The Marlins organization boasts impressive pitching talent, as well as some up-and-coming hitting prospects. Three members of the Top 10 came from the 2012 blockbuster trade with Toronto, while a waiver claim from that same organization found his way into the 15th slot. Some strong drafting in the past couple of years has also helped improve the organizational depth.
The Year in Review: Heaney, 22, dominated high-A ball with a 0.88 ERA in 61.2 innings before moving up to Double-A where he pitched another 33.2 innings. The left-hander pitched fewer than 100 inning during the regular season because he began the year on the disabled list (lat strain) but he’s made up for it with a trip to the Arizona Fall League.
The Scouting Report: Heaney combines polish, above-average control/command and solid stuff. He throws three pitches — 89-93 mph fastball, slider, changeup — for strikes and his breaking ball serves as his out-pitch. The southpaw needs to polish areas such as game/pitch tempo and controlling the running game. A contact I spoke with felt Heaney may add some velocity to his heater as he physically matures.
The Year Ahead: Heaney cruised through High-A and Double-A during the regular season and then posted an ERA below 2.00 in six AFL starts. As a result, he could be assigned to Triple-A to open the 2014 season. Miami’s front office proved that it’s not afraid to be aggressive with young hurlers (see Jose Fernandez) so Heaney has an outside shot at breaking camp with the Marlins.
The Career Outlook: Heaney can’t match Fernandez’s ceiling but he could develop into a No. 2 or 3 starter as a solid opposite-handed complement to the talented Cuban. The organization has compiled an impressive group of young arms so hopefully ownership will allow the front office to build a championship-calibre team around them.
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The Year in Review: Marisnick produced solid — but unspectacular — numbers in Double to earn his first taste of big league action. It’s been long expected that his last skill to develop would be his hit tool and that proved true when he hit just .183 with a .478 OPS in 40 MLB games. His season was bookended by injuries (broken hand, torn knee ligament).
The Scouting Report: Marisnick already flashes three plus tools: center-field defense, arm strength and speed, although he doesn’t run a ton. His power isn’t far off from developing into a plus skill but it’s not yet fully developed. Contact issues continue to limit Marisnick’s offensive ceiling, and his lack of patience at times is also an issue.
The Year Ahead: As alluded to above, Marisnick needs more seasoning at the plate so he’s likely to open 2014 back in the minors at the Triple-A level. Ideally, he could probably use a full season at that level before receiving another shot at The Show. It will probably be a few years before he’s a true, consistent threat at the plate.
The Career Outlook: Marisnick has five-tool potential but he could be an impact player even if only four of his skills develop into plus attributes and the hit remains fringe-average. At worst, he’ll be a best friend to all the fly-ball-friendly hurlers on the Miami pitching staff.
The Year in Review: After coming over to Miami from Toronto during the offseason, Nicolino breezed through High-A and earned a late-season promotion to Double-A. At the higher level the lefty struggled with his command and was hit around a bit. He set a career high in games started and innings pitched so exhaustion may have played a role in the struggles.
The Scouting Report: Like a lot of the Marlins’ pitching prospects, Nicolino isn’t flashy but he gets the most out of his stuff and shows an advanced approach. He has an average fastball for a lefty, in terms of velocity, but the pitch plays up because of his above-average command and control. The plus changeup is his out-pitch and his curveball could become above-average in time. A contact I spoke to said Nicolino approaches hitters with a plan and gets hitters off balance by effectively changing speeds.
The Year Ahead: Nicolino, soon to turn 22, could probably slot into the back-end of the Marlins’ rotation right now but some additional seasoning certainly wouldn’t hurt. To succeed in The Show, I was told that Nicolino simply needs to trust his stuff and continue to attack the zone. Look for the Florida native to arrive in Miami by mid-2014.
The Career Outlook: The southpaw has a chance to develop into a No. 3 or 4 starter at the big league level. He’ll probably never develop into a star but the young pitcher should be a solid two- or three-win pitcher.
The Year in Review: The Marlins selected Moran sixth overall in the 2013 draft out of the University of North Carolina and he took to pro ball like a fish to water. The third baseman just missed hitting .300 in Low-A ball while making above-average contact. After the season, he was assigned to the Arizona Fall League where he struggled with the stick after a long year split between college and pro ball.
The Scouting Report: Moran projects to have a plus hit tool at the big league level but there are significant concerns about the lack of raw power given the production expectations at the hot corner. A left-handed batter, Moran struggles against same-side pitching at times and has work to do in that area. Defensively, he should develop into an average or better defender at the hot corner once he improves his first-step quickness and overall footwork.
The Year Ahead: Moran’s struggles in the AFL could help solidify the case for him to begin 2014 in High-A ball. If he gets off to a quick start, though, he could see a swift promotion to Double-A. The club won’t want the likes of Ed Lucas and Chris Coghlan holding down the hot corner for long.
The Career Outlook: The last time the Marlins drafted a third baseman in the first round it was Matt Dominguez (2007), who is now with the Houston Astros, and Moran has a good chance to have a much larger impact in Miami. Despite his lofty draft status, the young hitter projects as more of a solid-average big league third baseman rather than a perennial all-star or superstar — unless he suddenly taps into some previously unseen power reserve.
The Year in Review: Conley got off to a bit of a slow start in 2013 but he made some quick adjustments and settled in nicely to make 26 appearances (25 starts) at the Double-A level. His secondary stuff improved, which allowed him to equally combat both right- and left-handed batters. The southpaw finished the season with two runs of fewer allowed in nine of his final 10 starts.
The Scouting Report: A former second round draft pick from 2011, Conley has moved swiftly through the system based on his solid control, average-or-better fastball, and plus changeup. His slider has been an issue in the past but it improved enough to now project as an average to above-average offering — but it will probably fall short of a plus offering. He has the frame necessary to provide 200+ innings per year. To realize his full potential, though, he’ll need to become more consistent with his fastball command.
The Year Ahead: After a solid season in Double-A, Conley should move up to Triple-A in 2014. He probably doesn’t need another full season in the minors so the lefty could surface in The Show by July.
The Career Outlook: Conley has a chance to settle in as a No. 3 or 4 starter at the big league level. He also has a chance to be a pretty good late-game reliever with his fastball possibly jumping into the mid-90s.
The Year in Review: DeSclafani was the little-known name in the blockbuster trade that saw Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, and Mark Buehrle (as well as others) head to Toronto in exchange for a collection of intriguing young players. Miami was well acquainted with the right-hander from his amateur days as he attended the University of Florida. In 2013, his first season with The Fish, DeSclafani split the year between High-A and Double-A with solid numbers at both levels.
The Scouting Report: DeSclafani entered pro ball as a reliever and a repertoire that relied almost solely on his 89-94 mph heater. He quickly found himself in a starting role as a pro and made strides with his slider in 2013, which helped him find success in his new role. His changeup continues to lag behind and it will be a critical element if he wants to stick in the starting rotation. DeSclafani has above-average control, improving command and induces a lot of ground-ball outs. He’s known for having excellent mound makeup that helps him get the most out of his abilities.
The Year Ahead: The young pitcher had 13 solid starts in Double-A but needs better command of his fastball in the strike zone, which could necessitate a return to same level to begin 2014. With a quick start, though, he could see Triple-A before long. There is a lot of pitching depth around him so DeSclafani may not see the Majors until 2015.
The Career Outlook: When DeSclafani was drafted, I thought he was a sure-fire future reliever. He’s made significant strides as a starter, though, and now looks like a future No. 3 or 4 starter. If he can’t break through the young pitching depth, though, he could end up as a seventh- or eighth-inning reliever.
The Year in Review: Flynn had a lot of success in his first full season in the Marlins’ system. He opened the year in Double-A but spent much of the season in Triple-A before making four big league starts. He got hit around in The Show with 27 hits and 13 walks in 18 innings.
The Scouting Report: Flynn, 23, is a big strong dude that struggles to keep his long levers in check at times, which hurts both his command and control. He has good stuff for a lefty to an 88-93 mph fastball and a slider that projects to develop into an above-average pitch. Both his curveball and changeup need work to become average offerings. Flynn has compiled more than 300 innings over the past two seasons and should be good for a lot of innings in the back-end of a big-league rotation.
The Year Ahead: The former Tigers prospect currently stands to open the 2014 season as the No. 4 or 5 starter in the Marlins’ starting rotation. He’ll have to stay on his game, though, to hold off the likes of Andrew Heaney, Justin Nicolino, and Adam Conley.
The Career Outlook: Flynn looks like a future back-end starter who will provide a ton of innings despite his modest ceiling. He’ll probably never become a household name but he has the stuff to carve out a respectable career.
The Year in Review: The young catcher had a strong defensive season — including nabbing 34% of base stealers — but his bat wilted at the Double-A level. The good news is that he made solid contact so he’s not completely hopeless at the plate and has the raw skill and drive to get better with a tweaked approach.
The Scouting Report: Realmuto didn’t become a full-time catcher until he turned pro in 2010, which speaks to his athletic ability. He quickly picked up the nuances of the position and projects to be be an above-average defender behind the dish. Realmuto’s offence has dropped off in the past two seasons and he looks like a future fringe-average to average hitter at the position. He doesn’t create a ton of loft with his swing so don’t expect much more than eight to 10 homers from him in a full season.
The Year Ahead: Realmuto, 22, hit below .240 at the Double-A level in 2013 but he’ll likely move up to Triple-A to begin the 2014 season. After Rob Brantly’s struggles last season, the starting role at the big league level is wide open. Realmuto could be in the Majors before the all-star break, even though his bat probably won’t be ready.
The Career Outlook: If the left-handed hitting Brantly’s bat picks back up, he and Realmuto could form a solid platoon. Ideally, though, the latter catcher will look to provide enough offence to take over the full-time role.
The Year in Review: Urena spent the entire 2013 season in High-A ball. He pitched a career-high 149.2 innings but didn’t miss as many bats as he should have given his mid-90s velocity and potentially-plus changeup.
The Scouting Report: Urena could carve out a big-league career on the strength of his fastball/changeup combination but an improved slider could really help make a difference in his projected ceiling. He has above-average control for his age and decent command of his offerings. The right-hander has a slender frame but he’s been durable and has compiled more than 280 innings over the past two seasons.
The Year Ahead: The 2014 season should be a strong indicator of Urena’s future role: starter or reliever. He’ll move up to Double-A where the more advanced hitters are more likely to beat up pitchers with so-so breaking balls, and it’s not as uncommon to find hurlers that can consistently throw strikes.
The Career Outlook: Urena, 22, ranked further down on this list because I see him as a future high-leverage reliever and don’t expect him to stick as a starter. His strong fastball/changeup pairing could make him a solid eighth-inning reliever in Miami.
The Year in Review: Romero opened the 2013 in extended spring training to continue working on his defense and was assigned to the New York Penn League in June, spending his second straight season in short-season ball. He just missed hitting .300 before moving up for a late-season (nine-game) taste of A-ball.
The Scouting Report: Romero continues to impress the Marlins front office with his conversion from the left side of the infield to second base. He projects to develop into an above-average fielder at the keystone. At the plate, he shows an aptitude for making contact. The young hitter showed some impressive gap power in 2013. Romero, 20, probably won’t hit for a ton of over-the-fence power but he could provide 10 to 15 home runs and 30 to 40 doubles in a full season, which would be a very good output for a second baseman.
The Year Ahead: Romero should open the year in full-season ball. The organization was quite patient with him during his first two seasons in pro ball but I wouldn’t be shocked to see him play at both A-ball levels in 2014 if he continues to make strides at second base.
The Career Outlook: Romero has a chance to be a very good offensive-minded second baseman who could eventually become above-average at second base. Don’t be surprised if he eventually becomes an all-star.
The Next Five:
Trevor Williams, RHP: The 44th overall selection from the 2013 draft, Williams has a big, strong durable frame that should allow him to provide tons of innings out of a big league rotation. The right-hander has solid stuff, including an above-average fastball and two breaking balls. He produced above-average ground-ball rates in his debut but hitters get a good look at the ball coming out of his hand so he doesn’t miss as many bats as his stuff suggests he should.
Colby Suggs, RHP: The 22-year-old Suggs was another high draft pick from 2013 that had a solid debut. He played at three levels during the regular season, topping out in High-A ball, and then headed off to the Arizona Fall League in October. His power fastball (93-98 mph) and above-average breaking ball give him a shot at becoming a high-leverage reliever but his command issues could keep him from closing out ball games.
Austin Brice, RHP: Brice is the type of pitching prospect that you can really dream on. He has an excellent pitcher’s frame and solid stuff but his lack of command and control continues to hamper him as he navigates through the low levels of the minors. His numbers actually got worse while repeating Low-A in 2013 while he struggled to replicate his arm slot. If things click for Brice, he could develop into a mid-rotation starter. If not, he may have to move into a middle or long relief role.
Austin Barnes, 2B/C: A personal favorite of mine, Barnes competently plays two key up-the-middle positions and his ability to catch would give a big league manager — especially in the National League — a ton of options to play with. Barnes doesn’t possess much power but he does a nice job of making contact and a strong eye helps beef up his on-base percentage. He has an outside shot at reaching the Majors in 2014.
Sam Dyson, RHP: Dyson is not the type of talent you typically find on the waiver wire but Toronto faced a roster crunch and lost him to The Fish. The right-hander has an excellent fastball and it plays up due to its incredible sinking action. His second-best offering is a changeup. His little-used slider also shows a lot of potential but he needs to be encouraged to use it more often. Dyson has been both a starter and a reliever but his future likely lies in the ‘pen.