The Miami Marlins promoted Jose Fernandez at the beginning of the season, in part due to injuries to the rest of the pitching staff and in part because of their rash and impulsive nature. The Fish promoted Marcell Ozuna in the middle of the year, in part due to the injury to Giancarlo Stanton and in part because the team made an error in 40-man roster management. The Marlins promoted Derek Dietrich yesterday because the Fish were down approximately one million middle infielders.
Through mismanagement and necessity, the Marlins have ended up rushing a number of their top prospects to the majors. In the Fish Stripes Top 20 prospects list, Fernandez was ranked first. Ozuna was ranked fifth in the organization. Dietrich was ranked 11th following the Yunel Escobar trade. The Fish did not bring these players up because they were ready for the majors and organically made their way up the organizational depth chart. Jose Fernandez had not pitched a single inning beyond High-A in his professional career. Ozuna had just 47 (admittedly good) plate appearances in Double-A Jacksonville before he was brought up. Dietrich has the most experience among these three players, as he has 271 plate appearances at the Double-A level between last year and this year.
These players are all relatively inexperienced at what most prospect evaluators consider the most difficult level to jump into in a young player's career. The transition from High-A to Double-A is the hardest jump to make, and the Marlins have not allowed these players any time. But since the organization has very little choice at this point, the only question remaining is whether the team should continue this process and promote the remaining candidates around Double-A. Should the Marlins continue to 2013 prospect rush, or can they wait on the remaining players?
Who Are They?
The first question to tackle is to find out who are these are other prospect the Marlins could bring to the majors. The obvious first name that pops up is Christian Yelich, who ranked second in the Marlins top 20 prospects. Yelich has always appeared more polished as a hitter than you would expect from a high school player, and he dominated Low-A and High-A in consecutive seasons with almost identical results. He is also raking in Double-A, batting .333/.382/.635 (.454 wOBA).
But who else is available? The truth is that, when you peruse the remaining top prospects in the Marlins organization, there are few names left to consider as major-league ready. Of the team's remaining top 20 prospects, five of them are at the Double-A level. The top-ranked player is Jake Marisnick (ranked third), who just began his season in Double-A. Marisnick has only 35 plate appearances in 2013, as he was recovering from a hand injury. Thus far, he has not hit well, so the team is clearly going to let him simmer at that level for a while.
Jake Realmuto is a catching prospect who ranked ninth in our list. His bat is far from ready for the majors. Adam Conley is a starting pitcher ranked 10th in our top 20 list, but like Marisnick, Conley is struggling. He has a 5.88 ERA, but his peripherals are shiny enough (3.05 FIP) to convince the Fish to stay positive about him, but not enough to promote him for pitching needs. Zack Cox ranked 15th on our list and is currently raking in Double-A, but given his seesaw development so far, the Marlins should exercise some patience with him. Arquimedes Caminero is a reliever who ranked 19th on our list, and he is likely to see time in September barring injuries to the bullpen.
Two players who were not on our top 20 prospects but may be on the radar are Detroit Tigers trade acquisitions Jacob Turner and Brian Flynn. Turner is struggling mightily in Triple-A, while Flynn pitched so well in Double-A (1.51 ERA, 2.68 FIP, 28.7 percent strikeout rate in 23 innings) that the team promoted him to Triple-A. Look for either of these two potentially arriving as well.
Can They Be Rushed?
The question of whether the player can be rushed is twofold:
1) Is the player displaying that he is ready?
2) Does the player have a spot on the roster?
Of the players listed above, the only one currently showing the first criterion is Yelich, who is dominating Double-A right now. If he continues to destroy minor league pitching, Yelich could see a promotion to the majors. The problem, as we will detail later today, is whether the Marlins can fit Yelich into their roster.
The remaining players have questions regarding whether they are ready for the majors, so the team will allow them time to answer those questions. Turner and Flynn hardly look all that impressive right now in Triple-A, but they appear to have the best bet to find themselves in the majors despite not being ready. The reasoning for this is that the Marlins' current starting staff, and in particular Wade LeBlanc and Alex Sanabia, have severely struggled and could be on their way out. In addition, the timetable for the returns of injured starters Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez are not set in stone, and the Marlins have no clue when either will be ready to pitch for the team. Along with the possibility that Ricky Nolasco will be traded, the Marlins could have up to three starting pitcher slots available around July and August. If Turner and Flynn recover by then, the two of them could find themselves in the majors.
Other than those three players, however, I do not see the Marlins taking a rushed approach. In addition to many of the top prospects not being ready for the big leagues, the team just may not have positions available for them. The outfield is quickly growing crowded, so Marisnick will not be needed past Double-A this season. Zack Cox will not get any playing time in the majors unless Placido Polanco is traded. Conley has a shot but also has two players more developmentally ready in front of him. The Fish are simply running out of room and prospects to rush, as they brought up the majority of their almost-ready players.
The only question that really remains is Yelich, and we will be tackling that issue later today.