The following is a Guest Blog Post from Renee Foster, Intern for the Marlins Foundation:
On April 10th, 2015, the Marlins Foundation introduced the 2015 Marlins Charity Partners. The four organizations selected were each awarded a $25,000 gift and were honored during a pregame ceremony.
The Charity Partner Empowerment Fund allows the Marlins Foundation to invest in innovative organizations that are impacting the South Florida community in a very positive way. In addition to a $25,000 donation from the Marlins Foundation, our charity partners are entitled to other benefits such as:
- Select Charity Partner Days at Marlins Park that includes media coverage and in-game promotional/fundraising opportunities.
- A partnership with Marlins Ayudan (Spanish for “help”), our Front Office community service program that responds to a variety of community needs and is now widely known as a corporate leader in volunteerism.
- Complimentary Ballpark Buddies tickets for local, underprivileged youth groups
- Access to Billy The…
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Justin Bour racked up the frequent flier miles in 2014, going back and forth from AAA to the majors four times. Wherever the first baseman happened to be on any given week though, he performed well. His first sample of playing with the big boys was a tasty morsel. as he collected 21 hits in his first 74 ABs including his first major league home run in his 31st career game. His performance in the bigs and as well as his best season as a pro in AAA (.308/.372/.517, 18 HR) in 2014 far outdid his projection as a borderline C prospect and probably would have earned him an extended look at first base in spring training this year. But when the Marlins signed Michael Morse to a two year contract in the offseason, it assured that Bour would begin his ninth year as a professional in the minors.
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Jacksonville Suns vs. Jackson Generals (Southern League)
Bragan Field/Baseball Grounds-Jacksonville, FL: We had such a great time at Friday’s game, we just had hit at least one more! Sunday games are great, as they’re usually earlier in the day, so we didn’t have to be worried about being too tired for training the next morning. Again we got tickets that day, right behind the Suns dugout this time. I have no idea why tickets are so easy to get (not that I’m complaining), or why there wasn’t more fans in the stands for a Sunday game. We got to the this game on time, and by that I mean about an hour early. Lucky I was able to meet a couple of the Sunbeams coming through the gate, as they were pretty rare throughout the game.
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ere is no doubt that with an outfield staffed by Christian Yelich,Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton, the Marlins are set for the future, especially after signing Yelich and Stanton to long term extensions this off-season. These three players have become the cornerstones to turning around the Miami Marlins franchise, as well as becoming the best young outfield trio in the Major Leagues.
Stanton provides the power, Yelich the average, and Ozuna provides range in the outfield as well as a little bit of both power and the ability to hit for average at the plate. If that isn’t enough to get you excited about the Marlins outfield depth, then the news of the Marlins adding free agents Ichiro Suzuki and Don Kelly this off-season had to help get you to that climatic state. Just to know that when one of the three amigos in the outfield needs a day off, the Marlins can look to the wildly experienced veterans Ichiro and Kelly off the bench this season.
Even though the Marlins’ future outfield already looks to be set in place, there are many other capable candidates in the Marlins minor league system buying time until their name is heard over the loud speaker at Marlins Park. At Triple-A New Orleans, outfielders Brady Shoemaker, Austin Wates andCole Gillespie are all waiting in the wings ready to perform should injury occur at the Major League level. Most are classified as Four-A players for the most part (not quite major league caliber, but have proven they are capable of hanging with Triple-A level caliber players).
When you start looking deeper into the Marlins farm system, though, there is a surplus of outfield talent. Not the kind of talent you will find at the Triple-A level, that kind of four-A talent, but true prospect talent that has the Marlins’ front office and General Manager Dan Jennings drooling over how bright the future seems to be. So without further-or-do, here are the Best of the Rest in the Marlins minor league system.
Best of the Rest
After getting off to a slow start in his first season of professional ball, the Miami Marlins’ 4th round draft pick in 2012, Austin Dean, finds himself at the top of the list for Best of the Rest – based on his consistency and high baseball IQ. He showcased this talent in his first full season of professional ball in 2013. Playing with the Batavia Muckdogs in the New-York Penn League, he registered a .335 BABIP in 231 plate appearances with an aggressive approach at the plate that yielded him 17 walks to 47 strikeouts. It’s that BABIP consistency though that keeps him at the top of this list, as evidenced in his statistics at Low-A Greensboro below:
It’s clear to everyone in the organization that Dean, standing at 6″1’ 190 lbs. can flat out hit the baseball and track down fly balls in the outfield. Even if his arm doesn’t blow anyone away, and his speed is average at best for the outfield position, Dean has the kind of raw line drive power to be successful at the big league level. He has a swing that almost mirrors the same successful plate statistics seen in Miami Marlins top Prospect J.T Realmuto. Nothing flashy and jaw dropping, but enough raw power to consistently find the gaps that earn extra bases at the big league level.
The key element to watch in Austin Dean’s game this year is to see if he can bring down his strikeout percentage at the plate – something I hinted at above. In 2013 Dean had a 20.3% strikeout rate at the plate, but brought it down to a respectable 16.0% at the end of his 2014 season with the Greensboro Grasshoppers. If he hopes to make the Miami Marlins big league roster in the future, he will need to continue to work on his craft at the plate – becoming more of a complete hitter by drawing more works while waiting on more hit-able pitches. None the less, Austin Dean is a player on the rise in the Marlins minor league, and is the closest prospect, at the age of 23, to being major league ready. He starts this season with the Marlins High-A affiliate Jupiter Hammerheads.
After signing with the Miami Marlins in 2013 as a free agent out of Bani, Dominican Republic, the left-handed, power hitting right fielder Isael Soto, who stands at 6″0’ 195 lbs., made a name for himself in a big way in his first full season of pro ball in 2014. Finishing second in the Gulf Coast League with seven home runs and registering .298 BABIP in 199 plate appearances as shown in his stats below:
Even if his stature and statistical numbers don’t jump off the page at you, they will soon. His short compact swing at the plate helps to generate a steamboat of power from his lower and upper halves which will lead to bigger power numbers down the line. Like every young hitter, Soto still has to continue to polish his aggressive approach at the plate that tends to lead to more swing-and-misses at times than solid contact. Soto also doesn’t run like a deer in the outfield or on the base path. This makes him an average minor league outfielder and more of a project than a prospect at this point in his minor league career. Ranked as the Miami Marlins #9 organizational prospect at the age of 18 years-old, Soto will look to continue his development at the plate, working on plate discipline and pitch selection in hopes of smashing the ball in a hitters ball park this season at Low-A Greensboro.
If Soto can put up the kind of power numbers the Miami Marlins front office thinks he can, there is a good chance you could see him climb up the ranks as high as Double-A Jacksonville. Of course that will all depend on how Soto fairs against Low-A pitchers. With one full season under his belt though, the sky is the limit for Soto in the Marlins minor league and he should be on every Fish fans prospects to watch board this season.
Other notable outfielders to watch:
Yefri Perez/6-foot-0 170lbs./Signed with the Miami Marlins in 2009 at the age of 16 out of Bani, DR.
Zach Sullivan/6-foot-3 187 lbs./Drafted by the Miami Marlins in the 2014 MLB Amateur Draft (14th round) out of Corning-Painted Post East HS in Corning, NY.
Note: This is in no way the finally prospect list for the Best of the Rest on the Marlins minor league depth chart. Pt. II will break down the rest of the Marlins outfield depth, while outlining some possible super utility prospects in the works down on the farm.
The Miami Marlins spun a gem this winter to solidify the third base position for the 2015 Season, trading flame thrower Nathan Eovaldi and top pitching prospect Domingo German to the New York Yankees in exchange for the versatile pitching of David Phelps and the ever consistent ultra-utility player Martin Prado. After the trade of Casey McGehee to the San Francisco Giants, Prado is now the Marlins starting third baseman. At this point of the season, this activity has to be one of the Marlins most successful trades this off-season. Casey McGehee has gotten off to a slow start with the Giants – loafing a .267 BABIP with a .238 average and 2 RBI’s in 22 plate appearances and has sat out the last two games with a left knee injury. Prado, on the other hand, a career .311 BABIP hitter with a career .966 fielding percentage at third, has played every game at the hot corner for the Fish.
Signed through 2016 for $11M a year, the Marlins are unlikely to re-sign Martin Prado after his contract runs out – making him another stop gap free agent signee at a position that has been a revolving door for years in the Miami Marlins organization. Prado became the 8th different third baseman since 2006 to start on the Marlins Opening Day roster. There has been so much turn- over at this position over the years that you have to go back to the Mike Lowell era (2000-2005) to find continuity at third base for the Fish. In the 10 seasons since the Lowell era, players like Miguel Cabrera,Jorge Cantu, Emilio Bonifacio, Donnie Murphy, Hanley Ramirez and Casey McGehee have all been slotted as the Marlins Opening Day third baseman.
The Marlins attempted to find continuity at third for the future in the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft – taking North Carolina Tar Heels third baseman Colin Moran with their first overall pick. Unfortunately, we all know how that turned out. After two half-seasons in the Marlins minor leagues, the front office decided he hadn’t shown enough power offensively, and polish defensively, to be considered the future at third base. Marlins management eventually traded him at the 2014 trade deadline for current Marlins pitcherJarred Cosart.
Even with Prado holding down the hot corner for the 2015 season with Donovan Solano, and Don Kelly and Jeff Baker mixing in off the bench, the Marlins are still hunting through their minor leagues and future collegiate/prep draftees to find that third baseman to carry them into the future. So while the Fish scour the globe for the next best option for them at third base, I will highlight two players listed in Marlin’s minor leagues that are the Best of the Rest down on the farm, and who might be able to put a stop to the revolving door at third base in the future.
Best of the Rest
Listed as the Miami Marlins #10 prospect by MLB.com, the 21 year-old right-handed hitting Anderson was the first collegiate player drafted by the Marlins in the 3rd round – out of Arkansas University in 2014. Primarily playing second base in college, his sophomore year he led the Razorbacks team in avg. (.325), runs scored (47), hits (68), doubles (12), triples (5), total bases (102), slugging percentage (.488), walks (41), on-base percentage (.448) and tied for a team-high with 36 runs batted in and four homers. He was then named a second team Preseason All-American by Baseball American heading into his draft year his Junior season at Arkansas. With that kind of prowess in college, it’s hard to deny the offensive capabilities of the Miami Marlins 76th overall pick in the 2014 MLB draft. Anderson carried over that smooth swinging power stroke from college to his first season of professional ball, as highlighted in his statistics below:
After showcasing both his advanced offensive capabilities and defensive versatility playing for the Batavia Muckdogs in 20 games, he was quickly promoted up to the hitter friendly confines at Low-A Greensboro. He started 26 of his 35 starts at third for the Grasshoppers. Standing at 6’3″ and 192 lbs., it’s his raw power at the plate that has the Marlins front office drooling over his future potential. As he starts this season at High-A Jupiter, he will look to continue his early success at the plate – hoping to become the future at third base for the Marlins.
Drafted by the Miami Marlins in the 4th round of the 2014 MLB draft out of Edison HS (CA.), the then 18 year-old right-handed hitting high school shortstop showcased an advanced prep player approach at the plate in the Gulf Coast league for the Miami Marlins, while learning his footing at the hot corner:
The successful statistics above aren’t a surprise to many though – especially the Brian Schales fans in SoCal. Mike Sciacca of the Huntinton Beach Independent newspaper described his play in high school:
“Schales, a four-year starter at shortstop for Edison, was a force in the field and at the plate. In 31 games, he hit .396, had 36 hits, homered seven times, walked 21 times, had 22 RBIs and struck out just eight times in 91 at-bats…”
“He does such a great job offensively but the one thing I think gets overlooked is his play on defense. He committed only four errors and I believe that says a lot about his abilities. He really saves us a lot this year.”
Even with the high-praise from his hometown supporters, the Miami Marlins #27 organizational prospect Brian Schales still has a lot to prove at the hot corner this season. With his hitting approach shown to be much more advanced than others of his age at times, the Marlins hope he can fill out his 6’1″ 181 lbs. frame, generating more power numbers down the line, while developing into the wall they are looking to have at third.
Brian has started 2015 with Low-A Greensboro starting six out of the seven games at third, where he will look to continue his development and growth. Improvement in his footwork and defensive approach will limit the mistakes made in his first season of pro ball, where he registered a .911 fielding percentage playing third base in 40 games with the GCL Marlins.
With that said, if Schales can avoid injury and continue to showcase the baseball make-up and raw tools that have got him to this point, it’s not crazy to think that he could be nipping at the heels of Brian Anderson this season – or even pass him – on the Miami Marlins minor league depth chart at third base.
Other notable third basemen to watch:
Rehiner Cordova/6-foot-0 155 lbs./Signed by the previously named Florida Marlins at the age of 16 on September, 4 2010 out of Maracay, Venezuela.
Rony Cabrera/5-foot-11 180 lbs./Signed with the Miami Marlins at the age of 16 in 2012 out of Coche, Venezuela.