In the weeks leading up to the 2012 Major League Baseball Rule 4 Draft, Deven Marrero was considered a potential top-10 overall pick. The Pittsburgh Pirates were considered an ideal landing spot at eighth overall considering the organization has fielded just one, two-win shortstop since 1995 in Jack Wilson.
As the draft unfolded, the story of the day became Stanford University pitcher Mark Appel falling out of the top-three and into Pittsburgh’s lap. That turn of events played a role in Marrero slipping to the Boston Red Sox at 24th overall. Soon after being drafted, the Red Sox and Marrero agreed to a 2.05 million dollar bonus — $300,000 more than the recommended slot number for the 24th pick.
Marrero reported to Lowell of the New York-Penn League in mid-June where he splits time between shortstop and designated hitter to give sleeper prospect Mookie Betts ample opportunity to develop at the position as well. For as much as prospect writers and followers want to discuss the downside of the most recent collective bargaining agreement in terms of how it has negatively affected amateur players, Marrero is a great example of the agreement’s crowning achievement from a scouting perspective. By signing quickly, Marrero gained up to two months of development time which may allow him to skip a full season level in 2013 and report directly to the Carolina League.
In game action, a number of balls were hit Marrero’s way allowing for a strong look at this defensive skills. With fluid movements and an average to above arm, Marrero gracefully made all the plays which came his way. Seeing him tested on a couple of difficult ground balls up-the-middle left a strong impression of his range to the glove side. Unfortunately, Marrero was not tested to his back hand and did not make a throw from deep in the 5/6 hole in game action, or while practicing. A scout in attendance did let me know he had seen Marrero make that play previously which helps to round out the defensive projection. Overall, I’m confident in his ability to be an average-to-slightly above shortstop defensively which is rare considering most college shortstops wind up sliding over to second base as professionals.
At the plate, Marrero utilizes a patient, contact oriented approach to spray balls from gap-to-gap. With a flat swing plane, double-digit home run totals will be tough to come by at the major league level. His hand speed is above average and he stays inside the ball well, but explosive hips and wrists are absent from his offensive game. With Marrero already being 21, one is forced to wonder how, or if the bat will play at higher levels considering he doesn’t have the agility to add an additional 15-20 pounds and stick at shortstop due to range limitations.
With 13 stolen bases in 17 attempts, one might expect Marrero to have above average speed, but he does not. He may wind up stealing bases at the lower levels due to his baseball IQ and ability to take advantage of strong baserunning situations, but I expect the stolen base well to dry up at the upper levels.
Sometimes when watching a prospect, another name pops into my head if similarities are present. When watching Marrero, I could not help but think of former Houston Astros first round pick Jiovanni Mier, a shorstop I scouted as a 19-year old in the South Atlantic League. For me, both have similar size, defensive skills and limitations offensively. In four seasons, Mier has posted a .249/.347/.362 minor league line losing most, if not all of his prospect luster.
In four years I’ve scouted less than a handful of quality shortstop prospects who project to stick at the position at the major league level. Even fewer are those who had the ability to hit their way out of a paper bag. That lack of talent is bound to benefit the wallets of amateur shortstops on the whole at draft time.
Devin Marrero at any other position other than shortstop is not a two million dollar bonus baby. However, shortstop is so thin at the amateur level that signing bonuses received always seem inflated when compared to a player’s true level of skill. Marrero is no different.