The Miami Marlins have to pare down their roster to 25 men by Opening Day on March 31, and that will most certainly involve the team sending a few prospects down from the big league camp to the minors. Yesterday, the Fish pulled the trigger on three such prospects in their second wave of roster cuts. Top prospect Andrew Heaney and Colin Moran, ranked third by Fish Stripes, were among the 17 players who were reassigned to minor league camps or demoted to minor league levels yesterday.
Heaney is the Marlins' consensus top prospect and future lefty pitching star. The current thought on him following a strong debut season in 2013 is that he is unlikely to turn into a true ace but has a very high floor as a mid-rotation starter and a good chance of being able to play second fiddle to Jose Fernandez for the Fish, and soon. Heaney is expected to be a starter for the Double-A Jacksonville Suns this season, and it is possible that he could see a midseason promotion in 2014. While there was talk that Miami might be aggressive in promoting Heaney as they were with Fernandez, the prevailing thought was always to keep Heaney back unless he forced the team's hand with a superb performance. While Heaney's 2013 season in High-A Jupiter and Double-A was strong (0.88 ERA and 2.60 FIP in 13 starts in High-A, followed by a 2.91 ERA and 3.40 FIP in Double-A), he did not blow anyone out of the water, especially given his college pedigree. Another strong season in Jacksonville and he should be headed to Miami, though.
Moran had an impossible case for the Major League roster, especially since the Marlins specifically signed veteran Casey McGehee to keep the team from being tempted to rush Moran. His Low-A Greensboro line in his debut last season (.299/.354/.442, .363 wOBA) was just as the Marlins expected, so the team will not rush Moran up to the big leagues when he clearly is not ready. This was especially evident after his poor stint in the Arizona Fall League this season (99 plate appearances,.230/.323/.262). Moran is expected to open the season in High-A Jupiter.
The Marlins' 40-man roster players who were demoted were Brian Flynn, Sam Dyson, Rob Brantly, and Edgar Olmos. The Fish could have opted for Flynn as the team's fifth starter, and it seemed pretty obvious that the club should turn to him over non-prospects like Brad Hand and Tom Koehler, but the Fish decided otherwise after Flynn struggled in Spring Training starts. Flynn, Dyson, and Brantly will go to Triple-A New Orleans, while Olmos will spend time in Double-A.
The remaining minor league non-roster invitees who were sent to minor league camp were the following:
Thirteen others were reassigned to Minor League camp. The list includes Moran, Heaney, Adam Conley, James Leverton, Greg Nappo, Josh Spence, Bryan Evans, Rett Varner, Nick Wittgren,Austin Barnes, Danny Black, Mark Canha and Joe Benson.
Of the players listed, only Conley, Wittgren, and Barnes made our top 20 prospects. Conley had an extreme outside shot at a rotation spot, but he would be better served starting the season in Triple-A and continuing to work on his game. He was ranked fifth by Fish Stripes in the team's organization. The remaining players essentially had no chance at a big-league spot.
The Marlins have a few more days to make their final roster changes in advance of March 31, but they are still dealing with injury problems as well as decisions to make. The injury to Rafael Furcal, should it extend to the regular season, may force the team's hand in terms of playing prospect Derek Dietrich and Donovan Solano to start the year.