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The 2016 Miami Marlins Top 10 Prospects

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1. Tyler Kolek, RHP                                                   
Born: 12/15/95 Age: 20 Bats: R Top CALs: Brian Gonzalez, Matt Kretzschmar,

Juan Minaya, Fabian Jimenez-Angulo, Shawn Morimando

Height: 6-5 Weight: 260 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2014 18 R 22.0 0 3 4.50 3.92 7.36 5.32 18.2% 13.1% 0.00 54.1%
2015 19 A 108.7 4 10 4.56 4.87 6.71 5.05 16.2% 12.2% 0.58 65.0%

Background: Possessing one of the biggest right arms in the minors didn’t exactly add up to a dominant 2015 performance for the former second overall pick. Kolek, who’s sometimes triple-digit fastball caused scout and front office personnel to flock in droves to little Shepherd High School in Texas two years ago, jumped up to the South Atlantic League last season where he posted a mediocre 81-to-61 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 108.2 innings of work. In other words, he fanned just 16.2% and walked 12.2% of the total batters he faced last season. And those numbers aren’t that much different than those during his debut in the Gulf Coast League two years ago either (18.2% K% and 13.1% BB%).

Projection: Personally, I always find it troublesome – though it’s not always proven – when incoming high prep picks fail to perform at an above-average level in lowest rookie leagues, something that could be said about Kolek’s debut in the GCL two years ago. And after another so-so year in 2015, Kolek’s still no closer to capitalizing on his God-given talent.

But here’s something incredibly bothersome: Kolek and his 100 mph fastball made 25 starts in 2015; of those games, the big Texas-born right-hander averaged more than one punch out per inning seven times. That’s it, seven times. Or in other words, that’s 28% of his starts. Yes, he still has the potential to peak as a front-end starting pitcher, but he needs to start taking some dramatic leaps forward in the next year or two.

Ceiling: 3.5-win player

Risk: High

MLB ETA: 2018

 

2. Josh Naylor, 1B                                                        
Born: 06/22/97 Age: 19 Bats: L Top CALs: Luis Bandes, Telmito Agustin,

Wilson Ramos, Yonathan Mejia, Brandon Drury

Height: 6-1 Weight: 225 Throws: L
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2015 18 R 105 4 1 1 0.327 0.352 0.418 0.092 3.8% 10.5% 130

Background: Never one to shy away from taking high-ceiling prep players at any point in the amateur draft, Miami grabbed the hulking first baseman out of St. Joan of Arc Catholic SS with the 12th overall selection last June. The front office, per the usual, sent Naylor down to the Gulf Coast League for his debut – a largely successful debut. He slugged .327/.352/.418 with four doubles, one triple, and one homerun with a 130 wRC+.

Projection: One of the Golden Rules when it comes to prep players is to avoid taking first basemen in the opening rounds, largely because they’re viewed as un-athletic and will provide no value on the defensive side of the ball. So it’s not surprising that Naylor was the first prep first baseman taken in the opening round since Dominic Smith in 2013. Anyway, he wasn’t particularly patient at the plate last season, nor did he flash a whole lot of power at any point. But, most importantly, he didn’t look overwhelmed with the transition to wood bats either.

Ceiling: Too Soon to Tell

Risk: N/A

MLB ETA: N/A

 

3. K.J. Woods, 1B/LF                                                   
Born: 07/09/95 Age: 20 Bats: L Top CALs: Bobby Bradley, Michael Burgess,

Telvin Nash, Nelson Rodriguez, Tyler O’Neill

Height: 6-3 Weight: 230 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2013 17 R 168 4 0 1 0.201 0.310 0.250 0.049 10.1% 31.5% 78
2014 18 A- 117 6 1 1 0.219 0.282 0.324 0.105 6.8% 28.2% 77
2015 19 A 439 28 1 18 0.277 0.364 0.496 0.219 10.3% 30.3% 143

Background: The Marlins unearthed their latest gem in the fourth round in 2013, signing him to a deal worth in excess of $500,000. And after struggling mightily during his first two professional seasons – he “slugged” .201/.310/.250 during his debut in the Gulf Coast and followed that up with a .226/.287/.323 showing between the rookie league and Batavia two years ago – Woods had a massive breakout party in 2015, his first – and only – stint in the South Atlantic League. In 104 games with Greensboro, Woods mashed to the tune of .277/.364/.496 with 28 doubles, one three-bagger, and 18 homeruns. His overall production, according Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average production by a whopping 43% last season – the second best total among all qualified hitters in the Sally.

Projection: First, some context as to just how dominant Woods’ 2015 season was:

  • The next highest Weighted Runs Created Plus total by a 19-year-old in the Sally last season was Colorado’s Forrest Wall, who tallied a 125 wRC+.
  • The last time a 19-year-old bat posted a wRC+ above Woods’ 143 was three years ago when Texas’ Joey Gallo and Nick Williams exceed the total (163 and 148, respectively).
  • Woods’ 18 homeruns finished second in the league, trailing only teammate Arturo Rodriguez who appeared in 21 games.

Second, Woods’ overall production was actually far better through his first 77 games: he batted .293/.375/.541 with 23 doubles, one triple, and 15 homeruns through August 3rd. He would string together a lowly .230/.336/.370 over his final 27 games. So more context (of course): it’s common for a teenage player to struggle down the stretch in their first exposure in full-season ball. Take for example Jake Bauers: two years ago he slugged .354/.429/.523 in his first 55 contests, but batted .242/.325/.313 over his final 57 games. Bauers would follow that up with one of the biggest breakouts in 2015.

Third, the Greensboro Grasshoppers’ home field, NewBridge Bank Park (yes, NewBridge is one word), is an incredibly favorable ballpark for hitters. According to StatCorner, Woods’ park adjusted triple-slash line drops from .277/.364/.496 to a .266/.361/.455 – which, by itself, is a strong showing for a 19-year-old in the Sally. More evidence of the ballparks offense-inducing environment: Woods’ home/road splits were .289/.366/.510 vs. .261/.363/.455.

Taking each of the three into account, Woods is a fine prospect, one that should be getting more notoriety. But there is some added risk though, especially since he hasn’t performed like this in years past. Finally, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Woods handle High Class A with relative ease – even if his production takes a small step backwards.

Ceiling: 2.5- to 3.0-win player

Risk: High

MLB ETA: 2018

 

4. Stone Garrett, CF                                                     
Born: 11/22/95 Age: 20 Bats: R Top CALs: Joseph Monge, Elvis Escobar,

Keury De La Cruz, Bralin Jackson, Dylan Cozens

Height: 6-2 Weight: 195 Throws: R
 

Season Age LVL PA 2B 3B HR AVG OBP SLG ISO BB% K% wRC+
2014 18 R 156 3 1 0 0.236 0.269 0.270 0.034 4.5% 19.9% 58
2015 19 A- 247 18 6 11 0.297 0.352 0.581 0.284 7.7% 24.3% 167

Background: Hailing from George Ranch High School in Richmond, Texas, two years ago, Garrett, a former eighth round pick, rebounded from a poor showing in the Gulf Coast League by slugging an impressive .297/.352/.581 with 18 doubles, six triples, and 11 homeruns in 58 games with Batavia. His overall production, per Weighted Runs Created Plus, topped the league average mark by 67%.

Projection: Granted it was just short-season ball, but here are Garrett’s numbers pro-rated over a 162-game season: 50 doubles, 17 triples, and 31 bombs. Yeah, that’ll play. The power is absolute premium, particularly coming from the center field position, but Garrett’s strikeout rate crept up to red flag territory last season as he posted a 24.3% total. Average eye, a little bit of speed, but the power could encroach the 25-HR mark in the coming years.

Ceiling: 2.5-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2019

 

5. Kendry Flores, RHP                                           
Born: 11/24/91 Age: 24 Bats: R Top CALs: Robert Ray, Robert Rohrbaugh,

Ronnie Martinez, Jeff Manship, Chad Rogers

Height: 6-2 Weight: 175 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 21 A 141.7 10 6 2.73 3.00 8.70 1.08 24.9% 3.1% 0.70 73.4%
2014 22 A+ 105.7 4 6 4.09 4.40 9.54 2.73 25.1% 7.2% 1.19 68.4%
2015 23 A+ 2.7 0 0 0.00 2.42 3.38 0.00 11.1% 0.0% 0.00 100.0%
2015 23 AA 56.7 3 3 2.06 3.41 6.67 2.38 19.9% 7.1% 0.48 78.6%
2015 23 AAA 58.7 3 2 2.61 3.60 6.44 2.15 18.0% 6.0% 0.46 75.3%

Background: Kudos to Miami and their front office for extracting a year of league average production from Casey McGehee and then flipping the big league veteran – and his BABIP inflated triple-slash line – last offseason to San Francisco in exchange for anything of value, let alone acquiring Kendry Flores and Luis Castillo. Flores, a wiry 6-foot-2, 175-pound right-hander out of the Dominican Republic, made stops at four different levels in 2015 – though they weren’t in the typical ascending order. Flores opened the year up with nine starts in the Southern League before getting promoted up to Miami for a pair of relief stints. He then got sent down to the Pacific Coast League for 10 starts before getting recalled back up to The Show for another five games. And then he got sent all the way back down to Jupiter after missing a couple weeks. Overall, Flores finished his minor league campaign with 118.0 innings while averaging 6.5 punch outs and just 2.2 walks per nine innings. And in both his stints with the Marlins he would tally 12.2 innings with a 9-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Projection: Sporting a fringy 90 mph fastball – as well as a slider, cutter, curveball, and changeup – Flores’ success is predicated on doing the small things: limiting free passes, surrendering the occasional (not frequent) homerun, and getting a little bit of action on the ground. He’s another one of these backend starters.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015

 

6. Brett Lilek, LHP                                                       
Born: 08/10/93 Age: 22 Bats: L Top CALs: Ralph Garza, Brandon Leibrandt,

Jordan Zimmermann, Austin Wright, Jess Todd

Height: 6-4 Weight: 194 Throws: L
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2015 21 A- 35.0 1 2 3.34 2.20 11.06 1.80 30.7% 5.0% 0.26 66.5%

Background: A two-year member of Arizona State’s rotation, the 6-foot-4, 195-pound southpaw battled control issues during tenure with the Sun Devils. He averaged 4.18 walks per nine innings as a sophomore and 4.69 free passes per nine innings as a junior. Miami grabbed Lilek with the 50th overall pick last June. Lo and behold, his control issues all but disappeared once he entered professional baseball. In 35.0 innings with Batavia in the New York-Penn League, Lilek posted a dominant 43-to-7 strikeout-to-walk ratio en route to tallying a 3.34 ERA and 2.20 FIP.

Projection: It wasn’t just an uptick in control, Lilek looked like a completely different hurler during his debut – granted, he only turned over the line a handful of times during his debut. He’s not particularly overpowering – especially if you focus on his work in college – but he might be able to carve out a role as a #5-type arm in a couple years.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate

MLB ETA: 2018

 

7. Austin Brice, RHP                                                     
Born: 06/19/92 Age: 24 Bats: R Top CALs: Jake Brigham, Ryan Chaffee,

Alexander Smit, Rob Rasmussen, Adam Ottavino

Height: 6-4 Weight: 205 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 21 A 113.0 8 11 5.73 5.33 8.84 6.53 20.5% 15.2% 0.88 65.5%
2014 22 A+ 127.3 8 9 3.60 3.79 7.70 3.89 19.8% 10.0% 0.35 66.3%
2015 23 AA 125.3 6 9 4.67 4.36 9.12 4.95 22.8% 12.4% 0.79 67.4%

Background: An enigmatic hard-throwing right-hander taken in the ninth round out of Northwood High School in 2010, Brice continued to offer up glimpses as a mid-rotation caliber arm – when all things were clicking. Otherwise, he looked like a potential late-inning wild card. Brice, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound hurler, has long been on the system’s list of most intriguing arms since his 2011 season with the Gulf Coast; he would average 10.2 strikeouts and just 6.1 walks per nine innings. Brice would follow that up with a plethora of punch outs and a high walk rate in each of the following two seasons. But he seemed to take a noticeable step forward two years ago with Jupiter when he walked a career best 10.0% of the total batters he faced. Brice’s control would regress back to his previous lows as the club bounced him up Class AA.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in last year’s book:

“Brice could be a backend starting pitcher, though his best shot at being a serviceable big league arm would be best taking the bullpen path. He’s going to need another season in which he posts a sub-4.0 walk rate before I start to believe, but there’s a little bit of upside here.”

After averaging 5.0 free passes per nine innings last season, it’s clear Brice’s future is now as a potential late-inning relief arm. But it’d be prudent to wait one more season in hopes that Brice can figure it out during his age-24 season. Again there’s plenty of potential here – he fanned 13 and walked 1 in an eight-inning, one-hitter against Biloxi last June – and it’s not like the Marlins plan on contending any time soon.

Ceiling: 2.0-win player

Risk: High

MLB ETA: 2017

 

8. Nick Wittgren, RHP                                                 
Born: 05/29/91 Age: 25 Bats: R Top CALs: Bryan Woodall, Fernando Abad,

Brandon Workman, Anthony Desclafani, Hector Noesi

Height: 6-3 Weight: 210 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 22 A+ 54.3 2 1 0.83 1.97 9.77 1.66 27.6% 4.7% 0.17 89.4%
2013 22 AA 4.0 0 0 0.00 0.91 9.00 0.00 30.8% 0.0% 0.00 100.0%
2014 23 AA 66.0 5 5 3.55 3.40 7.64 1.91 20.0% 5.0% 0.82 72.0%
2015 24 AA 1.7 0 0 0.00 -0.30 16.20 0.00 60.0% 0.0% 0.00 100.0%
2015 24 AAA 62.3 1 6 3.03 3.23 9.24 1.16 25.5% 3.2% 0.87 76.8%

Background: A ninth round pick out of Purdue University in 2012, Wittgren continued his rapid – and highly successful – rise through the minor leagues last season. The former Boilermaker blew through two levels during his debut, the New York-Penn and South Atlantic Leagues, posting an impeccable 47-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in just 30.2 innings of work. The 6-foot-3, 210-pound right-hander followed that up with another two stops in 2013 – albeit the second stop, the Southern League, was just a late-season promotion. But he continued to show little regression during sophomore campaign: 58.1 IP, 63 K, and just 10 walks. Miami would keep the relief stalwart with Jupiter the entire 2014 season as he saw a noticeable downturn in his strikeout rate; he fanned just 20.0% of the total batters he faced, by far the worst mark of his career. Wittgren would open 2015 back in Class AA, though it lasted just two games, before earning a trip to New Orleans in the Pacific Coast League.

Projection: Here’s what I wrote in my first book two years ago:

“Nice strikeout ability, solid groundball rates and pinpoint control. Not sure if Wittgren will ever ascend to closer status in the big leagues, but he should be a solid setup man for quite a while.”

I followed that up by writing the following in last year’s book:

“Not particularly overpowering in the typical sense. Wittgren combines a solid ability to miss bats and a premium ability to limit free passes. The Marlins have spent part of the last couple of months reworking the pen, so Wittgren will likely have to bide his time until injuries strike.”

Well, that time never came – obviously. But Wittgren is big league ready, and he could ascend to a seventh/eighth-inning role like…yesterday. He still limits walks, misses quite a few bats, and his groundball rate has been hovering around 45% to 50% over the past couple years. I like him…a lot. And with a big league bullpen with as little name-power as the Marlins – it’s literally like opening a phonebook and throwing your finger down – Wittgren will – hopefully – get his big league opportunity.

Ceiling: 1.0- to 1.5-win player

Risk: Low to Moderate

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015

 

 

9. Brian Ellington, RHP                                                   MiLB Rank: N/A

                                                                                                                                                             Position Rank: N/A

Born: 08/04/90 Age: 25 Bats: R Top CALs: Brad Meyers, Chris Leroux,

Jose Guzman, Luis Perdomo, Jose Flores

Height: 6-4 Weight: 195 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 22 R 3.0 0 0 0.00 3.79 12.00 9.00 30.8% 23.1% 0.00 100.0%
2013 22 A- 19.3 1 2 3.72 2.79 9.78 4.19 24.4% 10.5% 0.00 50.0%
2013 22 A 42.7 3 2 4.64 5.38 5.70 4.85 13.9% 11.9% 0.63 67.9%
2014 23 A+ 47.3 2 2 4.75 3.29 10.65 4.56 25.8% 11.1% 0.38 66.5%
2015 24 AA 43.0 4 1 2.51 2.09 9.84 2.72 27.8% 7.7% 0.00 69.1%
2015 24 AAA 1.3 0 0 0.00 2.10 6.75 0.00 25.0% 0.0% 0.00 100.0%

Background: Interesting fact about the University of West Florida: Since the school’s first MLB draft pick in 1982, 24th rounder Thomas Cruz, only three players have been selected within the top 500 picks (LeDarious Clark, Jordan DeLorenzo, and Brian Ellington). And it took Ellington, the 497th overall pick in 2012, parts of just four seasons to make his way up to the big leagues. The 6-foot-4, 195-pound right-hander split his 2015 season between Jacksonville – where he would post a 47-to-13 strikeout-to-walk ratio – and Miami. During his time with the Marlins, Ellington would throw another 25.0 innings, fanning 17.1% and walking 12.4% of the total hitters he faced. For his minor league career, the big hurler has averaged 9.1 punch outs and 4.7 walks per nine innings to go along with a 3.62 ERA.

Projection: And here’s how a former 16th round pick hailing from a small school with a minor league walk rate approaching 5.0 BB/9 gets an extended look in the big leagues: his fastball averaged nearly 97 mph. He complemented that with a low-80s curveball and a hard, seldom-used changeup. Ellington’s control took a dramatic leap forward with Jacksonville (2.7 BB/9), but he really struggled with Miami. He has ability to develop into an above-average setup man, maybe even ascending to the club’s closer role, but he needs to limit the walks.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: Debuted in 2015

10. Luis Castillo, RHP                                           MiLB Rank: N/A

                                                                                                                                                             Position Rank: N/A

Born: 12/12/92 Age: 23 Bats: R Top CALs: Kevin Comer, Dan Griffin,

Braden Shipley, Carlos Contreras, Brandon Barker

Height: 6-2 Weight: 170 Throws: R
 

YEAR Age Level IP W L ERA FIP K/9 BB/9 K% BB% HR/9 LOB%
2013 20 R 28.3 0 1 0.64 1.12 10.80 0.95 32.1% 2.8% 0.00 73.7%
2014 21 A 58.7 2 2 3.07 4.00 10.13 3.84 25.8% 9.8% 0.92 80.2%
2015 22 A 63.3 4 3 2.98 2.74 8.95 2.70 23.9% 7.2% 0.14 70.4%
2015 22 A+ 43.7 2 3 3.50 3.67 6.39 2.89 17.0% 7.7% 0.62 76.6%

Background: Also acquired from the Giants in Miami’s savvy dump of Casey McGehee last offseason. Castillo continued his methodical move through the low levels of the minors, splitting last season between Greensboro and Jupiter. In a career best 107.0 innings, the 6-foot-2, 170-pound right-hander fanned 94, walked 33, and posted an aggregate 3.20 ERA.

Projection: The deal to swap out Casey McGehee for Kendry Flores and Luis Castillo was enough. But Miami took it to a whole other level when they started transitioning the full-time reliever into a first time starting pitcher. And the results were…intriguing. Over his 16 starts, six coming in the Sally and the rest occurring in the Florida State League, Castillo tossed 76.1 innings while posting a 2.48 ERA and a 60-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio. There’s some sneaky upside as a backend starter – albeit there’s some obvious risk as well.

Ceiling: 1.5-win player

Risk: Moderate to High

MLB ETA: 2018

 

 

Note: All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.com.



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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