8 Miami Marlins Minor Leaguers Who Will See Time in the Majors This Year

Cheng SioContributor IApril 21, 2014

8 Miami Marlins Minor Leaguers Who Will See Time in the Majors This Year

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    Justin Nicolino, left, and Rob Brantly are two Miami Marlins minor leaguers who will see time in the majors this year.
    Justin Nicolino, left, and Rob Brantly are two Miami Marlins minor leaguers who will see time in the majors this year.Jeff Roberson

    Baseball is a marathon.

    It's not easy cramming 162 games into six short months, and it's nearly impossible to play all 162 games with the same 25-man roster.

    There's a reason why each organization has an active 25-man roster and a 40-man roster. If a team is going to make it through a season, it will have to, at some point, find more manpower.

    In fact, the Marlins have already gone into their minor league system since the season began. On April 9, the Marlins recalled relief pitcher Arquimedes Caminero after they placed starting pitcher Jacob Turner on the 15-day disabled list because of a strained right shoulder.

    With more than five months left in the season, rest assured the Marlins will call up more players to join their major league team at some point this year. These players might be up for a cup of coffee before returning to the minors, or it might be the beginning of a long major league career. 

    That said, here are eight minor leaguers, in alphabetical order, who will see time with the Marlins this year.

Rob Brantly

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    Minor league organization: Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs

    Current stats: .289/.298/.444, one home run and seven RBI in 45 at-bats

    When the Marlins signed catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia to a three-year contract in the offseason, the writing was on the wall: Rob Brantly will spend the 2014 season in the minors.

    Brantly had a miserable 2013 season, as he lost his starting job last year because of a .211/.263/.265 slash line in 243 at-bats and what manager Mike Redmond deemed as issues behind the plate. He had nine passed balls last season, which led the National League.

    Redmond told the Miami Herald last August:

    There’s still some game-plan stuff, and things he needs to work on as far as day-to-day preparation, and calling pitches, and working with pitchers, and carrying out a game plan. Some of those are experience things. Some of them are focus things.

    Thus far, it seems as if Brantly is back to himself, at least offensively. Sure, it would be nice if Brantly drew a walk at least once a week, but at least he's taking some good hacks at the baseball. His best game was when he notched a career-high five hits and five RBI in last week's 14-8 win against Oklahoma City.

    "I'm working on trying to keep the bat through the zone as long as I can," Brantly told milb.com. "A big part of that is letting the ball travel. It's a matter of getting that contact point down to where I want."

    The worst-case scenario is Brantly will be called up in September when the roster expands to 40. After all, it never hurts to have as many catchers as possible since it is such a physically demanding position. But if Saltalamacchia or backup Jeff Mathis gets hurt, the Marlins' first call will probably be Brantly.

Carter Capps

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    Relief pitcher Carter Capps, who arrived in the offseason via trade, looks to work his way back to the majors after starting this season in the minors.
    Relief pitcher Carter Capps, who arrived in the offseason via trade, looks to work his way back to the majors after starting this season in the minors.Jeff Roberson

    Minor league organization: Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs

    Current stats: 0-1 record, 1.80 ERA, 14 strikeouts in 10 innings pitched (six appearances)

    When right-handed relief pitcher Carter Capps arrived from the Seattle Mariners in the Logan Morrison trade, he was expected to play a role in the Marlins bullpen.

    Instead, after a rocky spring, Capps' role is in the Marlins minor league system. The Marlins sent him to the minors so that he can make the needed adjustments to be consistent in his mechanics

    Capps was pretty good in his first four appearances, as he yielded four hits, three walks and eight strikeouts in seven scoreless innings. But in his last two games, Capps has taken a step back, as he surrendered three runstwo earned—on four hits with three walks and six strikeouts in three innings.

    Nonetheless, if the Marlins need to make another move and reach into the system for a reliever, Capps might be a better alternative than Henry Rodriguez, who has a 0.87 ERA despite issuing 11 walks in 10.1 innings.

    Worst-case scenario is Capps gets called up when rosters expand in September.

Brian Flynn

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    Minor league organization: Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs

    Current stats: 1-1 record, 3.86 ERA, 22 strikeouts in 23.1 innings pitched (four starts)

    Outside of one outing in which he gave up eight earned runs on 10 hits in 4.1 innings, Brian Flynn has been every bit as good as last year, when he had a Pacific Coast League-best 2.80 ERA in 138 innings (23 starts).

    Flynn was so good, he was a September call-up. Unfortunately, he stumbled in his first stint in the majors, as he was 0-2 with a 8.50 ERA in four starts.

    Flynn was most impressive in his most recent start, when he needed just 79 pitches to throw seven one-hit innings to pick up his first win of the year, a 1-0 shutout of the Iowa Cubs.

    Flynn told milb.com:

    Everything mechanically was clicking. I was getting the ball downhill. I was just throwing a lot of strikes, really getting ahead of a lot of guys. And when I wasn't, I had the confidence to get back into the zone when I needed to. Not being behind in counts really helped a lot.

    Right now, Flynn's path to the majors is blocked by Kevin Slowey and Brad Hand. However, neither player has been effective when they have started for the injured Turner. In three starts between Slowey and Hand, the duo has combined to allow 10 earned runs in 11.1 innings.

    If the Marlins want to change the hands on deck, Flynn might get the call to the majors. If not, Flynn might not return until rosters expand in September.

Andrew Heaney

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    Minor league organization: Double-A Jacksonville Suns

    Current stats: 2-0 record, 1.48 ERA, four runs, 18 hits, three walks allowed and 25 strikeouts in 24.1 innings pitched (four starts)

    In case you didn't know, Andrew Heaney is the best prospect in the Marlins' minor league system.

    After struggling out of the gate, when he gave up three earned runs and 10 hits in 5.1 innings in his first start, Heaney has yielded just one earned run and eight hits with 22 strikeouts in his last three starts. 

    There's a word for Heaney's performance: domination.

    On Sunday, Heaney needed just 87 pitches to work through a season-best seven innings and tied a career-high with nine strikeouts. Last Tuesday, Heaney allowed just one hit and one walk over six innings, and he retired the final 11 batters he faced. And in the start before that, Heaney retired 11 straight batters at one point en route to eight strikeouts in six shutout innings for his first win of the season.

    Heaney was sent to the minors to begin the season because the Marlins wanted him to work on some of the other facets of pitching before they promote him to the majors for good. Marlins director of player development Brian Chattin told milb.com:

    He has three average to above-average pitches on any given night. He's not a guy who's going to outstuff the lineup, but he has a feel for how to pitch. He uses his offspeed effectively. When it comes to the mental aspect of pitching ... he's at an advantage in that department. The finer parts of pitching are what he needs to continue to work on, things like controlling the running game, his time to the plate, things of that nature. He's going to need to have that in his back pocket when he gets to Miami, so those are areas of focus for him.

    If Flynn doesn't get called up if the need for a starting pitcher arises, then don't be surprised if it's Heaney that gets the call.

    According to MLB.com's Joe Frisaro, he doesn't expect to see Heaney with the Marlins until June at the earliest.

Jake Marisnick

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    Minor league organization: Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs

    Current stats: .141/.208/.203, six RBI and three stolen bases in 64 at-bats

    Despite Jake Marisnick's best efforts this spring—and it was a heck of an effort, as Marisnick batted .432 with a 1.070 on-base plus slugging percentage—he couldn't beat out Marcell Ozuna to be the Marlins' starting center fielder.

    So, Marisnick was sent back to the minors to get additional at-bats and to make the necessary adjustments to not just make it to the big leagues, but to be a future star.

    Redmond told MLB.com:

    I think the important thing for us is he goes down there, gets his at-bats, so when he comes back, when don't have that conversation again, because he's out there forever. I really believe he's going to be a great Major Leaguer for a long time. He's made some swings and had some at-bats I'd never seen before.

    The results, though, have been ugly, as his current stats can attest. In fact, it's uglier than his cup of coffee with the Marlins last year, when he produced a .183/.231/.248 slash line 109 at-bats.

    The good news, however, is Marisnick struggled in his first month of action last year as well. In his first 29 games last year, Marisnick had a .227/.277/.353 slash line with four home runs and 15 RBI. Marisnick broke out of that slump by smacking two grand slams in the same game.

    If any of the Marlins outfielders—Ozuna, Giancarlo Stanton or Christian Yelich—get hurt, Marisnick will probably be who the Marlins call up. If not, we might not see Marisnick return to the Marlins until September.

Justin Nicolino

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    Minor league organization: Double-A Jacksonville Suns

    Current stats: 1-2 record, 3.38 ERA, 16 innings pitched (three starts)

    Heaney gets all the publicity, but Justin Nicolino is quietly and effectively working his way up the Marlins' minor league system.

    After going 8-4 with a 3.11 ERA between Advanced Single-A Jupiter and Double-A Jacksonville last year, Nicolino has been solid in his first three starts this season in Jacksonville.

    In his last start Thursday, Nicolino took a shutout into the seventh inning before finishing the night yielding one earned run on five hits in 6.2 innings to claim his first win of the season. More impressively, Nicolino was able to accomplish this quality start without his best pitch, the changeup.

    Nicolino told milb.com:

    Biggest thing for me was command of my fastball when I needed to. I didn't necessarily have my secondary stuff as much as I wanted, especially my changeup. For me it was establishing my fastball early, getting ahead and attacking the hitters.

    Despite Nicolino's good start, there is something to worry about. The crafty left-hander has struck out just eight batters in 16 innings pitched thus far. This continues a downward trend where Nicolino's strikeout per nine innings has gone from 10.8 in his first professional season in 2011 to 8.6 in 2012 to 6.0 last year.

    Don't expect Nicolino to surface with the Marlins until September, if at all.

Edgar Olmos

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    Left-handed reliever Edgar Olmos finally reached the majors last year. He might make a return to the big leagues at some point this season.
    Left-handed reliever Edgar Olmos finally reached the majors last year. He might make a return to the big leagues at some point this season.Alan Diaz

    Minor league organization: Double-A Jacksonville Suns

    Current stats: 0-0 record, 1.13 ERA, eight innings pitched (five appearances)

    If Marlins left-handed relievers Mike Dunn or Dan Jennings go down with injury or ineffectiveness, the Marlins could call up fellow southpaw Edgar Olmos.

    Olmos got a cup of coffee with the Marlins last year, allowing nine runs—four earned—on seven hits in five innings (five appearances). If the Marlins summon Olmos again, he can only hope it turns out better to the point where his little brother won't cry this time.

    According to a report, 11-year-old Kevin Olmos shed more than a few tears when the left-hander served up a walk-off grand slam to John Mayberry Jr.

    "He was crying for 10 minutes straight," Olmos told The Palm Beach Post. “My buddies were here from California and they were trying to cheer him up. They just couldn’t. I felt so bad."

J.T. Realmuto

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    Minor league organization: Double-A Jacksonville Suns

    Current stats: .333/.381/.509, two home runs, 12 RBI, 13 runs scored, four stolen bases in 57 at-bats

    About the only player who is as hot as Heaney is catcher J.T. Realmuto.

    The 23-year-old backstop is repeating Double-A, and it seems to suit him well. On Sunday, after the Suns blew Heaney's third win by giving up three runs in the ninth inning, Realmuto reached on an infield single with two outs, stole second base and advanced to third on a throwing error on the same play. He then scored on Rich Poythress' walk-off single to right field to secure the Suns' fourth consecutive victory.

    In his last five games, Realmuto has 12 hits in 20 at-bats to raise his batting average 144 points.

    Another important note is Heaney raving about Realmuto's ability to read hitters and communicate what he knows. Heaney told milb.com:

    As far as hitters' tendencies, I'm trying to be better about that. [Realmuto] is really good about that. That helps out a lot. He has a plan for everyone who comes up. I don't shake him off too often. He played in this league last year, so he knows a lot of the hitters. He's just really good at that. He knows how I like to pitch. He uses what he knows with my strengths and what I like to do.

    That might be music to the Marlins' ears because that's similar to what they want out of Brantly. If the Marlins don't call up Brantly, don't be shocked if they call up Realmuto instead.