Jose Fernandez and Christian Yelich, right, are two Marlins who went from prospects to franchise cornerstones in 2013. What Marlins prospects will follow in their footsteps?
When you finished 62-100, lost more games than the previous season for four consecutive years, haven't qualified for the playoffs since 2003 and slashed payroll to less than $40 million less than a year after opening a brand new ballpark, you do what the Miami Marlins do.
You look toward the future.
In 2013, the world was introduced to starting right-handed pitcher Jose Fernandez and outfielder Christian Yelich. Fernandez posted a 12-6 record with a 2.19 ERA, second lowest in the majors only to Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw. Fernandez also tallied 187 strikeouts in 172 2/3 innings and had a 6.3 WAR (wins above replacement), tied sixth in the majors. Oh, and did we mention Fernandez made the jump from Single-A to the majors to begin the season?
Back in April, this guy viewed Fernandez and Yelich as two players whom the Marlins should think of as franchise cornerstones. While the foundation might have been laid, the Marlins are still looking for more prospects to build around.
Today, we look at another pair of prospects the Marlins have in the pipeline that they can build around in addition to Fernandez and Yelich.
Currently, left-handed pitcher Andrew Heaney is the Marlins' No. 2 prospect, according to MLB.com.
But in regards to prospects who have never seen time in the majors, Heaney is No. 1. Sorry, Jake Marisnick, but your .183/.231/.248 slash line in 109 at-bats this year with the Marlins leaves a lot to be desired.
Heaney began the year on the disabled list because of a strained lat muscle, but when he returned, he dominated Advanced Single-A by going 5-2 with a microscopic 0.88 ERA. He also struck out 66 batters in 61 2/3 innings in 13 games. In July, Heaney threw so well, he earned the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Month award after tossing 27 scoreless innings, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
Then, Heaney was promoted to Double-A Jacksonville, according to MLB.com, and he proceeded to post a 4-1 record with a 2.94 ERA. Heaney also had 23 strikeouts in 33 2/3 innings in six starts. Overall, he was 9-3 with a 1.60 ERA and had 89 strikeouts in 95 1/3 innings.
"I don't set numbers goals," Heaney told MLB.com in June. "Numbers can lie sometimes. I just want to go out there and pitch well and try to make up for these two months I missed."
As a result, MLB.com's Jim Callis selected Heaney as the best left-handed pitcher on his All-Prospect Team. He was one of seven players from the organization selected to play in the Arizona Fall League according to the Miami Herald, and MLB.com predicts Heaney will contend for a rotation spot next year.
The book on Heaney is, according to Sports Illustrated, he has a live mid-90s fastball with a wipeout curveball that cbssports.com considers to be one of the best breaking pitches in the minors. MLB.com also states Heaney's changeup has deception and sink, and it could be a third above-average-or-better pitch. Moreover, some have indicated Heaney has shown consistent control and has received high marks for his approach.
John Sickels' end of the season top 75 update lists Heaney as No. 38. However, even Sickels admits the ranking "might still be too low."
While Heaney could be ready for the show as early as Spring Training, third baseman Colin Moran will need a little time.
Then again, Moran was playing in the College World Series four months ago.
Selected from the University of North Carolina with the sixth overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft on June 6, Moran signed with the Marlins a month later for the slot value of $3,516,500, according to MLB.com.
The Marlins see Moran as an imposing left-handed hitter who stands 6-foot-4, 215 pounds. Moran certainly has the bloodlines, as his uncle is B.J. Surhoff, a former big leaguer who was the first overall pick by Milwaukee in 1985. As a collegian this year, Moran was a finalist for the 2013 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award for the top amateur player in the country. He was also named the 2013 Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year as he finished the season with a .345 batting average (97-for-281), along with 13 home runs and an NCAA-leading 91 RBI.
Although Moran got his professional career off with a bang by smashing a home run in his first at-bat, according to the Sun-Sentinel, he struggled early on as he posted a .243/.300/.357 slash line with one home run and 10 RBI in his first 70 at-bats. However, Moran finished strong as he rebounded with a .345/.400/.512 slash line with three homers and 13 RBI in the final 84 at-bats.
For the season, Moran finished with a .299/.354/.442 slash line with four home runs and 23 runs batted in.
Like Heaney, Moran will also be in the Arizona Fall League, according to the Miami Herald. At the end of the year, Sickels had Moran rated slightly higher than Heaney at No. 36. How soon Moran will be able to help the big league club remains to be seen.
MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo believes a push up to Double-A to start Moran's first full season isn't out of the question and Mayo can't see why Moran won't be ready to contribute by the second half of 2014. However, MLB.com's Joe Frisaro thinks Moran probably will open at Advanced Single-A Jupiter with a chance to advance to Double-A by the end of the season. The most realistic target date for his arrival to the big leagues is 2015, if not as a September call-up.
One thing is for certain, though, and that is Moran is an advanced hitter who should hit for average and shouldn't take too much time for his bat to be big-league ready.