13. Austin Barnes, C
Drafted: 2011, 9th round out of Arizona State University
Age: 24 Height: 5'10" Weight: 190 lbs.
Graduations and poor performances led to an unusually high attrition rate in the top end of the Marlins farm system, making room for players like Austin Barnes that just barely missed the mark before. While always advertised as a catcher and infielder combination, Barnes played just 16 games behind the plate in 2012. He effectively became a full-time catcher this year, making his average bat look a lot more attractive.
Barnes held his own well enough in the Florida State League, batting .260/.367/.343. He hit for almost no power, but walked in an impressive 12.5% of plate appearances. The Marlins briefly promoted him to Double-A, where he hit .339/.446/.484 in 19 games. It's an encouraging figure, despite the tiny sample size.
One could make a compelling argument in favor of Austin Barnes over Jacob Realmuto as the best catcher in the Marlins system. Sam Evans and I decided on Realmuto, although I believe the difference between them is negligible. Jacob Realmuto is more athletic and younger, but doesn't have the plate discipline or statistical record of Austin Barnes. Tossing a coin could probably yield an equally accurate decision on the better player. I view either one as a future back-up catcher.
14. Jesus Solorzano, OF
Drafted: N/A (International signing from Venezuela)
Age: 23 Height: 6'0" Weight: 190 lbs.
Solorzano emerged as an exciting sleeper prospect following his .313/.374/.519 performance for Jamestown in 2012. He bolstered his success at the plate with strong defense in the outfield, rotating between left, center, and right field. Jesus graduated to full-season ball last year, but failed to live up to the offensive standard he set the previous season. While most players tend to thrive in the South Atlantic League, Solorzano's slash line declined to .285/.325/.450.
Ultimately, evaluating Solorzano's progress requires more than comparing one season's batting average or on-base percentage to another. Relative to the rest of the league, Solorzano performed quite well last season. He finished in the top 20 among qualified Sally League players in Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+). He also began to use his speed as a weapon on the basepaths, stealing 33 bags at a fantastic 89.2 percent success rate. His 15 home runs indicate reasonable power.
Solorzano still must prove that he can survive upper minors competition, and that he isn't simply gorging on younger pitchers. Yet, I like his chances more than many other prospects in the Marlins system.