OMAHA, NE - JUNE 29: Starting pitcher Rob Rasmussen #27 of the UCLA Bruins pitches against the South Carolina Gamecocks during game 2 of the men's 2010 NCAA College Baseball World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium on June 29, 2010 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Last week's set of prospects included a trio of high-ceiling prospects dominating the lower levels of the minors, an untested hard-throwing starter, and a nearly major league-ready infielder. The next five best prospects in the Marlins farm system lack the same future potential, but are still a respectable group of prospects that could one day become solid contributors at the big league level.
6. Chad James, LHP
Drafted: 2009 1st round, 18th overall from Oklahoma HS
Age: 20 Height: 6'3" Weight: 185 lbs.
Chad James is a difficult prospect for me to gauge. He had a disappointing 2010 debut with Greensboro, posting a 5.12 ERA in 114 innings pitched, with a 8.3 K/9 and 5.1 BB/9. Despite having control issues, James displayed the same low to mid-90s fastball that impressed scouts while he was in high school. The Marlins made attempts to smooth out his inconsistent delivery in 2011, but the results were mixed. In 149 innings pitched for high-A Jupiter, James walked only 51 batters (a 3.1 BB/9) and struck out 124 (a 7.5 K/9). By the end of the season, his fastball velocity had dropped to the high-80s. James also throws a decent slider and change-up, but neither pitch is a plus offering. At the moment, I see him as a future #3 or #4 pitcher on a major league staff, although if he can regain velocity on his fastball and continue to improve his command, James could become a valuable #2 starter.
7. Rob Rasmussen, LHP
Drafted: 2010 2nd round, 73rd overall from UCLA
Age: 22 Height: 5'10" Weight: 155 lbs.
Drafted a year earlier than UCLA teammates Trevor Bauer and Gerrit Cole, Rasmussen spent his first year of professional baseball putting up decent, if unremarkable numbers in high-A Jupiter. Rasmussen held a 3.64 ERA in 148 innings and his weak peripherals (7.2 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9) suggest that he may lack the raw stuff to be more than a back of the rotation starter. Rasmussen's fastball command was inconsistent over the course of last season, but he did maintain a low-90s velocity. He has a good array of off-speed pitches, including a strong 12-6 curveball. Unfortunately, Rasmussen is held back by his small 5'10" build and may eventually be forced into the bullpen. If the Marlins do decide to convert Rasmussen, he could quickly move through the system and contribute in the majors by 2013.
8. Mason Hope, RHP
Drafted: 2011 5th round, 163rd overall from Broken Arrow HS (OK)
Age: 19 Height: 6'3" Weight: 190 lbs.
After failing to sign their third and fourth round picks in the 2011 draft, the Marlins saved face by signing fifth-round steal Mason Hope. Hope quickly showed off his potential in rookie ball with the GCL Marlins, posting a 3.29 ERA in 27 innings pitched, with a stellar 10.2 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9. Hope distinguishes himself on this list by having excellent tools and a high ceiling. He has a low-90s fastball and flashes a plus curveball, but currently lacks a useful change-up. I am very interested to see how Hope performs next year against more advanced competition. Considering his ability to consistently attack the strike zone and throw off batters with his curveball, I expect he will do fine. Here's a video of Mason in action:
9. Noah Perio, 2B
Drafted: 2009 39th round, 1178th overall from De La Salle HS (CA)
Age: 20 Height: 6'0" Weight: 170 lbs.
Noah Perio displayed good offensive potential in the South Atlantic League, hitting for a decent .295/.323/.406 stat line in 519 plate appearances. His low 12.3 strikeout percentage is impressive, but Perio absolutely must improve on his 3.6 walk percentage if he hopes to succeed in the majors. Perio is reportedly below-average defensively, but that may improve with time given his athleticism. He was already forced to shift from shortstop to second base because of his weak arm. I am skeptical that any significant power will manifest in Perio, so I project him to end up similarly to Jeff Keppinger (3.1 rWAR in seven seasons). Not a regular player, but an acceptable back-up. Despite his low ceiling, Perio was an excellent late round pick-up by the Marlins.
10. Adam Conley, LHP
Drafted: 2011 2nd round, 72nd overall from Washington State
Age: 21 Height: 6'3" Weight: 185 lbs.
The fact that Adam Conley is one of the system's ten best prospects (he has neither exceptional tools, nor a professional track record) is more a reflection on the overall weakness of the Marlins system than it is on Conley's abilities. Conley's fastball sits in the high-80s and will touch 92 occasionally, but his velocity has been much stronger out of the bullpen. As is the case with many recently drafted players, Conley's change-up and breaking pitches need significant attention. Conley spent his 2010 season closing for Washington State, so the Marlins could quickly convert him to relief pitching if his slider and change-up don't improve.