While the performances of the first month of the baseball season are not necessarily a foolproof way of making significant conclusions about how a team or player will perform across an entire season, the first month at least gives us a hint. I also prefer basing conclusions or predictions on real baseball as opposed to off-season projections. That being said, today we'll see how each of the top five prospects, ranked before the 2015 season began by mlb.com, fared during the month of April.
1. Tyler Kolek
I wrote about Kolek last week, so I won't spend a ton of time on him here. The young flamethrower had a rough first two outings for Class-A Greensboro before enjoying better command and control during his second pair of starts. Kolek's velocity has been down over the first month of the season (and by "down" I mean in the low to mid 90's), but the Fish are not concerned at this point. Of far more importance right now is hammering out Kolek's mechanics and delivery; specifically making his delivery more consistent and thus easier to repeat. The Marlins are confident the velocity will return to what he showed before last summer's draft as Kolek masters his delivery and continues to grow into his body.
2. Justin Nicolino
Nicolino is tearing up Triple-A while pitching in New Orleans. Over five starts Nicolino has posted a ridiculous 0.63 ERA to go along with 20 strikeouts and only allowing two earned runs; he is also yet to allow a home run. A minor red flag may be the fact that he has already walked nine batters over these five games, after walking only 20 batters over 28 starts during the 2014 season. Nicolino is obviously not hindered by such a stat, as he is excelling at Triple-A, but this bears keeping an eye on as his season progresses. Not an ideal option for a bullpen spot, Nicolino will likely force his way into a Marlins' rotation absent of a left-hander sometime before 2015 is over. When that happens will depend on some other factors, but Nicolino is certainly keeping up his end of the bargain.
3. Avery Romero
Over 24 games at High-A Jupiter Romero is slashing .267/.333/.314, while driving in eight runs. He only has two extra-base hits to his name. Definitely nothing to write home about, however these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt; though Romero did perform better across the board over a similar sample size when called up to Jupiter for the end of the 2014 season. And while not yet alarming, the numbers do give one pause when you consider that Romero has been touted as an offensive-minded secondbaseman. All of that being said, it is quite early; although if Romero carries his slow start with him throughout the season there will be cause for concern.
4. Trevor Williams
Williams has had a so-so start to the 2015 season. After five starts his ERA sits at 4.44, and he is giving up over one hit per inning; his strikeout to walk ratio has been decent however, currently sitting at 2.50. Williams has lacked consistency this season; looking like an ace one outing and and failing to find the strike zone during his next outing. Baserunners seem to affect Williams negatively, and while this is not shocking news for a young pitcher (or any pitcher), it is something Williams will need to shore up as the season moves along. With the bases empty Williams boasts an ERA of 1.20; with runners in scoring position Williams' ERA balloons to 10.13. Williams has the stuff to get a shot in the big leagues, but needs to show the ability to be consistent at the Double-A level before he gets that chance.
5. J.T. Realmuto
The only one of the top five prospects to see time in the big leagues this season, Realmuto has enjoyed something of a breakout season as he has established himself with the Marlins. Through 17 games with the Fish this season Realmuto is slashing an acceptable .232/.250/.321. Certainly good enough for a catcher, and good enough for the Marlins to cut loose Saltalamacchia at a not insignificant loss. Realmuto's defense has not been quite as advertised so far, as he has only thrown out 17 percent of players attempting to steal compared to the 28 percent league average, but the Fish are counting that coming around. As Realmuto learns the pitching staff and the nuances of big league catching, his defensive numbers should improve.
These top five are an interesting group; there is a good mix of pitching, position players, rookies, and minor league veterans making the jump to the big leagues. If Miami is able to receive big league contributions from three or four of these prospects it will me a huge success and boost for the organization. All are on the path to the big leagues. Some are already there.