2013 Miami Marlins Top Prospects


System OverviewSporting two of the top prospects in the game — Jose Fernandez and Christian Yelich — the Marlins’ future offers some promise, whether the team spends money for the right complementary players is another question.

Fernandez is a legitimate ace in the making, and Yelich has the tools to become a dynamic All-Star caliber everyday player. Falling in behind them are two other high-upside arms in Justin Nicolino and Andrew Heaney, and young power-hitter Marcell Ozuna. Jake Marisnick and Adam Conley could also develop into above-average big league regulars.


#1. Christian Yelich, Age: 21, Position: LF/CF

Along with Fernandez, Jupiter sported two of the game’s top prospects for a good portion of the season. Yelich, the 23rd overall pick out of Westlake HS (Westlake, CA) in 2010, absolutely destroyed Florida State League pitching, despite being both young for the level and spending half his games in one of the league’s more pitcher friendly parks.

In 106 games, the 20-year-old outfielder hit .330/.404/.519 with 29 doubles, five triples, 12 homeruns and 20 stolen bases (in 26 attempts). His total offensive production, according to Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+), was a staggering 62% better than the league average, the highest mark in the FSL.

Projection: After it became apparent just how much better he was than the league’s competition, Yelich should have spent at least a portion of last season in Double-A. Offensively, he shows true four-tool potential: he hits for average, shows above-average in-game power, runs well, and shows an elite eye at the plate. Defensively, he spent the entire year in center after splitting time in left two years ago. Yelich profiles as an elite, middle-of-the-order bat capable of hitting .300/.400/.500 with 30/30 potential, though he needs to elevate the ball on a more consistent basis (57.1% GB-rate last season).

Ceiling: 6.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Above-Average to Inevitable

#2. Jose Fernandez, Age: 20, Position: RHP

While Baltimore’s Dylan Bundy — and to a lesser extent Seattle’s Taijuan Walker — garnered much of the in-season talk about pitching phenoms, Fernandez quietly put together an equally impressive season, if not more. The former 14th overall pick from two years ago began the year by making 14 starts in Greensboro, throwing 79 innings with 99 punch outs and just 18 free passes. Miami then pushed the young right-hander to High-A for his final 11 starts, which, unsurprisingly, were just as dominant (55 IP, 59 K, and 17 BB).

In total, Fernandez averaged 10.6 K/9 and just 2.4 BB/9 across 134 combined innings, posting a dazzling 2.42 Skill Independent ERA, or SIERA (available on MinorLeagueCentral.com). He also generated an above-average amount of groundballs as well, at 44.8%.

Projection: At this point in his young career there’s really nothing to not like about Fernandez. He’s solidly built (6-foot-3 and 215 pounds), misses plenty of bats, pounds the strike zone, generates plenty of groundballs, and has done so against older competition. And despite his age, 20, he’s likely to earn at least a spot start or two next year. He could very well likely develop into the NL’s top pitcher long before he reaches arbitration.

Ceiling: 6.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Above-Average to Inevitable

Update: During the first seven starts of his professional career, Fernandez is flashing a mid- to upper 90s fastball, a hard mid 80s slider, an 80-ish mph curve, and one of the hard change-ups in the game (85-87 mph).



#3. Marcell Ozuna, Age: 22, Position: RF

Ozuna flew a bit under the radar last season, despite pacing the Florida State League in homeruns, with 24. Overall, the then 21-year-old hit .266/.328/.476 with 27 doubles, a pair of triples, and eight stolen bases. His total production was 26% better than the league average.

Projection: Arguably one of the game’s more underappreciated prospects, Ozuna already displays above-average or better pop, a smattering of speed, a solid eye at the plate, and very reasonable contact rates for a young power hitter. The lone red flag on an otherwise solid 2012 was his struggles against southpaws (.210/.284/.403), though he fared much better two years ago (.294/.344/.571). He looks like a solid bet to become a .260/.330/.500-type hitter, capable of slugging 25+ homeruns and adding 10 or stolen bases.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average

#4. Justin Nicolino, Age: 21, Position: LHP

The centerpiece of the team’s major money-dump with Toronto, Nicolino, a second round pick in 2010, dominated the A-ball competition last season. Throwing 124.1 innings, the rail-thin 6-foot-3 southpaw struck out 119 (8.6 K/9), walked just 21 (1.5 BB/9), and generated a ton of worm-burners (52.8%). He SIERA was a sparkling 2.85.

Projection: It’s a bit surprising that Toronto didn’t move Nicolino to High-A, at least to get his feet wet late in the season. And while he doesn’t project to be a legitimate ace, he should settle in nicely as a good #2/#3-type guy — assuming he can get through the injury nexus.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average


#5. Andrew Heaney, Age: 22, Position: LHP

The second left-hander taken in last June’s draft — and the first collegiate southpaw — Heaney blew away the Big 12 competition during his final season, throwing 118.1 innings with 140 strikeouts (10.65 K/9) and just 22 walks (1.67 BB/9) for Oklahoma State University. He tossed an additional 27 innings in pro ball (30 K and 6 BB).

Projection: Per the usual, any long term projection for recent draft picks and international signings will be withheld until the following season. However, Heaney looks like a good mid-rotation-type guy for now.

Ceiling: Too soon to tell

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: N/A



#6. Jake Marisnick, Age: 22, Position: CF

Part of the seven-player package received in the organization’s latest fire sale, Marisnick began the year in High-A, hoping to build off of an impressive 2011 (.320/.392/.500). In 65 games with the Dunedin Blue Jays, the former 2009 third rounder hit .263/.349/.451, showing solid-average pop (31 extra-base hits), a decent eye at the plate (8.5% BB-rate), and good speed (10 swipes). His total production in the FSL was 27% better than the league average.

Toronto then decided to promote Marisnick to Double-A, and the results were far less impressive. In 55 games (247 PA), he hit .233/.286/.336, while showing very little of his offensive skill set.

Projection: Marisnick has the tools to become an above-average big league regular. He’s typically shown average-ish walk rates, strong contact rates, above-average speed, and good pop. He was simply overmatched by the Eastern League competition, which isn’t all that surprising given his youth. He’s got a good build — 6-foot-4 and 200 lbs. — so his power could take another step forward at some point.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate


#7. Adam Conley, Age: 23, Position: LHP

A second rounder out of Washington State University in 2011, Conley began the year by making 14 starts for the Grasshoppers, throwing 74.1 innings with 84 strikeouts and 24 free passes. His SIERA was an above-average 2.83. The organization then pushed him to High-A, where he saw a drop in K-rate (10.2 K/9 to 8.7 K/9) and a slight downturn in his control (2.9 BB/9 to 3.2 BB/9).

Projection: Conley, despite the ability to miss at bats at this point in his career, looks more like a good mid- to back-rotation-type guy. He generates a ton of groundballs (53.5% last season) and has shown solid-average control, though that’s come against age-appropriate competition.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average


#8. Rob Brantly, Age: 23, Position: C

Acquired as part of the package for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante, Brantly, a lefty-swinging backstop, hit .298/.340/.412 with 24 doubles, one triple and five homeruns before making his big league debut with the Marlins in mid-August (.290/.372/.460).

Projection: A nice little catching prospect, Brantly, depending how his defense grades out, could be a fringe big league regular. He’s typically shown a below-average eye at the plate and power, and has thrown out an average-ish 32% of would-be base stealers.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average


#9. Derek Dietrich, Age: 23, Position: 2B/SS

The former St. Ignatius alum (Cleveland, OH) was acquired from the Rays for troubled shortstop Yunel Escobar. Dietrich, who split his time between High-A and Double-A, hit a combined .279/.338/.457 with 28 doubles, 10 triples, 14 homeruns and four stolen bases. His total offensive production was 23% above the league average.

Projection: Dietrich, a former third round pick out of high school and a second round pick out of Georgia Tech three years later, shows solid-average pop, though it’s decreased at every stop along the way. And his struggles against fellow southpaws in 2012 (.246/.293/.367) came to the forefront as well. He’ll make it to the big leagues at some point, but it won’t be as an everyday player.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate


#10. Brian Flynn, Age: 23, Position: LHP

Huge lefty acquired from the Tigers, Flynn, who stands 6-foot-8, began the year in High-A, missing a decent amount — though far from promising — amount of bats (7.4 BB/9) and generally did a good job limiting free passes (2.8 BB/9). He made an additional nine starts in Double-A, showing a modest decrease in his K-rate (6.3) while his control held firm, at 2.7 BB/9.

Projection: Given the amount of bats he misses and his corresponding draft position, Flynn probably isn’t gifted with a blazing fastball, so his size works to his advantage. He could be a useful backend-type, capable of chewing up a ton of innings while posting a mid-4.00 ERA.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate


#11. Adeiny Hechavarria, Age: 24, Position: SS

Acquired from Toronto, Hechavarria put together his best offensive season to date, hitting .312/.363/.424 with 20 doubles, six triples, six homeruns and eight stolen bases. He was essentially a league average PCL bat.

Projection: Depending how his defense grades out — and it’s probably not above-average given the time spent at second base last year in Triple-A — Hechevarria could be a semi-useful big leaguer, not starting quality, but a solid backup. His bat isn’t likely to be anything special either.

Ceiling: 1.0- to 1.5-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate to Above-Average


#12. Austin Brice, Age: 21, Position: RHP

Brice, a ninth round out of high school in 2010, missed a lot of A-ball bats last season — 122 in 109.2 innings — but was all willy-nilly with the free passes (68, or 5.6 BB/9).

Projection: The good news is that Brice’s walk rate — believe it or not — actually took a noticeable step forward last season, dropping from 6.1 BB/9 to 5.6 BB/9. He was young for the level — and could probably stand another round. He could eventually find some modicum of control but that just seems a long ways off.

Ceiling: 1.5-win (starter); 1.0-win (reliever)

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low (starter); Moderate (reliever)

#13. Austin Barnes, Age: 23, Position: C/IF

A nice little find out in the ninth round out of Arizona State University two years ago, Barnes, who’s debut season was largely underwhelming, showed some offense promise in A-ball last year, hitting .318/.401/.481 with 36 doubles, a trio of triples, a dozen homeruns and nine stolen bases (in 11 attempts). His total offensive production was 45% better than the league average.

Projection: Now the bad, of course. Barnes was a touch old for the Sally League and adding in his collegiate background, it tempers his ceiling quite a bit. Given his positional versatility he could develop into a useful bench player.

Ceiling: 1.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate


#14. Jacob Realmuto, Age: 22, Position: C

A third rounder out of Carl Albert HS (Midwest City, OK) in 2010, Realmuto was a below-average bat in the Florida State League last season (.256/.319/.345), but gunned down 36% of would-be base stealers.

Projection: Realmuto doesn’t really have a standout offensive tool: average eye at the plate, a bit of power, and a smattering a speed. He was young for the level. He could be a useful backup.

Ceiling: 1.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate


#15. Jake Smolinski, Age: 24, Position: OF

After a bit of a disappointing showing in Double-A in 2011 (.245/.342/.364), Smolinski headed back the Southern League last year with better results (.257/.388/.382). His total production was 24% better than the league average.

Projection: Smolinski, a defensive jack of trades, offers up doubles power and a little bit of speed. But it’s his patience at the plate — he walked in 15.6% of his PA in 2012 — that’s the driving force behind his production. There’s probably some big league value here, but not a whole lot.

Ceiling: 1.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate

#16. Charlie Lowell, Age: 22, Position: LHP

The former Wichita State hurler missed a lot of bats (9.6 K/9) during his first full season in pro ball, but walked quite a few as well, at 4.7 BB/9.

Projection: Lowell, who was nabbed in the ninth round two years ago, offered slightly below-average control/command during his collegiate years, so it’s not surprising that he walked so many last year. He’s probably headed for a bullpen role long term.

Ceiling: 0.5- to 1.0-win player

Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Low to Moderate


Photo Courtesy of Matt Burton/MiLB.com


After serving as a video scout/analyst for Baseball Info Solutions, Joe Werner began writing at his original site, ReleasePoints.com. He’s since transitioned into his current niche, prospect analysis, at ProspectDigest.com. He has been fortunate — and incredibly blessed — to have some of his work published and mentioned by several major media outlets, including: ESPN, Cleveland.com and the Baseball Research Journal. He can be reached at: JosephMWerner@yahoo.com.