Baseball America has begun its round of prospect reviews for the 2014 season among the teams in Major League Baseball, and the Miami Marlins just came up as the latest to receive a review.
TOP 10 PROSPECTS 1. Andrew Heaney, lhp 2. Colin Moran, 3b 3. Jake Marisnick, of 4. Justin Nicolino, lhp 5. Anthony DeSclafani, rhp 6. Brian Flynn, lhp 7. Jose Urena, rhp 8. Adam Conley 9. Avery Romero, 2b 10. J.T. Realmuto, c
Even after the Marlins graduated a number of last year's top prospects, the group from this season still includes plenty of talented players. Heading the class is 2012 first-round draft pick Andrew Heaney. This should come as no surprise, as Heaney had an impressive first full pro season in between High-A and Double-A. Heaney struck out 22.5 percent of the batters he faced and put up a combined 1.60 ERA and 2.89 FIP in both levels. Entering the season, there was promising talk of his play, but he blew that out of the water with his play in 2013 and found himself in the top 50 of prospects in most lists after the first half. So much for "low ceiling."
The other most recent Marlins first-round pick ended up second on this list. Colin Moran debuted with a nice 175 plate appearances in Low-A Greensboro, as he recovered from an early slump and put up a .299/.354/.442 (.363 wOBA) line. Moran showed all of the excellent plate discipline skills we expected from him, as he struck out in just 14.3 percent of his chances versus a 8.6 percent walk rate. Moran has yet to show off impressive power, but he has the chance to develop some of that and become a solid all-around offensive threat at third base.
Jake Marisnick got the nod at the third spot, and he has occupied that position for much of the past year. Before 2013, Fish Stripes had him ranked third as well, behind elite prospects Jose Fernandez and Christian Yelich. According to Baseball America, Heaney and Moran have leapfrogged him, but that may have something to do with his poor Major League showing (.183/.231/.248, .216 wOBA) than his Double-A work (.294/.358/.502, .391 wOBA). He still has some of the same questions from last season to answer.
Two other Toronto Blue Jays trade prospects occupy the next two spots. Justin Nicolino, who had a solid year between High-A and Double-A, was expected, but the jump made by former University of Florida starter Anthony DeSclafani was impressive. His year split between High-A and Double-A was eerily similar to Heaney's. He had a combined 2.65 ERA and 3.07 FIP between the two levels while striking out 22.2 percent of batters faced. Even though he was the weakest of the three prospects that arrived from that trade, his rise has given the Marlins another potential pitching prospect, this time a right-hander.
The other fast-riser from 2013 was Brian Flynn, who had such an impressive Triple-A season (2.80 ERA, 3.05 FIP) after dominating Double-A for a short stretch that the team had to recognize him. He too served as more of a throw-in name in the Anibal Sanchez trade that netted the Fish Jacob Turner and Rob Brantly, but he might end up being as good or better than the other two more touted players.
Adam Conley's ranking as ninth despite an excellent season in Double-A is an interesting choice. He is actually a month younger than DeSclafani, and he put up a 3.25 ERA and 2.95 FIP with a 22.2 percent strikeout rate and a significantly improved 6.4 percent walk rate. Conley may have an outside chance at the fifth spot in the rotation, and that is deserving a ranking closer to Flynn's and DeSclafani's.
Avery Romero is the team's only middle infielder on that list, and his 2013 season was promising. He should begin the 2014 year in High-A Jupiter despite his young age (he will be 21 years old next season). If his development continues well, the team will give him every chance in 2016 to earn a potential roster spot.
The list overall is not all that objectionable. A number of Marlins players made jumps into the top 10 prospect lists, and the players who left the list mostly left from promotions to the majors or non-rookie status rather than from poor 2013 seasons. The Fish still have a few more bullets left in their prospect gun, as Fish Stripes will get into beginning next month.