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Miami Marlins farm system thin on top-end talent

Minor League Ball's prospect distribution came out, and the Marlins' farm system has very little bankable talent.

Jarlin Garcia is one of the few B-ranked prospects in Miami's farm system.
Jarlin Garcia is one of the few B-ranked prospects in Miami's farm system.
Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Marlins are up on John Sickels' priority over at SB Nation's Minor League Ball, and yesterday he released the distribution of grades involving the Marlins' system. It...wasn't pretty.

Grade A: Zero
Grade A-: Zero
Grade B+: Zero
Grade B: Zero
Grade B-:  Five
Grade C+:  Nine
Grade C:  20

To get a good sense of what those grade levels mean, this is the primer Sickels usually releases with his annual grades.


Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don’t intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.

Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.

Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.

Grade A prospects are the most guaranteed regulars, and some of those players are bound to be stars. The last time the Marlins had a Grade A prospect, it was before the 2014 season, when they boasted former first-round draft pick Andrew Heaney. Before that season, the Fish also had six more B-rated prospects, ranging from a B+ for guys like Colin Moran to B- players like Jake Marisnick, Brian Flynn, and Anthony DeSclafani. Some of those guys turned out to be useful and some did not.

This year, the Marlins are unlikely to have anyone above a B- ranking according to Sickels. He also notes the players he ranks as the team's five B- prospects in order.

For what it is worth, right now I have the top five as Stone Garrett,Tyler Kolek, Josh Naylor, Kendry Flores, and Jarlin Garcia in that order.

You will note that the two players at the top are the youngest ones. Stone Garrett was an eighth-round draft pick out of high school in Texas, while Kolek famously was the second pick of the draft out of another Texas high school. The two prep picks are the best players in the Marlins' system, if only because they hold the most promise in terms of potential star production. Last year's first-round draft pick out of a Canadian high school, first baseman Josh Naylor, trades on similar promise.

Garrett is an intriguing name, as he was on the fringes of most Marlins organizational lists last year (Sickels rated him among a series of deep picks, but not in the team's top 20) but was still too raw a player to project without having seen him play significantly. He spent this year in the New York Penn League and finished short-season ball with an impressive .297/.352/.581 (.423 wOBA, 167 wRC+) line in 240 plate appearances. For a first time through in professional ball, that is an impressive season for a 19-year-old.

Contrast that with Tyler Kolek's disappointing campaign in Low-A Greensboro and you can see why Garrett was ranked ahead, especially given the batter's impressive turn in power (11 homers, .284 ISO). Still, Kolek holds the pedigree argument, and he still has the upside of throwing near triple-digit heat as a starter. He has to prove his health and stamina are not an issue before the Marlins tackle his control issues, so there is still a lot to work on, but with the farm system in such tatters, the Fish have to trade primarily in promise and ceiling rather than in readiness.

The two Marlins in the top five prospects who are closer to big league ready still have question marks. Most Marlins pitching prospects could eventually be forced into the bullpen, and Kendry Flores and Jarlin Garcia are two of those names. For Flores, the problem is in his lack of pure stuff. In Garcia, it is the question of his tertiary offerings and a changeup. In both cases, however, the Marlins are unlikely to have high-impact contributors coming soon.

Those five names are passable, but there is a huge issue in terms of upside in Miami's farm system. Kolek and Garrett are the most likely to deliver on their ceiling, but both still have plenty of questions. Furthermore, if you look into the team's other prospects, you can see that they may not have a whole lot of high-upside guys in the low minors; many of their C-ranked prospects are mid-minors players struggling to break through to Double-A or relievers with ultimately low ceilings. The few names among higher-upside players in the low levels include righty starter and 2015 fourth-rounder Cody Poteet, outfielder / first baseman and 2013 fourth-rounder K.J. Woods, and 2015 eighth-rounder righty Chris Paddack.

No matter how you slice it, this system is light on talent. It is filled with depth players with low-upside among its C-ranked prospects and its best prospects are all lottery tickets with minimal statistical proof of success. It might be a lean next few years in terms of minor league help for Miami.