The Miami Marlins shored up their infield partly this past offseason by acquiring Dee Gordon from the Los Angeles Dodgers in a trade that included former 2012 first-round draft pick Andrew Heaney. That deal figures to keep Gordon on the Fish as the starting second baseman for the next four seasons ideally. On the other side of the infield is Adeiny Hechavarria, who has many question marks surrounding his play over the last two years but has started off well this season thus far.
Still, with the 2015 MLB Draft on the way and loaded with infield prospects from both college and high school, will the Fish look at an infielder with the 12th pick? Here are some names to keep an eye on.
Kevin Newman, SS, Arizona
Newman is a two-time Cape Cod League batting champion and was a leader on the Arizona team the last few years, but he has some clear and evident pluses and minuses. On the plus side, he is a great contact hitter with tremendous potential on his hit tool. He has a fantastic approach at the plate and good recognition; he struck out just 41 times in 666 plate appearances over the last three years versus 48 walks. He is not a huge threat to steal bases, but he is an effective plus baserunner. He is expected to stick at shortstop, which helps his future value tremendously.
On the negative side, Newman cannot hit for power and will never profile to do so, making his game a lot like Ben Revere without the top-end speed. Newman hit .391 this year for Arizona, but his slugging percentage only reached .481 on the year. This was his first season of elite hitting, as prior to that he had reached a .300 average but never had an OPS greater than .800. There are a lot of mixed opinions on where his ceiling is as a Major Leaguer, so for a college player, he is still a big question mark despite obvious tools.
Cornelius Randolph, SS, Griffin HS (Georgia)
Randolph boasts great plate recognition and power potential from a primarily left-sided bat, though he has been a switch hitter in high school. The Georgia product has an advanced approach that should help his floor and has good swing mechanics that should keep him steady there. The Marlins are always looking for left-sided help, so the bat would play nicely in the organization.
Most scouts agree that Randolph will not be a shortstop in the future, though he is one for the time being. There is an expectation that his below average speed and athleticism defensively will eventually put him at third base. Luckily, Miami does not have great options at the hot corner, which makes a shift there eventually not a bad idea for Miami. Randolph's eventual power and his arm strength apparently should hold up with the transition.
Ian Happ, 2B/OF, Cincinnatti
Happ is the least infield-y of the players listed here, but I put him on this list because of his impact bat. He has a compact, solid swing that put up good numbers in Cincinnati; Happ hit .369/.492/.672 with 14 home runs in 252 plate appearances this year for the Bearcats. The power surge was good to see, and his lefty swing can produce pop despite his smallish frame. It is not power that you can dream on, but with a good swing, his offensive capabilities are promising nonetheless.
The problem is that it is uncertain that he can play the infield, and the alternative appears to be the corner outfield. If he ends up in the corners long term, that would make him a pretty prototypical "tweener" outfielder with a bat that may not stick in the corners positively but the lack of athletic ability to play infield or center field. Happ has not played second base regularly since 2014; the above video was from June of last year, and since then he has been mostly an outfielder. If he cannot stick in the infield, the bat may become more concerning.
Richie Martin, SS, Florida
Martin is a rare true shortstop who faces zero questions about his future position. He spent his time in Florida showing off a tremendous glove that will translate well into the big leagues. He also spent 2015 showing off improved work at the plate. After hitting just .266/.357/.340 for the Gators last season, he bumped back up those numbers to a more acceptable .291/.405/.414 mark. With that came an improvement in walks, as he upped his walk rate to 11 percent while maintaining an 11 percent strikeout rate.
Martin will never hit for power but he can drive the ball into the gaps for the occasional hard-hit double. In that sense, he is reminiscent of Hechavarria, who flashes power potential but really hits gap to gap if anything. The question is whether Martin has improved his hitting enough to warrant a higher selection, especially for a team that already has a similar player in the majors.
Also, this is an obligatory video for Martin versus the Seminoles. Eat it, FSU!
Other infield names on the radar, at least in the middle to late parts of the first round, include Louisiana-Lafayette's Blake Trahan, Arizona's Scott Kingery, and third base prospect Ke'Bryan Hayes out of high school. Will the Marlins go to the infield in 2015? We'll find out tonight at 7 pm EST!