Editor's Note: Please welcome Conor Dorney to Fish Stripes. You may have seen Conor's work over at Marlins Daily, and he will be bringing analysis and prospect discussion about the Marlins to Fish Stripes. Here is his first offering, and it is a worthy read. -MJ
With the Miami Marlins' 2012 season having come to a merciful end, the club must decide how to re-shuffle and re-tool its roster in order to stay competitive in the NL East during the coming years. Part of that process will include the evaluation of their minor league talent, and some of the most promising of that talent will be on display in the Arizona Fall League this month.
The Fall League (in its 20th season of existence) has featured a who's-who of top prospects over the last several years, including several who proved they weren't far from contributing to the major leagues. In fact, the likes of Bryce Harper, Yasmani Grandal, and the Marlins' own Rob Brantly, were all members of 2011 AFL rosters, not to mention likely AL MVP Mike Trout.
The Marlins will send six players to represent Miami on the Phoenix Desert Dogs roster, which will also include players from the Braves, Athletics, Brewers and Rays. Before the AFL begins on October 9th, let's take a quick look at the players Miami will be sending to the desert in the hope it can be a jump start for their respective 2013 campaigns.
LHP Grant Dayton
Dayton, an 11th-round selection in the 2010 Draft, spent most of this season in Jupiter where he pitched predominately in relief. He posted a 2.10 ERA and struck out 71 in 60 innings of work. He finished the year with 13 innings of work in Jacksonville, but with the absolute debacle that was the Marlins' pen this season, a bullpen prospect advancing as quickly as Dayton is certainly good news.
LHP Brian Flynn
Listed at 6'8", 240 lbs., southpaw Brian Flynn is certainly an intimidating presence on the mound. After being acquired from the Tigers in the Anibal Sanchez/Omar Infante deal, Flynn made eight starts for Jacksonville, where he posted a 3-0 record with a 3.80 ERA in 45 innings. Flynn can reach the upper-90's with his fastball and creates deception simply because of his height. Flynn is just 22 years old and even if he struggles in the AFL, it will likely be due to the organization viewing it as more of a developmental period than anything else.
RHP Scott McGough
Right-hander Scott McGough became a part of the Marlins' organization in the Hanley Ramirez deal, and figures to be yet another potential bullpen arm ready to contribute in the near future. After coming over from the Dodgers, McGough spent the remainder of his 2012 campaign in Jupiter, where he posted a 3.24 ERA coming out of the Hammerheads' bullpen. They key to McGough's success will be his command, as his K/BB ratios are not all that impressive. The AFL is a hitter's paradise, but if McGough can keep the ball out of the heart of the plate, he has a chance to prove his worth to an organization that is, as mentioned before, desperate for bullpen help.
Ever since the Marlins made catcher Jacob Realmuto a third-round selection in the 2010 Draft, he has proven himself at each level at which the club has placed him. He spent all of 2012 in Jupiter, where was named a Florida State League Mid-Season All-Star and finished the season by posting a .256/.319/..345 slash line with eight home runs. After the Marlins acquired Rob Brantly from Detroit (and given Brantly's subsequent play), it is unlikely that Realmuto is the so-called "catcher of the future," but if he is able to make adjustments at the plate, he could present himself as a valuable trade chip the next time the Marlins are in "buy" mode.
OF Kyle Jensen
Jensen has displayed some of the organization's best power over the last several seasons, hitting 27 homers across two levels in 2011 and 24 for the Jacksonville Suns this season. Like most guys whose game relies mainly on their ability to hit the ball over the fence, Jensen is the definition of strikeout-prone. He finished second in the Southern League to Jackson's Joseph Dunigan in strikeouts this season, and even though he draws some walks, he'll need to cut down significantly on his strikeouts if he wants to be seen as anything more than a fourth outfielder. Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich figure to be mainstays in the Marlins' outfield in the long-term, but hopefully a strong Fall League showing can help Jensen springboard into a strong 2013 season.
OF Christian Yelich
Yelich, along with top pitching prospect Jose Fernandez, has been one of the biggest bright spots in the Marlins organization in 2012. After posting a stellar .330/.404/.519 line for Jupiter this season, Yelich was named by MLB.com as the 17th best prospect in all of baseball. His progress will be one of the most intriguing storylines in the entire AFL, but there is plenty of reason to believe that Yelich will live up to expectations and then some. Injuries have been the biggest hindrance to his professional career to this point, but if Yelich can remain healthy, there's an outside chance the 20-year-old outfielder can reach Miami for a September call-up next season if he continues at his current pace.