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Miami Marlins prospects: Ranking possible trade chips

The Marlins are not shy about trading their top prospects for more proven talent. Here are five Miami prospects that should keep their bags packed throughout the season. Just in case.

Former Miami farmhand Jake Marisnick was traded to the Astros last summer
Former Miami farmhand Jake Marisnick was traded to the Astros last summer
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Marlins have become known as an organization that leans towards quickly promoting their most promising prospects.  This philosophy, and really strategy, of quick promotions has two goals in mind.  First, the Fish are hoping that in promoting their most promising prospects that have displayed big league level tools, that they find young players who can contribute.  The second goal of the quick promotion strategy the Marlins are trying to achieve is marketing their young big league ready prospects to teams around Major League Baseball; indeed Miami has shown a willingness to trade high level prospects in order to receive more proven talent.

Last summer's trade with the Astros is a prime example.  The Marlins had quickly promoted Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and Jake Marisnick.  When Yelich and Ozuna solidified their place in the Miami outfield, Marisnick became expendable; and because he had already shown big league level tools while with the Marlins, the Fish were able to include him as a key piece in the Astros trade that brought Jarred Cosart to the club.

So, knowing the Marlins track record of being willing to trade their top prospects, today we will examine the top five prospects within the farm system most likely to be traded during the 2015 season.  Two key factors will be used to rank the top five, those being potential and proven quality.  A prospect recently drafted and playing in Class A is different than a prospect who has been a professional for a few years and is currently playing in Triple-A; and teams trade for both kinds of prospects.  We'll do our best to evaluate whether a prospect's potential or proven production in the minor leagues is worth more as a trade chip.  Remember these are the prospects most likely to be traded, not necessarily the best five prospects in the Miami organization.

#5 RHP Tyler Kolek

The top prospect in the Miami farm system, Kolek has struggled in the beginning of the 2015 season, with an ERA of 8.59 through three starts at Class A Greensboro.  Known as a flamethrower who struggles with command at times, Kolek has perhaps the highest ceiling of any prospect in baseball.  If he puts it all together he is certainly a staff ace in Miami for the next decade.  The Fish are unlikely to trade him this season and seem willing to let Kolek take the time needed to develop better command, although it is not too difficult to envision a contending Marlins team shopping Kolek around at the trade deadline for big league reinforcements.  He would certainly fetch a solid veteran contributor, or two for a contending team.

#4 LHP Justin Nicolino

Nicolino is the most big league ready arm in the Miami system; that fact alone means he is a candidate to be traded.  With young arms such as Jose Fernandez, Henderson Alvarez, and Jarred Cosart already impacting the big league club the Fish could conceivably use Nicolino as trade bait near the deadline.  On his end, Nicolino has started 2015 strongly, boasting a 1.08 ERA over his first three starts this season.  Like Kolek, as we sit here in April it is unlikely Nicolino is traded during this season, but that's just it; it's April.  Pitchers like Nicolino, with his outstanding command and feel for pitching, are not easily acquired.  That fact is something the Marlins could potentially use to their advantage.

#3 LHP Adam Conley

Conley is a hard throwing lefty who has had mixed results during the early days of the 2015 season, posting a 5.25 ERA over his two starts for Triple-A New Orleans.  His above average fastball and solid changeup profile well from the bullpen, although the Fish like him as a member of the rotation for know.  Whether he can stay in the rotation likely depends on the development of his breaking ball; a slider that currently just flashes average.  That being said, there are many successful big league relievers who do not throw as hard as Conley or have his changeup.  Lefty relievers are always in demand when late July roles around.  If Conley starts to master Triple-A, don't be surprised to see him make his major league debut with Miami before too long; and if that happens teams around the league will notice.

#2 2B Avery Romero

The only position player on the list, Romero has started 2015 where he left off in 2014: crushing High-A baseball.  Currently slashing 351/442/459 for Jupiter through ten games, Romero has the making of a quick moving prospect.  Already known as an offensive secondbaseman, Romero also sports a plus arm; allowing him to also play thirdbase if needed.  What places Romero so high on this list is one Dee Gordon.  Not a free agent until 2019, Gordon currently blocks Romero's path to the secondbase job in Miami.  If Romero indeed moves quickly through the organization, the Fish could use him in a trade to satisfy other areas of need on the roster, as the Marlins are locked into Gordon for the foreseeable future.  Things change if the Fish become comfortable with Romero playing thirdbase on a regular basis, as the third base job in Miami isn't exactly spoken for long term.  The likelihood of a potential move to thirdbase may determine whether Romero is traded.

#1 RHP Jose Urena

Recently promoted to the big league club and pitching out of the bullpen, Urena is the prospect most likely to be traded during the season.  Miami has been keen to keep him in the rotation during his minor league career, though he will be used as a relief option during his first taste of Major League Baseball.  In Miami's eyes Urena has more opportunities to work on his still developing off-speed pitches while in the rotation, though they seem to recognize that his above average fastball plays well in a bullpen role.  It's not hard to imagine Urena impressing during his bullpen stint with the Marlins and catching the eye of a few teams around the league; and in that case he would be easy for Miami to flip for a veteran piece.  He won't fetch a windfall, but if he impresses Urena could very well be on his way out of Miami.