Last week's prospect profile update: Kendry Flores tossed five strong innings Monday night against the Oklahoma City Dodgers. He gave up one earned run, but struck out only three while allowing two walks. More of the same from Flores-- a high quality performance, but a short outing.
J.T Riddle is the focus prospect for this week. Riddle is currently with the Double-A Jacksonwille Suns. In 86 at-bats, he's hitting .279 with one home run and 18 RBI. His 18 RBI are second on the team only to fellow prospect Austin Dean. Customarily a good contact hitter, Riddle's 20 strikeouts stand out as the lone concern early in the season.
Riddle plays all over the infield. His natural position is second base, however he clearly possesses the arm strength and athleticism to have now spent the vast majority of his professional career at shortstop. The Marlins are now slotting Riddle as an occasional third baseman as well. Riddle's versatility is his greatest strength and selling point to his potential major league career. He has been a productive hitter throughout his minor league career, but doesn't really stand out in any offensive category, at least not from a big league perspective. Riddle's reliability with the glove will likely earn him a position as a quality MLB utility player.
Riddle has stood out in what has consistently been considered one of the lesser farm systems in baseball. He has ranged from #10-15 on the Marlins' prospect list since being drafted. Throughout his entirety as a prospect, Riddle has been pinned as a future utility infielder and nothing more. It may seem foolish to place so much focus on a player who will see occasional big league time and be more of a late-inning defensive replacement. In a way that's true, but not all prospects project to be the next Bryce Harper. Having an impactful utility infielder can be a major weapon in today's game.
Consider players like Sean Rodriguez of the Pittsburgh Pirates or Ronald Torreyes of the Yankees. Both players see inconsistent playing time, yet perform at a high level when stepping between the lines. Who knows? Maybe Riddle could prove valuable enough to become a Ben Zobrist. The glove will be what gets Riddle to a major league roster, but the bat will determine how long he stays on a major league roster.
As for a debut timeline... likely a ways away. The Marlins do lack infield depth. The moment Adeiny Hechavarria or Martin Prado gets injured, there will be slim pickings in terms of replacements. This bodes well for Riddle, however he may not be in a position to make the jump to the majors this year. The 24-year-old hardly set foot in Triple-A last season, and a return to Double-A to start the 2016 campaign wasn't exactly progress for Riddle. If he keeps up the good numbers at Double-A Jacksonville he should be promoted to Triple-A New Orleans in no time. A possible debut with the Marlins will be more of a discussion once the promotion occurs.