Nicolino, Marisnick Key Prospects in Marlins/Jays Deal

The mega-deal between the Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins saw a number of prospects change hands Tuesday night. While Toronto loaded up on veteran talent in an effort to challenge for the American League East title in 2013, Miami looked to get younger — yet again — and acquired four interesting prospects. You’ll read more about each of them below, and three of them appeared on the recent Blue Jays Top 15 prospects list here at FanGraphs.

The potential key to this deal for Miami is Justin Nicolino. He was part of the “Lansing trio,” a name given to a group of three high-ceiling pitchers in the Jays system that also included Aaron Sanchez (the club’s second-overall prospect) and Noah Syndergaard (who is ranked third). I ranked Nicolino as the fifth-best prospect in the system prior to the trade.

Nicolino has an average fastball but he has an advanced approach for his age and flashes a plus-changeup. He also has been toying with a slider. Just 21-years-old, the former second-round draft pick should open 2013 in High-A, but could see Double-A by the season’s end. His ceiling is that of a No. 3 or a No. 4  starter, but he’ll need to prove he has a reliable out-pitch that can erase major-league hitters.

Center-fielder Jake Marisnick was in the running for the best athlete in Toronto’s system. He has good range, a strong arm and above-average speed. He could be a useful big-leaguer even if he doesn’t hit as well as is hoped.

Marisnick, 22, is a former third-round pick who has yet to prove himself at the plate. The Jays tinkered with his batting mechanics twice in 2012 — including once right as he was promoted to Double-A — which might have contributed to his offensive struggels. If he figures things out, the prospect could offer slightly above-average power with the ability to steal 20 to 30 bases with regular playing time.

Marisnick was assigned to the Arizona Fall League this year and he got off to a slow start before picking things up — perhaps as he got more comfortable with his new mechanics. He should return to Double-A in 2013 after spending 55 games there in ’12 and posting a 70 wRC+. He probably won’t be ready for the majors during the coming season but he has plenty of time to develop and he won’t have to be added to the Marlins’ 40-man roster until the winter of 2014.

Adeiny Hechavarria, whom I ranked 10th, will look to replace Jose Reyes, whose brief time in Miami came to an end with the trade. The Cuban prospect is a plus-defender with outstanding actions, good range and a strong arm. He has a chance to be an impact defender and Marlins’ pitchers should love having him behind them. Hechavarria played third base, shortstop and second base with the Blue Jays, so he’s shown some flexibility in the field and that bodes well for the club if his offense falls flat.

The downside to his game is definitely his hitting — namely his lack of it. The shortstop projects to be a Rey Ordonez-type of hitter, hitting directly in front of the pitcher in the National League. Hechavarria, 24, has a poor approach at the plate and needs to learn to be more selective. He has modest power — probably a 40 grade — and he doesn’t steal many bases despite having above-average, or 60 grade, speed.

Anthony DeSclafani is probably the least known of the four prospects heading to Miami and he didn’t make the Top 15 list. The right-hander was a sixth-round draft pick in 2011 out of the University of Florida. He found the most success out of the bullpen during his college career but he pitched out of the starting rotation in pro ball this year with mixed results.

DeSclafani’s fastball can touch the mid-90s, but his secondary stuff is short — though his slider shows potential. I watched him pitch earlier this year and noted he showed decent control — as he worked around the strike zone — but his fastball command was off. He had good balance on the mound and pounded the bottom of the strike zone. His breaking ball was inconsistent, but he threw a few good changeups.

* * *

Miami didn’t score a “can’t miss talent,” but the organization acquired two young, promising arms and two up-the-middle talents while it also dumped more than $150 million in salaries and got significantly younger. Toronto, on the other hand, sacrificed depth and some of its future for a win-now approach with the New York Yankees looking thin (from a depth perspective), old and vulnerable. And the team did it without having to deal any of its best four prospects.

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

21 Responses to “Nicolino, Marisnick Key Prospects in Marlins/Jays Deal”

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  1. Nick says:

    Will you be doing an updated version of Toronto’s system now that this happened, or just including these prospects in the Miami write-up?

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  2. jordany valdespin says:

    im glad they could give nicolino and keep syndergaard

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  3. Ian says:

    Where would you say Toronto’s farm system ranks overall after this deal?

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  4. Jonny D-bag says:

    60 is a fair bit higher than slightly above average

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  5. iallm says:

    hecky will be a utility guy in 2 years.

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  6. Grant says:

    Hechavarria IS an impact defender, that was obvious in the big leagues. We’re not talking about potential any more with him. Even in 2011 there were several Jays coaches saying he was already the best defender in the majors.

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  7. chuckb says:

    Not only didn’t they have to offer up any of its top 4 talents but they didn’t have to offer up Gose either. So that’s really their top 5 young talents. Tremendous deal for the Jays.

    And they got someone to take Escobar, to boot…and actually got something of value for him. A tour de force for AA.

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    • Geoff says:

      How he makes this deal without moving Sanchez or d’Arnaud – I have no clue.

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      • Bill says:

        It’s basically one year of J.J., and he’s been oft injured and when he was healthy last year he just didn’t look the same. He could rebound and be a #1, or he could continue to be inconsistent.

        Then Reyes, and a bunch or replacement level garbage from the Marlins. Reyes netted a lot here, but he’s not cheap either and he has his own health baggage. Buerhle is Buerhle, which at this point is a #4 starter, and an expensive one to boot. I don’t think the Marlins did bad here.

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      • TKDC says:

        I don’t see why Reyes and Buerhle would have much trade value. They were signed as free agents by the team willing to give them the most money in 2012. The contracts were backloaded, and like almost all free agents, the year that is most likely to be the best was the first. Now the Marlins traded them. I look at this deal as really being Johnson and Emilio for the Yunel and the prospects, and it covers up the fact that the other two are really just salary dumps as what they have remaining on their contracts is at least very similar to what they could get in free agency.

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      • Infield Fly says:

        I don’t consider a 5 win player in Reyes a salary dump !

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      • Someanalyst says:

        @TKDC – the trade value for guys like Reyes and Buehrle is stronger than usual right now, I think. The cause is belief in (or, fear of) near-term wage inflation as the latest wave of TV money washes through baseball.

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    • siggian says:

      Escobar is an above average SS on a very team friendly contract. There aren’t many teams who wouldn’t take him, regardless of eye-black comments

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  8. Impossibles says:

    Johnson was in play at this year’s trading deadline, and its not inconceivable the price was near what the Jays paid…and they got Reyes, Buerhle, and Bonafacio. Money is only money, and the jays have a hard time signing free agents. The money spent wasn’t going to go to better talent, as better talent is always going to be signed by other teams willing to spend more.

    And hey, if it doesn’t pan out, they can always trade these guys to the Dodgers.

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  9. Terrence Phillips says:

    Jake Marisnick “is yet to prove himself at the plate.” Huh?

    2010 143 wRC+ in rookieball
    2011 153 wRC+ in Midwest League
    2012 127 wRC+ in the FSL

    That’s a hella track record, actually. The only place where he wasn’t at *least* a very, very good hitter was when he was young for his league in AA this year. And Jake’s defense — as you rightly pointed out, Marc — is considered legitimately above average in centerfield.

    So for my money, Miami got one truly elite prospect in this deal. Marisnick is one of the 4 or 5 most underrated prospects in all of baseball. He’s in fact a top 25 guy, and Alex A. may very well rue this trade in 3 or 4 years….

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