New Marlins CEO Derek Jeter asks fans for their patience and trust as he oversees the franchise’s baseball operations. While Jeter obviously hopes to enrich himself with a minority ownership stake, he has also set the Fish on a course to accumulate impactful young talent over the next several seasons. Experienced evaluators like vice president of scouting and player development Gary Denbo are being empowered throughout the process to find and refine prospects with the potential to form the sustainable core of a major league contender. This could work...eventually.
Meanwhile, those same fans want content now, especially Jeter content! So here we are.
Seven months since power was officially transferred from Jeffrey Loria to the Jeter/Bruce Sherman group, here is the first of three installments I have planned for 2018. We will be monitoring the progress of all their significant acquisitions. Who does that include?
- Players received by the Marlins via trade
- Major league free-agent signings
- Selections from the major league phase of December’s Rule 5 draft
Some of you die-hards know these names by heart, but for everybody’s convenience, we have them organized on a custom list. The 19 players have been sorted into one of the four sections below with their current level of competition shown in parentheses.
- RHP Caleb Smith (MLB)—Aside from road starts against the Phillies and Yankees, when Smith was bothered by exceptionally cold weather, he’s been fantastic. Relying heavily on a four-seam fastball and sweeping slider, he leads the Marlins pitching staff by a wide margin with 48 strikeouts in just 34 1⁄3 innings. Smith is a fraction of an inning shy of “qualified starter” status. Otherwise, he would rank top five in the National League for both strikeout rate (33.8 K%) and batting average against (.184 BAA).
- RHP Zac Gallen (AAA)—Gallen crapped the bed in spring training as a darkhorse to make the Opening Day rotation (37.38 ERA, 5.31 WHIP). But an important trait for any professional baseball player to have is a short memory, and the 22-year-old brushed off those struggles as soon as he arrived in New Orleans. His first and most recent regular season outings were both scoreless starts. He has a perfect 0.00 earned run average in 20 innings at home (2.50 ERA overall). Gallen should make his MLB debut within the next few months.
- RHP Robert Dugger (A+)—The lowest-profile prospect of the trio received in exchange for Dee Gordon has been the most successful thus far. Dugger leads the Jupiter Hammerheads rotation in most major statistical categories while maintaining a sparkling 6.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio. If he keeps trending in this direction, we could see the right-hander ascend to the major league Marlins at some point in 2019.
- 2B Starlin Castro (MLB)—We waited until this past weekend to see his first home run, but the overall production has been more or less exactly what Jeter should have anticipated (.735 OPS this season, .733 OPS throughout MLB career). The front office will certainly listen to offers for Castro at July’s trade deadline. The strength of those offers could vary depending on how many contenders feel the pressure to upgrade at second base.
- RHP Sandy Alcántara (AAA)—The Marlins No. 2 prospect (per MLB Pipeline) briefly experienced big league life as a Cardinals reliever last September. The jury is still out regarding what role he’s best suited for long term. Despite a shaky 12.0 percent walk rate, most other aspects of Alcántara’s 2018 performance are encouraging. Currently in a starting role, he’s dominating right-handed batters to the tune of a .511 OPS against.
- OF Monte Harrison (AA)—The former three-sport star athlete began the season in a horrific slump, bottoming out midway through a Jacksonville road trip, when he was batting .149/.310/.213 with only one extra-base hit through 14 games. There’s still too much swing-and-miss going on, but a power surge has been enough to boost his line to .246/.326/.424. The Marlins aren’t going to rush his development with a handful of other outfielders to evaluate in New Orleans and Miami.
- RHP Nick Neidert (AA)—As of minor league Opening Day, Neidert was the youngest right-handed pitcher in the Southern League. Since a shaky debut, he’s lasted at least five innings in every appearance with only four walks allowed compared to 22 strikeouts (5.50 K/BB). Pinpoint command should help him remain as a starter at the higher levels of competition.
- RHP Jorge Guzman (A+)—I discussed Guzman at greater length when he made his 2018 debut in late April. His fastball and slider have looked legit; everything else about him is a project.
- RHP Daniel Castano (A+)—Because 72 percent of the batters Castano has faced in the Florida State League are younger than him, try not to read too much into the results. The former 19th-round draft pick was a throw-in that the Marlins got for Marcell Ozuna. This season is about acclimating him to a heavier workload, and so far, he has made every scheduled start.
- SS Jose Devers (A)—Offensively, Devers looks overmatched at Low-A (.206/.239/.265, 45 wRC+). That’s because he’s only 18 years old! On the bright side, he has shown himself to be an adequate fielding shortstop, a position of need within the Marlins organization.
- OF Lewis Brinson (MLB)—Brinson has been the victim of some bad luck—.227 batting average of balls in play—and his production has ticked up since a mid-April mini-benching in New York. That being said, many other teams would’ve ran out of patience at this point and optioned him down to Triple-A. Too many strikeouts, way too many ground balls. Just past his 24th birthday, Brinson entered the season with 2,545 plate appearances of pro ball experience. The learning curve wasn’t supposed to be this steep. There’s still a lot to like about him, but we have reason to be concerned.
- OF Cameron Maybin (MLB)—The Marlins’ lone major league free-agent signing straddles the line between this and the previous section. Maybin’s production at the plate is almost identical to his career averages, but he hasn’t been effective enough against right-handed pitching to merit an everyday job. Plus, his average Sprint Speed is on the decline for a third consecutive year. That lost athleticism seems to be impacting his defense and baserunning.
- OF Magneuris Sierra (AAA)—Sierra was rushed to the majors by St. Louis in 2017, so his current assignment in New Orleans is not disappointing on its own. However, even a recent hot streak hasn’t compensated for a dreadful April. A lot needs to go right from here for him to realize his Dee Gordon-like leadoff man ceiling.
- 2B Isan Diaz (AA)—Diaz continues on a worrisome performance slide that dates back several seasons, from a 1.076 OPS (in 2015) to a .827 OPS to a .710 OPS to his current .653 OPS. The Puerto Rican second baseman is younger than most of his Double-A peers, so it’s too soon to overreact. Bottom line: he must begin hitting for more power.
To be determined
Garrett Cooper went 1-for-9 (.476 OPS) with the Marlins on their season-opening homestand, but has been on the disabled list ever since. A partial tear of the tendon sheath in his right wrist will sideline the first baseman/corner outfielder for at least another month. Also on the 60-day DL, right-hander Brett Graves (oblique strain) will have a spot on the active roster when healthy. He suffered the injury during spring training.
Jordan Yamamoto was the final asset involved in the Christian Yelich trade, aside from Brinson, Harrison and Diaz. He’s recovering from a shoulder issue and could take the mound for either Jupiter or Jacksonville in the near future.
Soon soon hopefully! It’s all in God’s plan! Whatever he has in store for me I am happy with! Just trying o make the most of everything!— Jordan Yamamoto (@jyamaz21) May 5, 2018
Feeling 100 percent as far as we know, infielder Chris Torres has been assigned to Short Season A Batavia. That affiliate doesn’t take the field until June. MLB Pipeline gives high praise to the 20-year-old Dominican:
The switch-hitting Torres shows more impact potential from the left side of the plate, the side from which he hit five of his six Northwest League home runs (all coming during the second half). Equally impressive was his progress as a righty, especially considering there was talk about him scrapping switch-hitting prior to the season. Torres could hit for a solid average as well as some power with additional gains in each batter’s box, while his above-average speed should net him plenty of doubles and triples as well as stolen bases.
On the other side of the ball, Torres draws raves for his upside at shortstop, where he projects as a plus defender with plenty of range and arm strength for the position. He also receives high marks for his intensity and leadership, both on and off the field. Torres will need time to develop, but the profile could be that of an everyday middle-infielder who contributes in all facets of the game.
Like Graves, Elieser Hernández arrived as a Rule 5 draft pick. Slowed by dental surgery and a broken fingernail, the Fish have cleverly used a lengthy “rehab assignment” to get his feet wet on the farm before they are required to roster him in the majors. In four starts between High-A and Double-A, Hernández owns a 4.80 earned run average with 15 strikeouts through 15 innings pitched.