Tag Archives: Justin Nicolino

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.