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2015 Miami Marlins minor league depth: Relief Pitchers Pt. 2

As top relief prospects Grant Dayton and Nick Wittgren continue to dominate at their respected levels in the Marlins minor league system, there are others looking to prove that they should be considered as the next arms to hold down wins out of the Marlins major league bullpen. So hold in your prospect drool as we breakdown the Best of the Rest in the Marlins minor league bullpens.

Best of the Rest

Colby Suggs

As I have stated before, in my article “The Enigma Prospect: Miami Marlins Colby Suggs,” Suggs dominated in his time at the University of Arkansas, never finishing a season with an ERA higher than 1.74. He earned his “Bulldog” nickname by continually boosting his career stat line as a Razorback, finishing with a 1.36 ERA to go along with 53 walks and 65 strikeouts in a total of 79.2 innings pitched over three seasons. This gave the Marlins strong reasons to select him with their 2nd round, supplemental 73rd overall pick in the 2013 Amateur draft.  After all, what’s not to like when you can have a right-hand reliever whose physical attributes place him around 6’0″ in spikes and 235 lbs. strong on the mound? This physicality, combined with his show time curveball, contributed to MLBPipeline experts ranking him as the Miami Marlins Organizational #10 prospect in 2014. Unfortunately, Colby Suggs scouted talent is yet to catch up with his hype when taking a look at his recent minor league stats below:

Colby Suggs

With the High-A Jupiter Hammerheads in 2014, Suggs allowed 25 walks, six wild pitches and seven hit batsmen – while pitching 58 1/3 innings in 46 appearances. These statistics represent the same erratic tendencies on the mound that he showed in 2013 after signing with the Marlins and being promoted to High-A where he allowed 14 free passes in 18 1/3 innings, facing a total of 79 batters out of the pen.

Going forward, Suggs, who is ranked this year as the Marlins’ 17th-ranked organizational prospect by MLBPipeline.com, will need to find consistency in his mechanics and mental make-up. If he can master control of his devastating curveball the can be a force to be reckoned with, especially when paired with his above-average fastball that sits 93-95 on the gun. Honing in on these skills will help to put Colby Suggs back on the fast track to the big leagues, and make him one of the top relief prospects to watch in the Marlins minor league system this season.

Brian Ellington

Is Brian Ellington a possible fast track prospect in 2015? Ranked as the Marlins’ 21st-ranked organizational prospect by MLBPipeline.com at the age of 24, Ellington, who stands at 6’1″ 215 lbs, has the desired aggressive relief mentality that could land him in the big leagues in 2015. Drafted by the Marlins in 16th round of the 2012 June amateur draft, Ellington already possesses all the intangible traits you like to see in a reliever – high motor, aggressive and short memory. These traits have him ranked this high on the Best of the Rest list. These tangible traits include his major league ready fastball – that sits in the 92-95 MPH and max efforts at 98 MPH. Ellington’s above-average curveball has developed into his best off-speed pitch, which tends to be inconsistent more times than not, but is a better offering pitch than his average to below-average slider, change-up and developing splitter. These are average off-speed offerings that Ellington developed in 2013 while being promoted up the minor league ranks from rookie ball all the way up to Low-A Greensboro in the Marlins farm system. This repertoire of pitches helped him be successful in 2014, while putting him on the prospect fast track to start the 2015 season – statistics shown below:

Brian Ellington

It’s no secret that Ellington possesses the raw tools and arm strength to be a top tier reliever in the big leagues, especially when armed with more off-speed offerings than any other relief pitcher in the farm system. Like every prospect though, there is always a downside – and right now Ellington’s is his inconsistent command of the strike zone, which can be attributed to his lengthy delivery. This is something he will need to work on this season if he wants to see a promotion to Triple-A New Orleans. Looking at the stats above for 2015, if Ellington can continue to keep his walk rate down, which currently stands at 1.72 walks per nine innings pitched through 9 appearances, then we could see him develop into a late inning set-up guy at the major league level for the Marlins – making him a strong bullpen candidate to watch down on the farm this season.

Miguel Del Pozo

There’s a good chance that Del Pozo is the best lefty reliever in the Marlins minor league system. The 22 year-old , 6’1″ 185 lbs. left-handed reliever Del Pozo signed with the Miami Marlins in the summer of 2010 at the age of 16.  It wasn’t until the 2014 season though, that the Marlins front office finally got to take a good long look at the Santo Domingo, DR baseball product. After spending his first 2 seasons in the instructional rookie level leagues for the Marlins, Del Pozo got an opportunity to make a name for himself in 2013 – starting the year with the Marlins short-season affiliate the Bavatia Muckdogs. Pitching for the Muckdogs, Del Pozo out pitched his 4.81 ERA by posting a 3.14 FIP, while striking out 36 hitters and stranding 68.1% of runners on-base in just 24.1 innings pitched. These statistics combined with his low 90’s fastball and above-average curve-ball combination, sparked his seasons end promotion to High-A Jupiter – where he pitched just 2 innings and faced a total of 10 batters. Del Pozo carried his success from 2013 over to his first full season of minor league ball in 2014 for Low-A Greensboro, as seen in his statistics below:

Del Pozo

The only worry about Del Pozo’s game up to this point in his minor league career, was his walk rate issues in his first 3 seasons with the organization. This has improved since the 2013 season, helping to elevate his prospect ranking as reported by Under the Radar Minors blog:

“Del Pozo could be one of the first young relief pitchers to make the push to Miami. He has the ability to miss bats as he struck out 85 in 66 innings at Low-A Greensboro. One promising stat was his BB/9 rate which hovered around 6.o over his first 3 years as a pro, but was slimmed to 2.6 last season in 41 appearances. One area he needs to improve is holding runners from scoring, based on his career 4.71 ERA.”

Not only does this state that Del Pozo has made drastic improvements on the control front, but he is continuing to make a name for himself outside the Marlins front office. With Grant Dayton and Nick Wittgren in line at Triple-A in front of him to be the next relievers to hit the big leagues, Del Pozo will need to put together another strong statistical resume during his 2015 campaign in hopes of landing a spot in the Marlins bullpen behind front runners like Dayton and Wittgren.

Matt Milroy

Could Matt Milroy be a fast track prospect as a reliever? Drafted by the Miami Marlins out of the University of Illinois five rounds before previously named Brian Ellington in the 2012 MLB Draft, Milroy became the highest-drafted Illini pitcher since 2001. After finishing his junior season ranked ninth in the nation in strikeouts per innings pitched (10.98), and first in the Big Ten conference in opponent batting average (.207) and strikeouts (65) as a starter, it’s easy to see why the Marlins were so high on Milroy. Unfortunately, those statistics didn’t translate over to his first appearance in pro ball with the Bavatia Muckdogs – posting a 5.04 FIP while walking 23 and striking out 30 over 35 innings pitched, making eight appearances out of his nine total as a starter. Even with his pure stuff on the mound, Milroy struggles continued in his first full season of pro ball at Low-A Greensboro in 2013, finishing the season with a 5.49 ERA and 4.44 FIP while walking 5.18 per nine innings pitched with 59 strikeouts in 57.1 innings pitched – only making nine starts out of his 17 appearances. In 2014 though (his second full season), things started clicking for Milroy – shown in his statistics below:

Matt Milroy

Milroy made huge strides in 2014, splitting his time starting and relieving out of the Grasshoppers bullpen. He registered 12.36 strikeouts per nine innings pitched and dropped his astounding 5.18 walk rate from the previous season – down to 3.27 before being promoted to High-A Jupiter. This promotion featured Milroy as a starter out of the pen and brought back images of his erratic control problems- he finished his High-A campaign in 2014 with a 6.84 walk rate and minor league career low 6.66 strikes out per nine innings pitched over 50 innings.

With all his struggles with control as a starter, Milroy seems to be slowly finding a place as a fast track prospect out of the bullpen. With a low 90’s fastball that can touch 95 MPH on occasion and a wicked late-breaking mid 80’s slider, pitching out of the pen would certainly allow his pitches to play up – as seen in his 2015 stat line above. It will also allow Milroy to develop his change-up into an above-average third offering, while continuing to be successful with his fastball-slider combination in late in relief without any setbacks.

It’s still too early to tell whether Milroy will end up as a starter or reliever by the time he makes the big league roster, but the 6’2″ 190 lbs. right-hander has the pure stuff and mound moxie to create a lot of swings and misses if he can continue to harness his control issues.

Other notable relief pitchers to watch:

Josh Hodges/6-foot-7 235 lbs./Drafted by the Marlins in 2009 (11th round) out of Ingomar Attendance Center High School in New Albany, MS.
Esmerling De La Rosa/6-foot-2 202 lbs./Signed with the Marlins in June 2009 out of Santo Domingo, DR.
Nick White/6-foot-3 205 lbs./Drafted by the Marlins in 2014 (11th round) out of Berryhill High School in Tulsa, OK.
Kyle Porter/6-foot-2 205 lbs./Drafted by the Marlins in 2014 (31st round) out of the University of California.
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2015 Miami Marlins minor league depth: Outfield Pt. 2

As I mentioned last week in Pt. I of the 2015 Miami Marlins minor league depth at the outfield position, Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna are set in stone as members of the Marlins outfield for the future. Four-A players provide the supporting cast as they roam the gaps at Triple-A New Orleans – Brady Shoemaker, Austin Wates , Cole Gillespie and the versatile Jordany Valdespin.  These players don’t help predict how bright the Marlins future truly is, but they do provide fill in value at the Major league level to keep the team competitive for the 2015 season.

Austin Dean and Isael Soto were highlighted in last week’s article as two of the best top prospects in the Miami Marlins minor league system playing the outfield position. Dean and Soto aren’t the only two outfield prospects that deserve mention – so, as I alluded to last week in my article, here are the Best of the Rest down on the farm for the Fish at the outfield position.

Best of the Rest

Casey Soltis

Drafted in last year’s MLB Amateur draft in the 5th round by the Miami Marlins, the left-handed hitting, 6’1″ 185 lbs. Casey Soltis from Granada, California astounded Marlins minor league management in his first season of pro ball in the Gulf Coast League – hitting a .364 BABIP in 138 plate appearances, as shown in his statistics below:

Casey Soltis

Before being drafted by the Marlins in 2014, Soltis was a two sport star at Granada High School – playing both football and baseball his senior year. On the diamond that season, Soltis hit for a .353 average at the plate with 16 runs batted in and 13 stolen bases, as well as four home runs and 9 triples. These statistics were the reason he was the first outfielder selected by the Marlins in the 2014 MLB draft, and why Marlins VP of scouting Stan Meek spoke so highly of his potential:

“It’s a good swing, it’s a good strong athletic body and we felt like, as an outfielder, we think he’s gonna hit,” said Stan Meek, vice president of scouting for the Marlins. “I think the question is how much power we’re gonna get.”

Listed as the Miami Marlins #15 organizational prospect by MLBpipeline.com heading into the 2015 season, it’s clear that the Marlins front office and fans alike are just as high on Soltis’s offensive capabilities as they are with his defense capabilities. Primarily listed as a centerfielder, Soltis has the strong arm and above average speed that will allow him to play all outfield positions – including right field. On the offensive side of the ball, Soltis has a quick compact swing that promotes line drives to all parts of the field – at the same time showing an advanced level of comfort at the plate for a teenager.

The biggest skill set to pay attention to in Soltis’s game this season will be to see if he can develop the Hawkeyes (advanced plate vision) approach at the plate. This will bring down his 23.9 strikeout percent at the plate in 2014. It will also foster better pitch selection and lead to a higher overall average at the plate as he is promoted throughout the Marlins minor league system. It should also help him tap into some of that raw power we are yet to see from him at this point in his early minor league career.

Matt Juengel

At the age of 25, the Texas A&M product and the Miami Marlins 24th round pick in 2012, Matt Juengal is on the proven block. Standing at 6’2″ 190 lbs., Juengal has finally found his stroke in the Marlins minor leagues the past two seasons. In a break out performance in 2013 at Low-A Greensboro, Juengal hit for a .280 BABIP in 499 plate appearances with 14 home runs and 22 doubles. Unfortunately though, as it happens to all prospects that stop through the friendly hitter confines at Low-A Greensboro, the promotion to the next level tends to lead to decreased power statistics as seen in his 2014 statistics below at High-A Jupiter:

Matt Juengal

Even if his power numbers were down in 2014, Juengal still put together a top prospect like slash line for the Hammerheads – .272/.330/.393 with 32 doubles. These statistics supported his end of year promotion to Triple-A New Orleans, where he flashed his power hitting one home run in a limited 13 plate appearance. If he can continue to work on shortening his swing at the plate, while still producing the kind of massive pop he is prone to generate from his swing, then we could see him up in Triple-A by the end of the season.  With sub-par to average defense capabilities, it will be Juegnal’s right-handed bat that gets him promoted up to the big leagues, so continuing to work on his craft at the plate will be of the utmost importance to him this season. Off to a hot start, Juengal has already hit 4 home runs in 74 plate appearances with a .246 BABIP for Double-A Jacksonville this season and will look to continue that hot stroke for the rest of his 2015 campaign – in hopes of becoming a September call-up at seasons end.

Anfernee Seymour

One word describes the play of Anfernee Seymour – speed! Hands down the fastest prospect in the Miami Marlins minor league system, Seymour, standing at 5’11″ 168 lbs., was drafted by the Fish in the 7th round of the 2014 MLB draft out of American Heritage High School in Plantation, Florida – two picks behind high school outfielder Casey Soltis.  After signing his contract with the Marlins, Seymour literally hit the ground running in the Marlins instructional Gulf Coast League, swiping 11 bags on 13 attempts while being a singles machine and registering a season ending .338 BABIP in 112 plate appearances, as shown in his statistics below:

Anfernee Seymour

Listed on the Marlins depth chart as an outfielder, Seymour has the speed to make up for mistakes with his developing footwork in the outfield. This also makes him a threat up the middle as an infielder – playing at shortstop in 9 out of his 26 games played. This is a position the Marlins like seeing him at – with his fluent hands and above average arm.

Rated as the Miami Marlins organizational #28 top prospect by MLBpipeline.com, Seymour will have his work cut out for him when he hits the field in 2015. He will hope that his speed and slap happy hitting approach can place him on the fast track to the big leagues, but will need to continue his polish to possibly become the next Jarrod Dyson or Terrance Gore. Their speed has allowed them to develop in the big leagues with the Kansas City Royals, and could do the same for Seymour – who could double as a utility infielder.

With everything being even, Seymour, with his speed, definitely shines in a pile of solid outfield prospects in the Miami Marlins minor league system. If we believe that he could develop into another super utility player down the line, you have another highly touted outfield prospect to follow this season, – one that should find his way to Low-A Greensboro before the end of his first full season of pro ball in 2015.

Other notable outfielders to watch:

Cameron Flynn/6-foot-0 190 lbs./Drafted by the Miami Marlins in 2012 (23rd round) out of the University of Kentucky.
John Norwood/6-foot-1 185 lbs./Signed a free-agent contract with the Miami Marlins in 2015 out of Vanderbilt University.

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.

The Enigma Prospect: Miami Marlins Colby Suggs

Where do you rank a Jekyll and Hyde prospect like Colby Suggs? As Jekyll, Suggs is able to strut the pose and dominance that generated his “Bulldog” nickname. Lighting up scout’s guns with his 91-94 MPH fastballs, he also made some of the minor league’s best look ugly with what should be considered one of the best 12-6 hammers in the Marlins organization. As Hyde, Suggs has a tendency to allow his pitches to run wild on their way to the plate as he attacks the zone with a bull in the china shop mentality. Handing out walks at an alarming rate in 2014, he creates this mind boggling dilemma for the Marlins – as much as they want Jekyll night in and night out in 2015, have they seen the end of Hyde?

With a collegiate background as Jekyll, Suggs dominated in his time at the University of Arkansas, never finishing a season with an ERA higher than 1.74. He earned his “Bulldog” nickname by continually boosting his career stat line as a Razorback, finishing with a 1.36 ERA to go along with 53 walks and 65 strikeouts in a total of 79.2 innings pitched over three seasons. This gave the Marlins strong reasons to select him with their 2nd round, supplemental 73rd overall pick in the 2013 Amateur draft.  After all, what’s not to like when you can have a right-hand reliever whose physical attributes place him around 6’0″ in spikes and 235 lbs. strong on the mound? This physicality, combined with his show time curveball, contributed to MLB.com experts ranking him as the Miami Marlins Organizational #10 prospect in 2014. Unfortunately, Colby Suggs scouted talent is yet to catch up with his hype at this point. With a year and a half of seasoning behind him, Suggs has struggled to contain the presence of Hyde when he toes the rubber down on the farm – a presence that is undeniable when diving into his minor league resume.

As dominant as Suggs was in college, his struggles were real. As the team’s shutdown closer, he lead the Arkansas staff with 7.4 walks per nine innings pitched in 20 2/3 innings his senior season. This is the same unimproved statistical skid mark that is present in his game today. Let’s look at his stats from his first full professional season with the High-A Jupiter Hammerheads where mound presence continued to plague him night in and night out:  25 walks, six wild pitches and seven hit batsmen while pitching 58 1/3 innings in 46 appearances. He showed the same erratic tendencies on the mound that he showed in 2013 after signing with the Marlins and being promoted to High-A where he allowed 14 free passes in 18 1/3 innings, facing a total of 79 batters out of the pen.

As I have alluded to above, with Suggs there has always been two sides to his story. His Jekyll like moments on the mound have highlighted his ability to have master control of his devastating curveball making him a force to be reckoned with, especially when paired with his above-average fastball. These moments contributed to his 47 strikeouts last season and the 45 strikeouts he piled up in 2013 in just 39 innings pitched. Although he mustered a 2014 FIP of 4.09 and subpar strikeout-walk rate of 1.88, his Jekyll like appearances have cast a big enough shadow over other pitching prospects. He remains one of the Marlins top pitching prospects and a player to be watched heading into the 2015 season.

Assuming pitching coaches Joe Coleman at High-A Jupiter and Derek Botelho at Double-A Jacksonville can continue to tweak Colby’s mechanics, we hope to see the end of his Jekyll and Hyde ways. This will jettison the struggles with his command that we have seen up to this point, placing him back on the fast track to becoming a possible September call-up in 2015.

*Note: Please check out the article written by Jason Tate in its original form at http://www.fishstripes.com/2015/3/12/8196519/miami-marlins-prospect-colby-suggs

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)

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.