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The 2015 Miami Marlins Top 10 Prospects

Announcement: For my analysis – including Ranking the Top 250 Prospects, Ranking the Farm systems, and in-depth commentary for over 900 minor leaguers – check out my book, The 2015 Prospect Digest Handbook, now available on Amazon!

 

For an explanation on the CAL, the Comparison And Likeness prospect classification system I derived, click here.

 

 

1. Tyler Kolek, RHP

Born: 12/15/95 Age: 19 Height: 6-5   Weight: 260   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: N/A
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 18 R 22.0 4.50 3.92 7.4 18.2% 5.3 13.1% 0.00 54.1%

Background: More than a decade after prep star Colt Griffin shocked the baseball industry by touching triple-digits on the radar gun, Kolek, another big Texas-born right-hander, caused scouts from far-and-wide to flock down to little Shepherd HS, a program the previously produced zero draft picks. Equipped with the best fastball in the entire 2014 draft class, Kolek barely broke a sweat pitching for the Pirates during his senior year. Of his 10 starts, the 6-foot-5 right-hander struck out at least 10 in every start and tallied an absurd 126 punch outs in just 60.1 innings, or 18.8 punch outs per nine innings.

After the Astros grabbed – and would later fail to sign – prep southpaw Brady Aiken, the Marlins tabbed Kolek as the second overall pick last June and signed him to a $6 million bonus, a little more than $800,000 less than the allotted amount. Kolek would toss another 22.0 innings in the Gulf Coast League, where he would strikeout 18 and walk 13.

Projection: Big, big time front-of-the-rotation potential, which is something that was thrust upon Colt Griffin as well. Griffin, as it’s now well known, flamed out in the minor leagues and never made it above Class AA. And what adds a level of complexity to Kolek’s development is the fact he possesses such a dominant, overpowering fastball that he likely didn’t need secondary offerings to succeed. For now, though, Marlins fans can dream upon a rotation fronted by Jose Fernandez and Kolek.

Ceiling:  Too Soon to Tell

Risk:  N/A

MLB ETA:  N/A

 

 

2. Adam Conley, LHP

Born: 05/24/90 Age: 25 Height: 6-3   Weight: 215   B/T: L/L                                                          
Top CALs: Kea Kometani, Scott Diamond, Vin Mazzaro, Frankie De La Cruz, Kyle Lobstein
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 22 A 74.3 2.78 3.07 10.2 27.9% 2.9 8.0% 0.48 68.9%
2012 22 A+ 52.7 4.44 2.60 8.7 21.9% 3.3 8.2% 0.00 63.3%
2013 23 AA 138.7 3.25 2.66 8.4 22.2% 2.4 6.4% 0.45 67.8%
2014 24 AAA 60.0 6.00 4.20 7.2 18.1% 3.9 9.8% 0.45 59.0%

Background: The promising southpaw trio of Andrew Heaney, Justin Nicolino, and Adam Conley was broken up as the team dealt away the highly rated Heaney as part of the Dee Gordon deal with the Dodgers. Entering the 2014 season, Conley seemed poised to break through the big league threshold as he was coming off of an impressive – and borderline dominant – showing in the Southern League.  In 26 games (25 starts) with Jacksonville, the 6-foot-3 lefty posted a 129-to-37 strikeout-to-walk ratio to go along with the league’s second best FIP (2.66). All the pieces seemed to be in place for a possible big league emergence in 2015. But Conley, the club’s second round pick out of Washington State in 2011, battled elbow tendonitis and was limited to just 60.0 innings in the PCL, where he would average 7.2 strikeouts and 3.9 walks per nine innings.

Projection: Heading into 2015 I pegged the promising southpaw as a mid-rotation caliber arm. He had a long history of above-average strikeout rates and good groundball totals with solid control. Miami already runs five – and potentially seven – arms deep in the rotation (Jose Fernandez, Henderson Alvarez, Mat Latos, Jarred Cosart, Tom Koehler, Dan Haren, and David Phelps) so Conley could get pushed into a bullpen role to help out the big league club. Still think he could ultimately slide into a #4-type role.

Ceiling:  1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk:  Low to Moderate

MLB ETA:  2015

 

 

3. Jose Urena, RHP

Born: 09/12/91 Age: 23 Height: 6-2   Weight: 195   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: Todd Redmond, Tim Berry, Zeke Spruill, Ryan Merritt, James Parr
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2011 19 A- 72.7 4.33 4.07 5.9 15.2% 3.6 9.2% 0.50 67.7%
2012 20 A 138.3 3.38 3.99 6.6 17.7% 1.9 5.1% 0.85 68.5%
2013 21 A+ 149.7 3.73 3.21 6.4 17.3% 1.7 4.7% 0.48 66.4%
2014 22 AA 162.0 3.33 3.39 6.7 18.6% 1.6 4.5% 0.78 72.7%

Background: For the third consecutive season the 6-foot-2 Dominican-born right-hander finished the year with an ERA and FIP in the 3.0s, a walk rate below 2.0, and a sub-7.0 strikeout rate. Urena found himself in Class AA for the first time in 2014, where he would toss a career-high 162.0 innings while posting a 121-to-29 strikeout-to-walk ratio. For his career, he’s averaged 6.5 strikeouts and 1.9 free passes per nine innings while posting a solid 3.60 ERA.

Projection: I made a brief comparison between Urena and rotation-mate Justin Nicolino in last year’s book; the difference being that the latter missed many more bats in the low levels of the minors. Well, their two paths converged once again in 2015. Whereas Nicolino’s K-rate crashed, Urena’s held steady. Impeccable control, good groundball numbers, and another backend of the rotation type arm. Both Urena and Nicolino could be among the first reinforcements when injuries strike the big league rotation.

Ceiling:  1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  2015

 

 

4. Justin Nicolino, LHP

Born: 11/22/91 Age: 23 Height: 6-3   Weight: 190   B/T: L/L                                                          
Top CALs: Zeke Spruill, Blake Beavan, Matt Harrison, B.J. Hermsen, Kyle Kaminska
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2012 20 A 124.3 2.46 2.70 8.6 24.0% 1.5 4.2% 0.43 74.7%
2013 21 A+ 96.7 2.23 3.08 6.0 16.6% 1.7 4.7% 0.37 79.3%
2013 21 AA 45.3 4.96 3.04 6.2 15.1% 2.4 5.9% 0.40 64.7%
2014 22 AA 170.3 2.85 3.44 4.3 11.8% 1.1 2.9% 0.53 68.8%

Background: Part of the club’s return from their most recent salary dump, Nicolino, who was acquired with Henderson Alvarez, Anthony DeSclafani, Yunel Escobar, Adeiny Hechavarria, Jake Marisnick, and Jeff Mathis, is the lone holdover in the 12-player trade who was yet to make the big leagues. Nicolino, for his part, spent the entire year in the Southern League, where he finished with lowest walk percentage, 2.9%, and a steady 3.44 FIP in a career high 170.1 innings pitched, though his production is marred by a strikeout percentage under 12.0%. For his career, the 6-foot-3 southpaw owns an impeccable 2.64 ERA while averaging 6.7 strikeouts and curmudgeon-like 1.5 walks per nine innings.

Projection: In last year’s book I wrote,

“Above-average or better control/command, easily tops in the system. But I’m always hesitant when pitchers post well below-average strikeout numbers. There are plenty of pitchers to succeed, but the margin for error is so tiny. A #3/#4-type arm.”

 Nicolino’s already questionable strikeout totals – he averaged 6.0 K/9 in 2013 – took a turn for the worse last season as it dropped to one of the lower rates in the minors. But he’s still succeeding in one of the most challenging minor league environments. He still has a chance to develop into a good backend starting pitcher, but there’s a ton of risk. And, really, what separates Nicolino from someone like Jeremy Sowers, who ended his brief big league career with 3.9 strikeouts and 3.0 walks per nine innings?

Ceiling:  1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  2015

 

 

5. Austin Dean, LF

Born: 10/14/93 Age: 21 Height: 6-1   Weight: 190   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: Zoilo Almonte, Josh Roberts, David Bote, Jorge Bonifacio, Matthew Sulentic
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 18 R 182 .223 .337 .338 .675 .115 13.2% 19.2% 108
2013 19 A- 231 .268 .325 .418 .743 .150 7.4% 20.3% 125
2013 19 A 26 .200 .346 .400 .746 .200 15.4% 19.2% 117
2014 20 A 449 .308 .371 .444 .815 .136 8.5% 16.0% 128

Background: Dean, a 2012 fourth round pick out of Klein Collins HS, took nearly two full seasons to get to full season ball, but based off of his numbers it seemed worth the wait. After a subpar showing in the Gulf three years ago (.223/.337/.338) and a strong campaign in the short-season ball in 2013, Dean put together his finest year to date: he batted .308/.371/.444 with 20 doubles, four triples, nine homeruns, and four stolen bases en route to finishing with a 128 wRC+.

Projection: In last year’s book I wrote,

“[Dean] stroked a 20% line-drive rate [in 2013]. Combine that with his size and doubles power, [he] could develop 20-HR power down the line. I like him, probably more than most, but he’s one to watch in the coming years.”

Dean continued to take offensive steps forward in 2014, proving himself against full season hurlers. Average walk rate with strong contact skills, his power still grades out as slightly below-average, though he did post a 23% line-drive rate, tops in his career. But if you pro-rate his extra-base hits over a 162-game season his numbers from last season would be: 32 doubles, 7 triples, and 15 homeruns. He still looks like a fringy big league regular, but there could be a little more projection left here.

Ceiling:  1.5- to 2.0-win player

Risk:  Moderate to High

MLB ETA:  2018

 

 

6. Avery Romero, 2B

Born: 05/11/93 Age: 22 Height: 5-8   Weight: 190   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: Greg Garcia, Carter Burgess, Jason Vosler, Luis Parache, Tom King
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2012 19 R 139 .223 .309 .347 .656 .124 7.2% 15.1% 101
2013 20 A- 235 .297 .357 .411 .769 .115 6.4% 14.5% 133
2014 21 A 399 .320 .366 .429 .795 .109 6.3% 11.8% 124
2014 21 A+ 108 .320 .370 .400 .770 .080 6.5% 12.0% 123

Background: A short, stocky prospect without a true position, Romero has seemingly (for now) settled in at the keystone after having spent time at the hot corner and shortstop. Romero, a former third round pick, split time between Greensboro and Jupiter last season, totaling a .320/.367/.423 triple-slash line with career bests in doubles (31), triples (1), homeruns (5), and stolen bases (10). His overall production topped the league average production by 23%.

Projection: In last year’s book I wrote,

“The walk rates have been all over the place thus far, but it should be an average skill at the very least. Intriguing power potential as a position up the middle, something like 10 to 15 dingers and 25 doubles. I just don’t think Romero develops into a league average regular, though.”

After a slow start during his debut in the Gulf, Romero’s done nothing but hit and get on-base at a solid clip. Fringy big league regular potential with average across the board tools.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  2017

 

 

7. Trevor Williams, RHP

Born: 04/25/92 Age: 23 Height: 6-3   Weight: 228   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: Blake Johnson, J.R. Graham, Keith Couch, Tommy Milone, Shane Wolf
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 21 A- 29.0 2.48 2.65 6.2 16.1% 2.5 6.5% 0.00 62.9%
2014 22 A+ 129.0 2.79 3.17 6.3 16.8% 2.0 5.4% 0.35 73.8%
2014 22 AA 15.0 6.00 2.52 8.4 19.7% 3.6 8.5% 0.00 57.1%

Background: Entering his junior season at Arizona State, Williams, a 6-foot-3, 228-pound right-hander, was coming off of back-to-back years in which he posted a sub-1.90 ERA in nearly 140 innings. But the California-born hurler got battered around during the 2013 season – his walk rate, which was less than a free pass per nine innings, more than doubled and his ERA spiked to an unthinkable (at least for him) 4.14 ERA. But it was arguably his finest season. His strikeout rate jumped to 6.57 K/9 and he tossed a career best 111.1 innings of work while surrendering five fewer homeruns.

The Marlins grabbed Williams in the second round, 44th overall, in 2013. And after a quick jaunt through the Gulf Coast, New York-Penn, and the Sally, he opened the 2014 season with Jupiter in the Florida State League, where he would toss 129.0 innings while averaging 6.3 strikeouts and 2.0 free passes per nine innings. He also got a handful of starts in the Southern League.

Projection: Prior to the 2013 draft I wrote,

“He pounds the zone and knows how to pitch, both of which will help him make it to the big leagues. But Williams is another one of those safe, low ceiling/high floor pitchers in the class. He’s very reminiscent of another former ASU hurler, Cincinnati’s Mike Leake. The ceiling, however, is low because the production is rather blah.”

In his year-plus in the minors, he’s doing nothing to dissuade me from that original analysis. He’s a safe #5-type arm who could find himself in Miami before mid-2016.

Ceiling:  1.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  2016

 

 

8. J.T. Realmuto, C

Born: 03/18/91 Age: 24 Height: 6-1   Weight: 215   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: A.J. Jimenez, Chris Herrmann, J.R. Murphy, Austin Romine, Blake Swihart
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2011 20 A 381 .284 .345 .451 .796 0.167 6.8% 20.5% 119
2012 21 A+ 499 .256 .319 .345 .664 0.090 7.4% 12.8% 90
2013 22 AA 416 .239 .310 .353 .663 0.114 8.7% 16.3% 93
2014 23 AA 423 .299 .369 .461 .830 0.163 9.7% 13.9% 132

Background: It took Realmuto two seasons and a repeat performance in the Southern League, but the former third round pick finally was able to capture the offensive form he displayed in the Sally in 2011, where he hit .287/.347/.454 with 16 doubles, a pair of triples, and 12 homeruns. The 6-foot-1 backstop followed that up with a pair of slightly below-average offensive performances in High Class A and Class AA. Last year, Realmuto put together his finest season to date, hitting .299/.369/.461 with career highs in doubles (25), triples (6) and stolen bases (18), while slugging eight dingers and posting a 132 wRC+. Miami called him up for two weeks in June and then again later in September.

Projection: Coming off of those two down years, I wrote the following in last year’s book:

“Average offensive tools across the board with some defensive value. Knowing the Marlins, Realmuto will spend a couple years as a below-average everyday player before sliding into a role better suited (i.e. part-time duty).”

The club has Jarrod Saltalamacchia under contract through the end of 2016, and with no other catchers of value in the upper minors Realmuto could conceivably slide into the starting role in two years. He’s going to add some value on the defensive side of the ball, where he’s thrown out nearly 40% of would-be base stealers in his career. I pegged him as a 1.5-win player last year, and despite the reemergence with the stick I’d still stick with that.

Ceiling:  1.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  Debuted in 2014

 

 

9. Kendry Flores, RHP

Born: 11/24/91 Age: 23 Height: 6-2   Weight: 175   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: Wesley Parsons, Luis Cessa, John Tomlin, Egan Smith, Luis Cruz
YEAR Age Level IP ERA FIP K/9 K% BB/9 BB% HR/9 LOB%
2011 19 A- 48.0 5.06 4.01 8.8 22.1% 2.6 6.6% 0.94 58.8%
2012 20 A- 42.3 4.46 3.73 7.2 18.5% 2.3 6.0% 0.85 58.7%
2013 21 A 141.7 2.73 3.00 8.7 24.9% 1.1 3.1% 0.70 73.4%
2014 22 A+ 105.7 4.09 4.40 9.5 25.1% 2.7 7.2% 1.19 68.4%

Background: The runner-up for the lowest walk percentage in the South Atlantic League in 2013, Flores saw that percentage balloon to…gasp…7.2% in the California League. He would finish the 2014 campaign by fanning 25.1% of the total batters he faced, tying his previously established career best. Miami acquired the control artist along with Luis Castillo from the Giants as a sell-high deal on Casey McGehee.

Projection:  CAL links the lanky right-hander to one interesting name – Josh Tomlin, who also made his way through the minor leagues with pinpoint control and saw a huge spike in his K% in his stint in High Class A. Flores looks to be a pitcher in a similar mold, perhaps with a slightly higher upside. Future #4, but he needs to prove his worth in Class AA in 2015.

Ceiling:  1.5-win player

Risk:  Moderate

MLB ETA:  2016

 

 

10. Blake Anderson, C

Born: 01/05/96 Age: 19 Height: 6-3   Weight: 180   B/T: R/R                                                          
Top CALs: N/A
YEAR Age LVL PA AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 18 R 94 .108 .287 .135 .422 .027 12.8% 35.1% 48

Background: Miami’s second first round selection last June, 36th overall, Anderson hails from West Lauderdale HS, home to a trio of big leaguers: Jamie Brown, Paul Phillips, and veteran right-hander Jay Powell. Anderson, a 6-foot-3, 180-pound backstop, made just 94 trips to the plate during his debut in the Gulf Coast last year, hitting a paltry .108/.287/.135 with just two extra-base knocks – both doubles.

Projection: Very short sample size, but Anderson’s first foray into pro ball was quite disappointing. He fanned in 35.1% of his plate appearances, showed zero power, and posted a .190 BABIP, which would suggest a lot of weak contact. He’s probably headed back to the rookie leagues for a full season in 2015.

Ceiling:  Too Soon to Tell

Risk:  N/A

MLB ETA: N/A

 

 

**All Statistics Courtesy of FanGraphs**

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



About

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.


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