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Biggest takeaways from FanGraphs’ Marlins top prospects list update

Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel provide lots of new scouting and statistical nuggets on the top 40 Marlins prospects.

Barely a year after the Marlins signed the talented Cuban outfielders, Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel of FanGraphs now rank Víctor Víctor Mesa significantly lower than his younger brother.
Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

The latest indication that the Marlins’ future is bright: FanGraphs has analyzed 40 names when updating the team’s top prospects list. Whereas lists at MLB Pipeline, Baseball America and here at Fish Stripes rank 30 players at a time regardless, FG’s Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel adjust their list length based on how many players actually have viable paths to major league impact.

Entering the 2017 season, FanGraphs ranked only 13 Marlins. That total soared to 32 at this time a year ago. And as of Friday morning, they are up to 40. It’s an encouraging trend.

Here are a handful of nuggets from the updated list that further our understanding of specific prospects and how Miami’s system compares to others around MLB:

  • Seven Marlins—Jazz Chisholm, Sixto Sánchez, JJ Bleday, Edward Cabrera, Jesús Sánchez, Monte Harrison and Lewin Díaz—received a Future Value grade of 50 or higher (on a 20-80 scale). That’s more than any of the other organizations whose lists have been updated by FG so far.
  • Chisholm took the No. 1 overall spot. FG acknowledges his risky profile due to swing-and-miss issues, but they say that’s outweighed by the shortstop’s potential to be “an impact offensive player.” He reportedly posted a 91.4 mph average exit velocity at a 17-degree average launch angle last season with 48% of his batted balls topping 95 mph, which Statcast categorizes as “hard hit.” MLB players who posted similar numbers to Chisholm in each of those areas in 2019 include Matt Chapman (Athletics) and Brad Miller (Indians/Phillies).
  • Sixto Sánchez’s FV was lowered from 55 to 50, with FanGraphs noting his injury history and expressing concerns about how his “sinking/tailing” fastball movement induces weak contact but hardly any whiffs. The right-hander’s slider registers at 2,750 RPM, easily the highest spin rate for any pitch used by a Marlins top prospect.
  • Former second-round draft pick Osiris Johnson is 17th on the list coming off a tibial stress fracture that sidelined him for the entire 2019 regular season. But he returned to action during September’s instructional league. FG sources who witnessed Johnson there project him to ultimately wind up at third base (Longenhagen and McDaniel say they originally thought of him as a future outfielder).
  • FG is very high on right-hander Breidy Encarnación (No. 19) and left-hander Alex Vesia (No. 20). It’s okay to admit that you’ve never heard of Encarnación, who just made his professional debut in the Dominican Summer League and did not come with much hype when signed by the Marlins in July 2018. He earns praise on this list for the “abnormal spin” on his fastball, the “pleasing shape” of his curveball and his overall projectability.
  • How is José Devers only the No. 26 prospect? FG bashes his lack of present and future power—even though Devers just celebrated his 20th birthday—because of how “narrowly built” he is.
  • Bold move by FG to drop Cuban star Víctor Víctor Mesa all the way down to No. 31. They no longer view him as a “relatively stable prospect,” which was Miami’s reasoning for paying him a $5.25 million signing bonus:

The length of his swing prevents him from getting on plane with the baseball and hitting for any power, though he does have pretty good feel for the barrel. He’s a good center field defender with a laser arm, and he appears to be a plus runner out there, though Mesa is already notoriously difficult to get max-effort run times out of.

  • Meanwhile, Víctor Jr. surged to No. 18. FG gives him a chance to stick in center field.

Some other prospects who were surprisingly high or low on this FanGraphs list:

  • RHP Josh Roberson—high at No. 23
  • 3B Cristhian Rodriguez—high at No. 35
  • RHP Humberto Mejía—low at No. 34
  • OF Tristan Pompey—low at No. 40

Including 15 more “prospects of note,” Longenhagen and McDaniel cover a total of 55 Marlins in the article. Highly recommended reading.