You can never have too much pitching. When that pitching is in the form of young arms, the situation becomes even better. The Marlins are blessed with such a situation. Jose Fernandez and Henderson Alvarez are two young pitchers that have already shown promise during their stints in the big leagues and look set to establish themselves in the Miami rotation for years to come. Jarred Cosart and Carter Capps are other young arms who posted encouraging statistics after joining the Fish last season, albeit in small sample sizes.
Apart from these young arms, Miami has a bevy of pitchers within its farm system who show promise. According to mlb.com, 12 of Miami's top 20 prospects are pitchers. While half of these twelve pitching prospects currently ply their trade in the lower levels of the farm system, there are a few prospects nearing the jump to the big leagues. Today we'll take a look at both groups contained within these twelve prospects: pitchers closer to the League, and those who are farther away.
A Step Away from the League
-Justin Nicolino is the most major league ready of the pitching prospects. No, he is not going to strike you out. But he also won't walk you either as evidenced by his 81/20 K/BB ratio in 170 innings at Double-A last year. He also posted an excellent 1.07 WHIP. Nicolino has excellent command of all three pitches: fastball, curve, and changeup. He is already on the 40 man roster.
-Jose Urena is also on the 40 man roster, which was likely a move to protect him during December's Rule 5 Draft. Urena spent the year at Double-A Jacksonville last year and posted a 3.33 ERA to go along with a K/BB ratio of 121/29. His above average fastball combined with his developing off-speed pitches make him likely to see time in the bullpen if he should crack the big leagues in 2015. However, he should start the season in New Orleans.
- Simply put, Adam Conley seems to be the left-handed version of Urena. His above average fastball profiles well in a bullpen role; his future as a starting pitcher will depend on his still developing command of the off-speed stuff. His less than impressive 5.92 ERA across Double-A and Triple-A were attributed to elbow problems. Now healthy, he could provide the Fish with a lefty bullpen arm as soon as this season, due in part to the advantage of already being on the 40 man.
-Kendry Flores was acquired in December from San Francisco. While none of his pitches rate as plus, his excellent control and command cause his stuff to play up. Flores led all Minor Leaguers in K/BB ratio during the 2013 season, posting an outstanding 8.1 strikeouts for every walk. He wasn't quite as efficient during this past season but held his own to the tune of a 112/32 ratio. Flores certainly fits the "Nicolino" mold as a command pitcher. His presence on the 40 man roster lands him on the "Step Away" list.
-Nick Wittgren will be in camp as a non-roster invite. Profiling as a back-end bullpen arm, he uses his deceptive delivery to make his 91-94 mph heater play up. He will start the year in New Orleans but will very likely figure somehow for Miami this season.
-Any list discussing top pitching prospects who require some polish before reaching the big leagues must begin with Tyler Kolek. Josh Beckett 2.0 jumped up draft boards this past summer after showing a 102 mph fastball during showcases. The high school righty didn't come close to touching such velocity during his first exposure to professional baseball however. Still, his pure stuff coupled with his size is enough to make scouts and fans alike drool. Does he have a long way to go? Yes. The Marlins, though, appear willing to wait.
-Trevor Williams struggled upon his promotion to Doube-A Jacksonville last season. The polished right hander had impressed the Marlins with his command at High-A Jupiter, but struggled to throw strikes after his promotion. A non-roster invite along with Nick Wittgren, Williams has three average to slightly above pitches and locates them well. A non-roster invite to spring training will hopefully jump start his 2015 season as he looks to put behind him his late season struggles at Jacksonville.
-Jarlin Garcia is yet another left handed pitcher who ranks among the top Miami prospects. Signed in 2010, he made his full-season debut during the 2014 season. He started 25 games, threw just over 133 innings, and posted a 111/21 ratio. The Fish project him as a future starter based on his promising mix of pitches and good size at 6-foot-2.
-Colby Suggs profiles as a hard throwing bullpen arm. He struggled at High-A Jupiter last year, posting 5.09 ERA to go along with a bad K/BB ratio of 47/25. His fastball touched 98 mph in college but it wasn't there in Jupiter, though the coaching staff attributes that to mechanical issues. Suggs does struggle to consistently repeat his delivery. If he gets that figured out the stuff is there, namely a nasty 12-6 curveball.
-Austin Brice moved back into the rotation for High-A Jupiter this past season after seeing time in the bullpen during 2013. He has the size and arm strength to start, as well as two above average pitches in his fastball and curve. What holds him back is his lack of a third pitch and his erratic command at times; his walk rate did improve from '13 to '14, however. He is currently trending upward after his improvement in 2014. His ceiling seems to be the middle of a big league rotation, with his floor (hopefully) as a reliever.
-Matt Milroy enters a defining season in his development. Drafted in the 11th round of the 2012 draft, Milroy has the stuff to be a future big league starter; then again so do a lot of prospects. After performing well at Class-A Greensboro, Milroy struggled upon his promotion to High-A Jupiter. He struggled to find the strike zone; evidenced by his 38 walks to 37 strikeouts. His fastball and slider are both above average. If he can develop better command he figures to advance through the organization. The keyword: if.
-Another left handed pitching prospect? Another left handed pitching prospect. Michael Mader was chosen with the 105th overall pick in this past summer's draft. In his professional debut Mader made the New York-Penn League All Star team pitching for short season Batavia. His fastball and curve grade above average, with his heater topping out at 95 mph. His delivery needs tuning as it can affect his command, but that's not uncommon for a 21 year old. Some scouts think he has the most potential of any pitcher within the organization not named Kolek.
So, there you have twelve of the most promising arms in the Miami farm system. It is certainly an interesting bunch. There is a good mix of low risk/lower ceiling arms paired with more higher risk/high reward talent. There is also a relatively encouraging mix of starter/relief options within the system. A pitcher like Kolek will steal the headlines with his unmatched potential, and Nicolino will rightfully gain attention with his near big league readiness. There is, however, good pitching depth within the organization. Names like Urena, Conley, and Flores give Miami options on the mound moving forward. There are also multiple promising young pitchers in and around the Class-A level.
Possessing solid young pitching gives the Fish options moving forward over the next several years. Apart from developing their prospects to one day pitch for the big league club, Miami has also shown a tendency to package their prospects in trades to receive more big league ready talent. I'm looking forward to watching these twelve young pitchers develop.