Every week, our Fish Stripes podcast show “Earning Their Stripes”—hosted by Daniel Martinez, Ethan Budowsky and Ian Smith—covers all the key developments within the Marlins farm system. But with a flurry of roster activity over the past couple days and the upcoming MLB Draft understandably commanding a lot of attention, I wanted to share some quick thoughts on promoted players.
“Swimming Upstream” will be a periodic series on the site over the next few months to ensure that none of the progress that these guys are making gets lost under the radar.
New Orleans —> Miami
Right-hander Jeff Brigham was recalled on Thursday to reinforce the Marlins bullpen, and he earned the opportunity. Buried on the starting pitching depth chart, Triple-A New Orleans had been utilizing him exclusively as a reliever. He spent most of April on the injured list, but was practically perfect for the Baby Cakes in May: 14.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 16 K.
Although the 27-year-old hasn’t developed his changeup as well as the Marlins had hoped, that’s not really applicable to his new role. The fastball-slider combination can be good enough when you know you’re going through the opposing lineup only once in each appearance.
MLB Pipeline ranks Brigham as the No. 25 prospect in the Marlins farm system.
JT Riddle began the 2019 regular season on the big league club. Despite a good glove at shortstop and more power potential than Miguel Rojas, they couldn’t justify a roster spot for somebody who was an automatic out in the lineup (.156/.156/.344, 26 wRC+ in 32 PA). Riddle’s offensive production since the demotion doesn’t inspire much confidence, either (.243/.282/.452, 70 wRC+ in 125 PA).
Riddle is getting a lucky break here. The University of Kentucky product will be the likely replacement for Neil Walker, who suffered a right quad strain on Thursday, because
- He already had a 40-man roster spot
- He got a few recent reps as a center fielder at Triple-A
Until Walker returns, expect Riddle to play semi-regularly against right-handed pitching, toggling between SS and CF.
Fresh off the plane, Magneuris Sierra went 2-for-3 with a stolen base on Thursday for the Baby Cakes. With Riddle moved up and Isaac Galloway and Monte Harrison both on the injured list, he could be their everyday leadoff hitter for the time being.
Still just 23 years old, Sierra had an outstanding April at the plate in Jacksonville (.341/.402/.409, 12.4 K%). He cooled off dramatically last month, however (.226/.273/.323, 20.0 K%).
Frankly, Sierra was a terrible player for the Marlins down the stretch of the 2018 campaign. It’s fair to say he was being rushed in his development, but poor decision-making as a fielder and baserunner—aspects of the game that he has the skill set to dominate—raised concerns.
There should not be any urgency to bring Sierra back to Miami this season unless he thrives against Triple-A competition.
When second-round draft pick Osiris Johnson suffered a season-ending leg injury in March, that may have changed the trajectory of Demetrius Sims’ entire career. He became an everyday middle infielder for the Low-A Clinton LumberKings as a result. Sims had previously shown solid plate discipline, just not this kind of all-around impact: .297/.405/.428, 142 wRC+ in 174 PA.
With Clinton, the 23-year-old frequently hits grounders to the pull side, but he is an extra-base threat to all fields:
Keep in mind, Sims had the age/experience advantage over most of his Midwest League opponents. The High-A level will be a greater challenge. He got off to an excellent start on Thursday with two hits, a walk and a home run (career-high 4 RBI).
On the move soon?
Cuban first baseman Lázaro Alonso is absolutely mashing for the Jupiter Hammerheads. Alonso has homered in back-to-back games and slashed .341/.434/.505 during the month of May, plus he ranks second among all qualified batters in the organization with a 14.0% walk rate this season. Almost time to figure out what he’s capable of in Jacksonville.
In the midst of his first fully healthy professional season at age 21, Encarnación didn’t crack any organizational top prospect lists entering 2019. However, he’ll merit serious consideration during midseason updates.