Last week's prospect profile update: Austin Brice
Brice stayed on par in last week's start, tossing 5 2/3 innings of shutout baseball and striking out six. He followed that start with six innings on Friday, giving up three runs on five hits. Not his best effort, but a quality start. More consistency from Brice, a good sign for the Marlins.
This week's focus prospect is right-handed pitcher Jake Esch. Esch is currently at Double-A Jacksonville for the Marlins. He's thrown 46 2/3 innings this season in nine starts, accumulating an ERA of 4.63. The 26-year-old has spent time at every level of the minor leagues, reaching as high as Triple-A at the beginning of the 2015 season. His Triple-A stint consisted of only six starts before being sent back to Double-A as a result of poor performance.
Esch is yet another Marlin's pitching prospect with tremendous up side, but very little consistency. As Miami's #9 prospect, Esch's repertoire consists of a mid-90s fastball, a plus changeup and a plus slider, along with a developing curveball. Two plus pitches and a mid-90s fastball should have Esch cruising in the minors, however the numbers don't correlate.
Esch has held opposing hitters to a .256 BAA (Batting Average Against) and a BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play) of .273 in 2016. Both stats prove he's tough to hit. Yet a 4.27 ERA proves otherwise. A combination of untimely walks and spotty command have troubled Esch.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, the difference between the minor leagues and the major leagues is a pitcher's ability to command his pitches. It is noted that Esch has the stuff to impact a major league roster, but he has yet to show consistent command among his repertoire. An improvement in that particular area may be the sole restraint on a big league promotion for Esch.
At 26-years-old, Esch is at the awkward age that borderlines too much times spent in the minors and about time to break into the majors. But no opportunity of such great privilege is provided because a certain age is reached. Esch will have to earn it. There are a handful of pitching prospects in the Marlins organization that rank ahead of Esch, however Esch is one of the more seasoned arms and needs less development than the younger ones. Esch projects as a backend starter in the majors, a definite area of need for the Miami Marlins. He may get the opportunity to fill that role, however he's likely still a year or two away. If he continues on a nice path in the minors this year, and the Marlins wind up out of contention come September, Esch could be a call-up just to get his feet wet in the major leagues. As for the possibility of him being a major league mainstay, well that likely won't come until 2017 or 2018. First things first, Esch must triumph the Triple-A level.