck, sending top pitching prospects Andrew Heaney to the Los Angeles Dodgers and righty Anthony Delscalfani to the Cincinnati Reds. The Marlins received just one high-ceiling prospect in return, major league doormat-ready reliever Kendry Flores from the Giants. If you combine those roster moves with the loss of mid-level catching prospects Austin Barnes and Chad Wallach, and then look at the Marlins aggressive approach to making minor league promotions, it’s easy to see why Baseball Prospectus and the baseball world in general see the Miami Marlins weak on the farm.

Given that everything I stated above is true, and you find yourself sitting there wondering what I’m going to say next, don’t be concerned. It’s my mission to doubt the doubters and dive deep into the Marlins organizational depth charts, in hopes of proving the nay-sayers wrong by finding hidden gems.

This week I will be diving into the Marlins depth at the catcher position. We already know that Salty will start behind the dish for the Marlins and Mathis will back him up while touted Marlins top prospect J.T Realmuto will play the waiting game.  So let’s look at the best of the rest, because three catchers do not constitute a franchise.

Best of the Rest

Arturo Rodriguez

Call me crazy, but I really like what Arturo brings to the Marlins organization. After signing a minor league contract this off-season, this 6’0″ 235 lbs. Monterrey, Nueva Leon, Mexico native has the build and the bat to make an impact this season. At age 23, he is a long shot to raise through the Marlins prospect ranks, but he put up solid enough contact and power numbers in 2014 with the Toros de Tijuana and Sultanes de Monterrey teams of the Triple-A Mexican League to be ranked above Miami Marlins 2014 first-round CBA pick Blake Anderson.

ARIn the 93 games played in the Mexican League, Arturo started 62 games behind the plate – throwing out forty percent of runners attempting to steal on his arm. He also had 15 starts at first base with a perfect fielding percentage. Not only does his bat show promise, so does his defensive abilities. This makes Arturo Rodriguez a strong candidate to watch in the Marlins minor league system this season.

Blake Anderson

As mentioned in the Arturo summary, Anderson was the 36th overall pick drafted in the first-round CBA by the Miami Marlins out of West Lauderdale HS in Collinsville, Mississippi. Fresh off his 19thbirthday Anderson will look to improve his numbers from his first taste of pro ball.

BALooking at his first year statistics at the plate it’s easy to see what scouts already know: he was drafted for his 6’4″ tall frame, an absolute hose for an arm, and his strong glove hand framing pitches. We all know the fast track to the big leagues for prospect catchers is based on their defensive ability, and Anderson has plenty of ability. The thing to watch though this season will be the comfort and improvement Anderson shows as he handles the bat at the plate. As his body matures and produces more power in his bat we might just have a Baltimore Orioles Matt Wieters comparable player down the line.

Brad Haynal

Brad is a 6’3″ 215 lbs. right-handed swinging 18th round draft pick of the Miami Marlins and the only catchers besides Chris Hoo selected in the 2014 Amateur Draft to have collegiate experience. He played for San Diego State University and this should give him a leg up on the rest of his competition. After crushing the ball his first 30 games for the Batavia Muckdogs, he was quickly promoted up to Low-A Greensboro to end the season splitting time with another 2014 draft selection in catcher Chris Hoo. Take a look in at his stats from 2014:

BH

It’s easy to see why Haynal could easily become a hidden gem for the Marlins. Even if he can’t hide behind his tall frame, Haynal offers advanced defensive abilities behind the plate that no one else in his draft class came in with, with the possible exception of Blake Anderson. It’s Haynals bat though that will carry him up the ranks. Already 23 years-old, he needs to  accelerate his time frame to make adjustments at the minor league level if he hopes to crack the big league roster one day. He is defintely another solid candidate to watch out for this season.

Other Notable Catcher to Watch

Roy Morales/6-foot-1, 210 pounds/Drafted 2014 in the 12th Round out of Colegio Angel David HS, PR.

Chris Hoo/5-foot-9, 190 pounds/Drafted 2014 in the 27th round out of Cal Poly.


*Please feel free to read this article in its original form at http://www.fishstripes.com/2015/3/19/8254347/2015-miami-marlins-minor-league-depth-catcher

Jason Tate writes for SB Nation-Fishstripes (A Miami Marlins News Website). Follow his blog at http://www.marlinsrising.com and on twitter @MarlinsRising.

2015 Miami Marlins Prospect Profile: Jose Urena

Rising to the occasion in 2014 while playing for Double-A Jacksonville Suns, Jose Urena came out guns blazing – something we have become accustomed to seeing the Bani, Dominican Republic native do since joining the Miami Marlins organization in 2009. Urena is not only highlighted for being ranked on the Marlins top ten prospects lists, but is notable for his high-powered right-arm that features a fastball touching a maximum effort velocity of 98 mph. This same arm regularly sits on auto pilot at around 92-95 mph. The advanced feel for and  dominant control of this fastball, marked his path to being capped a 2014 Mid-Season All-Star –  recording a 6.8 K/9 ratio and 3.42 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) while walking just 29 hitters in 162 innings pitched. Urena averaged six innings a start and went seven strong on 10 occasions over 25 starts this past season.

Showcasing his electric fastball with a loose sling-shot type arm-action is, of course, the bread and butter of Urena’s whole arsenal, allowing his other off-speed pitches to play up. His best secondary offering is the change-up, which he tends to throw at an above-average capacity more consistently than his slider and curveball. Although the slider can be effective as another out pitch for Urena, it tends to be thrown below-average more often than not. His curveball is more of a “show-me” curveball that is scarcely used as a developmental 4th pitch at this time.

While the limber slinging arm-action will have to be worked on as well as his off-speed offers, he has the stats to back up his hype. They highlight what every front office GM likes to see in their young stars – a steady progression in their stat line from year to year. Over his last four seasons in the minors he has reduced his WHIP from 1.417 (2011) to 1.136 (2014), increased his SO/BB ratio from 1.66 (2011) to 4.17 (2014), striking out a total of 121 batters in 2014 and stranded 73% of runners on base.

Unfortunately, the Marlins are already heavily stocked with right-handed arms, especially once we see the return of rookie sensation Jose Fernandez. Jose Urena’s path to making his big league debut in 2015 will not be an easy one, unless there are unforeseen injuries to the Marlins staff. This assumes of course that the Miami Marlins front office view Urena’s prospect value higher than that of his right-handed counterpart, Trevor Williams. Williams pitched for the High-A Jupiter Hammerheads in 2014. He pitched only 15 innings at the Double-A level last season and tallied a 1.87 WHIP and a .368 BABIP, but he also posted a noble 3.17 FIP with a 6.87 K/9 ratio in 129 innings with the Hammerheads.

If the theory behind the reliever idea holds true, then there is a chance you could see Jose Urena go lights out in early spring minor league performances and make the Marlins big league pen as a reliever by mid-season. If that theory doesn’t entice you, then reality looks for him to open the season as a starter at Triple-A New Orleans, or possibly at Double-A Jacksonville for some extra polishing – a move the Marlins organization is prone to making to protect their top prospect pitchers. Hoping that with some extra seasoning at the minor league level, Urena can make an impact later on in the season as a September call-up, hopefully slotting in the big league rotation as either a spot starter or long reliever.

With everything considered, Jose Urena will be an exciting prospect to follow in 2015.

**Note: Please View & Share the original posting of this article at (http://www.fishstripes.com/2015/2/26/8066559/jose-urena-2015-miami-marlins-prospect-profile)

Critical year for Marlins overshadowed prospect Felix Munoz

Entering his seventh season of professional baseball, after signing with the Marlins in 2008 as a non-drafted free agent at the age of 17, the Dominican Republic’s Felix Munoz finally has a chance to legitimize himself as a top prospect in the Miami Marlins farm system. Munoz should join the ranks of Justin Nicolino, Tyler Kolek, J.T. Realmuto and several others who are projected to be on the fast track to seeing their pictures in a glossy program at Marlins Park.

Docketed by many analysts as a “Sleeper” prospect for the past two seasons, Munoz has given hope to the Miami Marlins organization – along with all the Felix Munoz fans of the world – who had been waiting for his power tools to develop at the plate. Playing in 126 games during the 2014 Season at Single-A Greensboro, more games than he had in the past two seasons combined, he put together an impressive campaign with a slash line of .300/.368/.476 in 560 plate appearances with 16 home-runs. Despite playing in a minor league ballpark that scouts believe to be a “cracker jack box,” Munoz sprayed home runs to all fields. All the while, he showed an advanced level of comfort at the plate drawing 57 walks and only 79 strikeouts and driving the ball for a Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson eyebrow-raising .326 BABIP.

 This impressive showing makes his numbers comparable to Top Positional Prospects in the Marlins organization in that same early-20’s age range like Brian Anderson and Austin Dean, who both produced almost parallel slash lines at Single-A Greensboro:
  • Brian Anderson (3B/2B): .300/.361/.496 in 257 PA (Drafted 76th overall in 2014 MLB Amateur Draft)
  • Austin Dean (OF): .308/.371/.444 in 449 PA

Unfortunately, what you do not see in his stat line are the negative intangibles. Standing at 6’2” 180 lbs. it’s hard for Felix to find a home at his listed positions of first base and left field. His lack of speed, proven by swiping just one stolen base over his last four minor league seasons, hurts his chances to be projected as an everyday left fielder. Meanwhile, a proven year-to-year track record of power production is needed to be a lock at first base. These two aspects of his game have kept him off the Miami Marlins Top 20 prospects board since signing in 2008.

Munoz will turn the all-important 23 years old in 2015, and with his notable surge of power at the plate over the past two seasons, he will be out to prove he can become an everyday regular. With High-A Jupiter Hammerheads, he will take the opportunity to become that left-handed power-hitting, homegrown product the Marlins have been searching for. Felix Munoz’s recent performance almost challenges everyone to not have him on their watch list’s for the upcoming 2015 season.

*Note: Please check out the original article posted at (http://www.fishstripes.com/2015/2/19/8042769/miami-marlins-prospects-felix-munoz-2015-season-overshadowed)

2015 Prospect Outlook: Justin Nicolino

If everything evolves as predicted, the future for Justin Nicolino, one of the most decorated Minor League pitchers, looks bright. However, where does he fit in a talented Miami Marlins rotation that will feature a dominant Top 3 with the return of Jose Fernandez mid-season from Tommy John surgery to join Mat Latos and Henderson Alvarez?

Rated as the Miami Marlins organization’s  #2 prospect by Baseballamerica.com, there’s hope within the front office that we will see the Marlins most coveted left-handed pitching prospect wearing the vibrant big league uniforms in 2015. Having recently traded Andrew Heaney to the Angels and the 2012 Mega Deal’s Anthony DeSclafani to the Reds for Mat Latos, the organization has slotted Nicolino as “The Next Man Up” if in need of mid-season help. The likelihood that he breaks camp in the Marlins big league rotation is slim, even though the need for a left-handed starter in the rotation is strong. The Marlins are hoping Brad Hand can land that job coming out of spring training, even though the organization believes Nicolino is the better option. This suggests that he is more likely to debut after the Super 2 Deadline in July. Alternatively, the Marlins may wait to bring him up late in the season, hoping he will make a 2003 Dontrelle Willis like impact, after some further fine tuning at either Double-A Jacksonville or Triple-A New Orleans.

Labeled by scouts as a Command & Control style pitcher, he registered an impressive BB/9 rate of 1.06 in 2014. This is attributed to his tall frame, high baseball IQ and a deceptive overhand throwing motion that creates a downward plane on his pitches, allowing him to keep his strikes low in the zone, and generating weak contact. His .03% HR/FB ratio in 2014 is evidence of this. This type of pitchability allows his arsenal of pitches to play up at the next level. However, he carries a mediocre Fastball that clocks in around 89-92 MPHs and a below-average Curveball that has been labeled more of a Slurve at 77-80 MPHs. The one pitch in his arsenal that is already tailor-made for the big leagues is his change-up. It generates excellent late fade, and paired with his deceptive arm speed, it has become his go to swing and miss option when ahead in the count on hitters.

Despite being equipped with all these tools, there are concerns he may not reach his maximum potential. Seen by his dramatic regression in his K/BB rate from 24% in Single-A, to 11.8% after being promoted to Double-A Jacksonville in 2013. This appears to reflect his inability at this point to develop tighter spin on his Curveball. This is needed to improve its consistency and late break, adding that “whiff” factor needed for him to be successful not only at the next level, but at the Major League level. In addition, scouts are worried how his arm will hold up as he takes on more innings. The aggressive manner he throws across his body leads to a lot of arm side run and deception on his Fastball, but scouts are worried he could develop serious shoulder issues.

With growth and development we all hope he can astound at the Major League level like he has at the Minor League level. It will be difficult to surpass his current awards of being the 2014 Minor League Pitcher of the Year and finishing 2014 Ranked #1 as the Top-Control Starter in the Minor Leagues. There is little reason to think he couldn’t become a future Ace, or even a strong #2 in the rotation behind Jose Fernandez. For now though, don’t expect to see him on the opening day roster unless the Marlins suffer injuries during spring training, and without a consistent “whiff” factor present in his Curveball he projects to me, at best a #4 in the Marlins Rotation.

Have we underestimated Avery Romero Potential?

"Is he deserving as the Organizations #1 Prospect?"
“Is he deserving as the Organizations #1 Prospect?”

It’s clear baseballamerica.com and the Fish have dubbed their #1 prospect a giant right-handed high-school hurler. Who, on a consist basis cheeses up scouts radar guns to the tune of 100 MPH. Standing at 6’5’’/260 Ibs it’s easy to see why everyone is excited about the high-ceiling future of Tyler Kolek from Shepherd, TX. He possesses tools that are just un-teachable, and at the current age of 19 years-old he already has a progressive feel for two of his off-speed options, in his slider and curveball. Working to master his change-up, and gaining control of his arsenal in the strike zone so he doesn’t come out Rick Vaughn’ing the batter’s boxes like the plates got the plague. Only further seasoning will give us more insight into his future, but for the 2015 season is he the true number one?

Going against the theorist’s prospect ranking system, I have to put my stock in the player currently ranked as the organizations #3 prospect by baseballamerica.com:

Avery Romero, 2B, Miami Marlins

Age: 21  Ht: 5’8”  Wt: 190   2014 Level: Class A-Advanced

Drafted by the Marlins in the 3rd round of the 2012 draft, this scrappy-aggressive style player has been eating up pitchers early-contact fastballs through the minor league system achieving promotions all the way up the ranks to Class A-Advanced Jupiter Hammerheads. Romero doesn’t wait for the game to come to him; he brings his energy and excitement to the game – Proven by his aggressive Vladi G. approach at the plate, effortless arm strength from second and strong hands, which could translate into increased power numbers as he fills out.

With a majority of Avery’s homeruns coming in 2014, during which he hit 5 of his 11 minor league career homeruns – a high percentage of them to his pull side of the field. We are going to have to wait and assess how the power comes along and contributes to his future slash statistics. But the steady build up in maturity and earnest to improve his footwork in the infield, paired with the tremendous raise in production on the offense side of the ball, all make him a strong consideration for the Marlins #1 prospect rating.

Since joining the organization in 2012 Avery Romero has registered slashes of:

2012 (GCL/SS-A): .246/.331/.352 in 164 PA

2013 (GBO/BAT): .276/.341/.391 in 265 PA

2014 (GBO/JUP): .320/.367/.423 in 507 PA

Now humor me for a minute and compare Romero’s 2014 slashes with the likes of the “Lazer Show” Dustin Pedroia  at the age of 21 in the minors – (2005-.293/.385/.452) in 538 PA. Who  stands at the same scarlet lettered 5’8” frame and contains the same scrappy-aggressive like tools on both sides of the ball, with strong-hands driving the ball to the pull side of the field. Showing flashes of long-ball capabilities as he filled out in the minor league systems. Combine the already stated similarities with the additional mirror image that they both contained the same hustle induced speed and a rise of in patience at the plate:

Avery Romero (2014-Afull/Aadv.): 10 SBA/ 32 BB

Dustin Pedroia (2005-AA/AAA): 8 SBA/ 58 BB

With all these strange similarities, it’s hard to argue that the future doesn’t look bright for Avery Romero. Though, I may have leaped into the world of wild imagination and large skepticism, that’s the glory of ranking prospects. Who’s to say he can or can’t turn into the next Dustin Pedroia or the next greatest Marlin. With the current upgrades of Dee Gordon and Martin Prado, the grand idea that Romero could shift over to third base and Martin Prado could be that plug player. Should get us excited to think we could be seeing Romero in the Show very soon.

So, with these facts at hand, and regards to other top Marlin prospects like Justin Nicolino, Tyler Kolek and J.T Realmuto. I have to give my #1 prospect vote to Avery Romero.