The Miami Marlins spun a gem this winter to solidify the third base position for the 2015 Season, trading flame thrower Nathan Eovaldi and top pitching prospect Domingo German to the New York Yankees in exchange for the versatile pitching of David Phelps and the ever consistent ultra-utility player Martin Prado. After the trade of Casey McGehee to the San Francisco Giants, Prado is now the Marlins starting third baseman. At this point of the season, this activity has to be one of the Marlins most successful trades this off-season. Casey McGehee has gotten off to a slow start with the Giants - loafing a .267 BABIP with a .238 average and 2 RBI’s in 22 plate appearances and has sat out the last two games with a left knee injury. Prado, on the other hand, a career .311 BABIP hitter with a career .966 fielding percentage at third, has played every game at the hot corner for the Fish.
Signed through 2016 for $11M a year, the Marlins are unlikely to re-sign Martin Prado after his contract runs out - making him another stop gap free agent signee at a position that has been a revolving door for years in the Miami Marlins organization. Prado became the 8th different third baseman since 2006 to start on the Marlins Opening Day roster. There has been so much turn- over at this position over the years that you have to go back to the Mike Lowell era (2000-2005) to find continuity at third base for the Fish. In the 10 seasons since the Lowell era, players like Miguel Cabrera, Jorge Cantu, Emilio Bonifacio, Donnie Murphy, Hanley Ramirez and Casey McGehee have all been slotted as the Marlins Opening Day third baseman.
The Marlins attempted to find continuity at third for the future in the 2013 MLB Amateur Draft – taking North Carolina Tar Heels third baseman Colin Moran with their first overall pick. Unfortunately, we all know how that turned out. After two half-seasons in the Marlins minor leagues, the front office decided he hadn’t shown enough power offensively, and polish defensively, to be considered the future at third base. Marlins management eventually traded him at the 2014 trade deadline for current Marlins pitcher Jarred Cosart.
Even with Prado holding down the hot corner for the 2015 season with Donovan Solano, and Don Kelly and Jeff Baker mixing in off the bench, the Marlins are still hunting through their minor leagues and future collegiate/prep draftees to find that third baseman to carry them into the future. So while the Fish scour the globe for the next best option for them at third base, I will highlight two players listed in Marlin’s minor leagues that are the Best of the Rest down on the farm, and who might be able to put a stop to the revolving door at third base in the future.
Best of the Rest
Listed as the Miami Marlins #10 prospect by MLB.com, the 21 year-old right-handed hitting Anderson was the first collegiate player drafted by the Marlins in the 3rd round - out of Arkansas University in 2014. Primarily playing second base in college, his sophomore year he led the Razorbacks team in avg. (.325), runs scored (47), hits (68), doubles (12), triples (5), total bases (102), slugging percentage (.488), walks (41), on-base percentage (.448) and tied for a team-high with 36 runs batted in and four homers. He was then named a second team Preseason All-American by Baseball American heading into his draft year his Junior season at Arkansas. With that kind of prowess in college, it’s hard to deny the offensive capabilities of the Miami Marlins 76th overall pick in the 2014 MLB draft. Anderson carried over that smooth swinging power stroke from college to his first season of professional ball, as highlighted in his statistics below:
After showcasing both his advanced offensive capabilities and defensive versatility playing for the Batavia Muckdogs in 20 games, he was quickly promoted up to the hitter friendly confines at Low-A Greensboro. He started 26 of his 35 starts at third for the Grasshoppers. Standing at 6’3" and 192 lbs., it’s his raw power at the plate that has the Marlins front office drooling over his future potential. As he starts this season at High-A Jupiter, he will look to continue his early success at the plate – hoping to become the future at third base for the Marlins.
Drafted by the Miami Marlins in the 4th round of the 2014 MLB draft out of Edison HS (CA.), the then 18 year-old right-handed hitting high school shortstop showcased an advanced prep player approach at the plate in the Gulf Coast league for the Miami Marlins, while learning his footing at the hot corner:
The successful statistics above aren’t a surprise to many though - especially the Brian Schales fans in SoCal. Mike Sciacca of the Huntinton Beach Independent newspaper described his play in high school:
"Schales, a four-year starter at shortstop for Edison, was a force in the field and at the plate. In 31 games, he hit .396, had 36 hits, homered seven times, walked 21 times, had 22 RBIs and struck out just eight times in 91 at-bats…"
"He does such a great job offensively but the one thing I think gets overlooked is his play on defense. He committed only four errors and I believe that says a lot about his abilities. He really saves us a lot this year."
Even with the high-praise from his hometown supporters, the Miami Marlins #27 organizational prospect Brian Schales still has a lot to prove at the hot corner this season. With his hitting approach shown to be much more advanced than others of his age at times, the Marlins hope he can fill out his 6’1" 181 lbs. frame, generating more power numbers down the line, while developing into the wall they are looking to have at third.
Brian has started 2015 with Low-A Greensboro starting six out of the seven games at third, where he will look to continue his development and growth. Improvement in his footwork and defensive approach will limit the mistakes made in his first season of pro ball, where he registered a .911 fielding percentage playing third base in 40 games with the GCL Marlins.
With that said, if Schales can avoid injury and continue to showcase the baseball make-up and raw tools that have got him to this point, it’s not crazy to think that he could be nipping at the heels of Brian Anderson this season - or even pass him - on the Miami Marlins minor league depth chart at third base.