The future is not near, it's here.
When the Miami Marlins promoted Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick to the majors Tuesday, it marked the sixth and seventh top-10 prospects in the Marlins system according to Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and ESPN's Keith Law (subscription required) to make their big league debuts this year.
Yelich and Marisnick joins ace Jose Fernandez, outfielder Marcell Ozuna, shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, second baseman Derek Dietrich and catcher Rob Brantly as those who have played or are on the Marlins this season.
Law said five months ago that the Marlins are probably a year away from any of their top guys seeing the majors, but it seems as though the timeline has been fast-tracked, beginning with Fernandez's surprising promotion, followed by the much-needed call-ups of Ozuna and Dietrich before Yelich and Marisnick's arrival.
So far, the Marlins have been rewarded by going with the kiddies, which has given Marlins fans hope, assuming owner Jeffrey Loria doesn't ruin it first.
Yelich showed the world why he's one of the top prospects in baseball when he collected two hits, including an RBI double, in the Futures Game. Hechavarria is one of the hottest hitters in baseball as he's batting .388 in July to raise his batting average by 47 points to go along with flashy glove work. Although Ozuna has struggled since being moved to center field (.195/.230/.301 in 34 games) to make way for Giancarlo Stanton on June 10, he was raking at a .331/.371/.472 clip in the 36 games preceding that.
Unfortunately, The Associated Press (via ESPN) reports Ozuna will miss the rest of the season because of a left thumb injury and is scheduled to undergo surgery Friday in Miami. Ozuna sustained the injury Monday making a diving catch on a sixth-inning drive by Michael Cuddyer. The damage was torn ligaments and an avulsion fracture.
Then, there's Fernandez.
The 20-year-old pitching phenom currently owns a 6-5 record with a 2.74 ERA and has accumulated 111 strikeouts in 111.2 innings. Fernandez has been nothing short of spectacular as he was the Marlins' lone representative for the 2013 All-Star Game.
On the grandest stage of Fernandez's young career, he shined the brightest.
Fernandez struck out 2008 American League Most Valuable Player Dustin Pedroia, got former Marlin and reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera to pop out to first base and then fanned the majors' home run leader Chris Davis to complete a 1-2-3 sixth inning.
Davis spoke highly of Fernandez to Manny Navarro of the Miami Herald.
He was dirty, man. He threw me that curveball to start off the at-bat. It looked like a heater coming in, and then it just disappeared. Then he finished me off with it. Knowing where he came from and where he’s at, he’s got a very high ceiling. He’s a guy I’m glad I don’t have to see on a regular basis.
With the foundation nearly complete after 100 games into the 2013 season, where do the Marlins go from here?
The Light is Glowing, But Pitfalls Abound
If the rebuilding project goes according to plan, the Marlins might never have to worry about starting pitching again.
OK, maybe not never, but it will be a while before it becomes a priority.
Fernandez is 20 and following him in the rotation are Jacob Turner, 22; Nathan Eovaldi, 23; and Henderson Alvarez, 23.
Turner began the season in the minors to work on his mechanics, but he's gone 3-3 with a 2.49 ERA in the 10 starts he's made since he rejoined the Marlins.
Eovaldi was activated from the disabled list (shoulder injury) on June 18 and has gone 2-1 with a 3.54 ERA in seven starts.
Moreover, the Marlins have a trio of southpaws waiting in the minors, possibly ready as early as the 2015 season.
Justin Nicolino, 21, was recently promoted to Double-A Jacksonville after he compiled a 5-2 mark with a 2.33 ERA in Advanced Single-A Jupiter.
Andrew Heaney, 22, has been flat-out dominant in Jupiter as he's 4-2 with a microscopic 0.97 ERA after beginning the season on the DL with a strained lat muscle.
Adam Conley, 23 has been rock solid as he owns a 9-4 record with a 3.41 ERA.
As far as the bullpen goes, Steve Cishek, Mike Dunn, A.J. Ramos and Ryan Webb all have ERAs below 3.31. Unlike the bevy of starting pitchers, which outside of Alvarez has accrued less than one year of service time, three of the aforementioned four relievers (Cishek, Dunn and Webb) could get a raise because they are arbitration-eligible. How long they stay with the club depends on the organization's willingness to pay them.
The biggest issue moving forward is the status of slugger Giancarlo Stanton.
Ever since Stanton tweeted, "Alright, I'm pissed off!!! Plain & Simple" in response to the Marlins' 12-player fire sale trade with the Toronto Blue Jays last November, there's been rampant speculation as to when and where Stanton will be traded and what the Marlins could receive in such a trade. The situation was exacerbated when Loria announced he doesn't "think this is the year to go to Giancarlo with an offer," according to the Palm Beach Post's Joe Capozzi.
It has gotten to the point where the Marlins are now telling teams Stanton isn't on the trade market even though it remains extremely unlikely Stanton will sign with the club long-term, sources told Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal.
An AL exec told ESPN.com's Jayson Stark:
I don't think they're going to trade him. I think Jeffrey is totally dug in on that. They control him for three years. They like the young players they've got coming. I don't think there's any chance they trade him. Not this summer. Not this winter. Maybe ever.
MLB.com's Joe Frisaro notes Stanton is almost indispensable because there is no obvious replacement, Stanton's power is critical for a team that is last in the majors in home runs, and he’s a threat at Marlins Park, which has allowed the fewest amount of homers of any stadium this year.
Here's what the Marlins lineup could look like in 2015, which is when the Marlins might be ready to compete for a playoff spot with Stanton in the fold:
1B Logan Morrison
3B Colin Moran
2B Donovan Solano/Dietrich
Of course, this is subject to change at any moment, but it's evident Stanton is the lineup's only true source of power.
Until Stanton's status is resolved, either with a long-term extension or a trade out of Miami, the Marlins offense will be one big question mark.
Without a productive offense, Fernandez, Turner, Eovaldi, Alvarez, Nicolino, Heaney and Conley might find the majors to be tough sledding.