Without a doubt, the bats are the strength of this system, and the arms are a weakness, which is a bit worrisome. With the possible exception of one pitcher, there really are not any prospects with No. 1 or 2 starter potential in the top half of the system… and you’d have to look pretty hard in the bottom half as well.
Ryan Tucker had a sparkling 1.58 ERA in Double-A in 2008 but his FIP was ‘just’ 3.24. He allowed 64 hits in 91 innings of work and posted rates of 3.66 BB/9 and 7.32 K/9. That earned him a jump from Double-A to the Majors where he struggled. Tucker allowed 46 hits in 37 innings and struggled with his command by posting a walk rate of 5.59 BB/9. He showed a healthy fastball at an average of 93.5 mph, but he used just two pitches most of the time, which isn’t going to cut it in the Majors if he’s going to be a starter (He started six out of his 13 games). Tucker used a change-up more than 20 percent of the time, but he went to his breaking ball less than nine percent of the time.
Jose Ceda was picked up from the Cubs in the off-season for reliever Kevin Gregg. Although Gregg has experience as a closer, Ceda has far better stuff and could easy become the Marlins closer at some point. The 22-year-old hurler, who has battled some injuries this spring, has a fastball ball that sits in the mid-to-high 90s and can touch 100 mph. He also has a solid slider and a poor change-up. Last season, after beginning the year as a starter in High-A ball, Ceda moved to the pen in Double-A and allowed 26 hits in 30.1 innings. He also posted rates of 4.15 BB/9 and 12.46 K/9. He’s at least half a year away from contributing in Florida.
Outfielder Cameron Maybin was the key player obtained from the Detroit Tigers for Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis and he had a respectable first full season in the Marlins system in 2008. He hit .277/.375/.456 with 13 homers and 21 stolen bases in Double-A. While he walked a respectable amount at 13.3 BB%, strikeouts continued to be an issue with a rate of 31.8 K%. Maybin received a short call-up to the Majors and hit .500 (16-for-32). He should be the everyday center fielder for the big league club in 2009, but may have some growing pains due to his high strikeout totals.
Gaby Sanchez should be the club’s starting first base in 2009, although he has had a poor spring to this point. The 25-year-old had an excellent season in Double-A in 2008 when he hit .314/.404/.513 with 42 doubles and 17 homers. He also posted rates of 12.6 BB% and 14.6 K%. He also hit .375 in five MLB games. Sanchez’ window of opportunity may be narrow with Logan Morrison entering Double-A in 2009.
With current Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla quickly pricing himself out of town, Chris Coghlan could be next in line for the job. In 2008 at Double-A, the prospect hit .298/.396/.429 with 34 stolen bases in 483 at-bats. He also walked more than he struck out (67-65). A third baseman in college, Coghlan is at least an average fielder at second base, which is more than what can be said for Uggla.
The best pitching prospect in the system, Sean West is probably still a year away from being able to help the Marlins. The 22-year-old southpaw spent 2008 in High-A ball and allowed 79 hits in 100.2 innings of work. He posted rates of 5.36 BB/9 and 8.23 K/9. West struggled with his control last year after missing all of 2007 because of shoulder surgery. Even after the surgery, he can touch 96 mph and also has a slider and change-up in his repertoire.
First baseman Logan Morrison had a monster season in a good pitcher’s league in 2008. The 21-year-old slugger hit .332/.402/.494 with 38 doubles and 13 homers in 488 High-A ball at-bats. His homer total dropped by 11 from 2007, but the doubles increased by 16. Morrison has better plate awareness than most sluggers, with 2008 rates of 10.5 BB% and 16.4 K%. He was named MVP of his league. Defensively, Morrison has limited range but he possesses a strong arm for a first baseman.
Outfielder Michael Stanton has even more potential than Morrison, but he’s also a higher-risk player. Stanton, only 19, hit .293/.381/.611 with 39 homers in 468 A-ball at-bats in 2008. That power came with a strikeout rate of 32.7 K%, as well as a walk rate of 11.0 BB%. Obviously, that strikeout rate will not lead to a good average in the higher levels of the minors so Stanton will have to make some adjustments to avoid becoming Russell Branyan. Defensively, Stanton is an average fielder in right.
With Morrison and Stanton ahead of him, it’s easy to forget about Matt Dominguez, who was the club’s No. 1 draft pick in 2007 out of a California high school. While Dominguez’ numbers are not as eye-popping as the other two players’, he did have a solid first full season in A-ball, where he hit .296/.354/.499 with 18 homers in 345 at-bats. He also posted rates of 7.5 BB% and 19.7 K%. Dominguez is an excellent defensive third baseman.
Kyle Skipworth was selected sixth overall out of a California high school but his just .208/.263/.340 in his debut in rookie ball. Considered the best catcher in the draft, Skipworth still has a long way to go with the bat and he posted rates of 7.6 BB% and 28.9 K%. Defensively, the catcher is solid and he threw out 36 percent of runners in his debut. He should move up to A-ball in 2009.
Up next: The New York Yankees