After winning the South Atlantic Northern Division title in two consecutive years, Greensboro saw much of their premiere talent graduate this season. The team's young pitchers struggled, leading to a disappointing 32-36 finish for the Grasshoppers.
Lineup Meets, Doesn't Exceed Expectations
The Marlins' first overall pick this year, UNC third basemen Colin Moran, managed to squeeze in 175 plate appearances after signing. Anything less than his .299/.354/.442 performance would be considered a disappointment for such an advanced college bat and a top ten selection. Moran's real test will come in Jupiter next year, where the Marlins will look to speed him through the system.
While not an especially exciting prospect, 23-year-old Viosergy Rosa finished third on the South Atlantic League home run charts with an impressive 23 bombs. That figure is less remarkable considering how favorable Greensboro is to left-handed power hitting. Marcell Ozuna hit the same number of home runs in Greensboro, but he was 20 years old and plays a more valuable defensive position.
After impressing with a .313/.374/.519 line in short-season ball last season, Jesus Solorzano encountered stronger headwinds in Greensboro, but managed to still produce a satisfactory .285/.325/.350. Solorzano shows strong power for a young outfielder, but he needs to improve his plate discipline. His 21.2 percent strikeout rate isn't horrific, but he is flirting with a dangerous rate where maintaining a solid slash line is difficult to impossible.
Austin Brice drew considerable attention for his terrific 122 strikeouts in 102 and two-thirds innings for Greensboro last season. Fish Stripes ranked him as the 16th best prospect in the system last February, noting that he needed to improve his control to ever develop into a major league pitcher. Brice regressed in every significant way this year, striking out fewer batters, walking many more, and allowing more runners to score. His 5.73 ERA looks especially bad considering he repeated Class A ball.
Mason Hope rated as perhaps my favorite sleeper prospect in the Marlins farm system the past two years. Following his disastrous 2013 campaign in Greensboro, my prior optimism appears ill-advised. His walk rate rose sharply from 8.9 percent to 11.9 percent, dragging a 2.90 ERA to an ugly 4.94. Hope seemed to struggle from the length of the season, which suggests to me that he might be best suited in a relief role.
Chad James remains a perennial disappointment for Marlins fans. He showed promise during his 2011 season for high Class A Jupiter, putting up a 3.80 ERA in 149 and one-third innings pitched, with 124 strikeouts and 51 walks. Like Austin Brice this year, he repeated the same league and performed worse in every statistical category, sounding the prospect death knell. The Marlins subsequently demoted James to Greensboro this season, where he looked nothing like the player the team drafted four years ago. He generated a 5.74 ERA in 53 and one-third innings pitched, striking out 57 batters and walking 28.
While the Grasshoppers failed to excite this year on the field, I don't believe their struggles indicate a larger problem with the Marlins farm system. Instead, it reflects that the bulk of the talent is already playing in the upper levels of the system.