As top relief prospects Grant Dayton and Nick Wittgren continue to dominate at their respected levels in the Marlins minor league system, there are others looking to prove that they should be considered as the next arms to hold down wins out of the Marlins major league bullpen. So hold in your prospect drool as we breakdown the Best of the Rest in the Marlins minor league bullpens.
Best of the Rest
As I have stated before, in my article "The Enigma Prospect: Miami Marlins Colby Suggs," Suggs dominated in his time at the University of Arkansas, never finishing a season with an ERA higher than 1.74. He earned his "Bulldog" nickname by continually boosting his career stat line as a Razorback, finishing with a 1.36 ERA to go along with 53 walks and 65 strikeouts in a total of 79.2 innings pitched over three seasons. This gave the Marlins strong reasons to select him with their 2nd round, supplemental 73rd overall pick in the 2013 Amateur draft. After all, what’s not to like when you can have a right-hand reliever whose physical attributes place him around 6’0" in spikes and 235 lbs. strong on the mound? This physicality, combined with his show time curveball, contributed to MLBPipeline experts ranking him as the Miami Marlins Organizational #10 prospect in 2014. Unfortunately, Colby Suggs scouted talent is yet to catch up with his hype when taking a look at his recent minor league stats below:
With the High-A Jupiter Hammerheads in 2014, Suggs allowed 25 walks, six wild pitches and seven hit batsmen - while pitching 58 1/3 innings in 46 appearances. These statistics represent the same erratic tendencies on the mound that he showed in 2013 after signing with the Marlins and being promoted to High-A where he allowed 14 free passes in 18 1/3 innings, facing a total of 79 batters out of the pen.
Going forward, Suggs, who is ranked this year as the Marlins' 17th-ranked organizational prospect by MLBPipeline.com, will need to find consistency in his mechanics and mental make-up. If he can master control of his devastating curveball the can be a force to be reckoned with, especially when paired with his above-average fastball that sits 93-95 on the gun. Honing in on these skills will help to put Colby Suggs back on the fast track to the big leagues, and make him one of the top relief prospects to watch in the Marlins minor league system this season.
Is Brian Ellington a possible fast track prospect in 2015? Ranked as the Marlins' 21st-ranked organizational prospect by MLBPipeline.com at the age of 24, Ellington, who stands at 6’1" 215 lbs, has the desired aggressive relief mentality that could land him in the big leagues in 2015. Drafted by the Marlins in 16th round of the 2012 June amateur draft, Ellington already possesses all the intangible traits you like to see in a reliever – high motor, aggressive and short memory. These traits have him ranked this high on the Best of the Rest list. These tangible traits include his major league ready fastball - that sits in the 92-95 MPH and max efforts at 98 MPH. Ellington’s above-average curveball has developed into his best off-speed pitch, which tends to be inconsistent more times than not, but is a better offering pitch than his average to below-average slider, change-up and developing splitter. These are average off-speed offerings that Ellington developed in 2013 while being promoted up the minor league ranks from rookie ball all the way up to Low-A Greensboro in the Marlins farm system. This repertoire of pitches helped him be successful in 2014, while putting him on the prospect fast track to start the 2015 season – statistics shown below:
It’s no secret that Ellington possesses the raw tools and arm strength to be a top tier reliever in the big leagues, especially when armed with more off-speed offerings than any other relief pitcher in the farm system. Like every prospect though, there is always a downside - and right now Ellington’s is his inconsistent command of the strike zone, which can be attributed to his lengthy delivery. This is something he will need to work on this season if he wants to see a promotion to Triple-A New Orleans. Looking at the stats above for 2015, if Ellington can continue to keep his walk rate down, which currently stands at 1.72 walks per nine innings pitched through 9 appearances, then we could see him develop into a late inning set-up guy at the major league level for the Marlins - making him a strong bullpen candidate to watch down on the farm this season.
Miguel Del Pozo
There’s a good chance that Del Pozo is the best lefty reliever in the Marlins minor league system. The 22 year-old , 6’1" 185 lbs. left-handed reliever Del Pozo signed with the Miami Marlins in the summer of 2010 at the age of 16. It wasn’t until the 2014 season though, that the Marlins front office finally got to take a good long look at the Santo Domingo, DR baseball product. After spending his first 2 seasons in the instructional rookie level leagues for the Marlins, Del Pozo got an opportunity to make a name for himself in 2013 – starting the year with the Marlins short-season affiliate the Bavatia Muckdogs. Pitching for the Muckdogs, Del Pozo out pitched his 4.81 ERA by posting a 3.14 FIP, while striking out 36 hitters and stranding 68.1% of runners on-base in just 24.1 innings pitched. These statistics combined with his low 90’s fastball and above-average curve-ball combination, sparked his seasons end promotion to High-A Jupiter – where he pitched just 2 innings and faced a total of 10 batters. Del Pozo carried his success from 2013 over to his first full season of minor league ball in 2014 for Low-A Greensboro, as seen in his statistics below:
The only worry about Del Pozo’s game up to this point in his minor league career, was his walk rate issues in his first 3 seasons with the organization. This has improved since the 2013 season, helping to elevate his prospect ranking as reported by Under the Radar Minors blog:
"Del Pozo could be one of the first young relief pitchers to make the push to Miami. He has the ability to miss bats as he struck out 85 in 66 innings at Low-A Greensboro. One promising stat was his BB/9 rate which hovered around 6.o over his first 3 years as a pro, but was slimmed to 2.6 last season in 41 appearances. One area he needs to improve is holding runners from scoring, based on his career 4.71 ERA."
Not only does this state that Del Pozo has made drastic improvements on the control front, but he is continuing to make a name for himself outside the Marlins front office. With Grant Dayton and Nick Wittgren in line at Triple-A in front of him to be the next relievers to hit the big leagues, Del Pozo will need to put together another strong statistical resume during his 2015 campaign in hopes of landing a spot in the Marlins bullpen behind front runners like Dayton and Wittgren.
Could Matt Milroy be a fast track prospect as a reliever? Drafted by the Miami Marlins out of the University of Illinois five rounds before previously named Brian Ellington in the 2012 MLB Draft, Milroy became the highest-drafted Illini pitcher since 2001. After finishing his junior season ranked ninth in the nation in strikeouts per innings pitched (10.98), and first in the Big Ten conference in opponent batting average (.207) and strikeouts (65) as a starter, it’s easy to see why the Marlins were so high on Milroy. Unfortunately, those statistics didn’t translate over to his first appearance in pro ball with the Bavatia Muckdogs – posting a 5.04 FIP while walking 23 and striking out 30 over 35 innings pitched, making eight appearances out of his nine total as a starter. Even with his pure stuff on the mound, Milroy struggles continued in his first full season of pro ball at Low-A Greensboro in 2013, finishing the season with a 5.49 ERA and 4.44 FIP while walking 5.18 per nine innings pitched with 59 strikeouts in 57.1 innings pitched – only making nine starts out of his 17 appearances. In 2014 though (his second full season), things started clicking for Milroy – shown in his statistics below:
Milroy made huge strides in 2014, splitting his time starting and relieving out of the Grasshoppers bullpen. He registered 12.36 strikeouts per nine innings pitched and dropped his astounding 5.18 walk rate from the previous season - down to 3.27 before being promoted to High-A Jupiter. This promotion featured Milroy as a starter out of the pen and brought back images of his erratic control problems- he finished his High-A campaign in 2014 with a 6.84 walk rate and minor league career low 6.66 strikes out per nine innings pitched over 50 innings.
With all his struggles with control as a starter, Milroy seems to be slowly finding a place as a fast track prospect out of the bullpen. With a low 90’s fastball that can touch 95 MPH on occasion and a wicked late-breaking mid 80’s slider, pitching out of the pen would certainly allow his pitches to play up – as seen in his 2015 stat line above. It will also allow Milroy to develop his change-up into an above-average third offering, while continuing to be successful with his fastball-slider combination in late in relief without any setbacks.
It’s still too early to tell whether Milroy will end up as a starter or reliever by the time he makes the big league roster, but the 6’2" 190 lbs. right-hander has the pure stuff and mound moxie to create a lot of swings and misses if he can continue to harness his control issues.