1. Jose Fernandez, RHP, High-A Jupiter: Fernandez has had an absolutely fabulous year between Greensboro and Jupiter. He’s dominated both levels, which is unexpected for such a young prospect. In ninety-four innings this year, Fernandez has 116 strikeouts and only twenty-two walks. Fernandez has the potential to be a top of the rotation starter for years to come. ETA: Opening Day 2014
2. Christian Yelich, OF, High-A Jupiter: Yelich has been passed as the Marlins’ top prospect. However, he still is the same player we thought he was. He has the potential to hit for average with twenty homers and twenty steals a year down the road. Hopefully, his arm will get stronger allowing him to stay in the outfield, where he would have much more value than at first base. ETA: Midseason 2013
3. Marcell Ozuna, OF, High-A Jupiter: Ozuna has picked up right where he left off last year. He continues to hit for power, get on-base, and flash his cannon out in right field. This year, Ozuna has hit .243 (largely thanks to a .261 BABIP) with sixteen homers and seven steals. Ozuna projects to be a slightly above-average right fielder who will hit around .260 with 20-25 homers a year and ten stolen bases. ETA: Opening Day 2014
4. Andrew Heaney, LHP, GCL Marlins: The Marlins and Heaney finally came to an agreement the day of the signing deadline. I wasn’t thrilled when the Marlins selected Heaney, but he won’t take long to get to the majors, and he’ll fit right into the starting rotation when he does. He has the ceiling of a #3 starter, which would justify the pick if he could reach his potential. ETA: Opening Day 2015
5. Jacob Realmuto, C, High-A Jupiter: Realmuto’s stock has slightly dropped this season, but he still remains on-track to be the Marlins’ starting catcher in a few years. His athleticism and speed continue to stand out, and his abilities been the plate have been improving. Realmuto will never be an All-Star, but he’s looking like the consistent everyday catcher that the Marlins have needed for a long time. ETA: September 2013
6. Adam Conley, LHP, High-A Jupiter: The Marlins’ second-round pick in 2011, Conley has put up fantastic numbers as a starter between Greensboro and Jupiter this year. His fastball has lost a few miles per hour since his college days, but it still sits at 92-93 MPH. Conley’s slider can be a plus pitch, but he needs to improve his command of his changeup. Whether it’s as a starter or as a reliever, Conley definitely has a bright future with the Miami organization. ETA: September 2013
7. Chad James, LHP, High-A Jupiter: With the Heaney pick, James is no longer the top left-handed pitching prospect in the Marlins’ system. I’m confused as to why James’ strikeout rate has decreased and walk rate has increased in his second season in High-A. His command of his fastball is not where it used to be, and he has yet to improve his changeup. James will probably make it to Double-A Jacksonville by the end of the season, but he needs to show the command that made him a first-round pick in 2009. ETA: June 2014
8. Brent Keys, OF, low Class-A Greensboro: Coming into the year, Brent Keys was an afterthought in the world of Marlins’ prospects. However, fantastic numbers in the Sally League and surprisingly positive reports have boosted this prospect’s stock dramatically. In seventy games, Keys has hit .361 with a .430 OBP and sixteen steals. The biggest question regarding Keys is whether he can stick in center field or not. His ability to hit for average, and get on-base, could make him a solid second division starter. I wrote an article on Keys for Fish Stripes, which you can find here. ETA: July 2015
9. Avery Romero, SS, GCL Marlins: Romero was the Marlins’ third round pick in this recent draft, and he signed for $700,000 right before the deadline. Some were surprised that Romero decided to skip attending the University of Florida, where he would have been in the competition for the starting shortstop job. Romero is a gamer who makes contact with the ball, and has impressive bat speed. ETA: Midseason 2016
10. Jose Urena, RHP, low Class-A Greensboro: ETA: 2014 Jose Urena is a projectable right-handed pitcher who should grow into his frame, and maybe add a few MPH on his fastball in the coming years. Urena has always been a favorite of scouts, but he has yet to show good strikeout and walk rates in the low minors. In order to stay a starting pitcher in years to come, Urena will have to develop his changeup. ETA: Midseason 2015
11. Kolby Copeland: Kolby Copeland is a raw, athletic outfielder that the Marlins drafted out of high school in the supplemental third round of the 2012 MLB Amateur draft. Copeland was focused on football as well in high school, but he still got some praise for his hitting ability. He has very high upside, but don’t expect to see him in Double-A for many years. ETA: 2017
12. Jake Smolinski, OF, Double-A Jacksonville ETA: September 2012: Smolinski is only ranked here because of two things; His above-average hit tool, and his distance from the majors. Smolinski has one of the best pure hit tool grades in the Marlins’ system, but he’s spent the last two seasons in Double-A. Smolinski started the year on a tear, but he’s cooled down since then. Other than hitting for average and lots of doubles, Smolinski plays above-average defense in left or right field, and he draws a lot of walks. I wrote an article on Smolinski for Fish Stripes a few weeks ago, which you can find here. ETA: September 2012
13. Mason Hope, RHP, Low-A Jamestown: The Marlins’ 2011 fifth-round pick out of a high school in Oklahoma has yet to see much action in the minors. He has an impressive repertoire which makes some believe he has a future as a #3 starter. He throws a fastball in the low 90’s, which has some movement, a changeup that needs work, and a curveball, that projects as a plus pitch. Hope is still very young, and will probably spend the whole season in Jamestown before moving onto Greensboro next year. ETA: 2016
14. Jesus Solorzano, OF, Low-A Jamestown: Jesus Solorzano is a toolsy outfielder who inconsistently hits for power and steals bases. Solorzano’s power might be a tad overrated, and he is just awful on the base paths. His raw speed has allowed him to steal thirty bases in his previous two seasons in Rookie Ball, but he gets thrown out way too much. Solorzano plays exceptional defense, so if I was a bigger believer in the bat, he would rank much higher. ETA: September 2016
15. Austin Barnes, 2B/C, low Class-A Greensboro: Barnes is a former catcher for Arizona State whom the Marlins converted back to second base. This move surprised some people that thought Barnes could stick at catcher. However, without having to worry about calling a game, Barnes can just focus on his hitting. Barnes is hitting .312 with more walks than strikeouts this year. Pretty soon, he is going to take Noah Perio’s starting spot in Jamestown. ETA: September 2014
16. Austin Dean, OF, GCL Marlins: Dean was selected by the Marlins in the fourth round of the 2012 MLB Amateur draft. He was committed to the University of Texas, but the Marlins had scouts watching him all spring, so they signed him fairly easily. Dean is a corner outfielder with plus raw power. He has an unconventional swing, which he will have to make some adjustments to later down the road, but when he puts the bat on the ball it goes a long ways. If he can improve his defense and work on his swing, he’ll quickly become highly-touted prospect. ETA: 2017
17. Danny Black, SS, High-A Jupiter: Danny Black has had a really weird season, in which his value has been rising and dropping by the month. If you look at his numbers overall (.309 BA, 19 SB, 15.7 LD %) Black seems to be having a breakout season. However, there is much more truth behind the numbers. Black, who was drafted out of the University of Oklahoma in the 14th round of the 2010 draft, is already twenty-three years old. When he has put up good numbers this year, they’ve been largely inflated by an extreme BABIP. If Black wants to keep ahead of the Marlins’ younger shortstops, he needs to hit in Double-A next year. ETA: September 2013
18: Austin Nola, SS, low Class-A Greensboro: Austin Nola is a low-ceiling/high-floor type of prospect. Drafted out of LSU by the Marlins in the fifth round of the 2012 MLB Amateur draft, Nola signed for a bargain and has already played in over twenty-five games. Nola has the ceiling of a second-division starter, but it’s most likely he becomes a solid utility infielder. ETA: Midseason 2014
19. Arquimedes Caminero, RHP, High-A Jupiter: It would have been so easy for me to leave Caminero off this list, and yet, I couldn’t do it. Despite being three years older than Giancarlo Stanton, and having a nasty injury history, Caminero still has upside. He missed all of the 2011 season, and was out until June, but since then he’s put up some nice numbers in Jupiter. Caminero is striking out 12.74 batters per nine innings, and has a 0.74 ERA in seventeen innings. He’s 6’5’’ and throws a fastball in the upper 90’s with movement. We can only hope Caminero learns to stay healthy… ETA: September 2013
20. Mark Canha, 1B, High-A Jupiter: Canha, drafted out of Cal in the seventh round of the 2007 draft, is the top first baseman prospect in the Marlins’ minors. After hitting twenty-five homers in Greensboro last year, Canha only has three this year. I still believe his ceiling is a James Loney circa 2010 type player. Watch to see if he can hit for more power in the second half of the 2012 season. ETA: Midseason 2015
Just missed: Evan Reed, A.J. Ramos, Anthony Gomez, Charlie Lowell, Ron Miller
The first thing most people will notice about this list is that I ranked Fernandez above Yelich. Fernandez is the better prospect than Yelich because he has higher upside, and Yelich has yet to dominate a league like Fernandez has this year. Fernandez has the potential to be a #1 starter, and you can’t say that about more than five other pitching prospects in the minors. Yelich has the potential to be an above-average outfielder, albeit with flaws in his game. Neither prospect has a guaranteed path to stardom, but I think Fernandez can be one of the best starters in the game.
The Marlins had four 2012 draftees that made this list. Obviously, if Miami hadn’t signed Andrew Heaney or Avery Romero, this system would be noticeably weaker. The 2012 draftee with the best bet to make it to the majors first is Austin Nola, and Andrew Heaney is the 2012 draft pick with the best chance to reach his potential.
My favorite sleeper prospect on this list is Jose Urena. Urena is young, and throws a fastball with a lot of movement, and a potentially plus slider as well. In 2013, Urena will have a breakout season in High-A Jupiter. Even if he turns out to be a reliever in the long run, Urena could be the Marlins’ set-up man for years to come.
Overall, the Marlins’ system has bounced back after a rough 2011. If Miami could do anything better, it would be creating more of a focus on International Free Agency. It’s disappointing to hear how little of a presence the Marlins have in the Dominican Republic. Prospects such as Jose Fernandez and Adam Conley have taken tremendous steps forward. Hopefully, the Marlins won’t trade away any of these prospects at the deadline. This system is on the rise, and definitely has some major-league talent spread out among its minor league teams.
Also, if you have any questions, leave them in the comments section and I will be sure to answer them.