Florida Nets Some Small, But Promising, Fish

This week’s salary dump by the Florida Marlins will definitely benefit the Washington Nationals. The trade sent established Major League players Josh Willingham, an outfielder, and Scott Olsen, a left-handed pitcher in need of an attitude adjustment, to Washington for three prospects. Yesterday, you read about Dave Cameron’s take on the Major Leaguers in the trade.

The three prospects obtained by Florida include: second baseman Emilio Bonifacio, infielder Jake Smolinski, and right-hander P.J. Dean. I’ll touch on Bonifacio with a little more depth tomorrow over at RotoGraphs, because he has the most potential of the three for regular playing time at the Major League level in 2009. Basically, he’s really fast, doesn’t walk enough and strikes out too much. He hit .243/.296/.337 in 169 MLB at-bats in 2008 at the age of 23.

Smolinski was a 2007 second round pick out of an Illinois high school. He was a shortstop in high school, played outfield in his pro debut and then spent 2008 at second base, where he failed to set the world on fire. The 19-year-old hit .306/.364/.408 with no home runs in 98 short-season at-bats in 2008. He also hit .261/.330/.402 with four home runs in 184 A-ball at-bats. He posted rates of 9.4 BB% and 17.9 K% at the higher level. His ISO increased from .102 in the short-season league to .141 in A-ball. Smolinski is your basic B-level prospect whose value could easily go way up or way down in 2009.

Dean is my favorite player in the deal. He is a young, projectable right-hander who currently throws 90-92 mph with room to grow. Dean also has a curveball with plus potential and a developing change-up. A 2007 seventh round pick out of high school, Dean has spent the past two seasons in short-season ball. In 2008, he posted a 1.57 ERA (but 3.40 FIP) with 26 hits allowed in 46 innings pitched. He also had rates of 3.13 BB/9 and 6.65 K/9. In two seasons totaling 77 innings, Dean has allowed just three home runs.

The trade between Florida and Washington will definitely favor the latter organization for at least the next three seasons. But if either Dean or Smolinski reaches his potential, it could swing back to Florida’s favor (at least until said player gets too expensive).




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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospect analysis. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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