Here at Fish Stripes, we have discussed the Miami Marlins' various prospects with the second pick of the 2014 MLB Draft, and it seems fairly likely right now that the team will go with one of the three top pitching talents in the draft over anyone else with the selection. But the Marlins' 2014 draft is critical because it will help provide the future players the Marlins might need during their next competitive cycle, and if you believe the club's early results, that cycle may be coming very soon. The Marlins have the 36th, 38th, and 43rd selections in the 2014 draft in addition to the second pick, so they have the opportunity to stockpile a good number resources this season.
That seems important because the Fish, for all of their pitching depth, do not have a high-quality overall organization. John Sickels of SB Nation's Minor League Ball ranked the Marlins 24th before this season in his farm system rankings, putting us in the fourth tier titled "Needs Improvement." The organization has classically been hurt by multiple promotions every season, making it difficult to establish depth. It is hard to maintain depth when you need guys at the majors now.
But the Fish have tried to do some of that in 2014 by signing stopgap options who could hold the fort for a year or two. The additions of Garrett Jones, Casey McGehee, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia have put significantly less pressure on the Marlins to promote their prospect immediately, and the club still boasts strong pitching depth at the Major League level. But what are team's needs as we head into the critical 2015 and 2016 seasons and beyond, when the Fish are expected to try and compete with an impressive core of young talent?
The Marlins' biggest need in both the minors and Major League levels is up the middle in the infield. Adeiny Hechavarria continues to show that he is the weak link in the Major League lineup. Hechavarria has not displayed any improvement at the plate, as he is once again hitting just .257/.293/.330 (.276 wOBA) and showing no power or patience at the plate. His calling card has always been his defense, but so far in the last two years, he has shown himself to be about average or worse on that side of the field. His defensive play thus far in his career simply has not made up for his ghastly offensive performance.
Derek Dietrich has made strides in his plate approach and appears to be a legitimate option for the near future. But there are lingering questions about his defensive play, enough so that his future at the position is at least somewhat in question. The Marlins do not really have another long-term spot for Dietrich, and his bat has only been this good for 143 plate appearances, so there are still uncertainties regarding him going forward.
The minor league depth on the infield leaves much to be desired as well. Aside from pure depth guys like Donovan Solano who are not future considerations, the only players up the middle worth mentioning are Avery Romero, a 2012 third-round pick, and Austin Barnes, who has been shifted back to catcher after splitting time there and at second base the last few years. Miami has not tried Romero, a high school shortstop, at short, opting to move him directly to his likely position at second base. The team has no depth at shortstop at all.
Two years down the line, it is unlikely Miami should be running Hechavarria at shortstop, so at the very least there is a need at that position. Whether the Fish can fill it with their competitive balance picks or in the second round remains to be seen, but shortstop remains the club's primary need. Up-the-middle depth is crucial.
The Marlins lack a strong option in the minors at first base. The signing of Jones to a two-year contract makes an immediate replacement unnecessary, but the team would like to see a good prospect at the position after the last one, Logan Morrison, failed miserably. The team's first base prospects include Mark Canha, who is struggling in his first attempt at Triple-A, and Viosergy Rosa, who lost all of his power from Low-A Greensboro in the move to High-A Jupiter. Neither is considered a true option for the time past Jones.
The problem is attempting to acquire first basemen in the draft or as prospects is more difficult than ever. More and more, teams are converting their acquired third base or corner outfield prospects to first base after they have arrived, which means that the Marlins' next lumbering high school outfielder could be the first baseman of the future, but we won't know that until later in his career. The next Marlins Major League first baseman could very well be Giancarlo Stanton, depending on how the team's outfield prospects develop and whether the club wants to help preserve Stanton's health further at the cost of his value.
With the first base future so uncertain, the Marlins would be wise to find some power prospects who could eventually move to the position down the line.
One would think third base would be set after the Fish drafted Colin Moran with the sixth pick of last season's draft, but Moran is an oddly unconventional prospect who is struggling right now. He is hitting just .259/.309/.345 (.307 wOBA) in High-A Jupiter, and that line constitutes a batting line eight percent worse than the league and park average. Moran was a highly-regarded prospect out of the University of North Carolina, but he boasts an elite hit tool without a lot of power or defensive prowess at third base; his success comes from plate discipline and lots of hits. Despite being ranked as the third-best Marlins prospect by Fish Stripes, the change in leagues has not treated him well.
The problem with that is that there is essentially no one behind Moran in the minors. Dietrich could be moved to that spot if he proves incapable of continuing at second base and still has a viable bat, but other than that, Miami is pretty much out of true options at the position. If Moran fails, Miami would have no one else to turn to, and that could be something the Fish address in this draft.
What do you Fish Stripers think? Where do you think the team needs most help in the 2014 MLB Draft? Let us know in the comments!