It happens every year. Minor Leaguers throughout baseball experience breakout seasons. That being said, what constitutes a "breakout" season?
As stated in the introduction, there are two types of a breakout season. The first involves a highly touted prospect who has begun to display the level of production that was predicted of them. Basically this type of breakout prospect is simply starting to meet expectations. The second type of breakout season occurs when a seldom heard of prospect forces their way into the spotlight through their on-field production. Usually, these are prospects selected in the later rounds of the draft or international prospects that were signed with little fanfare.
The Miami farm system is full of potential breakout candidates for the 2015 season. Across all levels of the system there are prospects who fall into each category; those highly acclaimed prospects who are poised to reach their expected potential, and prospects who are less known commodities to the casual Marlins fan who are ready to leap into the spotlight.
Triple-A New Orleans
Justin Nicolino is a prime example of a well known prospect poised for a breakout season. He dominated Double-A during the 2014 season with his excellent control and command of his pitches; not to mention his plus changeup. His lack of strikeouts is well documented, but the Fish do not seem overly concerned. Nicolino should continue his upward trajectory through the system by experiencing success in New Orleans. Other factors will no doubt play a role, but a good gauge on whether or not Nicolino "breaks out" will be whether or not he receives a September call-up in 2015.
Matt Ramsey does not appear on the mlb.com top 20 prospect list for the Marlins, but could flash in 2015. Ramsey is nearing the older side for a prospect at age 25, but possess a live arm and a nice breaking ball. At Double-A Jacksonville last year Ramsey posted a 1.47 ERA to go along with an 80/30 K/BB ratio. You can never have too many bullpen arms, and if the Fish need help in the pen Ramsey will be a candidate. If that happens, I would not bet against him sticking with the big league club.
Kendry Flores ranks 15th on the list of top Miami prospects. Certainly in the "Nicolino mold," as his plus command and control allow his offerings to play up. Flores has been better known in the prospect world ever since he led the entire Minor Leagues with a 8.1 strikeout to walk ratio during the 2013 season. His presence on the 40 man roster also makes him more well known to the casual fan. The Fish like him in the rotation as opposed to working out of the bullpen; making a big league debut unlikely during 2015. A breakout season for Flores though would see him quickly outclass Double-A hitters and experience success in Triple-A New Orleans.
Viosergy Rosa was drafted by Miami in the 29th round of the 2010 draft. This is a player who was cut from his high school baseball team multiple times; he has been used to beating the odds throughout his career. The 24 year old left handed hitting first baseman saw action in 20 games for the Suns last year, and drew high praise from manager Andy Barkett. Look for Rosa to continue his upward trajectory once the 2015 season begins.
Quick disclaimer: When you get down to High-A and Single-A level baseball, it is difficult to find prospects who fall into the first category of breakout player. These prospects have simply not played in enough professional games to allow anyone to "expect" them to reach a certain level of performance in 2015. Sure, the Marlins and their fans will want their prospects to continue developing, but such development at such a young age is often not measured in statistics alone. For these reasons, prospects at High-A or Single-A will all be grouped into the second group; lesser known prospects who are poised to propel themselves into the spotlight because of their on field production.
Matt Milroy should turn some heads in 2015. Originally drafted by the Red Sox in the 35th round out of high school, Milroy instead enrolled at the University of Illinois. The Fish grabbed him in the 11th round of the 2012 draft. When drafted Milroy was assumed on the fast track to the big leagues, albeit with a big caveat; he needed to refine his command. Three years on, the right hander is still working on the same issue. If he puts it together in 2015, look for Milroy and his rocket arm to gain recognition and move up the farm system.
Cameron Flynn was taken by Miami in the 23rd round of the 2012 draft. In just 39 games for Jupiter last season, Flynn slashed his way to a 247/265/323 line. His hit tool is well regarded, and he plays an athletic outfield. During the 2013 season, he hit .308 during 396 plate appearances in Greensboro, so the potential is there. He certainly has a decent chance to see time at Double-A Jacksonville before 2015 is over.
Isael Soto is as raw as they come, but is also dripping with potential. Signed from the Dominican in 2013, he played rookie ball last year at age 17. He shows signs of power, good swing, above average speed, and a strong arm. He will take some time to put it all together, but the Marlins love the collection of tools he shows; and it's not like the Marlins are desperate for outfield help right now anyways. Look for Soto to break out in a big way during 2015 as he continues to refine his tools and harness his raw skills.
Arturo Rodriguez signed out of the Mexican League, where he was playing for Tijuana. He is slightly old for this level at age 23, but the Marlins are interested to find out what they have here. Rodriguez slashed .371/.414/.611 during his final season with Tijuana, although that was in the offensive friendly Mexican League. He also threw out forty percent of runners attempting to steal. If his offense translates well to the American professional game, look for Rodriguez to advance to High-A Jupiter before 2015 is over. Beyond Realmuto, the farm system is not exactly stocked with elite catching talent.
The Marlins have many possible breakouts candidates within their minor league system. Many prospects will move quickly up the organizational ladder this summer as the Marlins are known for quickly promoting promising prospects. It should make for an exciting season.