As we approach the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday, (12 p.m. ET/9 a.m. PT and audio streaming live on MLB.com), it becomes important to identify some of the targets the Marlins may be looking to add to their system. Specifically for a rebuilding team, this is one of the more exciting events of the entire offseason. The draft allows for organizations to add young talent to their roster, while incurring little to no risk in doing so.
Once a player is eligible for the Rule 5, their organization must add them to the 40-man roster in order to be protected from the draft. That deadline passed on last month with the Marlins adding Monte Harrison, Jorge Guzman, Isan Diaz, Jordan Yamamoto and others to the roster.
There were tough decisions, as the Marlins couldn’t find space for left-hander McKenzie Mills and infielder Christopher Torres. Should Mills or Torres get drafted, they must remain on the active 25-man roster for the entirety of the upcoming season or else be offered back to their original team. However, everybody dealt with a roster crunch in advance of this deadline, which means plenty of intriguing prospects were left off.
The 40-man rosters around MLB are being reshaped weekly, if not daily. The Marlins targets we discuss right now will be different than those available to them on draft day. As such, be sure to look out for further updates.
Update (12.12.2018): The 2018 Rule 5 Draft in now officially on-deck, and the Marlins seem primed to add a few players to their 40-man roster. The roster currently stands at 38 players, as INF Yadiel Rivera and RHP Brett Graves were out-righted, as of yesterday morning.
This yields the Marlins two slots for the Rule 5. With that being said, it should also be inferred that the roster evolution will continue late into the night, as it is becoming increasingly likely that a J.T. Realmuto trade will come into fruition.
Update (12.12.2018): Positional needs largely remain the same. Some analysts may state that the Spring Training invitation of first baseman Pedro Álvarez would palliate the desire for a potential First Baseman, but that is not a certainty.
As you make your way through the current 40-man roster, you quickly recognize that without J.T. Realmuto (likely to be traded by the Winter Meetings), the Marlins are greatly limited in their backstop help. First base could use depth as well, even more so with Derek Dietrich out of the picture. This club may leave the Winter Meetings with two Rule 5 players, one for each position.
1. Josh Ockimey – Boston Red Sox
When it comes to needs, and when it comes to first base, Ockimey is easily my first target in this draft. With plus-plus raw power from the left side, and his 2018 improvements on the field, he’s a perfect choice for the Marlins to select. His 2018 minor league numbers included adequate power production, hitting 20 HR, with an on-base percentage of .356 and an .811 OPS. Ockimey’s limitations, and likely why he was not protected, are his contact rates and questionable conditioning for the field.
With that being said, as someone the Marlins would stash at first base, and with a team starving for power potential, Josh Ockimey quickly becomes my first target.
2. Roberto Ramos – Colorado Rockies
Tell me if this sounds familiar: plus-plus raw power from the left side. Similar to my first choice, Ramos shows phenomenal power (32 HR in 2018 and .942 OPS) from the left side of the plate. While also showing limitations with contact, Ramos makes up for it with his power and average fielding at first. To many, Ramos will be a better option than Ockimey—and that’s a fair dialogue—but in my book, you can’t go wrong with either choice.
3. Jake Gatewood – Milwaukee Brewers
Let’s switch things up with plus-plus power from the right side. Gatewood has long been an interesting prospect. He began his pro-career at SS, before being transitioned to every infield position, sans 2nd base. Ultimately, his size (6’5’’) and his glove led him to sticking at first base, where his power will be more than suitable. Gatewood has the ability to field cleanly at 1B, and his power can play at the major league level, but his hit tool and contact rate are inferior to the above mentioned options. As such, there is significant uncertainty if he can stick around long term.
Honorable Mentions at First Base: Brian Mundell (COL), Dermis Garcia (NYY), José Marmolejos (WAS), and Lewin Diaz (MIN)
1. Patrick Mazeika – New York Mets
Mazeika is an interesting Rule 5 candidate, and this is why: he’s the rare catching prospect where his bat outweighs his defense. The reason this is interesting is because catchers with a good hit tool are rare, but do the Marlins want to risk their new shiny pitching prospects at the hands of Mazeika? GM Danny says yes, because give me the rare prospect—who will serve solely as the backup catcher to Chad Wallach—over the safe route in this rebuild. In theory, if Realmuto is traded, then you are left with the “perfect” balance at backstop. Wallach, a glove-first catcher who is known for calling a great game, and Mazeika, a hit-first catcher who would be forced to learn on the go. A catcher with an OBP close to .400, and .815 OPS? Yes, please.
2. Ali Sanchez – New York Mets
If you are not sold on Mazeika, then maybe you’ll buy into his Mets counterpart. Sanchez’ prospect profile is the inverse of Mazeika, as he will make it to the show on his ability to call a game, his plus-plus arm, and his overall receiving skills, rather than his bat. He will not win you a game with his hit tool, but he may be better suited to handle a young rotation for the Marlins rebuild. With that being said, we already have a Sanchez-type profile on the Marlins current roster, which is why he would be my second choice behind Mazeika.
Honorable Mention at Catcher: Roldani Baldwin (BOS), Jhonny Pereda (CHI), Brett Sullivan (TB), and David Rodriguez (TB)
The Marlins are in a good place—what a difference one year makes—when it comes to pitching depth in their farm system. Which is why, if given the choice, I hope they look for bats, bats, and more bats in this draft.
But we’re going to be as thorough as possible. The Rule 5 has some interesting pitching prospects, including some which may peak the interest of the Fish.
1. Riley Ferrell – Houston Astros
Consider me shocked that Ferrell was unprotected by the ‘Stros. But even more so, I would be astonished if Ferrell makes it through the Rule without being drafted. I won’t have to sell you too much on Ferrell, as his tools and profile speaks for itself: plus-plus fastball that reaches the high-90’s and a plus-plus, “put-away slider” which has long had scouts amazed.
So then why was he unprotected? He showed signs of serious limitations in 2018, upon reaching the AAA level, where advanced hitters were suddenly catching up to his fastball at higher rates and laying off of the slider. Nonetheless, this is an arm that an organization is going to take a chance on, and I wouldn’t be too upset if it were the Marlins.
2. Junior Fernandez – St. Louis Cardinals
Do you remember…maybe you have already forgotten…that trade that the Marlins made with the Cardinals? What was the player’s name? Oh yeah…Ozuna. (Just a joke, I love Ozuna). Well, when that trade occurred, the Marlins were getting “one of the top two arms—in terms of velocity—in the Cardinals system.” That arm was, of course, Sandy Alcántara.
Now, say hello to the other arm.
Fernandez lives in the high-90’s, often getting to triple digits on the radar gun. He pairs his lively fastball with an average to plus changeup, alongside some below average secondaries (i.e. slider and curve). Nonetheless, his fastball and changeup combo alone would be enough for a team to take a chance. Once again, this is what the Rule 5 is for; a place where teams should be taking chances on elite tools, with the hope that they can develop the rest as they go along. Fernandez fits that bill.
3. Art Warren – Seattle Mariners
Warren is likely, from the players mentioned above, the “safest” pick to stick with the Major League roster. His repertoire includes a plus-plus fastball that reaches the high 90’s, an average to plus slider, and an average curveball. Warren is the perfect pick to stash away in the pen, with hope that he also makes an immediate impact in the mid to late innings. Look for Warren to be selected by a team this year that may be looking to solidify their pen.
Honorable Mentions for Pitchers: Breiling Eusebio (COL), Elvis Luciano (KC), Foster Griffin (KC), Sam McWilliams (TB), Jairo Beras (TEX), Reed Garrett (TEX), and Zan Thompson (CHW).
Best Prospects Available
In discussing drafts, of any kind, there is typically an argument made for always drafting the best player available, instead of drafting to fill needs. Although I typically agree with this mentality, I am uncertain if this applies justly to the Rule 5 Draft, reason being that you need to draft with the understanding that this player is required to stay on your 25-man. They will be put to use immediately, so you should have a role to use them in.
That being said, let’s still look at what I would consider some of the best prospects/talent available in this upcoming draft. (I would have Ferrell and Ockimey on this list, but we have already discussed them.)
1. Richie Martin (SS) – Oakland Athletics
The Athletics—by not protecting Martin—need to know that he is as good as gone. Martin is a plus-plus defender at SS, with both his glove and his arm. He also has a nice speed tool, which he often utilizes on both the field, and out of the batter’s box. There is little doubt that Martin can and will be a Gold Glove candidate at SS once he reaches the major league level.
Midland’s Richie Martin singles off Corpus Christi’s Hector Perez to lead off the seventh. Martin advances to second on an error. #Athletics #MiLB pic.twitter.com/6shgPRjg5X— Christopher Hadorn (@chris_MRTsports) July 13, 2018
His limitations? His bat is average to below average, and his power has been non-existent throughout his minor league career. And yet, something interesting happened in 2018. Martin suddenly showed that his bat had some ability behind it: .300/.368/.439.
This slash isn’t going to create much excitement, but when you combine this improvement with a Gold Glove-caliber SS, you realize why he’s the best talent, in my opinion, that has yet to be discussed in this article. Derek Jeter and Michael Hill have often stated that they want athletic players that play up the middle. Miami, meet Richie Martin.
2. Drew Jackson (SS/2B) – Los Angeles Dodgers
Similar to Martin, Drew Jackson is a plus-plus defender across the board, although he is better suited for 2nd than short. The reality with Jackson is that he can play all around the diamond, with games played at 3rd, CF, SS, and 2nd throughout his minor league career. He also has a plus-plus speed tool, which makes him into quite the threat when on the bases.
The issue here, however, is that he needs to get on base more frequently. His hit and power tools are below average to average, with slightly more pop than Martin; his eye at the plate (approach) also seems to be inconsistent. Unlike Martin, Jackson did not take steps forward in 2018, which is why the Dodgers likely felt comfortable leaving him unprotected.
3. Max Schrock (2B) – St. Louis Cardinals
Max Schrock hustles for an RBI triple despite a solid relay from @BlueJays phenom Bo Bichette to Vladimir Guerrero Jr at third.— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 27, 2018
Schrock is No. 10 on the @Cardinals Top 30: https://t.co/zGqqpcVnte pic.twitter.com/5jD187dccc
If you could combine Schrock’s prospect profile with Drew Jackson’s, you would have the perfect prospect, and he likely would have been protected by that perfect prospect’s hypothetical team. Schrock hits everywhere he goes, and that’s saying a lot, being that he seems to always be vital piece in big-time trades (Stephen Piscotty in 2017 and Marc Rzepczynski in 2016 when the Nats were competing). Schrock will not be a power option, but he has shown to have good contact rates, and his eye at the plate has been solid.
The lefty shows a knack for making contact, getting on base, and is average with the glove. Cardinals are taking a calculated risk by not protecting him, and I believe it will be a risk they later regret.
4. Travis Demeritte (OF/2B) – Atlanta Braves
The Braves took a chance last year by not protecting Demeritte, and they got away with, as no one drafted him. I highly doubt they’ll be lucky again this time.
Demeritte is a power hitting second baseman, who is also average to plus in the field. He is almost the complete package, if he could simply cut down his K-rate (which again shows why Isan Diaz is so impressive). Demeritte is the perfect player to stash away, as his hit tool may not yet be ready for the show, but if it ever clicks, you’re looking at a complete player at second, very similar to Isan Diaz.
Honorable Mentions: Marcus Wilson* (ARZ), Luis Carpio (NYM), Daniel Brito (WAS), Sandro Fabian* (SFG), Ian Miller (SEA), Pedro Gonzalez (COL), Forrest Wall (TOR), Termite Agustin (WAS), Drew Ward (WAS), David Thompson (NYM), Ray-Patrick Didder (ATL).
*Wilson and Fabian are top-level talents who likely deserve their own spotlight, but their level of development makes them riskier selections for the Rule 5 Draft. Nonetheless, both are considered Top 5 talents in this draft.
As a part of maneuvering their rosters, two teams made interesting decisions to designate for assignment some valuable talent. Both are players who I believe should be targets for the Marlins, under the right conditions.
1. Jordan Patterson (1B/OF) – Colorado Rockies DFA’d
Update (12.12.2018): Patterson’s journey has been anything but linear since the original publishing of this article. First, on September 26th, the New York Mets successfully claimed Patterson of off waivers. Then, on September 29th, the Mets waived Patterson, who was claimed by the Cincinnati Reds. On November 30th, Patterson and the Reds agreed to elect for Free Agency, meaning that Patterson is now officially available for Miami. It is unlikely that Miami and Patterson would end up together, particularly after the addition of Pedro Álvarez, but the Marlins’ brass would still be wise to keep an eye of his movement.
Patterson was DFA’d with the sole purpose of creating room on the Rockies 40-man roster for upcoming prospects, but make no mistake, he has absolute talent. He carried a 2018 line of .271/.367/.525, with a good to above average glove and arm. Patterson was in the middle of a logjam in Colorado, but he would be a very welcomed addition to the Miami Marlins organization at a time when first base is a question mark.
2. C.J. Cron (1B) – Tampa Bay Rays
Update (12.12.2018): Cron has had a much more pragmatic journey off of waivers than Patterson. On the 26th of September, Cron was successfully claimed by the Minnesota Twins, and currently remains on their roster. I guess the Twins read my article ;)
Cron, the surprise DFA of the day—no, that title is not reserved for Dietrich—will assuredly find a suitor for his services in no time. I would not be surprised if the Rays are able to find a trade partner over the next seven days before the DFA window expires. Cron blasted 30 homers, at the MLB level, in 2018, carrying a .253/.323/.492 line across 140 games played. If the Marlins are looking for a veteran piece who has significant value, and can likely get flipped at the deadline, then Cron is the guy.
This Rule 5 Draft projects to yield one of the more talented crops of players in recent years. With significant power-options at first, power-arms in SP and RP, and overall talent that fits the “up the middle” approach, this draft is set up to be a perfect storm for the Marlins. They would be wise to take advantage.
Please make sure to check back frequently. Adjustments to Miami’s own roster could change their priorities by the time draft day arrives. Make sure to comment on who you would target, either from the list or players I may have missed!