Feature Photo: Braxton Garrett, LHP, Marlins
By Dave DeFreitas and Nick J. Faleris
With one potential monster prospect at the top of the system, a handful of intriguing contributors at the upper levels, some lotto tickets at the lower levels, and not much else, the Marlins currently sport one of the thinnest systems in the game as they try to compete in a rapidly improving N.L. East division.
CREAM OF THE CROP
Braxton Garrett, LHP, Did Not Play (2016 Draftee) | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 65/55
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/190 B/T: L/L Age (as of December 1st 2016): 19y 4m
The Tools: 60 fastball; 65 curveball; 55 changeup – Garrett’s fastball works from the upper 80s through the low 90s, touching 94-to-95 mph on occasion, and projects as a consistent plus offering at maturity. His curve is a tight upper-70s breaker with big depth and consistent shape, and his changeup will flash average already, and showing above-average projection thanks to the natural deception in his arm action and solid arm speed. His low-maintenance mechanics and easy arm both bode well for a future above-average to plus command profile.
The Profile: Garrett was a solid producer from the summer scouting circuit through his senior-year spring at Florence High School (Florence, AL), and he was one of the more visible performers in the class, throwing for 18U Team USA squad and at USA Baseball’s National High School Invitational in the spring, in addition to appearances at the typical elite national showcases. The long and loose lefty wields an impressive three-pitch mix with well-above-average command for a prep arm, and the command profile projects to a future plus or better grade thanks to simple and repeatable and mechanics and a loose athletic arm.
His repertoire is headlined by a present mid- to upper-70s curveball that flashes plus and comes with sharp bite and big depth. He can spot the pitch well already, and given his knack for producing tight spin and consistent execution, it’s possible that, with added strength, continued reps and pro instruction, the pitch could outdistance expectations and grow into a double-plus offering when all is said and done. His changeup comes with good bottom when he turns it over, and it should be at least an above-average offering thanks to good deception out of the hand and arm speed deception.
Garrett signed late in the process last summer and was held out of action during the summer, so he’ll be making his formal pro debut in 2017. He’s advanced enough to jump right to Class A ball, and he could be a fast riser through the system thanks to his consistency, feel and precision. Still growing into his frame, Garrett may take a couple of years to mature physically and develop the endurance and strength required to shoulder a full season’s load at the highest level. He seems a likely bet to grow into a quality rotation piece at the least, with the upside of a front-end arm.
ON THE HORIZON
Quick Hit: A 2014 third-rounder out of the University of Arkansas, Anderson possesses a well-rounded profile that should allow him to emerge as a solid everyday producer at the hot corner. Anderson has a simple setup at the plate with a solid barrel path, good leverage, and a little bit of bat speed, helping to produce above-average power to the pull side and quality contact to all fields. His approach plays well to contact, and he has a strong enough feel for the zone to work walks at the upper levels. He has worked hard to maintain an efficient delivery of the barrel to contact, though at times he can still get a little hitchy in the load, resulting in a bit of extra length to the swing.
He doesn’t square up enough balls for the hit tool to qualify as an impact tool, but it could play to average at maturity, and pair well with solid on-base production. The power also has a chance to grow into an average playable tool, with low double-digit homers and two- or three-dozen doubles per annum not out of the question. Anderson runs well, grading out above average down the line and while underway, adding to his potential value on the offensive side.
Defensively, Anderson has soft hands and a plus arm with a quick release, profiling well as a third baseman, though there is enough athleticism for the Marlins to work him at second base or even center or right field depending on the team’s ultimate needs. After an inauspicious start to his pro career, Anderson put together a solid 2016 between High A Jupiter and Double-A Jacksonville, capping off the campaign with a nice 22-game run through the Arizona Fall League in which the former Razorback slashed .273/.360/.506 while leading the league in home runs, with five. He has earned an invite to big league camp and should debut in Miami at some point in 2017.
Dillon Peters, LHP, Double-A Jacksonville | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 55/50
Ht/Wt: 5’9”/195 B/T: L/L Age (as of December 1st 2016): 24y 3m
Quick Hit: A recipient of Tommy John surgery shortly following his tenth-round selection out of the University in Texas in the 2014 MLB Draft, Peters is old for his level, and a step behind the developmental curve for a power conference college product. Still, 2016 represented a promising step forward for the southpaw, as Peters remained healthy and effective while seeing a nice bump in workload, reaching 128 2/3 innings of work. His diminutive stature provides a challenge for keeping the ball from extended overlaps with swing planes, but the quality of his stuff – and in particular the action – helps to minimize the damage hitters have been able to inflict.
Peters’s best offering is a heavy, low-90s fastball that can reach 95 mph and can prove quite difficult to lift, producing almost two ground balls for every ball in the air. He pairs with the heater a solid above-average curveball that sits primarily in the upper 70s, and works effectively to keep hitters from sitting on his fastball plane. The action on his above-average changeup dovetails with the fastball, rounding out a solid three-pitch mix that does well to avoid hard contact. Peters could fit as a quality back-end arm for the Fish, but he’ll need to show that he can maintain his groundball rates in order to make up for the amount of contact big league bats will be able to muster. In relief the profile could play-up as a ground ball specialist capable perhaps even capable of handling some high-leverage work. He’ll get a good look in camp as a non-roster invitee, and he could earn a quick promotion to Miami as soon as he’s shown his stuff will play at the upper levels.
Quick Hit: The 2012 eighth-rounder out of the University of Tennessee had his pro development slowed at the outset, undergoing Tommy John surgery within a year of signing with the Marlins, and having to work through almost 18 months of rehab before he was back to full strength on the mound in 2015 for Class A Greensboro. Steckenrider made a full transition to the bullpen in 2016, and saw both a bump in stuff and effectiveness. The big-bodied righty now sits mostly in the middle 90s with his fastball, touching the upper 90s on the regular and occasionally delving into triple-digit territory, while his spike curveball has rounded into a solid above-average weapon, sitting in the low 80s and coming with consistent 12-to-6 action and good bite.
Steckenrider adjusted well to life in the pen, averaging 11.6 SO/9 over 42 innings of work at Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans, and averaging over 1.35 GO:AO ratioover that same span while allowing just one home run. He’s ready to compete for a spot in the Marlins’ pen and has the bat-missing ability to prove an asset in late-inning, high-leverage work immediately. The biggest challenge for Steckenrider against MLB bats will be limiting free passes, though his heavy fastball, tough angles, and big-time velocity should all help to keep hard contact and overall damage to a minimum.
Quick Hit: Garcia boasts a four-pitch mix, but lacks an impact secondary offering behind his 92-to-95 mph heater. His changeup flashes above average with solid arm-side dive and good arm speed, but often times comes too firm in the upper 80s, making it play more as an off-brand fastball than a true offspeed offering that can disrupt timing. He throws both a curveball and a slider, with the former the better of the two offerings, sitting in the low 80s with 1-to-7 action and solid average depth and shape. At its best, his slider works well to miss barrels but does not have enough bite to serve as a consistent swing-and-miss offering.
Garcia shows good athleticism and body control on the mound, repeating his mechanics well despite there being some effort in the arm. The lefty works the zone well and should settle in with a solid command profile, though it may play down at times depending on how dependably he can execute his secondaries – at present his changeup and slider in particular can be flat and hittable when he misses his release point. Garcia failed to make an appearance during his brief promotion to Miami last summer but will almost certainly rectify that in 2017. He has the mix, mechanics and physicality to stick in a rotation, though his fly ball tendencies, and his inability to consistently miss bats with his secondaries could relegate him to back-end work. Out of the pen he likely lacks late-inning impact but could fit well as a situational lefty off the strength of his fastball and curveball.
Andy Beltre, RHP, High A Jupiter | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/45
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/195 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1st 2016): 23y 5m
Quick Hit: The 6-foot-4, whippy righty can reach triple-digits with his lively fastball, and can back it up with a solid-average slider that works as a swing-and-miss offering both in and out of the zone. Elbow issues have limited Beltre to under 130 innings of work over his five years stateside, though he was able to log 46 2/3 innings last year in pure relief work that was split between Class A Greensboro and High A Jupiter. If finally healthy, Beltre has a chance to move quickly through the system and settle in as a late-inning arm for Miami. Though imprecise with his offerings, Beltre should be able to get to at least average control, and his slider and fastball operate as legit major-league-out offerings when he’s on. He’ll tackle Double-A to start 2017 and could debut in Miami later this summer if all goes well.
J.T. Riddle, SS/2B, Triple-A New Orleans | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 40/40
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/180 B/T: L/R Age (as of December 1st 2016): 25y 2m
Quick Hit: There’s not much in Riddle’s profile that points to impact at the major league level, but the University of Kentucky product can play a solid shortstop and has enough athleticism and feel to provide average or better defense across the dirt in a utility capacity. As a high-contact bat that lacks the necessary strength to do damage, Riddle’s overall production is hampered by an aggressive approach that naturally cuts down on his walks and on-base productivity. Additionally, there’s some pre-swing action in the hands that can reduce plate coverage up as well as on the inner half – something big league arms could be quick to attack.
Riddle’s defensive versatility and ability to put bat to ball should help to stick around The Show in a utility role, but he’s likely to be on the lower end of the value spectrum for such a profile, given his limited on-base and power production. He could see time in Miami this summer, and profiles best as a second-division utility option that can regularly do enough well to find a 25-man home, but not quite well enough to dissuade front offices from keeping their eye out for an upgrade.
Jeff Brigham, RHP, High A Jupiter | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/40
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/200 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1st 2016): 25y 2m
Quick Hit: After being eased into pro action in 2014 by the Dodgers following Tommy John surgery as an underclassman at the University of Washington, Brigham found his way to the Marlins as part of the Matt Latos (RHP, White Sox) deal at the 2015 deadline. In his first full season with Miami, Brigham showed impressive stuff with High A Jupiter, including a lively low-90s fastball that can bump into the middle 90s, a hard-biting slider that works in the low 80s with sharp action, and a third-look changeup that often plays too firm, but is advanced enough to leave open the possibility of an effective three-pitch arsenal.
The fact that Brigham was able to log 120-plus innings last year is a good sign, and the Marlins have little incentive to move him to the bullpen just yet. If he can continue to grow the changeup into an effective change-of-pace offering to assist in turning over lineups at the upper levels, Brigham could stick as a back-end arm who can produce more grounders than fly balls, and miss enough bats to spin an occasional dominant performance. He’ll tackle Double-A in 2017 at the age of 25.
James Buckelew, LHP, Double-A Jacksonville | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/40
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/155 B/T: L/L Age (as of December 1st 2016): 25y 4m
Quick Hit: Buckelew doesn’t miss many bats, but he works on a steep downhill plane with his low-90s fastball, and he’s maintained a 3.22 GO:AO ratio over the life of his minor league career. His breaking ball is a solid low-80s curveball with good vertical action, but it isn’t particularly effective against same-sided bats, limiting his utility as a lefty specialist. Is he continues to produce ground balls at his current rate, he’ll get every opportunity to carve out a role as a ground ball specialist in the middle innings, perhaps as early as this summer. It’s also worth noting that Buckelew has allowed just two home runs in over 205 professional innings of work. It isn’t sexy stuff, but sometimes a utilitarian repertoire is all you need to find a spot in a big league pen.
Jake Esch, RHP, Miami Marlins | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 40/40
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/205 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1st 2016): 26y 8m
Quick Hit: Esch reached Miami last summer, capping a 2016 that saw the former 2011 11th-rounder throw across three levels and amass 142 innings of work. The overall arsenal is average, starting with a low-90s fastball that he wields effectively to both sides of the plate, but which is more controlled than commanded within the zone. His slider flashes above average with sharp two-plane action, but is an inconsistent offering that can back up on him with regularity, leading to hittable renditions out over the white of the plate. His best secondary might be a low-80s circle changeup that comes in with solid fading action and decent deception. His curveball is a fourth look that operates as a ‘show me’ pitch rather than a true weapon.
Esch will compete for a rotation spot this spring, but probably profiles best as a swingman/spot starter, or perhaps even a multi-inning relief arm as the last man in the pen. The upside is limited, but his mix and durability could keep him in the rotation picture for as long as he can show the stuff is capable of turning over big league lineups.
Austin Dean, OF, Double-A Jacksonville | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/35
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/190 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1st 2016): 23y 2m
Quick Hit: A 2012 fourth-rounder out of Klein Collins High School (Spring, TX), Dean passed on a scholarship to the University of Texas (Austin) to start his pro career in the Marlins’ system, slowly working his way up the ladder over the past four-plus seasons. He lacks traditional over-the-fence power for a left fielder, but possesses enough bat speed to drive the gaps and rack up doubles at maturity. The approach is a little too pull-centric, however, and Dean still struggles to identify quality spin – something that ate into his batting average as he has faced more advanced arms last season in the Double-A Southern League.
The former Longhorn commit has a chance for a fringe-average hit tool and fringe-average power production to go with fringe-average speed and a fringe average arm and glove on the grass. That adds up to – you guessed it – a potential fringe-average regular, provided he can make enough contact for the doubles pop to play. If the advanced breaking stuff continues to give him trouble, Dean tops out as an up-down corner bat.
Tayron Guerrero, RHP, Double-A Jacksonville | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/35
Ht/Wt: 6’8”/210 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1st 2016): 25y 11m
Quick Hit: Acquired from San Diego last summer as part of the seven-player trade that sent, among others, Carter Capps (RHP, Padres) out west. Guerrero has a big, straight fastball that sits in the mid-to-upper 90s and is easier to lift than it should be considering the downhill angle he can create out of his 6-foot-8 frame. His slider can work as a swing-and-miss, low-to mid-80s breaking ball, but Guerrero often struggles to throw it for a strike, limiting its utility to chase work when working ahead. There is late-inning stuff in the big righty’s arm, but the control is still erratic, so much so that it’s difficult to envision a big league manager entrusting Guerrero with high-leverage situations any time soon. He’ll have a shot to earn time in the Marlins pen this summer and will continue to try and unlock enough consistency to tap into his late-inning upside.
Quick Hit: Perez’s carrying tool is his double-plus foot speed, which helped him to swipe 71 bags in 2016 with a 77% success rate. He is devoid of power and, while he can find the ball with the barrel and has historically commanded the strike zone fairly well, there is little incentive for big league arms to shy away from pounding the strike zone and limiting his opportunities to draw free passes and get on base where his legs can get to work.
Perez’s glove is merely average in center field, with his speed leveraged more as a counter to his fringy reads and routes than as a true weapon. He can handle middle-infield work from time to time, but he’d likely be stretched there with regular exposure, as his deliberate actions come with some effort and clunkiness. His speed and defensive adequacy make him a potential fifth outfielder/utility man who provides pinch-run value in the later innings.
Austin Nola, C/2B, Triple-A New Orleans | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 40/35
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/195 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1st 2016): 26y 11m
Quick Hit: Nola, a 2012 fifth-round infielder out of LSU, worked out behind the plate during the Arizona Fall League – a development that would help keep the door open to his establishing a footing at the big league level in coming years. A fringy runner with a high-contact, low-power, low on-base bat, Nola is unlikely to contribute enough with the bat to earn a true utility spot as an infielder. However, if he is able to stick as an average glove behind the dish there could be enough aggregate value for the profile to stick on a 25-man, long term. Nola is still early on in the transition, and evaluators will have a better feel for his progress this summer once he’s had exposure to managing upper level arms on a daily basis. Generally, he’s a good athlete who grades out as a high-makeup guy, so it’s an experiment worthy of serious consideration.
Thomas Jones, OF, Rookie GCL Marlins | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 55/40
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/195 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1st 2016): 18y 11m
Quick Hit: A two-sport standout in high school, Jones gave up football and the chance to play baseball in the prestigious Vanderbilt program when the Marlins selected him in the fourth rounder of the 2016 MLB Draft and inked him to a seven-figure deal last summer. A superior athlete, Jones boasts plus speed down the line and double-plus speed when underway. He already flashes quality bat speed and solid strength through quick-twitch actions that should allow him to consistently juice the gaps in time.
He’s still raw in his overall feel for the game, but the ingredients are here for Jones to grow into an above-average defender with the arm for all three outfield positions. For now, he needs continued exposure to pro competition and reps in order to build up his foundational skillset and, in particular, his ability to tackle quality arms. There’s everyday upside in the profile and even a chance for some impact if everything comes together, but Jones is years away and will be a long-term developmental project for the Marlins’ staff to manage.
Edward Cabrera, RHP, Rookie GCL Marlins | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 55/40
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/175 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1st 2016): 18y 7m
Quick Hit: After signing for $100,000 as part of the 2015 J2 class, Cabrera made his stateside debut in 2016, working 47 innings on the complex for the GCL Marlins, and showcasing a low-90s fastball and intriguing slider that shares its plane and release with the heater. Cabrera is already a strong, broad kid with plenty of physical projection still remaining in the frame, allowing for a potential uptick in stuff as he continues to mature. He already works well downhill with a quick and easy arm, and though his changeup is rudimentary at present, he shows enough feel with the offering to project it as a third potential weapon in time.
Cabrera is still early in his development, but offers both present stuff in his fastball and slider and projectability given his body, quick arm and solid athleticism. In a system light on impact arms, the Dominican righty looks the part of a breakout candidate in 2017, and he could carry with him mid-rotation upside when all is said and done.
Tyler Kolek, RHP, Class A Greensboro | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 55/40
Ht/Wt: 6’5”/260 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1st 2016): 20y 11m
Quick Hit: The second overall selection in the 2014 MLB Draft, Kolek missed all of 2016 recovering from Tommy John surgery he underwent last April. As an amateur, Kolek was high on potential and shy on track record, hailing from a small Texas high school with inconsistent league competition and having been an infrequent participant on the showcase and travel ball circuits. Capable of reaching triple digits with his fastball, the country-strong righty was more frequently working in the 93-to-96 mph range in his first full season of pro ball with Class A Greensboro, while struggling mightily at times to find the strike zone.
The secondary stuff is all underdeveloped, including a power breaking ball that can show both slider and curveball actions depending on the day, and a firm changeup for which Kolek lacks feel. With developmental time now missed due to T.J. surgery, the shine has begun to dim on the profile, as Kolek will enter 2017 at the same age as many of the top collegiate arms in the 2017 draft class, but without much meaningful in the way of development over the past two seasons. He’s a big, burly kid in whom the Marlins have invested $6 million, so there’s little reason to think he’ll be worked out as anything but a starter once back on the field full time. Still, there’s an awful lot of developmental work still to be done for an unrefined arm like Kolek’s. He’s lacking feel and consistency, and that places a lot of pressure on the righty to get moving once the Marlins get him out on the bump. Provided the stuff returns at least as loud as he showed in Greensboro, there is either mid-rotation or late-inning relief upside – depending on the fit you prefer – but the risk level is extreme.
James Nelson, 3B, Rookie GCL Marlins | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 50/40
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/180 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1st 2016): 19y 2m
Quick Hit: A 15th-round selection out of Cisco College (TX) last June, Nelson showed off a balanced profile on the complex after signing, including good physicality, solid actions and a plus arm at the hot corner, above-average speed and some impact with the bat. Nelson profiles as a hit-first offensive player but has enough bat speed and strength to project low double-digit home run totals in time to go with a sizeable number of doubles and triples.
While Nelson doesn’t look the part of an impact contributor, he could do do enough well across his game to grow into an everyday player at third. He’s advanced enough to tackle the South Atlantic League in 2017, though the Marlins have historically leveraged their NY-Penn League affiliate in Batavia to transition their younger position players from the complex to full season ball. Either way, he’s a name to watch this upcoming season and could prove a great value as a $75,000 day-three draft acquisition.
Quick Hit: Soto boasts a traditional right field profile, complete with plus arm strength, average run and glove, and plus raw power generated by good bat speed and lots of loft. The swing is shy on plane overlap, pushing the barrel in and out of the hit zone very quickly and limiting opportunities for contact. While the hit tool likely tops out at fringe average due to swing-and-miss complications, the power is legit and could be enough to carry the profile if he can refine his approach enough to find the right pitches to drive.
Soto still needs reps and exposure to higher-end stuff, and there is plenty of risk weighing down the overall value of the profile. Still, quality power isn’t something to shrug off, particularly when Soto checks the other boxes necessary to emerge as a quality right fielder. He’ll move up to High A Jupiter in 2017.
Cody Poteet, RHP, Class A Greensboro | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/40
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/190 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1st 2016): 22y 4m
Quick Hit: Drafted by the Marlins in the fourth round of the 2015 MLB Draft, Poteet made his full season debut in 2016 with Class A Greensboro, logging 117 1/3 innings while averaging 8.31 SO/9. The UCLA product works with average stuff across his four-pitch arsenal, including an upper-80s to low-90s fastball that works on a solid downhill plane and comes with good deception out of a quick arm. His slider plays well off of the fastball, showing short two-plane action, while his curve is a suitable offering for changing hitters’ eye level and keeping bats from sitting on plane. His offspeed is a straight changeup that he throws with decent arm speed, though the pitch lacks significant dive.
Poteet doesn’t project to miss many bats, but he has good feel as an advanced collegiate product and does a respectable job keeping the ball on the ground and avoiding hard contact. There isn’t much more here than a back-end starter’s upside, but he could move reasonably quickly towards that outcome provided he can stay precise enough in the zone to avoid getting squared up too often. He’ll ship out to High A Jupiter in 2017, and he could see a mid-season jump to Double-A as production dictates.
Albert Guaimaro, OF, DSL Marlins | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 50/35
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/180 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1st 2016): 17y 10m
Quick Hit: One of five 2015 Red Sox J2 signees to have their contracts vacated as a result of the club’s improper activities, Guaimaro inked with the Marlins a year later as a 17-year-old and put together a decent debut in the Dominican Summer League, showing high-level athleticism and solid present strength. Guaimaro hits out of a balanced, wide base, with solid barrel acceleration and enough bat speed and leverage to project average power at maturity. He’s still raw in his approach but generally shows good feel for the barrel.
He runs and throws well enough to play all three outfield positions, with the extent to which he fills out his broad frame likely to be the ultimate determinant as to where he resides defensively. Guaimaro is years away from being ready to contribute for the Marlins, but has an impressive collection of physical tools to go with a decent foundation for his hit tool and glove. He could make his way to the complex stateside in 2017 where he will immediately become one of the most interesting names to follow.
Roy Morales, C, Class A Greensboro | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/40
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/195 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1st 2016): 21y 5m
Quick Hit: Morales is a glove-first talent with plus arm strength and athletic actions that play well side-to-side and through his transfer on the catch-and-throw side. Despite being a well-below-average runner, the glove and arm alone provide foundational value for the profile, giving him a reasonably high floor as a potential back-up backstop. Morales made strides on the offensive side of the game in 2016, showing a more disciplined approach and more regular hard contact over his 60 games with Class A Greensboro. There likely won’t be tons of over-the-fence power at maturity, but he should be able to drive the gaps and keep pitchers honest as they work around the zone. With even fringy hit and power production Morales’s glove could make him a potential everyday contributor behind the plate. He’ll tackle the Florida State League in 2017 with an eye towards the upper minors in 2018. The glove is advanced enough that the Marlins could jump him a level at some point if they are comfortable with the development of the bat.
Jordan Holloway, RHP, Class A Greensboro | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/40
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/190 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1st 2016): 20y 6m
Quick Hit: Holloway had his 2016 season cut short in July due to soreness in his triceps – an injury that may have impacted his spotty early-season performance, as the righty looked much more impressive during fall instructs once rested. The former 2014 20th-rounder boasts a low-to mid-90s fastball that can reach as high as 96 mph with good downhill plane and heavy action. His low-80s curveball flashes hard bite, though he can struggle to spot the pitch in the zone with consistency. His changeup works well enough to keep him in the rotation for now, though the effort in his motion is likely to limit him to average control and below-average command long term, making him a good potential fit as a late-inning, two-pitch power arm out of the pen. He’ll likely start back in Class A Greensboro to begin 2017, where he’ll work to improve his consistency in execution, limit the walks and continue to grow the changeup as a viable third weapon.
Stone Garrett, OF, Class A Greensboro | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/35
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/195 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1st 2016): 21y 0m
Quick Hit: Like Thomas Jones (OF, Marlins), Garrett was a multi-sport standout in high school who began his professional development a step behind his contemporaries with respect to overall feel and exposure to advanced competition. After a promising showing with Short-Season A Batavia in 2015, Garrett ran into a bit of a buzzsaw in his full season debut last summer, striking out in a third of his plate appearances and slashing .213/.265/.371 over his 52 games in the South Atlantic League. He still struggles with identifying spin, and there is at least some concern that the hit tool and on-base profile will never come together enough to anchor the offensive profile. He has plus raw power that plays in-game when he’s able to square the ball up, but he needs to increase the frequency of his hard contact if the power is to carry the profile long term.
Garrett possesses the athleticism to spare, with an above-average run tool, good strength and explosiveness in his actions. He’s still only an average defender as his reads off the bat limit his playable range, and the arm strength is below average and could make left field his ultimate home. The power potential makes the profile interesting, but the high-risk nature of the skillset and the fact that, at age 21, Garrett is still towards the early stages of his baseball development limits the likelihood of everyday contributor ultimately emerging. He could stand another dip through the Sally League given his struggles in the box, but the Marlins should be quick to move him up to High A Jupiter once he looks ready.
Sam Perez, RHP, Short-Season A Batavia | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/40
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/210 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1st 2016): 22y 3m
Quick Hit: Perez was a 2016 fifth-round senior sign for the Marlins out of Missouri State, working primarily in relief as an amateur. Miami views the well-built righty as a potential rotation piece thanks to his above-average fastball/slider combo and his potential to develop a quality third pitch with his changeup. Despite being on the older side for his first full professional season, and despite working primarily in relief at Missouri State, Perez’s development as a starter is not as fraught as it might appear on the surface, as the righty logged over 100 innings of work last year between college and the NY-Penn League, and he has proven generally durable over multiple innings of work both as a starter and out of the pen. He’ll tackle full season ball in 2017, and he could be pushed aggressively if he shows success at the lower levels. His ceiling is that of a back-end starter, with a solid floor as a two-pitch middle-relief arm.
Brett Lilek, LHP, Class A Greensboro | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 45/35
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/220 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1st 2016): 23y 4m
Quick Hit: A second-rounder in the 2015 MLB Draft, Lilek logged just 16 innings of work in 2016 due to bicep tendinitis. When healthy, the lefty works in the low 90s with his fastball and low 80s with his changeup and slider, all three of which grade out as average. While there’s some deception in his arm slot and arm speed, with all three pitches overlapping in plane and release, his fastball can get straight, and his loose command in the zone often leaves him too hittable. As an advanced collegiate product he has a good feel for pitching and a chance to develop into a back-end arm in time but will need to prove he can shoulder a pro starter’s workload and that his stuff works well enough to turn over lineups in the upper minors.
Sean Reynolds, OF, Rookie GCL Marlins | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 50/30
Ht/Wt: 6’7”/205 B/T: L/R Age (as of December 1st 2016): 18y 7m
Quick Hit: Signed for $600,000 out of Redondo Union High School (CA) as a fourth-rounder in the 2016 draft, Reynolds boasts plus raw power out of a long-levered, highly-leveraged swing with easy natural loft. Reynolds is a big, strong, lefty stick whose raw pop comes with the tradeoff of a lot of empty swings – not uncommon for a player of his size given the long limbs and lengthy swing with which he works. Reynolds’s success or failure will come down to how much contact he is able to make, and while the track record for 6-foot-7 sluggers is limited, there’s a certain right fielder in Miami that gives the Marlins a template from which to work with and extreme upside to dream on. If he falters as a batter, Reynolds has a fallback as a power arm with some feel for a breaking ball.
Remey Reed, RHP, Short-Season A Batavia | Ceiling/Realistic Role: 40/35
Ht/Wt: 6’5”/230 B/T: R/R Age (as of December 1st 2016): 21y 7m
Quick Hit: Drafted in the sixth round of the 2016 MLB Draft, Reed works with a low- to mid-90s fastball and three below-average secondaries in his curveball, slider and changeup. He shows enough feel across the board to project to at least average with all offerings, though there’s limited upside in the profile. Reed has the physicality and arsenal to eventually develop into a potential back-end arm, but there’s a strong case to be made for working him in relief, where he could focus on growing one or two of his secondaries to compliment the fastball and progress much quicker through the system. He’ll see action in full season ball in 2017, likely with Class A Greensboro.
|1. Braxton Garrett, LHP, N/A||6. Jarlin Garcia, LHP, AA||11. Isael Soto, OF, A|
|2. Brian Anderson, 3B, AA||7. Edward Cabrera, RHP, Rk.||12. J.T. Riddle, SS/2B, AAA|
|3. Dillon Peters, LHP, AA||8. Andy Beltre, RHP, High A||13. Jeff Brigham, RHP, High A|
|4. Drew Steckenrider, RHP, AAA||9. Tyler Kolek, RHP, A||14. Cody Poteet, RHP, A|
|5. Thomas Jones, OF, Rk.||10. James Nelson, 3B, Rk.||15. James Buckelew, LHP, High A|
It’s a thin system from a trade perspective, as the majority of the talent in the pipeline has too limited of a ceiling to bring back significant major league ready value. By this time next year Braxton Garrett (LHP) could be a deal-headlining talent, though it can be argued his value as a cost-controlled, potential front-end arm makes him much more valuable to the small market Marlins than any established talent he might bring back via trade.
At the big league level, Giancarlo Stanton (OF) is a couple of years removed from MVP-level production at the plate – not to mention a fully healthy season – and carries with him a sizeable contract, making him a less attractive trade piece than the age and skill set would otherwise indicate. Utility infielder Martin Prado could garner some trade-deadline interest and bring back a nice piece or two thanks to his versatile defensive skillset and solid offensive production. However, his leadership in the clubhouse and on the field had a lot to do with the Fish resigning him earlier this offseason. Dealing him could be counterproductive to developing their young core.
The Marlins find themselves in a tough situation today. On the one hand, the Fish possess a fairly thin farm system light on both impact and potential trade pieces. On the other hand, the Marlins sport a major league club that is not in a position to compete at present, and that also lacks much in the way of trade pieces capable of strengthening the system and contributing to the competitive Miami club a few years down the line. Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna form a solid outfield around which to build, and another full season of contributions from All-Star second baseman Dee Gordon will help to set the table on the offensive side, but even with the addition of third baseman Brian Anderson in 2017 and perhaps catcher Roy Morales in the next year or two, Miami is still several pieces away from putting together a playoff caliber offense.
On the pitching side, there is no way to ease the pain of losing a transcendent talent and personality like Jose Fernandez (RHP), and the Marlins have their work cut out for them trying to piece together a quality rotation capable of competing with the likes of the Nationals and Mets, not to mention the up-and-coming arms in Atlanta and Philadelphia. Dillon Peters (LHP) has a chance to thrive as a back-end innings eater while Jarlin Garcia (LHP), Drew Steckenrider (RHP), and Andy Beltre (RHP) could all be very useful bullpen pieces in short order. Braxton Garrett (LHP) looms as a potential force, but is likely at least two full seasons from being ready to compete at the upper levels, while Edward Cabrera (RHP) could have mid-rotation upside but has yet to reach full season ball. Cody Poteet (RHP) and Jeff Brigham (RHP) could emerge as potential back-end rotation pieces by 2019 or so.
Tyler Kolek (RHP), Thomas Jones (OF), Isael Soto (OF), and Albert Guaimoro (OF) all come with a fair amount of risk but also a chance to change the outlook of the organization in a hurry if two or three can take a significant developmental step forward over the next season or two. Overall, the Marlins will need to focus on building through the draft and hoping that some of their in-house solutions outperform expectations and push this current core of Marlins’ talent into the realm of competiveness. Otherwise, the organization could be in line for a full-bore, teardown-and-rebuild process in the next three years.
Email Mailbag@2080Baseball.com to submit a question to DeFreitas and Faleris for inclusion in our next mailbag. Tag your tweets with #2080MarlinsChat to discuss on Twitter!