Ranking Miami Marlins' Top 10 Prospects After the 2013 Minor League Season
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Over the course of a season, an organization's list of top 10 prospects changes often.
This is especially true with the Miami Marlins, considering how much the franchise depends on cheap, young talent.
But now that the 2013 minor league season has ended, the list of top 10 prospects no longer fluctuates.
Until the next major transaction—which usually doesn't take place until November, when teams sign free agents and engage in major trades—this set of rankings can hold itself to be true all the way into next May. By then, one or more of the prospects on this list will accrue enough major league service time to shed the prospect label and be eligible for the Rookie of the Year award.
As a reminder, a player shall be considered a rookie unless, during a previous season or seasons, he has exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the Major Leagues, or he has accumulated more than 45 days on the active roster of a Major League club or clubs during the period of 25-player limit (excluding time in the military service and time on the disabled list), according to MLB.com.
While eligibility is one factor, other factors involved in the final ranking of the 2013 season include performance, development curve placement and where MLB.com's 2013 Prospect Watch has them.
Without further ado, here are the Miami Marlins' top 10 prospects after the 2013 minor league season.
3B Zack Cox, Double-A Jacksonville
Third baseman Zack Cox was once a top prospect in the St. Louis Cardinals system, but now he's hanging on to his top-10 status with the Marlins.
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2013 stats: .264/.353/.361, 3 HR, 29 RBI, 15 2B
ETA to the majors: 2014
At the end of the day, any number of Marlins prospects, such as catcher J.T. Realmuto, second baseman Noah Perio, right-handers Angel Sanchez and Anthony DeSclafani, or outfielders Austin Dean and Brent Keys could've notched one of the last two spots on this list.
It's a by-product of the Marlins promoting Jose Fernandez, Christian Yelich, Adeiny Hechavarria, Rob Brantly, Marcell Ozuna and Derek Dietrich to the majors this season.
But at No. 10, Double-A Jacksonville third baseman Zack Cox will get the honor here.
Cox is an underachieving 2010 first-round pick who the Marlins acquired last July in a simple one-for-one player swap. The player the Marlins relinquished was Edward Mujica, who is now the closer for the soon-to-be playoff-bound St. Louis Cardinals.
What made Cox a valuable commodity was the fact he was one of the nation's best collegiate hitters. In Cox's first full pro season, he split time between advanced Class-A and Double-A and produced a respectable slash line of .306/.363/.434 with 13 home runs and 68 RBI in a combined 516 at-bats.
But that guy has yet to reappear. In 2013, his slash line was .264/.353/.361 with three homers and 29 runs batted in.
That said, hitters don't stop hitting at the age of 24. The guy the Cardinals recognized when they drafted Cox No. 25 overall and gave a $3.2 million major league contract to is still in there somewhere, and that guy is more advanced and probably has more upside than anyone who missed making the cut.
OF Jesus Solorzano, Single-A Greensboro
2013 stats: .285/.325/.450, 15 HR, 66 RBI, 29 2B, 33 SB
ETA to the majors: 2016
The other player who barely cracked the top 10 of this list is Single-A Greensboro outfielder Jesus Solorzano.
At 23 years old, Solorzano is a little old for this level, but he has showed improvement every year since he signed with the Marlins in 2009.
In 2010, in his first full season in the Dominican Summer League, Solorzano's OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) was .714 in 175 at-bats. The following year, Solorzano moved up to the Gulf Coast League and posted an .809 OPS with three home runs and 31 runs batted in.
Then, in 2012 Solorzano took a big step forward as his OPS was .894, and he smacked eight home runs and drove in 27 runs in 210 at-bats.
This year, the numbers went down, as he posted a .285/.325/.450 slash line, but Solorzano also hit 15 home runs and had 66 RBI in 484 at-bats. Solorzano was simply the Grasshoppers best major league prospect for the first half of the season.
Hitting coach Frank Moore told the News & Record:
Solo started out hot, cooled off a little, then he started to understand, "OK, these guys are trying to get me out inside." He adjusted his approach, the direction of the bat-path. He made a big adjustment. His biggest improvement was, mentally, he slowed the game down. Yeah, he tinkered with his swing a little bit. But the bigger thing was he calmed his game down. This is a hard game, but it’s a little easier when you can slow it down.
LHP Brian Flynn, Miami Marlins
Left-hander Brian Flynn did well enough in 2013 in the minors to get a September call-up. Now, he has to prove he can stick in the majors.
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2013 stats: 7-12, 2.63 ERA, 43 BB, 147 SO, 161 IP in 27 starts in minor leagues; 0-2, 9.64 ERA, 10 BB, 10 SO, 14 IP in 3 starts in major leagues
ETA to the majors: Now
The good news is Brian Flynn had an amazing season in the minors. Despite the 7-12 record, Flynn posted a 2.63 earned run average. With Triple-A New Orleans, Flynn's 2.80 ERA was the best in the Pacific Coast League.
Flynn's performance earned him a September call-up, which allowed him to fulfill his dream of being a major league ballplayer when he made his debut earlier this month against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Flynn told the Sun Sentinel:
A great ballpark, a historic ballpark. I'm a real big fan of baseball, so it's one of those things where I couldn't ask for more … It hadn't really sunk in until you pull up and see the red Wrigley Field sign out there and come on the field and see the scoreboard and everything. It definitely sunk in then.
The bad news is Flynn has struggled since he joined the Marlins. After giving up three runs in four innings in his debut, Flynn has yielded six runs in back-to-back starts, which leaves him with a hideous 9.64 ERA.
To make matters worse, Flynn is a candidate for a spot in the starting rotation next season, according to MLB.com.
Flynn was one of three players Miami got in last year’s trade with the Detroit Tigers for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante. The other two players acquired by the Marlins in that trade—Brantly and pitcher Jacob Turner—already have played for them.
2B Avery Romero, Single-A Greensboro
2013 stats: .276/.341/.391, 3 HR, 35 RBI, 19 2B
ETA to the majors: 2017
Avery Romero, the 2012 third-round pick, is trying to prove his bat belongs in the majors. So far, he's continued to move on up to make his dream come true.
Romero's season began with the short season Single-A Batavia Muckdogs June 17, and he reached base safely in 16 of his first 19 games and collected a multi-hit game in 11 of the outings. That led Romero to post a .394/.444/.530 slash line with one home run, nine runs batted in and 10 runs scored.
Romero eventually cooled down, but he parlayed the scorching hot start into a promotion, according to the News & Record, to the Greensboro Grasshoppers.
Romero struggled with Greensboro, posting a .147/.237/.265 slash line in 34 at-bats, but with an offseason to prepare, Romero should be able to handle the tougher competition next year.
RHP Jose Urena, Advanced Single-A Jupiter
2013 stats: 10-7, 3.73 ERA, 29 BB, 107 SO, 149 2/3 IP in 27 games (26 starts)
ETA to the majors: 2015
Since Advanced Single-A Jupiter is the closest minor league affiliate to the Miami Marlins, many big-time names made a visit to Jupiter during the season. Among the notable players to don a Hammerheads uniform were Hechavarria, Ozuna, Yelich, DeSclafini, Sanchez, Donovan Solano, Casey Kotchman, Jeff Mathis, Jake Marisnick, Chris Coghlan, Logan Morrison, Giancarlo Stanton, Justin Nicolino, Andrew Heaney, Henderson Alvarez and Nathan Eovaldi.
But Jose Urena never went anywhere.
As a result, Urena established himself as Jupiter's ace.
According to the Jupiter Courier, Urena led the team in starts (26), innings (149 2/3) and strikeouts (107), and in 16 home starts at Roger Dean Stadium, Urena was 8-1 with a 2.03 ERA. Moreover, Urena was a part of a starting rotation that led the Florida State League with a 3.13 ERA.
Urena didn't turn 22 years old until Sept. 12, about two weeks after the season ended, and the worst-case scenario is starting in Jupiter to begin next season. With Double-A Jacksonville and maybe Triple-A New Orleans as the only landing spots left before a promotion to the Marlins, Urena's future looks brighter than the sun.
3B Colin Moran, Single-A Greensboro
2013 stats: .299/.354/.442, 4 HR, 23 RBI
ETA to the majors: 2016
This is probably the spot where the cream of the Marlins crop rises to the top.
Colin Moran was selected with the sixth-overall pick in the June amateur draft and signed with the Marlins in July for $3.52 million, according to the Miami Herald. Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said Moran would receive a spring training invitation to major league camp in 2014.
But we're still in 2013, and it didn't take Moran long to settle in to professional baseball.
In his first professional at-bat, the 20-year-old third baseman from the University of North Carolina smashed a home run off starter Dan Camarena to right field in the first inning of his club's 4-3 victory, according to MLB.com.
However, Moran struggled after that, posting a .243/.300/.357 slash line with one home run and 10 RBI in his first 70 at-bats. But Moran finished strong, as he posted a .345/.400/.512 slash line with three homers and 13 RBI in the final 84 at-bats.
This offseason, Moran will be one of seven players from the organization who have been selected to play in the Arizona Fall League, according to the Miami Herald.
LHP Adam Conley, Double-A Jacksonville
Left-hander Adam Conley had a spectacular season in Double-A in 2013, earning him the status as one of the Marlins best prospects.
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2013 stats: 11-7, 3.25 ERA, 37 BB, 129 SO, 138 2/3 IP in 26 games (25 starts)
ETA to the majors: 2014
If Urena was the ace of the Jupiter Hammerheads in 2013, then Adam Conley was the ace of the Double-A Jacksonville Suns.
Besides winning 11 games and posting a 3.25 ERA, Conley was one of five Suns players selected to play in the Southern League All-Star Game in July, according to the Florida Times-Union.
And if Conley ever made the big leagues, he could start a new streak where at least one former Washington State baseball player saw action in the major leagues, which happened every season from 1948 to 2011, according to Scout.com.
Conley was so good this season, the Florida Times-Union's Jeff Elliott penciled in Conley as a member of the starting rotation in what the Marlins could look like in 2015.
Conley is the first of three consecutive left-handers to make this list, and although he probably has the lowest ceiling among the three southpaws, Conley has provided the goods this season.
LHP Justin Nicolino, Double-A Jacksonville
2013 stats: 8-4, 3.11 ERA, 30 BB, 95 SO, 142 IP in 27 starts
ETA to the majors: 2014
In the span of about a year, Justin Nicolino went from being a prized arm in a megatrade to a pitcher of the year.
Nicolino arrived from the Toronto Blue Jays in the 12-player fire sale last November and quickly climbed up the Marlins system. He began with the Jupiter Hammerheads and posted a 5-2 record with a 2.23 ERA in 18 starts before he was promoted to Double-A Jacksonville in July, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
After a couple of bumps in the road, which resulted in a 6.75 ERA in his first five Double-A starts, Nicolino righted himself, beginning with a career-high 13-strikeout performance Aug. 16 in a 6-3 win against Birmingham, according to the Florida Times-Union.
In Nicolino's last four starts, he posted a 2.82 ERA.
When the minor league season concluded, the Sun-Sentinel reported Nicolino was named to the Florida State League postseason All-Star team and was selected as the FSL Pitcher of the Year.
As a result of his stellar season, Nicolino is a candidate for a rotation spot with the Marlins next season, according to MLB.com.
LHP Andrew Heaney, Double-A Jacksonville
2013 stats: 9-3, 1.60 ERA, 26 BB, 89 SO, 95 1/3 IP in 19 games (18 starts)
ETA to the majors: 2014
Even though Andrew Heaney's season started about six weeks late, it seemed like he was No. 1 and Nicolino was No. 1A.
Heaney started the season on the disabled list with a strained lat muscle, but he was dominant in Jupiter and Jacksonville, posting a 5-2 record with a minuscule 0.88 ERA with the Hammerheads and a 4-1 mark with a 2.94 ERA with the Suns. At one point, Heaney had a 33-inning scoreless streak spread across the two levels.
In the end, MLB.com's Jim Callis chose Heaney as his left-handed pitcher on his 2013 all-prospect team, the Miami Herald reported Heaney joined Moran as one of seven players from the organization who have been selected to play in the Arizona Fall League, and MLB.com reported Heaney as one of the candidates who is expected to battle for a rotation spot on the Marlins next season.
In fact, you could say Heaney is the Marlins' top prospect yet to have made the majors. That's because the guy who is No. 1 happens to be...
CF Jake Marisnick, Miami Marlins
2013 stats: .289/.350/.489, 12 HR, 46 RBI, 14 2B, 11 SB in minor leagues; .185/.233/.250, 1 HR, 5 RBI in major leagues
ETA to the majors: Now
By virtue of falling 22 at-bats short of being considered a major league rookie, center fielder Jake Marisnick is currently the Miami Marlins top prospect.
Marisnick, who came over with Nicolino and others from the Toronto Blue Jays in the 12-player fire sale last November, was in a groove with Double-A Jacksonville (.343/.404/.571 with six home runs and 21 RBI in last 35 minor league games) before being promoted with Christian Yelich to the big leagues July 23, according to the Associated Press.
Unlike Yelich, who has blossomed to the tune of .286/.366/.388 with three home runs and 13 RBI, Marisnick has struggled and has seen his playing time dwindle.
In his first month with the Marlins, Marisnick played in 27 games (25 starts) but posted a slash line of .182/.226/.227 with one home run and four runs batted in. In the 26 days since then, Marisnick has played in just 11 games (five starts). The results haven't been much better, as the slash line is .200/.261/.350.
To make matters worse, Marisnick made the final out in a 4-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves Sept. 10 in one of the weirdest plays of the season. Marisnick, who entered the game as a pinch runner after Placido Polanco’s one-out double, took off when Craig Kimbrel’s fastball was caught by catcher Brian McCann. However, the ball caromed off the backstop directly to McCann, who took advantage of the favorable bounce to start a 2-5-4 walk-off rundown.
In the event Marisnick accrues 22 or more at-bats in the next 11 games, Heaney would become the Marlins top prospect.