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2019 Marlins Season Preview: Top 10 prospects

Projecting where each of them will be playing this season and reassessing their long-term roles.

Photo by @Marlins/Twitter

The days are longer, the sun is brighter, the temperature is hotter and the sounds of summer are getting louder. Baseball is back and spring training is in full swing. Soon the games will actually count, as will Lewis Brinson’s home runs that he’s hitting seemingly every day.

However, when it comes to the Miami Marlins, the 2019 major league results mean a little less than they do for, say, the New York Yankees or the Chicago Cubs. The Marlins are entering the second year of their massive rebuild that has seen all facets of the organization torn down to the bare bones and pieced back together slowly.

That being said, we saw momentum begin to build in Year 1 at lower levels of organization, in cities like Jacksonville, New Orleans, Jupiter and Clinton. That’s where the future faces of the franchise will be honing their skills and looking to create a formative winner for years going forward. The Marlins acquired some of them in the J.T. Realmuto deal and through the international free agency market that I will be featuring a lot on here, joining plenty of familiar faces that will be looking to build on solid starts in a new organization.

Let’s take a look at some of these guys, starting with the Marlins Top 10 prospects (according to MLB Pipeline) and what their seasons could possibly look like.

Sixto Sánchez, RHP

The headliner in the Realmuto deal with the Phillies, Sánchez is the Marlins #1 prospect and is ranked as the #6 RHP according to MLB Pipeline, and the #21 prospect overall. Sánchez saw his 2018 shortened by injuries, but posted some really nice numbers (2.51 ERA, 2.66 FIP, 8.68 K/9, 1.07 WHIP) in just eight starts.

I could see Sixto following a Pablo López-like path this year, where he moves quickly through Jacksonville and AAA-New Orleans and arrives in The Show in an emergency start situation by season’s end. But the 20-year-old is being handled carefully for now.

Sanchez has the potential to be the ace-like prospect that the Marlins had been missing from their system in recent years.

Víctor Víctor Mesa, CF

Of course, the splashiest acquisition for the Marlins this offseason was Cuban phenom Víctor Víctor Mesa. He signed for a $5.25 million (with another $1 million going to his younger brother, Víctor Jr.), consuming nearly all of Miami’s IFA pool money.

Mesa is going to be a major part of the rebuild not only because of his potential on the field, but also because of his potential marketability. The Marlins have been searching for a Cuban impact player ever since José Fernández’s tragic passing.

Mesa was with the major league club in Spring Training, but suffered a Grade 1 hamstring string early on. The expectation is that he’ll be back on the field soon. If I had to guess as of now, Mesa starts his season with an extended spring before heading to Single-A Clinton. If he hits the way we expect him to, he could move very quickly into AA-Jacksonville. I think there’s a real chance we see Mesa in Miami by September based on how quickly the Marlins were willing to move guys up that they saw worthy of promotion last year.

Monte Harrison, RF

If call-ups were solely based on swag, Monte would be starting the season with the Marlins. But of course it’s not and it’s based on results last year, and last year wasn’t all that great for Harrison. His struggles with the strikeout were well documented by me and many others, and it’s what ultimately held him back from moving to AAA and maybe even making an appearance in Miami.

Monte again had a nice fall in Arizona where he showed an improved approach and that he was seeing the ball better, but his power numbers weren’t great, slugging only .348 in 19 games. He struck out 19 times in those games. Harrison has continued to flash an improved approach in the spring and is driving the ball, something that will have to continue to make it to The Show this year. Monte has been optioned to AAA from spring camp, meaning he will not get another shot in AA to lower those K numbers. This is the year for Harrison, if he produces at the AAA level we will absolutely see him in the MLB by September at the latest.

Sandy Alcántara, RHP

Alcántara made six starts in the bigs last year, going back and forth with AAA after some command problems and injuries towards the end of the year. Alcántara is with the team in spring training and has already made a few starts. The stuff flashes in every start, but the command problems remains an issue. His numbers are pretty solid through 12 innings, he’s allowed only two runs, six hits and has struck out 14, but he’s also walked 10 in those innings.

Alcántara has been mentioned among the guys that Mike Hill expects to be in the rotation come Opening Day, so based on that I imagine he’d start there. I would personally let him work out the kinks with the command in AAA, but the clock is ticking and the Marlins need answers. Alcántara will most likely be a fixture in the Marlins’ rotation for all of 2019.

Nick Neidert, RHP

Neidert was the star of the Marlins organization in my opinion last year, and without a doubt took the biggest strides of any prospect in the Marlins Top 30. He checks in at #5 in the Top 30 after being 10th the previous spring.

I personally think Neidert should start in AAA because he showed he can dominate at the AA level last year. I think he starts in New Orleans, and if he posts numbers like he did last year we will absolutely see Neidert in Miami this season.

Connor Scott, CF

The Marlins first round pick didn’t post great numbers at the plate last year, but he showed an ability to draw walks at a good rate and played some really nice defense. That caused him to move quickly out of the GCL and reach Low A-Greensboro for the last 23 games of the year, where he posted respectable numbers for an 18-year-old kid fresh out of high school. Scott should start the year at that same level Low-A, which is now in Clinton, and could probably get to High-A Jupiter by the end of the year if he posts some good numbers. Scott is a big part of the Marlins future and the Marlins have shown the willingness to move those types of guys quickly through their system, so don’t close the door on a late season appearance in Jacksonville just yet.

Jorge Guzman, RHP

Guzman had a very up-and-down 2018 with a lot of good, but also legitimate concerns. He boasts tremendous stuff without the best control of it. He struck out 101 guys in 21 starts last year in High-A Jupiter, but also walked 64 and posted a 1.54 WHIP.

To me, this is the year that decides whether Guzman can make it as a starter in the league, or if it’s time for him to move to the bullpen, which may not be all too bad an option considering the type of stuff he possesses. I think he starts in Jupiter again this year and probably gets as far as Jacksonville if the Marlins keep him as a starter. If the Marlins decide they want to move Guzman to the ‘pen, I think the sky’s the limit and we could definitely see him in Miami as a September call-up candidate.

Edward Cabrera, RHP

Cabrera very well could be the hidden gem among the Marlins arms in the system and is a super intriguing prospect going into 2019. He had a pretty solid 2018 which saw him have good strikeout numbers, but his walks were up and he didn’t get a ton of help from his defense which inflated his numbers a little bit. Cabrera has some really good stuff and has the ability to post massive strikeout numbers, hitting double digits a few times last year, and controls his stuff a little better than some of the other flamethrowers in the Marlins system.

After two respectable years in Low-A, I think Cabrera is ready to make the jump to High-A Jupiter. I’d start him there and see where the year takes you, but I wouldn’t expect him to get past Jupiter in 2019.

Will Banfield, C

One of the nicer prospects in the organization, Banfield was the 69th overall pick for the Marlins in 2018 and could slot in as their catcher of the future if his offense comes along. He’s got all the makings to be elite defensively and showed that in action in both the GCL and Low-A ball last year. Still only 19, he is already one of the more important pieces in the Marlins organization because of the lack of depth at catcher and because of where he was taken in the process’s first draft.

I expect Banfield to start back in Low-A ball this year where the Marlins will be looking for increased offensive production to go along with his stellar defense. Considering how quick they’ve been to reward guys for production, don’t rule out a move to Jupiter for Banfield if he has a great year in Clinton.

Isan Díaz, 2B

I personally think Díaz might be the safest prospect in the Marlins organization and has the best chance of the Top 10 to contribute consistently at the major league level. He’s got a great mold as a guy that hits for power and shows a great ability to get on base, while playing very solid and smooth defense at 2nd base. Díaz made it to AAA-New Orleans at the end of the season, but kind of sputtered out after having a really nice couple months in Jacksonville coming off an injury in June. He had encouraging highlights this spring and even left the yard once, showing that potential to have very good power in the league. He has since been optioned to AAA.

I definitely think we see Díaz in the bigs this year but it’ll probably be when rosters expand in September. However, don’t rule out Diaz coming up earlier than that if he makes more contact and continues to show the ability to draw walks and hit for power the way he has.

I’ll have additional season previews for some of the more intriguing prospects in the middle of the Marlins farm system coming soon. It’s shaping up to be a great season for the Marlins farm system, so stick around for “Things We Love to See” come April!