Baseball America released its annual top 10 Miami Marlins prospects list just recently, and the names listed at the top were among the most expected names there. Naturally, Jose Fernandez and Christian Yelich headlined the list, with Andrew Heaney, Jake Marisnick, and Marcell Ozuna rounding out the top five. Justin Nicolino and Adeiny Hechavarria also made the list as trade acquisitions.
One of the most interesting games to play whenever Baseball America releases this sort of list is the "how likely is their future lineup?" game. Every year since before the 2007 season, Baseball America puts up a future lineup three years down the line, and it is typically a mix of the players perceived as top prospects along with the guys who are expected to remain on the team by that time, barring no trades or other acquisitions. Often times, the expectations come out wildly incorrect, if only because that is the way prospect mining often turns out. As a result, it is interesting to see if a future lineup that they put up now is even likely in a few years.
Here is this year's lineup, projected for 2016.
Catcher J.T. Realmuto
First Base Logan Morrison
Second Base Avery Romero
Third Base Derek Dietrich
Shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria
Left Field Christian Yelich
Center Field Jake Marisnick
Right Field Giancarlo Stanton
No. 1 Starter Jose Fernandez
No. 2 Starter Andrew Heaney
No. 3 Starter Justin Nicolino
No. 4 Starter Nathan Eovaldi
No. 5 Starter Jacob Turner
Closer A.J. Ramos
This lineup actually would not surprise Marlins fans all that much, given the talent the team currently has and how obviously replaceable almost all of the players on the 2012 roster are. The Marlins traded a number of players with the distinct purpose of building this sort of roster in the future, and it would not surprise anyone if this is what the team ended up with in a few years' time.
On the question of how likely this roster is, we should look back to see how likely the roster post-fire sale was the last time the team sold off the major league squad. We recall how similar the 2012 fire sale was to the 2005 version, and given the situation from last time, how similar is the future 2009 lineup projected then to the 2016 lineup now?
Well, at the time, Baseball America had not begun the practice of making future projected lineups, but we can take a guess at what it might look like after the Marlins' various trades.
Catcher Brett Hayes First Base Mike Jacobs Second Base Robert Andino Third Base Miguel Cabrera Shortstop Hanley Ramirez Left Field Josh Willingham Center Field Jeremy Hermida Right Field Kris Harvey No. 1 Starter Dontrelle Willis No. 2 Starter Scott Olsen No. 3 Starter Anibal Sanchez No. 4 Starter Josh Johnson No. 5 Starter Chris Volstad Closer Taylor Tankersley
This list is not all that different from what was listed in the 2010 future lineup from the 2007 top ten list. There are some liberties with this list, particularly in listing Hermida as a future center fielder, but it is not a far stretch to imagine that this combination of players would have been considered the future of the Marlins in 2009.
How would this lineup have actually fared versus what truly happened with the 2009 Fish? Well, the Marlins found players with which to plug the holes in the outfield, particularly in center field, where the team ran Cody Ross for a number of seasons. The Marlins opened up 2009 with Cameron Maybin in that spot as well, pushing Ross to left field following the trade of Josh Willingham. The Fish also traded Cabrera a year before, not unlike what is likely to happen to Giancarlo Stanton in a few seasons' time. But the positions of first base, shortstop, one of the outfield spots, and most of the rotation would have basically been spot on; Olsen, Sanchez, Johnson, and Volstad all made the Opening Day roster as starting pitchers, with Ricky Nolasco filling the final position.
How do the 2016 projected Marlins stack up given what is already here? Just like our imaginary projected 2009 lineup, many of the players on the list are new to the Fish or to the majors, or in many cases new to both. In the 2009 list, only Willis and Cabrera had decent major league service time; in the 2016 list, only Stanton and Logan Morrison do. The difference is that the players on the 2016 list are more likely to start in the majors in 2014 or 2015, while the players on the Marlins' 2009 list started in that 2006 season, mostly because the team had a deep minor league system and no other choice. This makes the 2016 crew a little less likely to make the majors as a group, if only because any number of them could bust having not yet been deemed major-league ready.
Still, both lists look fairly similar, and the results from 2006 make it likely that most of the projected lineup should make it all the way to 2016. The risky players are Stanton, who will almost certainly be traded, and Avery Romero and Andrew Heaney, who have yet to spend significant time in full-season ball. Due to a lack of choices, the Marlins are likely to fill their roster up with these players in the future.
How Good Is It?
How effective this 2016 lineup will be is a bigger question mark. The Marlins have to be confident in Fernandez and Yelich, as those two are highly regarded. The team feels strongly enough about Hechavarria to start him now, and his defense is already at a level good enough to keep him around as an Alex Gonzalez-type of shortstop. Beyond those guys, however, there are still question marks. Nathan Eovaldi and Jacob Turner have problems to fix in the majors. Marisnick remains a mystery as to whether he can solve his issues at the plate with his vast tools.
If I had to guess, Hechavarria, Yelich, Fernandez, Nicolino, and Turner are the best bets for relative success by 2016, just on the basis of their high floors. Turner and Nicolino were considered as high-floor control pitchers with decent, but still questionable stuff. Hechavarria has his defense on which to fall back. Yelich and Fernandez appear at the moment to be ready for stardom. Those six players have the best shot at being quality major leaguers, but the others are both unproven now and have major questions going forward.
As expected, it is a crapshoot to try and project three years down the line. Baseball America gives a valiant effort, but questions still linger about the Marlins of the distant future.