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Chin Up, Fish Fans! The Future is Bright.
- Updated: April 21, 2013
No team in Major League Baseball, or better yet, no team in all of sports has been as scrutinized as much as the Miami Marlins. It seems like there’s no way to escape the harsh comments and jokes towards the Marlins franchise from writers and broadcasters to fans and even current/former ballplayers. The 2013 campaign has started as plain ugly on the field. There are still plenty of reasons to believe the Marlins can be experiencing October baseball soon even though it most likely won’t be this year. Whether this Marlins team clinches one of the top five picks in the 2014 draft (which will most likely happen) or shock the baseball world 2012 Oakland A’s style, there is a ton of reason for hope. That hope may be shared only with a tiny amount of Marlins fans at the moment but if things play out well, guys stay healthy, and the tumultuous front office makes wise decisions, the Marlins may end up making multiple playoff appearances before we know it.
There are fans who believe the Marlins will rise from the ashes and be a championship caliber team in the future. In order for that to occur, the big trade with the Toronto Blue Jays on November 13th, 2012 had to happen. Let’s face it. Dumping the salaries of Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Josh Johnson, John Buck and Emilio Bonifacio and netting two or three respectable prospects in return was necessary in order to open tons of new possibilities. The Marlins farm system is STACKED. It is declared as one of the top five farm systems in Major League Baseball.
Even though they weren’t thinking of completely stripping down the roster back in July 2012, the Marlins were already taking the first steps towards a new era when Hanley Ramirez got shipped to Los Angeles. They also sent Omar Infante and Anibal Sanchez to Detroit. These separate trades brought in major-league-ready-talent in catcher Rob Brantly and pitchers Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob Turner. As far as the Toronto trade is concerned, scouts, writers and fans alike have expressed criticism saying that Marlins did not get enough in return. The only big-league-ready prospect they received was shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria who has been beyond amazing with the glove. His offense won’t ever be phenomenal but he can definitely more than hold his own. The Marlins acquired Yunel Escobar and then flipped him to the Rays in exchange for top infield prospect Derek Dietrich. (Doesn’t matter if Escobar has a career year. No fan can complain about trading him.)
This blockbuster trade with Toronto can really pay off later on. The Marlins may not have much from this trade on the field NOW. However, pitcher Justin Nicolino and outfielder Jake Marisnick should make an impact in the big leagues by sometime next year. On top of that, the Marlins’ best prospects are actually home grown. They are the big two: outfielder Christian Yelich and pitcher Jose Fernandez. With that being said, the Marlins have finally been striking gold in the draft the past couple of years. The prospects they received in the Toronto trade, whether they become all star caliber or not, are excellent complementary pieces to a team with Yelich and Fernandez leading the way.
Here is a brief analysis of each Marlins prospect who may soon contribute in helping the Fish reach baseball glory. With the exception of Jose Fernandez’s surprising call up, they all have began 2013 in the minors:
Jose Fernandez, RHP (2011, 1st Round) 2013 Opening Day Status: Major Leagues
Jose Fernandez is already on the big league roster and has shown early flashes of brilliance. His performance so far has exhibited the same filthy stuff that contributed to a dominating 2012 minor league year in which he went 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA and 158 strikeouts. His fastball is thrown regularly between 93-95 MPH and will touch 98 MPH when needed. His curve ball is already considered a plus pitch and he has a changeup that isn’t far away from becoming a plus pitch as well. This guy has excellent demeanor, presence and confidence on the mound. No one will be surprised if he pitches in all star games and garners Cy Young awards soon.
Christian Yelich, OF (2010, 1st Round) 2013 Opening Day Status: AA Jacksonville
Lots of fans have been demanding to see the Marlins call up this gifted hitter already. Yelich, from Thousand Oaks, CA, has panned out so far as a first round pick. He hit .329 in 2012 with 12 homeruns, 48 RBI and a SLG of .516. He has been excelling in the minors and even turned heads during his time with the Marlins in this year’s Spring Training. There is no need to rush him and start his service clock early. After all, the Marlins aren’t going anywhere this year. However, he is about half a season or less of AA ball away from reaching the big leagues and staying here for good. It’s also important to mention that he has terrific outfield tools and fits perfectly in either LF or CF. It is safe to say that Juan Pierre, Chris Coghlan and Justin Ruggiano better start looking over their shoulders.
Jake Marisnick, OF (Acquired from Blue Jays. 2009, 3rd Round) 2013 Opening Day Status: AA Jacksonville
Blue Jays fans are feeling a bit weary about no longer seeing this young stud in their organization. While he does have weaknesses in the areas of plate discipline and consistent contact, he has the power bat which will take him far once he addresses his flaws. Offensively, Marisnick has had the habit of improving and then regressing again. However, scouts do rave about his ability. Also, when it comes to defense, he is considered major-league-ready. By a long shot too. He has been described as an outfielder who simply “glides” out there when running down flyballs. He has excellent extincts and plus tools when it comes to defense. He has already gained experience playing in AA in the Blue Jays’ system. He will now start the season on the Marlins’ AA team. Sky is the limit for this prospect who is ranked at # 3 in the Marlins’ farm system.
Andrew Heaney, LHP (2012, 1st Round) 2013 Opening Day Status: High A Jupiter
Andrew Heaney is the Marlins’ first round draft pick from last year. Because of such limited professional baseball experience, he is predicted to still have some good time left before reaching the big leagues. At the same time, scouts and experts wouldn’t be surprised if he is in the Marlins’ rotation as early as 2014. This is because of how polished he is. Andrew Heaney has a fastball that reaches 93 MPH. While he won’t exactly blow hitters away, he has great command and knows how to get guys out. His “terrific” breaking ball is actually his strikeout pitch. He also has an above average changeup that has good sink. Heaney may easily reach AA Jacksonville this year and put up solid numbers. While he isn’t projected to become the ace of the staff one day, he is considered as a future, successful number three or number two starter.
Marcell Ozuna, OF: (Signed out of the Dominican Republic in February 2008) 2013 Opening Day Status: AA Jacksonville
Raw power. Those are the two words that come out of scouts’ mouths when asked to point out Marcell Ozuna’s greatest asset. At 6’1” and 221 pounds, his twitter handle says it all: @Thebigbear34. Ozuna hit 24 homeruns with 95 RBI in 2012 while playing half of his games in one of the toughest parks for hitters in the minors. 2012 was actually the third consecutive year in which he hit 20 or more homeruns. Like a lot of young hitters with raw power, he does chase many pitches out of the zone. He plays RF with a good arm and good range. Ozuna is 1/3 of the AA Jacksonville Suns’ outfield nicknamed “the dream team”. The other two outfielders are Yelich and Marisnick. The future is bright.
The following players are ranked a bit lower but can end up on the Marlins in 2014 with a breakthrough 2013 season. (Disclaimer: The AA level is the level which determines if a prospect if ready for the major league stage.)
Justin Nicolino, LHP (Acquired from Blue Jays. 2010, 2nd Round) 2013 Opening Day Status: High A Jupiter
Justin Nicolino is starting to receive a lot of attention. He is starting 2013 in high A Jupiter but just like Andrew Heaney, it won’t be a shocker if he finds himself on the AA ballclub by the end of the year. Also, just like Heaney, he is considered to be one of the most polished pitchers in the Marlins’ farm system and is also considered to not need a whole of time in the minors before finding himself on the Marlins’ major league team. His fastball ranges from 88-91 MPH with “good movement and deception”. His other pitches, a three-quarters curveball and a changeup, are close to becoming plus pitches. He already can throw all three pitches for strikes.
Adam Conley, LHP (2011, 2nd Round) 2013 Opening Day Status: AA Jacksonville
When reading about Adam Conley’s nasty stuff and his nice 2012 season in A ball, it’s intriguing to see how he will fare in 2013 with AA Jacksonville. Conley is a lanky left handed pitcher with a fastball that has a lot of cut and sink. He also throws a changeup and a sweeping slider. He knows how to throw strikes consistently and generate a lot of groundball outs. That should make fish fans feel better. We don’t exactly have the most positive history with young, tall and lefty pitching prospects. So far, it’s fair to say Conley will keep improving and find himself competing for a roster spot in Spring Training 2014.
J.T Realmuto, C (2010, 3rd Round) 2013 Opening Day Status: AA Jacksonville
This young catcher was actually drafted as a shortstop out of high school. Realmuto, an Oklahoma product, has continued improving significantly as a catcher. He has an above average arm and good agility. He also possesses the right leadership skills for a catcher. Offensively, he has power that comes from his strong and stocky physical build. This is an interesting situation since the Marlins already have a young catching prospect who, as a matter of fact, is already starting full time in the big leagues. It is still important to carry at least one top catching prospect in the system since anything can happen. That is the reality with these highly profiled minor league players. Even if the Marlins one day have every position successfully locked, having prospects is never a waste. Maybe the Marlins become playoff-ready in the next couple of years and can afford to trade a top prospect that they no longer need in exchange for that big time bat or arm to put them over the hump. Also, injuries and/or poor performance can happen at anytime.
Brian Flynn, LHP: ( Acquired from Tigers. 2011, 7th Round) 2013: AA Jacksonville
Brian Flynn has been flying under the radar as he was acquired from the Tigers in the Anibal Sanchez/Omar Infante trade. The Marlins received highly touted pitcher Jacob Turner and highly touted catcher Rob Brantly which is why Flynn has been somewhat forgotten. He might no longer be forgotten soon. Flynn is a left handed pitcher who stands tall and we mean tall at 6’8”. He possesses a 94 MPH fastball that has heavy sink. He also has a good curveball and a good changeup. He has been helping his own cause as of late with a successful performance in the 2012 Arizona Fall League. He has begun his 2013 AA season with a 1.57 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and 25 strikeouts in 23 innings in four starts. I don’t know about you but I’m getting excited about all this outstanding pitching the Marlins have for the future.
As I mentioned earlier, it is imperative for the Marlins to continue adding young phenoms to their farm system and developing them correctly. You never know when it’s time for a prospect to step into the big leagues because of an injury or something unforeseen. Also, they can always be trade chips that will bring in star players once the Marlins core is truly ready for a playoff run. For the first time in many years, we can say the Fish have the farm system deep enough to help them be a successful, October champagne-tasting franchise in two or three years.