clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Fish Stripes Top 30: Our 2020 preseason Marlins prospects list

New, 18 comments

The Fish Stripes staff ranks the most promising players in the Miami Marlins farm system heading into the new year.

Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Fish Stripes is updating our Miami Marlins top prospects list for the 2020 season.

We’re in a thrilling moment for fans, as the major league team has nowhere to go but up after two seasons of cellar-dwelling. The players most responsible for enhancing the roster are beaming with talent and excitement and camaraderie with one another. They’ll get ample opportunities to realize their potential, and if they do, they’ll form a core that could have more upside and staying power than the previous one did.

For each Top 30 prospect, you will find the highest level of affiliated baseball that they have competed at in their careers thus far, what their age will be when the Minor League Baseball season opens on April 9, 2020, how/when the Marlins acquired them in the first place, and a unique stat/fact to know (the tone of those range from enlightening to worrisome to silly). I have embedded 2019 video highlights for the majority of them. Simply click on the players’ names to visit their Baseball-Reference pages and see complete career stats.

—Ely Sussman, Managing Editor


Top 30

1) RHP Sixto Sánchez

Highest MiLB Level: Double-A

Opening Day Age: 21

Acquired via trade (Feb. 2019)

The Dominican right-hander has sat atop the Marlins top prospects list ever since the Phillies sent him over to headline last winter’s J.T. Realmuto blockbuster. He was just as good as advertised during his first season in the organization, thriving in the Double-A Jacksonville starting rotation with a rare combination of plus command, fastball velocity, secondary pitches and mound presence. Sánchez threw more than 69% of his total pitches for strikes to get through outings efficiently.

Naturally, fans are enamored with how Sánchez lights up the radar gun, but this changeup is the primary reason to be optimistic about him realizing his top-of-the-rotation potential. It makes left-handed batters just as uncomfortable as righties, and if you’re fortunate enough to put the ball in play, it’ll be nothing more than an innocuous ground ball.

Sixto is heading to Triple-A Wichita to begin 2020, though it’s not as if he has anything left to prove—the Marlins want to save as many bullets as possible for when they have a deep lineup and competent bullpen to surround him with.

Stat to Know: Sánchez faced 457 total batters in 2019; 437 of them (95.6%) were older than him.

2) OF JJ Bleday

Highest MiLB Level: High-A

Opening Day Age: 22

Acquired via MLB Draft (2019)

It’s been true throughout the entire history of the franchise: the Marlins struggle to produce runs efficiently. More specific to these past two seasons under new ownership, their lineup doesn’t work deep counts, make contact in key situations or elevate the ball. Coaches like James Rowson and Eric Duncan are being counted on to assist with that, but quite simply, the major league roster is still lacking in regulars with loud tools and advanced approaches.

The silver lining of 2018’s non-competitive campaign was the No. 4 overall pick in the amateur draft this past June. That is how the Marlins wound up with JJ Bleday, whose well-rounded skill set and high floor are unmatched by any other current farmhand.

The Marlins took the extraordinarily aggressive step of having the lefty-swinging outfielder make his professional debut with the High-A Jupiter Hammerheads—that’s the third-highest level of MiLB competition. Bleday slashed .257/.311/.379 in his 38 games, but in the pitcher’s paradise known as the Florida State League, he was comfortably better than average (107 wRC+).

Whether he remains in the FSL a little while longer or gets immediately promoted to Jacksonville, expect improved production. Bleday’s special power and bat control won’t allow him to blend into the crowd.

Fish Stripes original GIF

Stat to Know: The Vanderbilt University baseball program is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious, debuting in 1886. In all that time, no player has mashed more home runs in a season than the 26 that Bleday did for the Commodores in 2019 (en route to an NCAA championship, by the way).

3) OF Jesús Sánchez

Highest MiLB Level: Triple-A

Opening Day Age: 22

Acquired via trade (Jul. 2019)

Though only one month older than Bleday, Jesús Sánchez has the vast edge in terms of pro experience. He ascended to Triple-A in 2019 and already owns a spot on the Marlins 40-man roster. Health-permitting*, you will see him on the Fish in a matter of months.

*Sánchez underwent a medical procedure earlier this month. It is unclear how that affects his readiness for the 2020 season.

Sánchez’s platoon splits are practically non-existent, the byproduct of using the entire field. Last season, he sprayed 41.0% of his batted balls the opposite way, according to FanGraphs. That rate is higher than any of the qualified Marlins minor leaguers who competed at full-season levels.

Jesús Sánchez MiLB spray chart, 2019
Baseball Savant

Believe in Jesús.

Fact to Know: This Jesús Sánchez is not to be confused with the other Jesús Sánchez who pitched for the Marlins—mostly as a starter—from 1998-2001, or the other other Jesús Sánchez, a 20-year-old right-hander currently in the farm system (he’s spent four straight seasons in rookie ball).

4) SS Jazz Chisholm

Highest MiLB Level: Double-A

Opening Day Age: 22

Acquired via trade (Jul. 2019)

The Fish Stripes staff had a tough time determining whether Sánchez or Chisholm deserved the higher ranking. Marlins fans in general are split right down the middle, as reflected in Wednesday’s Twitter poll.

The dynamic Chisholm offers monstrous power and impactful baserunning at a premium defensive position. But during his first several months with the Diamondbacks Double-A affiliate, he was lagging in the most important of all offensive categories: reaching base safely. Too much aggressiveness in the box contributed to striking out in one-third of his plate appearances.

Chisholm’s performance since the trade has been very encouraging on that front. He slashed .284/.383/.494 (156 wRC+) with Jacksonville, then shipped out to Puerto Rico in November for a winter ball stint. Overall, his strikeout rate has improved from 33.8% pre-trade to 24.1% in 133 total plate appearances since then.

Fact to Know: Chisholm seeks to become the first Bahamian player in Marlins history and the first-ever MLB All-Star to be born on the islands.

Bonus Fact to Know: Jazz’s full name is Jasrado Hermis Arrington Chisholm.

5) RHP Edward Cabrera

Highest MiLB Level: Double-A

Opening Day Age: 21

Acquired via international free agency (2015)

Under Jeffrey Loria’s regime, the Marlins were notorious for neglecting to scout and sign players outside the United States. As you’ll see, however, there are several exceptions who remain in the organization and have recently made massive developmental strides.

The $100,000 initial investment in Edward Cabrera is proving to be a terrific bargain. He trimmed his WHIP from 1.47 in 2018 to 0.99 in 2019 despite a comparable workload and advancing to higher levels of competition. Sitting in the mid-90s with his fastball, the 6-foot-4 right-hander complements it with a nasty breaking ball that remains difficult to define—he constantly warps the shape of the pitch, living someplace between a slider and curveball. Whatever “it” is, it induces a high rate of whiffs.

The only Marlins starting pitcher prospect with a high swinging strike rate than Cabrera (13.3%) last season was the since-traded Zac Gallen (14.3%).

Stat to Know: Cabrera did not allow any home runs over his final 10 starts with the Jupiter Hammerheads, a streak spanning 53 23 innings pitched.

6) OF Monte Harrison

Highest MiLB Level: Triple-A

Opening Day Age: 24

Acquired via trade (Jan. 2018)

Monte Harrison made a tepid first impression on the Fish two seasons ago, slumping frequently at the plate with an exaggerated leg kick that wasn’t allowing him to get his bat through the zone on time. Thankfully, in 2019, he got back to being the “impacting the game in a millions different ways” type of weapon deserving of a consensus Top 100 MLB prospect label.

Once again at the major league level, Miami figures to have a fluid situation in center field. Harrison should be receiving the lion’s share of playing time out there.

Despite seeing his progress disrupted a handful of times due to injuries, Harrison’s plus-plus speed and mighty batted ball quality remain tantalizing. At the very least, the defensive and baserunning abilities give him a solid floor.

Stat to Know: Harrison was successful on 17 consecutive MiLB stolen-base attempts from late August 2018 to late May 2019.

7) LHP Braxton Garrett

Highest MiLB Level: Double-A

Opening Day Age: 22

Acquired via MLB Draft (2016)

There wasn’t much to update about the former first-rounder’s scouting report from 2016-2018, as he was limited to 15 13 regular season innings. Garrett made it all the way back from Tommy John surgery this past season, demonstrating why he should still be regarded among the Marlins’ elite pitching talents.

Garrett brings 92-95 mph heat and gets huge depth on his high-70s curveball. With the changeup looking like an above-average offering too, he struck out right-handed batters nearly as frequently as lefties.

There are still some kinks to work out in Garrett’s execution when he gets multiple times through the opposing lineup—he allowed 11 of his 13 home runs in 2019 from the fourth inning on.

Fact to Know: This southpaw plays ping pong right-handed, and he’s good at it. The Alabama native is the reigning Marlins ping pong tournament champion, surging through the minor league bracket and taking down Garrett Cooper in the title match held during spring training.

8) 1B Lewin Díaz

Fish Stripes original GIF

Highest MiLB Level: Double-A

Opening Day Age: 23

Acquired via trade (Jul. 2019)

The Marlins were sorely lacking in long-term internal options at first base, so they went out and got one from the Twins.

Díaz had been viewed as a disappointment around this time a year ago. He was not utilizing the big-time power that earned him a $1.4 million bonus when originally signed out of the Dominican Republic. Minnesota left him unprotected for the 2018 Rule 5 Draft, and none of the other teams bothered taking a flier on him.

Totally different player last season, however. Díaz established a new career high in home runs by early June, then posted a .838 OPS in his 64 games at Double-A (a better mark than he had at any previous MiLB level). He doesn’t sacrifice contact skills in the process, either, which makes him a run-production threat even when contained in the ballpark. This was most evident during his Dominican Winter League stint with Estrellas Orientales (3 HR, 20 RBI in 29 G).

And what else? Díaz has the technique and elasticity to be a valuable defender.

Stat to Know: Díaz should benefit immensely from the modified Marlins Park outfield dimensions. In 2019, he sent an unusually high rate of his batted balls to center field (31.7%), and the vast majority of those were fly balls or line drives.

9) RHP Nick Neidert

Highest MiLB Level: Triple-A

Opening Day Age: 23

Acquired via trade (Dec. 2017)

Neidert was the 2018 Marlins Minor League Pitcher of the Year. His opportunity to defend that title vanished immediately when he suffered a right meniscus injury in April. He would go on to make just three quality starts last season that occurred after his return to Triple-A New Orleans in August.

But all things considered, Neidert’s prospect stock is relatively flat year to year. He compensated for some of his absence at the Arizona Fall League, allowing only three earned runs in 21 23 innings (the ERA drops to 1.14 when accounting for two more scoreless innings in the Fall Stars Game). The right-hander showed his pinpoint fastball command and used both the slider and changeup as putaway pitches.

Even with well-below-average velocity, Neidert hides the ball well during his delivery, limiting the time that opponents have to react. He has all the other ingredients required to stick in the rotation.

Stat to Know: Neidert has never issued more than six total walks during any two-start span (94 career starts).

10) LHP Trevor Rogers

Highest MiLB Level: Double-A

Opening Day Age: 22

Acquired via MLB Draft (2017)

The lanky, 6-foot-6 Rogers dominated in his first full season of Minor League Baseball. His 150 strikeouts topped all other Marlins pitching prospects. There were four double-digit strikeout games along the way, including one following his late-season promotion from Jupiter to Jacksonville.

Rogers tends to be fastball-reliant, and that’s fine considering how precisely he locates it and his willingness to throw it up in the zone. His low-80s slider has beautiful two-plane tilt that predictably gives lefties nightmares.

Stat to Know: Rogers’ fastball has registered an average spin rate of 2,400 RPM, per FanGraphs. That is the highest of any pitching prospect ranked in our Marlins Top 30.

11) OF Kameron Misner

Highest MiLB Level: Low-A

Opening Day Age: 22

Acquired via MLB Draft (2019)

The Marlins were thrilled when Misner—once regarded as an early-to-mid first-round talent—fell to them at the 35th overall pick. Reportedly, he wasn’t as thrilled about it considering how it limited his signing bonus. Negotiations between the team and his representatives continued up until the signing deadline, with the Fish ultimately agreeing to pay slightly above slot value.

His skill set is impressive. Even during tune-up games in the Gulf Coast League, Misner drew walks constantly. The Clinton LumberKings deployed him in center field and in the middle of their lineup, and it’s not a coincidence that they were the hottest club in the Midwest League from that point forward.

Still a couple years away from his MLB arrival, but don’t be stunned if Misner winds up as the most valuable member of Miami’s stacked 2019 draft class.

Stat to Know: Misner reached base safely in 31 of the 34 games he played with Clinton.

12) SS José Devers

Highest MiLB Level: High-A

Opening Day Age: 20

Acquired via trade (Dec. 2017)

Hardly anything was known about Devers when he was included in the Giancarlo Stanton trade two years ago, other than that he was the cousin of Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers. Credit to Gary Denbo and the other ex-Yankees decision-makers in the Marlins front office for identifying the promise in him based on rookie ball and backfields performances.

Though he continues to be officially listed at 155 pounds, Devers is noticeably larger than that these days. The training has boosted his arm strength and solidified his case for being able to handle shortstop duties in The Show some day. At the plate, he slashed .325/.384/.365 in 33 games with Jupiter last year, but was interrupted by a groin strain, then derailed by a forearm strain.

There is some pressure on Devers in 2020 to come closer to completing a full season for him to remain a high priority within a system that’s suddenly deep in potential shortstops.

Stat to Know: Through 642 plate appearances in the Marlins organization (regular season, postseason and Arizona Fall League combined), Devers has not yet homered.

13) OF Jerar Encarnación

Highest MiLB Level: High-A

Opening Day Age: 22

Acquired via international free agency (2015)

A big contrast in styles from Devers, Encarnación posted sexy counting stats in 2019. He had more regular season runs batted in (71) and plate appearances (553) than any other Marlins prospect, while ranking second only to Isan Díaz with 16 home runs. The Arizona Fall League was more of the same. Also, 18 outfield assists!

His long term defensive home remains unclear; for every run he saves with a bazooka throw from right field, there may be a couple he costs the team due to poor range and instincts.

However, assuming that he’s able to limit the high-volume whiffing that plagued him prior to this breakout, the bat alone makes him an intriguing player.

Stat to Know: Encarnación’s grand slam—embedded above—had an exit velocity of 109.6 mph, tied for the 7th-hardest-hit ball during the AFL.

Fact to Know: He is the first-ever “Jerar” to play affiliated Minor League Baseball.

14) OF Connor Scott

Highest MiLB Level: High-A

Opening Day Age: 20

Acquired via MLB Draft (2018)

Scott certainly has a unique aesthetic, from his unconventional gait to his preference not to wear batting gloves. The Marlins made him their first-round pick in 2018 because they were attracted to his upside. There have been glimpses of that (his plus-plus running has translated well to center field and on the base paths), but he didn’t carry much momentum into the offseason after slumping during his closing weeks with the Hammerheads.

Expect a sizable improvement in Scott’s power production as his 6-foot-4 frame fills out.

Stat to Know: Batted ball tracking for Minor League Baseball games is not quite as precise as what we have in MLB, but sure looks like five of Scott’s six career home runs landed in the same spot! If that keeps up, Marlins should be identifying where that cluster of seats is in their own ballpark and rebrand it “Connor’s Corner” or something.

Baseball Savant

15) RHP Jorge Guzman

Highest MiLB Level: Double-A

Opening Day Age: 24

Acquired via trade (Dec. 2017)

Guzman lights up the radar gun just as consistently as any Marlin on this list or otherwise. With so few proven commodities in their major league bullpen, there is an understandable temptation to plug him into a high-leverage role and let him figure it out. Not the worst fallback plan in the world.

On the other hand, keep in mind that his career got off to a late start by Latin American player standards—he made his pro debut in the Astros organization at age 19. His effectiveness wanes the second and third time through a lineup, but fatigue isn’t to blame. Guzman’s low-effort delivery and thick lower half kept him on the mound for 2,212 pitches in 2019 (topping all Marlins prospects). And the right-hander has made himself a more complete pitcher by refining his changeup.

There is still some tinkering required, as his shiny 3.50 earned run average doesn’t seem repeatable at Triple-A and MLB unless he induces more Ks and/or ground balls.

Stat to Know: Are you sitting down? OK...Guzman held opponents to a .066 batting average last August (6-for-91).

16) OF Peyton Burdick

Highest MiLB Level: Low-A

Opening Day Age: 23

Acquired via MLB Draft (2019)

“Baby Trout” out of Wright State University spent the bulk of his summer terrorizing Midwest League pitchers. His 172 wRC+ during those 63 contests mirrors what a certain future perennial MVP candidate did in the same environment in 2010. Between the no-doubt homers and all-out hustle, he is an enjoyable watch.

It is necessary to note, of course, that Burdick was a senior signing who has thus far had the luxury of competing against mostly younger opponents. The stats from his upcoming season with High-A Jupiter will be far more telling as he deals with superior strike-throwers.

Stat to Know: Burdick feasted at the plate with runners on base. He slashed .362/.457/.631. His .452 wOBA in those situations was easily No. 1 among Marlins players.

17) SS Nasim Nuñez

Highest MiLB Level: Short-Season A

Opening Day Age: 19

Acquired via MLB Draft (2019)

Burdick could probably do biceps curls holding one Nasim Nuñez in each hand, but athletes with a wide variety of builds can succeed in this sport. As MLB prospects, Nuñez is practically his equal.

The energetic second-rounder has the makings of a superb defensive shortstop and arguably the best sprinting speed in this farm system. Being so young, it was a pleasant surprise to see nearly as many walks (35) as strikeouts (48) from him in the Gulf Coast League and Batavia combined.

Stat to Know: Nuñez stole 28 bases during his age-18 season, making him the first Marlins teenager since Christian Yelich(!!!) with at least that many steals in a domestic league (Yelich had 32 SB at Low-A in 2011).

18) RHP Humberto Mejía

Highest MiLB Level: High-A

Opening Day Age: 23

Acquired via international free agency (2013)

Mejía is the longest-tenured Marlins player in this Top 30 and a new addition to their 40-man roster.

Primarily in a starting role, the right-hander performed splendidly last season: 2.09 ERA, 3.13 FIP in 90.1 IP. Placing him on the 40-man was aimed at protecting him from exposure via the Rule 5 Draft, and an indication that other MLB teams would’ve been willing to take a flier on his low-90s fastball and high leg kick.

The lingering concern is Mejía’s durability. Most of his July and August was wiped out by soreness, which means he’s slated to open 2020 back in High-A Jupiter (and a long shot to debut in the majors until the following year).

Fact to Know: A reflection of his true character...the Panamanian pitcher has spent most of this offseason in his home country, but made a special return trip to Clinton, Iowa in November to surprise the young daughters of his host family (h/t Tony Byers).

19) OF Víctor Víctor Mesa

Highest MiLB Level: Double-A

Opening Day Age: 23

Acquired via international free agency (2018)

Player development can be unpredictable, but VVM seems like a safe bet to move dramatically once it’s time to update the Top 30. We just can’t say whether that movement will be up or down.

The eldest of the Mesa brothers, he was the consensus best international player available in 2018 whose fielding, baserunning and bat-to-ball skills were supposed to accelerate his journey towards joining the big leaguers in Little Havana. A .235/.274/.263 slash line—seldom reaching the warning track—cannot be spun into anything other than a massive disappointment.

Either the 2020 campaign features an uptick in solid contact that allows us to dismiss his initial struggles as the manifestation of rust...or reinforces our worst fears that the Fish overpaid for a run-of-the-mill fourth outfielder type.

Stat to Know: Mesa’s 7.8% swinging strike rate was the best of any qualified Marlins position player at a full-season MiLB level (7.2% during his time in Jupiter).

20) SS José Salas

Highest MiLB Level: N/A

Opening Day Age: 16

Acquired via international free agency (2019)

More evidence of their change in philosophy, the Marlins spent only $1.8 million total on their 2013-14 international amateur free agent class. Salas all by himself was a $2.8 million player.

The gifted, switch-hitting shortstop most likely will play his first official games in the GCL next June.

Fact to Know: According to MLB Pipeline, Salas’ father, uncle and grandfather all played professionally in Venezuela.

21) RHP Jordan Holloway

Highest MiLB Level: High-A

Opening Day Age: 23

Acquired via MLB Draft (2014)

Stat to Know: Holloway posted a 3.07 ERA in April, 0.43 ERA in May, 9.42 ERA in June, 8.57 ERA in July and 2.25 ERA in August. Extreme streakiness.

22) C Will Banfield

Highest MiLB Level: Low-A

Opening Day Age: 20

Acquired via MLB Draft (2018)

Stat to Know: Banfield caught 823 23 innings last season, the most of any teenager in affiliated pro baseball.

23) SS Osiris Johnson

Highest MiLB Level: Low-A

Opening Day Age: 19

Acquired via MLB Draft (2018)

Fact to Know: Johnson is the second cousin of longtime Philadelphia Phillies shortstop and 2007 NL MVP Jimmy Rollins.

24) OF Víctor Mesa Jr.

Highest MiLB Level: Rookie

Opening Day Age: 18

Acquired via international free agency (2018)

Stat to Know: Small sample size, but Mesa owned funky reverse platoon splits: .266/.342/.374 in 163 PA vs. RHP; .351/.455/.486 in 44 PA vs. LHP

25) RHP Evan Fitterer

Highest MiLB Level: Rookie

Opening Day Age: 19

Acquired via MLB Draft (2019)

Stat to Know: The recipient of a $1.5 million signing bonus, Fitterer is the second-most expensive pitcher acquired under new Marlins ownership, period. Only Sergio Romo ($2.5 million) arrived with a larger guarantee, and even in his case, a portion of that was paid out by the Minnesota Twins.

26) RHP Sterling Sharp

Highest MiLB Level: Double-A

Opening Day Age: 24

Acquired via Rule 5 Draft (2019)

Stat to Know: Sharp has a 60.5% ground ball rate since 2018. Out of all the pitchers with 200-plus innings pitched in the minors over that span, that GB% is fifth-highest.

27) OF Brian Miller

Highest MiLB Level: Double-A

Opening Day Age: 24

Acquired via MLB Draft (2017)

Stat to Know: Since being drafted, Miller leads all Marlins minor leaguers with 83 stolen bases; nobody else has more than 56.

28) RHP Robert Dugger

Highest Level: MLB

Opening Day Age: 24

Acquired via trade (Dec. 2017)

Stat to Know: Dugger has five hit by pitches in the majors despite only seven total appearances. Cleveland’s Ricardo Rodriguez (2002) is the only pitcher in the past century to allow more in his first season while making seven or fewer appearances.

29) OF Tristan Pompey

Highest MiLB Level: High-A

Opening Day Age: 23

Acquired via MLB Draft (2018)

Fact to Know: Pompey loves representing his native Canada in international competition. That includes the 2019 Pan Am Games qualifier, the Pan Am Games themselves, and most recently, the WBSC Premier12. Canada has another opportunity to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in March—he’s expected to contribute to that, too.

30) OF JD Orr

Highest MiLB Level: Short-Season A

Opening Day Age: 23

Acquired via MLB Draft (2019)

Stat to Know: Orr’s 44 walks during his short-season debut were just as many as Brian Anderson had to lead the major league club in 2019.


Just Missed

OF Thomas Jones

Highest MiLB Level: Low-A

Opening Day Age: 22

LHP Luis Palacios

Highest MiLB Level: Rookie (GCL)

Opening Day Age: 19

LHP Will Stewart

Highest MiLB Level: High-A

Opening Day Age: 22

LHP Alex Vesia

Highest MiLB Level: Double-A

Opening Day Age: 23


Fish Stripes Top 30 voters: Ethan Budowsky, Alex Carver, Luis Davila, James Gravley, Aram Leighton, Spencer Morris, Ian Smith, Ely Sussman