The Miami Marlins' consensus rankings for prospects put a pitcher at the top of the list who still has a shiny prospect sheen. Tyler Kolek was our consensus best-ranked player, and he was ranked first on five out of the six sources that we used for the list. The sixth list was SB Nation's Minor League Ball's John Sickels, and in his infinite wisdom, he went out on a limb and chose Stone Garrett, the 20-year-old outfielder from Texas who just finished a season in the New York Penn League. It was an aggressive choice in the sense that Garrett had not been a huge name before the 2015 season, but with the kind of year he had dominating for the Batavia Muckdogs, it is not surprising.
Stone Garrett was drafted in the eighth round of the 2014 draft, the same draft in which Miami selected Kolek with the second pick. Garrett was taken out of George Ranch High School in Richmond, Texas, continuing yet another in a long line of selections from Texas and midwestern locations for director of scouting and player development Stan Meek. Apparently Garrett's stock was vacillating between a potential first-round draft pick and someone who might drop because of concerns with his swing. Eventually, of course, the latter occurred.
Garrett immediately started playing rookie ball alongside Kolek with the Gulf Coast Marlins, though his first season was unimpressive. He did nothing out of the ordinary, struggling facing professional pitching for the first time. He showed some propensity to strike out and difficulty differentiating balls from strikes. These were not only somewhat expected from him given his scouting report before the draft, but it is also not surprising for a high school selection known as an athletic specimen with rawer talent.
The 2015 season was when Garrett put himself back on the map. He was promoted to short-season ball with Batavia in the Penn League, and he absolutely mashed there. Among qualified hitters, he had the best batting line in the league, hitting .297/.352/.581 (.423 wOBA, 167 wRC+). He led the league in home runs with 11 and has the best ISO in the league at .284. Only one player even came close to the same line, and he was three years older than Garrett. In fact, the next player under 20 years of age had a line only 36 percent better than league average.
The concern initially for Garrett was that his swing was a bit long, leading to problems with strikeouts and not being able to harness what should be some nascent power. The power problem clearly was not an issue last season, as he dominated Batavia's pitchers and launched their balls everywhere, but the strikeouts were still abundant at a near 25 percent rate. In looking at the swing, his mechanics look clean and repeatable without a significant problematic warm-up mechanism or stride. There does not seem to be a whole lot of lower body movement, and some more hip rotation could help unlock further strength. The swing is a little long, but it is not anything unusual from other players at the big league level. Garrett's frame is slight, so he could certainly bulk up and add some more power.
However, his athleticism is what enticed a lot of folks, including Miami. His frame lends itself to good movement speed, and his raw foot speed is strong. He has the athletic ability to get to baseballs playing center field, where he currently is getting the bulk of his work. However, his reads are purportedly poor, and if he does grow, it may take away some of his ability to cover range. The thought is as of right now that he projects as a below-average fielder and perhaps may end up in a corner. This is especially due to a below average arm. However, on the basepaths he may be a weapon, though he has yet to utilize his speed in that fashion. His leads are not thought out yet and he has yet to grasp heady baserunning to take advantage of his strong foot speed.
Garrett will likely start the 2016 season in his first foray in full season ball, Low-A Greensboro. There is not fantastic precedent to speeding hitting prospects like him beyond Low-A within one season, so unless he completely tears the level apart, it is unlikely Miami will promote him beyond that. Christian Yelich was a year younger at each level (he did not spend significant time in short-season ball) and spent an entire year in Low- and High-A before his 2013 stint in Double-A and eventual promotion. Marcell Ozuna, who may be a more apt comparison as a raw outfield power hitter, spent all of his age 20 season in Greensboro and got a full run at Jupiter at age 21 before receiving a very early age-22 call-up in 2013.
As a result, Garrett will likely get plenty of time to work up the ladder and improve incrementally as Miami waits for his skills to improve. He needs to get better reads of pitchers at the plate and balls in the outfield while perhaps shortening up the swing enough. With a shorter swing and some growth, he may be able to really kick up the power game in his athletic build. However, the move to higher levels of competition may be enough to expose his fatal flaws and stymie his development.
Likely 2016 Level: Low-A Greensboro
Major League ETA: 2019
He’s one of the strongest players in the organization, and his natural strength and plus bat-speed allow him to generate backspin and take the ball out to any part of the park. The swing’s length leads to swing-and-miss, but his approach has improved, leading him to see more pitches and draw more walks.
- Baseball Prospectus staff
Eighth round pick in 2014 made rapid progress, power is genuine, runs well, still working on contact issues. Garrett and Josh Naylor below are the two impact bats in this system.
- John Sickels, Minor League Ball
His best fit will end up being in left field as a result. He’s an above-average runner, giving him another weapon to up his offensive game. His ceiling is high, though his defensive limitations put pressure on his approach and contact development to project better than a fringe starting option.
- Dan Farnsworth, FanGraphs