Tag Archives: Minor League Baseball

2015 Miami Marlins minor league depth: Third Base

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

Brian Anderson

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:

Brian Anderson

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.

Brian Schales

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:

Brian Schales

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.

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

Mason Davis: Story and Interview

Chasing MLB Dreams

Growing up in Georgia, Mason Davis attended Redan High School, which has graduated the likes of Wally Joyner, Brandon Phillips, and Domonic Brown to the major leagues. Davis hopes to follow in their footsteps and become the next player from Redan High School to achieve success in the major leagues.

At Redan, Davis lettered all four years and hit .340 while swiping 21 bases his senior year. He did not get selected by any major league team during the 2011 amateur draft. Even though he was not selected, Davis had his sights set on continuing his education and his baseball career at The Citadel, which is located in Charleston, South Carolina. As a freshman, Davis who models his game after all-star infielder Jimmy Rollins started all 58 games at second base and flashed his speed stealing 14 bases. Davis picked up some accolades, being named to the SoCon All-Freshman Team once…

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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.