John Sickels is a very respectable member of the baseball prospects community, and his latest top 150 prospects list was finally released yesterday. The Miami Marlins, who have a passable amount of prospect depth in their system following multiple trades in the last two years, did not do a poor job in placing players in the top 150 prospects. The Marlins placed four players in the top 150 prospects, a respectable amount given the team's recent promotions and a comparable total to last season.
Miami's highest-placed prospect was no surprise, as Andrew Heaney made his second appearance in a row in a yearly Minor League Ball top prospects list. The lefty drafted in 2012 has quickly moved up the ranks thanks to his advanced college pedigree, and his latest work in Double-A has Marlins fans expecting a 2014 appearance. Heaney has posted a 2.45 ERA and 2.10 FIP with a 24.4 percent strikeout rate in 33 innings in Double-A Jacksonville, and if he continues that performance, he may force his way onto the Marlins' main roster in July.
The only other player in the top 100 is third baseman Colin Moran, the Marlins' 2013 first-round selection. Moran is showing off more of his college skill set in HIgh-A Jupiter so far this year. He is batting .297 with a .386 on-base percentage, thanks in large part to his penchant for avoiding strikeouts; he has walked six times versus five strikeouts early in the season. He also has yet to hit a home run in 44 plate appearances. The odds are on him still showing up for a mid-2015 call-up if anything.
The other two names reside on the bottom of the top 150 list, and they are two left-handed starting pitcher prospects. Adam Conley, who is flourishing in Triple-A despite a 3.99 ERA, has surpassed Justin Nicolino, who was once considered a top-100 talent. Conley has whiffed 32 batters in 29 1/3 innings and not allowed a homer yet, leading to a 2.34 FIP. Nicolino has better run numbers in Double-A, with a 2.80 ERA and 2.71 FIP, but he also has struck out just 13 batters in 28 2/3 innings. His slow decline in strikeouts over the last few years have caused some alarm.
The Marlins boasted six players in the top 150 of last year's list, but only Nicolino (60th in 2013) and Heaney (115th) were repeaters. One player, Jake Marisnick, is still in the minors but dropped off the list due to growing plate discipline concerns. Marisnick is currently struggling in Triple-A.
The rest of the Marlins' crew from last year has graduated to the majors, including some of the folks in the immediate range outside the top 150. Jose Fernandez, Christian Yelich, and Marcell Ozuna have each excelled in 2013 and 2014 and are playing major roles for the Major League club. If Moran's and Heaney's successes is any indication, they may be next in line to be important contributors to the Marlins' roster, bolstering a surprisingly decent club with more talent. Miami still has a few bullets left in their pipeline, and their hope is that they can get use out of them soon to supplement a growing core of quality players.