The Miami Marlins made their first wave of cuts from the Spring Training roster yesterday, announcing 12 players would be optioned to the minors or re-assigned to minor league camps. In this first wave, none of the names should surprise anyone, as many of these players were either prospects who were not yet ready or players of minor consequence.
Included in the cuts were seven players on the 40-man roster. Outfielder Kyle Jensen and reliever Michael Brady were optioned to Triple-A, while Grant Dayton, Brent Keys, Jose Urena, Jacob Realmuto, and Angel Sanchez were all optioned to Double-A. The individual assignments are not surprising. Dayton figured to be heading to Triple-A, as he already performed well in Double-A last season. Sanchez is being moved faster up the system after he was advanced at a glacial pace with the Los Angeles Dodgers; he remains the Marlins' most promising player in the Ricky Nolasco trade. Urena and Keys are considered top-20 Marlins prospects and both will take on the first shot at Double-A, with the hope that both continue their development.
As for the Triple-A assignments, Jensen figures to provide first base and corner outfield depth and real power to the Marlins' organization, but he does not profile as an actual prospect. Brady had an outside shot at a relief role in the bigs before the team signed Carlos Marmol, but that combined with a poor set of outings in an attempt to close out some games last week likely led to an early demotion.
In addition, five players who were non-roster invitees were also sent to minor league camp. Unlike the roster members who were optioned, non-roster invitees are almost always prospect names of interest. Of course, none of those prospect names were remotely ready to play in the major next season. Anthony DeSclafani, Justin Nicolino, Colby Suggs, Avery Romero, and Jesus Sanchez were all sent down to the minors. Of the five, only Sanchez is a questionable top-20 prospect, with the others having assured spots in most lists. DeSclafani and Nicolino highlight the group, as both are top-10 organizational pitchers with small upside but decent chances at mid-rotation starter careers. Both pitchers will begin the season facing their toughest challenge yet: a full season of Double-A after finishing up at that level last year. Suggs is likely the closest to ready despite being drafted last season, as he is a hard-throwing reliever who might move quickly up to Double-A by midseason. Romero figures to see playing time in Low-A Greensboro after having a solid campaign in the New York Penn League with Batavia.
Notably absent in these lists are prospects Andrew Heaney, Brian Flynn, and Adam Conley, who remain in reach of a fifth starter spot. The next to go is likely Heaney, who does not appear to be taking a Jose Fernandez-sized leap forward and should start the year in Double-A to form a mighty trio of prospects in the Jacksonville Suns rotation. Conley and Flynn could both open in Triple-A, but expect Flynn to stay close to the fifth spot and perhaps earn in shortly.