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Nicolino, Marisnick Key Prospects in Marlins/Jays Deal

Posted By Marc Hulet On November 13, 2012 @ 11:00 pm In Blue Jays,Marlins,Minor Leagues | 21 Comments

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.

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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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