It was an eventful year for nefarious owner Jeffrey Loria and the Miami Marlins, albeit for all the wrong reasons. After landing an enormous free-agent class—highlighted by Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and Heath Bell—prior to the 2012 season, the organization lacked consistency at the major-league level and failed to string together successes.
They began to clear house around the trade deadline in late July, moving high-contract veterans such as Hanley Ramirez and soon-to-be free agents such as Anibal Sanchez for projectable, minor league talent.
And just when it appeared the Marlins’ fire-sale was over, they decided to trade half of their big-league roster (Jose Reyes, Emilio Bonifacio, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle and John Buck) to the Blue Jays in exchange for four high-upside prospects. Overall, the trades executed by the Marlins this past season landed them three of their top-10 prospects.
Right-hander Jose Fernandez and outfielder Christian Yelich, who rank among the top-15 prospects in the game, highlight the organization’s suddenly rich prospect pool. Both players are highly advanced for their age with projectable tools, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they reach the major leagues together later this season.
In general, six of the team’s top-10 prospects have the potential to reach the major leagues at some point during the 2013 season.
Beyond that, the Marlins’ system boasts an abundance of athleticism and loud tools. And if a majority of the players come close to reaching their respective ceilings, then they could once again be a serious presence in the National League East as early as the 2015 season.
DOB: 3/18/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 190
Drafted/Signed: Third round, 2010 (Carl Albert HS, Okla.)
Season in Review: As a senior at Carl Albert High School (Okla.) in 2010, he batted .595 with 28 home runs and 119 RBI in 42 games, and led the football program to a state title as the team’s quarterback. After posting an .801 OPS in his full-season debut at Low-A Greensboro in 2011, Realmuto struggled at High-A Jupiter last year, batting .256/.319/.345 with 24 extra-base hits, 13 stolen bases and 64/37 K/BB in 123 games.
Scouting Notes: Excellent athlete who played multiple positions in high school; converted to a catcher upon selection in 2010 draft; one of my favorite athletes in the minors; has the hand-eye coordination, strength and natural talent to hit for both average and power; wraps bat and bars front arm; swing was much longer this past season; casts hands around too many pitches; swing often lacks fluidity and rhythm; plus-raw power but utility is questionable; has solid plate discipline, now just needs to put it all together.
Rare breed of catcher who’s also an above-average runner capable of double-digit stolen bases; impressive catch-and-throw skill set; quick release and plus-arm strength result in consistent pop times around 1.8 seconds; game-calling and ability to slow down the game should improve with experience; still relatively new to the position; footwork and blocking continues to improve; would benefit from opening 2013 season back at High-A.
Spring Training Forecast: Entering his second big league spring training, Realmuto will have the opportunity to work with a majority of the team’s young pitchers while refining his defensive skills.
2013 Outlook: Although the numbers weren’t spectacular last season at High-A, Realmuto’s overall game and ability to make adjustments have him poised to begin the year at Double-A.
DOB: 5/11/1993 (Age: 19)
Height/Weight: 5’11”, 195
Drafted/Signed: Third round, 2012 (Pedro Menendez HS, Fla.)
Season in Review: After signing as a third-round draft pick, he batted .223/.309/.347 in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, and finished the season with a .381/.458/.381 clip in seven games for Short-Season Jamestown.
Scouting Notes: 5’11”, 195-pound frame doesn’t require much projection; have always been a big fan of Romero’s bat; advanced approach for a prep hitter; right-handed swing is short and compact; effortlessly drives the ball; above-average-to-plus raw power, not sure how frequent it’ll be as a professional; hit tool has above-average potential.
Hard worker who can play multiple infield positions; lacks speed but isn’t a base-clogger; range is limited and hurts his defensive projection; footwork is raw but his plus arm plays at any position; overall value and development will be tied to his hitting and power.
Spring Training Forecast: Romero will participate in minor-league spring training, where he’ll continue to see time at numerous infield positions.
2013 Outlook: As one of the more advanced prep hitters from the 2012 draft class, Romero is a strong candidate to make the jump to Low-A to begin the year.
DOB: 6/19/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 205
Drafted/Signed: Ninth round, 2010 (Northwood High School, N.C.)
Season in Review: After back-to-back years in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League to open his professional career, Brice registered a 4.35 ERA and 10.0 K/9 in 109.2 innings at Low-A Greensboro in his full-season debut last year. Although he showed the ability to miss bats, he also struggled to pound the strike zone and work ahead in counts (5.6 BB/9), as well as keep the ball in the yard (1.1 HR/9).
Scouting Notes: At 6’4”, 205 pounds, his mechanics are inconsistent and sloppy; rips open with his front side; hasn’t learned to utilize his lower half; entire arsenal needs refinement; high ceiling, but needs to start closing developmental gap.
Right-hander’s power arm yields a plus fastball that ranges anywhere from 91-97 mph; consistently registers towards the lower end of velocity range; delivers pitch on solid downward plane; curveball has sharp downer bite; inconsistent pitch; changeup is present but nothing special, and will be crucial towards his overall development.
Spring Training Forecast: Brice will participate in minor-league spring training, where he will continue to develop his arsenal and iron out the mechanical issues that have impeded his control.
2013 Outlook: Although he’ll likely spend most of the 2013 season at High-A, the right-hander won’t move to Double-A until he can find the plate with consistency.
DOB: 11/12/1990 (Age: 22)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 190
Drafted/Signed: Feb., 2008 (Dominican Republic)
Season in Review: Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2008, Ozuna batted .266/.328/.476 with 24 home runs and 116/44 K/BB in 539 plate appearances last season in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League (High-A.)
Scouting Notes: 6’2” right-handed hitter with plus-raw power; poor approach and pitch recognition; tries to pull everything; solid bat-to-ball ability; uses pure strength to drive through the baseball; will have to employ a more defined approach and make significant adjustments.
Loudest defensive tool is his plus arm, which is ideal for right field; highly athletic player but has slowed down a step; above-average speed translates to similar range in the outfield; if he can refine his plate discipline and respond favorably at higher levels, Ozuna could be a slightly above-average big league right fielder.
Spring Training Forecast: Participating in his second big-league spring training, Ozuna is one of several outfield prospects who will receive an extended look over the next month—especially with Giancarlo Stanton playing in the World Baseball Classic.
2013 Outlook: Already on the 40-man roster, Ozuna will likely make the jump to Double-A to open the 2013 season, where his big swing and raw approach will inevitably be challenged.
DOB: 7/14/1989 (Age: 23)
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 205
Drafted/Signed: Third round, 2010 by Tigers (Cal-Riverside)
Season in Review: After opening the season with the Tigers at Double-A Erie, Brantly was promoted to Triple-A Toledo a few weeks before he was traded to the Marlins in the Omar Infante-Anibal Sanchez deal in July. The 23-year-old had a short stay at Triple-A New Orleans before he was promoted to the major leagues and batted .290/.372/.460 with 11 extra-base hits and 16/13 K/BB in 31 games with Marlins. Headed into the 2013 season, Brantly is the leading candidate to break camp as team’s Opening Day catcher.
Scouting Notes: Left-handed hitter who works counts; bat path is short and consistent; drives the ball to all fields; won’t hit for much power, but enough to make him more valuable behind the plate; more power to his pull side; advanced approach gives him the chance for average hit tool; track record of mashing right-handed pitching.
Has improved defensively since turning pro in 2010; possesses some agility behind the plate and always works hard; doesn’t have a great arm and needs to streamline his throws; solid catch-and-throw skill set; has been lauded for game-calling and knowledge of pitching staff; hard-nosed intelligent player who could have a solid career behind the plate.
Spring Training Forecast: Participating in his first big league camp with the Marlins, Brantly will familiarize himself with the organization’s pitchers before embarking on his rookie season.
2013 Outlook: After an impressive showing in the major leagues upon joining the Marlins in 2012, Brantly will receive the bulk of at-bats behind the plate in the majors after Jeff Mathis suffered a broken collar bone last weekend.
DOB: 6/5/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 180
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2012 (Oklahoma State)
Season in Review: The ninth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Heaney was regarded as the top college left-hander in the class after an excellent junior season at Oklahoma State. Even though he signed late, he still managed to reach Low-A Greensboro, where he registered a 4.95 ERA with 21/4 K/BB in 20 innings.
Scouting Notes: Athletic with long limbs; smooth delivery requires minimum effort; loose, whippy arm; pitchability; needs to get stronger before full-season debut; Heaney already boasts a three-pitch mix of average-to-plus pitches; fastball works in the low-90s with late life; should touch mid-90s more consistently by the time he reaches major leagues; breaking ball is a swing-and-miss offering; will lose feel for the pitch and make it slurvy; changeup is average with room to improve; advanced feel for entire arsenal could have him in the major leagues quickly.
Spring Training Forecast: Invited to major league camp, Heaney could make the case for a direct jump to Double-A with a strong spring.
2013 Outlook: Poised to make his full-season debut, Heaney has the potential for a quick ascension through the Marlins’ system given his experience, arsenal and overall feel.
DOB: 11/22/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 160
Drafted/Signed: Second round, 2010 by Blue Jays (University HS, Fla.)
Season in Review: As part of the Blue Jays’ outstanding Low-A, Nicolino showcased impressive pitchability and polish in full-season debut at last year. Overall, the left-hander registered a 2.46 ERA and .241 BAA with 119/21 K/BB in 124.1 innings. Along with fellow prospect Jake Marisnick, Nicolino was dealt to the Marlins this offseason as part of a blockbuster, 10-player trade.
Scouting Notes: Projectable 6’3”, 160-pound frame with room to grow; exceptional at repeating his mechanics; can make it look easy; always balanced; requires minimal effort; minor cross-body delivery creates deception; advanced feel for sequencing pitches; has a feel for when to add/subtract; high-floor, mid-rotation upside.
Fastball sits 88-92 mph; commands it to both sides of the plate; challenges hitters from both sides; changeup is a plus offering and easily his best pitch; thrown with deceptive arm speed relative to fastball; late fade out of the zone; comfortable throwing it in any count; mixes in a curveball that has improved over the last year; gets too loopy at times and hangs; confident demeanor; uses entire arsenal efficiently; keeps hitters off balance.
Spring Training Forecast: Although he wasn’t invited to major-league spring training, it’s conceivable that Nicolino is promoted and makes an appearance towards the end of March.
2013 Outlook: Given his pitchability and polish, Nicolino should continue to thrive at High-A next season with a legitimate chance to reach Double-A.
DOB: 3/30/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 200
Drafted/Signed: Third round, 2009 by Blue Jays (Riverside Poly HS, Calif.)
Season in Review: Marisnick batted .263/.349/.451 in 65 games at High-A Dunedin to open the 2012 season, followed by .233/.286/.336 in 55 games after an unexpected promotion to Double-A New Hampshire.
The 21-year-old ultimately held his own at the dish while at the same time enduring his share of struggles, amassing 100/37 K/BB in 120 games between the two new levels. Along with fellow prospect Justin Nicolino, Marisnick was dealt to the Marlins this offseason as part of a blockbuster, 10-player trade.
Scouting Notes: Right-handed hitter possesses a highly projectable frame with present strength at 6’4”, 200 pounds; raw ability suggests potential for above-average hit and power tool; streaky hitter; lanky frame and upright setup create too much movement during swing; same swing and bat path regardless of pitch type, location and count; too much weak contact and whiffs; bat path can be long; collapses backside in an effort to meet the ball and force contact; has struggled against above-average velocity and advanced secondary stuff; plus speed and base-stealing aptitude gives him legitimate 20-20 potential.
Has the speed and actions to remain in center field; plus range in all directions is aided by natural instincts; glides to cover large distance in the outfield; plus arm would play at all three outfield positions and is more than enough for center; his position will ultimately be tied to his production, or lack thereof; athleticism and tools give him a high ceiling despite previous struggles.
Spring Training Forecast: Entering the first spring training with his new organization, Marisnick will see significant playing time as the organization gauges his proximity to the major leagues.
2013 Outlook: Coming off a learning year at two new and more advanced levels, Marisnick should fare better in his second tour of Double-A to open the season. And if he makes the necessary adjustments, the toolsy outfielder could spend September in the major leagues.
DOB: 12/5/1991 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6’4”, 189
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2010 (Westlake HS, Calif.)
Season in Review: Yelich, who’s developed into one of the better hitters in the minor leagues, batted .330/.404/.519 with 46 extra-base hits and 20 stolen bases for High-A Jupiter in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League.
Scouting Notes: Smooth, balanced left-handed swing; repeats bat path with consistency throughout the strike zone; no wasted movement; quick wrists; keeps weight back and drives ball to all fields; approach noticeably present in each at-bat; advanced pitch recognition; average runner who glides when he gets going; efficient base-stealer; development of usable power is only question mark; more of a line-drive hitter who clears fences; bat good enough to handle corner position even if power is only marginal.
The 6’4”, 189-pound outfielder is an excellent athlete who’s been developed in center field; lacks range commonly associated with the position; above-average defender overall; only down tool is his arm, which is below average and could restrict him solely to center field; rangy thanks to long strides; instinctual; good first step.
Spring Training Forecast: Yelich should spend a majority of the spring in big league camp, especially with Giancarlo Stanton playing in the World Baseball Classic.
2013 Outlook: Yelich is ready for the jump to Double-A, where his advanced bat and approach may be challenged for the first time.
DOB: 7/31/1992 (Age: 20)
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 215
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2011 (Braulio Alonso HS, Fla.)
Season in Review: Fernandez was one of the minor leagues' more impressive pitching prospects last season, registering a 1.59 ERA with 99/18 K/BB in 79 innings for Low-A Greensboro. The right-hander received a midseason promotion to High-A Jupiter, where he continued to dominate despite the more advanced level, posting a 1.96 ERA with 59/17 K/BB in 55 innings.
Scouting Notes: At 6’3”, 215 pounds, the right-hander has a power frame; thick-bodied; built for innings; surprising athleticism for his size; endurance; excellent mound presence; oozes confidence; strong lower half allows him to repeat his mechanics; will have to keep his weight down as he develops physically; consistent arm slot; finishes delivery; some effort but fluid arm.
Fastball is an easy plus pitch; ranges anywhere between 92-97 mph with weight; was touching 97-99 mph in 2012 XM Futures Game; pitch explodes out of his hand with late life to his arm side; curveball is a second plus pitch in the mid-80s with excellent depth and pace; throws a hard slider with sharp, two-plane break; projects to be at least a third above-average offering; possesses a feel for his changeup; a lot to love in his raw pitchability; relied more on pure stuff in full-season debut.
Spring Training Forecast: After dominating at both Class-A affiliates last season, Fernandez is participating in his first major league spring training. And as long as the right-hander stays away from Giancarlo Stanton’s head, he could jump on the big league radar.
2013 Outlook: Granted, he only has one year of professional experience under his belt, but Fernandez could find himself in the major leagues to finish the 2013 season with another dominant performance in the minor leagues. (It actually reminds me of Madison Bumgarner’s rapid ascent to the major leagues in 2009 and 2010.)