Arguably the most distinguished outlet when it comes to baseball talent evaluation, Baseball America released its Marlins Top 10 prospects list on Wednesday. Not all that many surprises from Associate Editor Kegan Lowe—our regular readers will recognize many of these names for their combination of tools and performance.
Further highlighting how much this farm system has improved in a short time, 9 of the 10 featured players were acquired under new Marlins ownership.
Scouting reports below come from BA with some related Fish Stripes coverage mixed in.
1. OF Víctor Víctor Mesa
SCOUTING REPORT: A premium athlete, Mesa is already considered a plus defender in center field, with some scouts grading both his arm and his speed as 70 tools. Mesa uses his speed well in the outfield, with a quick first step and strong route-running ability helping extend his range, while his arm routinely prevents baserunners from taking an extra base. Offensively, Mesa profiles best as a top-of-the-order hitter, most likely settling in as a No. 2 hitter. As a 20-year-old in Cuba, he hit .354/.399/.539 with seven home runs and 40 stolen bases, showcasing a potential plus hit tool. Mesa has shown quick bat speed, above-average barrel control and a solid approach at the plate in the past. With an inside-out swing, Mesa’s power is probably no more than fringe-average, but some believers think he could grow into above-average power as he continues to mature. Mesa has been hampered by injuries throughout his career, and a desire to work with U.S. medical staffs and use major league facilities to stay healthy helped convince him to leave Cuba.
Every other player who was seriously considered for the list had some sort of experience in affiliated Minor League Baseball. Víctor Víctor showed enough against his countrymen through the years and during a Marlins Park workout in October to seize the No. 1 spot despite an unconventional background.
2. RHP Sandy Alcántara
SCOUTING REPORT: Alcántara is armed with a plus-plus fastball, which previously topped out at 102 mph. In 2018, he threw more 92-95 mph two-seam fastballs, though he is still capable of using his upper-90s four-seamer when needed. Alcántara’s issue is getting his fastball over the plate for strike one, and his fringe-average control has hampered his development. All three of his secondary offerings have above-average to plus potential, though Alcántara relied more heavily on his mid-to-upper 80s slider against righthanders, while backing off using his low-80s curveball as much. His upper-80s changeup provides another potential swing-and-miss pitch, most notably against lefthanders.
The Marlins took the bold step of using Sandy as one of the faces of their “Our Colores” rebranding campaign. The peripherals from his limited MLB action are concerning (5.00 FIP through 14 appearances), but at his sharpest, the 23-year-old can dominate any lineup.
Unlike the rest of BA’s top 10, Alcántara is a near-lock to crack the Opening Day roster.
3. OF Monte Harrison
SCOUTING REPORT: Perhaps the best pure athlete in the Marlins’ system, Harrison has excellent bat speed and plus raw power. When he makes contact, he consistently hits the ball as hard as any Marlins prospect. Harrison has recently toned down the high leg kick he previously used and replaced it with a simpler toe tap he uses as a timing mechanism. With fewer moving parts in his swing, Harrison is aiming to cut down his strikeout rate (37 percent in Double-A) without sacrificing too much power. Defensively, Harrison has the range to play an average center field, though his plus arm strength would also play in right field.
Harrison’s adjustments at the plate were on display in the Arizona Fall League where he trimmed his strikeout rate down to 23.5 percent.
4. RHP Nick Neidert
SCOUTING REPORT: Listed at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, Neidert isn’t overpowering, though his fastball regularly sits between 91-93 mph. He locates his fastball well to both sides of the plate and uses a plus changeup to prohibit hitters from sitting on his fastball. Neidert’s low-80s breaking ball doesn’t grade out much better than average, but he isn’t afraid to throw it in any count. All three of Neidert’s pitches play up because of his plus control and ability to keep hitters off-balance.
The slam-dunk selection for Marlins Minor League Pitcher of the Year arrived in Miami without much fanfare as the centerpiece of the Dee Gordon trade. He figures to join Alcántara in the major league rotation at some point in 2019.
5. OF Connor Scott
SCOUTING REPORT: Though he has an unusual gait, Scott is at least a plus runner, which helps him on the bases and in the outfield. He played exclusively center field in his pro debut, where he showed acceptable range, but he could move to a corner as he continues to fill out his 6-foot-4 frame. Scott has plus arm strength and he routinely threw in the low 90s as a high school pitcher. The 19-year-old fills out his five-tool potential with power that could develop as plus and solid feel to hit. His bat clearly—and expectedly—lagged behind his defense when the Marlins aggressively pushed him to low Class A Greensboro.
Scott has an awkward style, which isn’t an adjective you’re used to seeing attached to a first-round draft pick. As BA mentions, the club’s decision to promote him to full-season ball within a couple months of turning pro was a humbling experiment.
6. RHP Jorge Guzmán
SCOUTING REPORT: Guzmán is one of the hardest-throwing starters in the minors, with his elite fastball consistently sitting in the upper 90s with a peak of 103 mph. His control took a step back in 2018, however, with his walk rate going from 2.4 per nine innings in 2017 to 6.0 per nine in 2018. Guzmán’s changeup shows plus potential, but he needs to continue refining his slider to become an above-average offering. Improved control and continued development of his slider will go a long way for Guzmán. He’s hard to square up, but there are scouts who believe his future is in the bullpen.
The 2019 season will be pivotal to Guzmán’s development after a frustrating debut in the Marlins organization.
7. RHP Edward Cabrera
SCOUTING REPORT: Cabrera is similar to fellow Marlins righthanders Sandy Alcántara and Jorge Guzmán in that he showcases a high-velocity fastball that has cleared the 100 mph mark. Standing at a lean 6-foot-4, Cabrera’s plus fastball most regularly sits in the mid-90s as a starter with good, late life in the zone. He has a potential plus breaking ball and is working on a changeup that flashes plus at times but remains inconsistent. Like Guzmán, Cabrera still needs to work on controlling his high-powered arsenal. His walk rate increased to roughly 3.8 walks per nine innings in 2018.
I feel like Cabrera gets severely under-discussed relative to other top prospects. He held his own at age 20 versus older batters in the South Atlantic League. The front office should be able to keep a close eye on him next summer as a starter for High-A Jupiter.
8. 2B Isan Díaz
SCOUTING REPORT: Díaz has the profile of an offensive second baseman, with plus raw power that he continues to tap into in games. He has hit at least 13 home runs in each of the last four seasons, with one evaluator theorizing that he could have a Rougned Odor-type impact in the majors. Díaz is at least an average hitter with a willingness to hit the ball the other way, and his strikeout (26 percent) and walk rates (13 percent) have remained relatively consistent. Díaz is a potential plus second baseman who has worked to improve his footwork around the bag. He is a good athlete with above-average speed, and he stole a career-high 14 bases in 2018 while at Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans.
It’s been exciting to monitor his progress this offseason. Díaz will eventually play a big role in justifying the polarizing Christian Yelich trade from the Marlins’ perspective.
9. C Will Banfield
SCOUTING REPORT: It all starts with defense with Banfield, who has the potential to be a plus defensive catcher and already possesses a plus arm. He is nimble behind the plate, with the lateral quickness and soft hands needed to become an above-average receiver. Banfield has plus raw power and hit three home runs in 48 at-bats as an 18-year-old in the South Atlantic League. Like many highly drafted preps, Banfield’s bat will decide his future. He has shown above-average bat speed, helping him tap into his pull-side power, but there were some swing-and-miss concerns with Banfield going into the draft that he will have to answer.
Having this kid in the pipeline is among the reasons why it’s OK to trade J.T. Realmuto instead of building around him.
10. SS José Devers
SCOUTING REPORT: A slightly built, glove-first shortstop, Devers is a much different prospect than his cousin. Lauded for his instincts, he stands out for his athleticism, footwork and soft hands at shortstop, all of which allow his average arm to play up from the left side of the infield. Devers’ glove is clearly ahead of his lefthanded bat, but he has a contact-oriented swing and plus speed that allowed him to hold his own against older competition at two Class A stops despite his current lack of strength. Devers’ power will likely never be more than fringy, but his plus defense and feel to hit should carry him up the ranks.
Lots of talented players begin their careers as shortstops, but Devers looks capable of actually sticking there at the highest level.
Kegan Lowe hosted a chat with readers after releasing the list. These observations/opinions might peak your interest:
- Lowe expects at least two Marlins—Mesa and Alcántara—to be included in Baseball America’s league-wide Top 100 list.
- “I’ve heard multiple times that people really like the way [José] Devers carries himself on and off the field,” he writes. “They seem to really like his makeup, which obviously never hurts when you’re projecting whether or not a young player will ever reach his ceiling.”
- Left-hander Trevor Rogers, Marlins top pick from the 2017 amateur draft, is considered No. 11 in the organization. “Rogers did the most important thing for his development this season—he got on the mound, stayed healthy and completed some much-needed innings. Sure, the results were inconsistent, but there were also some promising signs, including his mid-90s fastball and that smooth, lefthanded delivery he possesses.”
- One tier below him was shortstop Osiris Johnson. “He was one of the youngest players in the 2018 draft, and he has some loud, albeit rather raw, tools. Sounds like the Marlins like what they saw from him at shortstop, and I think there’s some plus raw power in his bat.”
- Lowe took a “hold steady” approach with left-hander Braxton Garrett, who’s about 18 months removed from Tommy John surgery. Prior to the injury, the Alabama native was thought to have one of the highest ceilings among all Marlins pitching prospects.
- Not ready to call Tyler Kolek a bust (yet). “He’s just getting ready to turn 23 years old, so there’s obviously still time for him to turn his career around. But he hasn’t pitched above low Class A, and he’s thrown just 19.1 innings since the end 2015...I hope he proves me, and many others, wrong.”
Baseball America’s Marlins Top 10 list also includes more about each prospect’s background and projection. Subscription is required for the article (and I strongly recommend getting one).