The core of the next great Miami Marlins team will have to come up through the farm system. That’s reality for a low-revenue MLB franchise, a painful reality in recent years when they failed to develop a competent pitching staff around their All-Star/MVP-caliber position players. Without any impact talent in the pipeline, they were stuck on the treadmill of mediocrity.
New Marlins leadership smashed the reset button last offseason, flipping their most recognizable faces for controllable players and re-engaging the Latin American market.
This process is starting to bear fruit. The Fish Stripes staff has collaborated to identify the top 25 Marlins prospects entering 2019, and the list is stacked with newcomers to the organization. They were ranked based on major league potential with voters factoring in age, tools, floor, ceiling, position, durability, intangibles and whatever else we believe could translate to success at the highest level.
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1) OF Víctor Víctor Mesa, age 22 next season
2) OF Monte Harrison, 23
3) RHP Sandy Alcántara, 23
Voting was extremely close at the top. The slight majority of Fish Stripes staff actually chose Harrison as the Marlins No. 1 prospect.
However, there were some varying perspectives about him coming off a shaky season at Double-A Jacksonville (37 percent strikeout rate). Ongoing concerns about his all-important hit tool give Harrison a frightening low floor as a fringe major leaguer.
On the other hand, putting bat on the ball is among Víctor Víctor’s many strengths. The elder Mesa brother projects as a bona fide defensive center fielder who should become the Marlins’ top base-stealer immediately upon joining the active roster during the 2019 season (doubtful to make the Opening Day roster). He has a small frame, but MLB is packed with recent examples of players who used bat speed and launch angle to compensate for physical limitations (Mooke Betts and José Ramírez, among others). Absolute worst-case scenario, he’s a pesky bottom-of-the-order hitter at a premium position.
The knock on Alcántara is that he simply doesn’t miss bats consistently. Last year, he recorded double-digit strikeouts just once in 28 MLB/MiLB starts.
Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs note how the right-hander raises his arm slot when throwing his curveball, allowing the hitter to anticipate it. Addressing that figures to be atop the to-do list for new Marlins pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr.
Alcántara mixes four different pitches, and aside from a freaky armpit infection in 2018, he has a durable track record. The centerpiece of the Marcell Ozuna trade, he’s very likely to stick in the rotation long term.
4) RHP Nick Neidert, 22
Extraordinary results for Neidert at every level of his minor league journey. He owns a 3.01 earned run average and 4.91 strikeout-to-walk ratio through four seasons, all while facing significantly older competition. The former Mariners draft pick was the runaway Marlins Minor League Pitcher of the Year in his debut with the organization (spent summer entirely at Double-A).
Neidert as a pitcher, 2018: .694 OPS allowed
Neidert as a batter, 2018, .719 OPS
His low 90s fastballs will get barreled up more frequently against major leaguers, but with special command and a plus changeup, he has a strong foundation to build on.
5) 2B Isan Díaz, 23
This is rapidly becoming an Isan Díaz fan account pic.twitter.com/kGy2fuFonp— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) December 19, 2018
Nobody on this list has done more than Isan Díaz to improve their stock since the MiLB season ended. He homered thrice during the U-23 Baseball World Cup, then went to the Puerto Rican Winter League, where he’s been one of his club’s best all-around players.
Díaz will be a three-true-outcomes hitter that reminds Marlins fans of Dan Uggla (if Uggla swung from the left side and possessed better defensive instincts).
6) OF Connor Scott, 19
7) C Will Banfield, 19
Scott and Banfield received the two largest signing bonuses in the 2018 Marlins MLB Draft class.
The first-rounder Scott is all about projection. There’s awkwardness to his game right now, but a legitimate ceiling as a five-tool player.
In a small professional sample, Banfield already demonstrated why the franchise views him as J.T. Realmuto’s eventual successor behind the plate. He threw out 38.3 percent of would-be base-stealers, and his batted ball data at Low-A Greensboro hinted at nice power potential, according to Eli Ben-Porat of The Hardball Times.
8) RHP Jorge Guzmán, 23
The Marlins thought highly enough of the fireballer to protect him on their 40-man roster. Then again, what choice did they have? It would’ve been a P.R. disaster if they lost such a big piece of the Giancarlo Stanton trade package to another organization.
The inverse of Nick Neidert, Guzmán doesn’t always know where the ball is going, but opponents are helpless to do serious damage against it regardless. During what was generally a disappointing season with High-A Jupiter, he developed his changeup to complement 100+ mph heat and a power slider.
This upcoming season will be pivotal for Guzmán’s career. Either he trims his walk rate down, or the player development staff may groom him as a reliever moving forward.
9) LHP Braxton Garrett, 21
No new stats from Garrett’s age-20 campaign—he returned to the mound for fall instructional league following Tommy John surgery.
Missing more than a year of action drops his stock slightly. A lot hinges on whether Garrett regains—and ultimately, adds—fastball velocity.
10) RHP Edward Cabrera, 21
Our Top 25 features only one Dominican player who was signed by the Marlins as an international amateur. It underscores just how badly previous ownership neglected that critical talent pipeline.
Cabrera’s ceiling rivals any other pitcher in the organization. The combination of velocity and spin on his fastball will lead to plenty of swing-and-misses.
11) OF Tristan Pompey, 22
The University of Kentucky product was among the most polarizing prospects during the ranking process. Several voters had him near the very top of the list; others had him outside the top 15.
Pompey had a spectacular .408 on-base percentage across three professional levels last season, earning a super-aggressive promotion to Jupiter within a couple months of the draft. That being said, his .388 batting average on balls in play is unsustainable.
If the Canadian switch-hitter can demonstrate more in-game power in 2019, he’ll distinguish himself from the many other outfielders vying for attention in this farm system.
12) RHP Jordan Yamamoto, 23
Year 1 for Jordan Yamamoto in the Marlins organization, regular season and AFL combined— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) November 17, 2018
98.2 IP, 1.82 ERA, 32 BB, 118 K, 0.93 WHIP
Kid shoves. RT for awareness. pic.twitter.com/kiyoIoMDKy
Yamamoto was almost an afterthought in the Christian Yelich trade. But he performed so well last season—including at the prestigious Arizona Fall League—that the Marlins had to protect him on their 40-man roster. File that under the “good problem to have” category.
Without throwing much harder than you do, he freezes batters with a sharp curveball and shows excellent situational awareness.
Certain evaluators will continue to underrate Yamamoto because major league starting pitchers aren’t supposed to look like this. The most legitimate knock on him is whether his shoulder would be able to hold up for a full major league schedule.
13) SS José Devers, 19
14) SS Osiris Johnson, 18
These two teenage shortstops both have World Series champions in the family. Devers is cousins with Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers; Johnson is Jimmy Rollins’ second cousin.
Marlins Vice President of Player Development and Scouting Gary Denbo took advantage of his Yankees background. Devers was completely under the radar prior to 2018, his only pro experience coming in the Dominican Summer League. Assigned to full-season ball in his new organization, the skinny shortstop proved to be extremely fundamentally sound in all facets of the game.
There’s more doubt about Johnson’s long-term viability at shortstop, but every indication that he’ll rise through the ranks with an impact bat.
15) LHP Trevor Rogers, 21
Adam McInturff of 2080 Baseball draws a comparison between Rogers and a young Andrew Miller. For the time being, though, his best secondary pitch is the changeup, not the slider.
In the same way that Pompey earned some praise for BABIP luck, Rogers was victimized by it. A larger sample in 2019 will help us better understand who he is.
16) RHP Jordan Holloway, 23
The poster child for Tommy John surgery (in a good way), Holloway came back from it with more consistent mechanics and filthier stuff. Ian’s profile of him explains what the hype is all about.
17) OF Brian Miller, 23
The former second-round draft pick played the equivalent of a major league season: 152 games and 639 plate appearances between A+/AA+/AFL. The stats that really stick out are 49(!) stolen bases and a 11.6 percent strikeout rate, which is barely half the MLB average.
Miller is still getting acclimated to life as an outfielder, but his offensive skills will certainly carry value at the highest level.
18) RHP Zac Gallen, 23
Miller’s college teammate at UNC was a staple of the Triple-A New Orleans rotation. Although the Pacific Coast League is notoriously hitter-friendly, Gallen only had a few true clunkers.
He should have an opportunity to make his way to Miami very early next season. High-floor/low-ceiling prospect.
19) 3B James Nelson, 21
Nelson downplayed the effects of spring knee surgery. He never found consistency in his age-20 campaign, slashing an anemic .211/.262/.280 over the course of 62 games with occasional rest and designated hitter days after returning to action.
Still a gifted pure hitter, the 2017 Minor League Player of the Year will get every opportunity to bounce back in Jupiter.
20) SS Christopher Torres, 21
Torres could be one of the fast movers up this list (every former Mariners prospect seems to thrive here). The switch-hitting infielder is most dangerous from the left side.
He was eligible—and left unprotected—for the Rule 5 draft with only 199 total games under his belt. That’s because of his durability issues. Thankfully, other teams passed over him, so the Marlins have another season to get acquainted.
21) RHP Jeff Brigham, 27
Although he shit the bed during his September call-up, Brigham can chalk up those struggles to nerves and fatigue. He posted an encouraging 5.9 percent walk rate to earn that opportunity.
It wouldn’t be entirely shocking if he cracked the Opening Day rotation as the Marlins take a cautious approach with other pitchers’ injuries and service time situations.
22) SS Bryson Brigman, 24
Brigman has a track record of great plate discipline, bat-to-ball skills, fielding technique and intangibles. He boosted his stock dramatically in 2018 by adding quality contact to that package. A .310/.370/.395 hitter last season, the results were consistent across three different affiliates.
The critical question moving forward is whether Brigman sticks at shortstop. That could be the difference between MLB longevity and living on the fringe.
23) LHP José Quijada, 23
24) OF Thomas Jones, 21
25) RHP Robert Dugger, 23
These three were each named on one Fish Stripes ballot apiece. Quijada is closest to making a big-league impact, Jones has the highest ceiling despite an extended slump at Low-A, while Dugger quietly racked up 150 2⁄3 impressive innings.
Honorable mentions include Dustin Beggs, Davis Bradshaw, Garrett Cooper, Austin Dean, Joe Dunand, Tommy Eveld, Riley Ferrell, Nick Fortes, Matt Givin, Brayan Hernández, Colton Hock, Dylan Lee, Riley Mahan, McKenzie Mills, Luis Palacios, Brady Puckett, Harold Ramírez, Sean Reynolds, Josh Roberson, John Silviano and Justin Twine. By this time next year, several will have graduated from prospect eligibility, but it’s easy to imagine any of the others cracking the Top 25 at our next update.
Alex Carver, Christian Cevallos, Alex Contreras, Luis Davila, Anthony Garcia, Daniel Martinez, Colby Olson, Michael Picardi, Hector Rodriguez, Danilo Santos, Ian Smith, Ely Sussman and Cornelius Thomas contributed to this list.