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Fish Stripes Top 30: Updated Marlins top prospects list

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The Fish Stripes staff offers their perspective on the most promising Marlins minor league talent midway through the 2019 MiLB season.

Outfielder Monte Harrison justifies preseason hype with strong all-around production at Triple-A New Orleans.
Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

This is the longest Fish Stripes article of the 2019 season thus far, so I’ll keep the introduction short and sweet...

We have made a new Marlins top prospects list. Thank you to the staff for their input, specifically Ethan Budowsky, Luis Davila, Thomas Hall, Daniel Martinez, Jose Miranda, Mike Picardi and Ian Smith. There were 49 different prospects considered for the Top 30.

All player blurbs and stat lines were updated entering June 17, provided by Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs unless otherwise noted. This article was updated again on June 21 to acknowledge a wave of recent MiLB promotions.

Here it is.


Notable Ineligibles

Current minor leaguers Lewis Brinson, Magneuris Sierra and Brett Graves each graduated from prospect status as members of the 2018 Marlins.

Fish Stripes favorite Harold Ramírez just graduated himself. He was excluded from the staff voting, but otherwise would’ve ranked somewhere in the No. 16-25 range.

Fish Stripes original GIF

Fish Stripes Top 30

No. 1: RHP Sixto Sánchez

2019 MiLB stats (A+/AA): 3.49 ERA, 2.97 FIP, 19.7 K% in 49.0 IP

Acquired via trade

Fish Stripes original GIF

No surprises at the very top: Sánchez is our consensus top prospect.

“Perhaps the best combination of electric stuff and command of any pitcher in the minor leagues” when healthy, according to MLB Pipeline. The Marlins were cautious in ramping up his activity in 2019 coming off elbow inflammation the previous season. The Dominican right-hander didn’t make his organizational debut until May 3.

The patience has paid off. Sánchez’s fastball velocity is sitting in the high 90s and touching triple digits in high-pressure situations. He is throwing his secondary pitches for strikes, too (only one outing all year with multiple walks).

It’s unclear what kind of total workload the Marlins envision for Sánchez, but he has already topped 2018’s innings total and is comfortably on pace to set a new career high in that category. Regardless, expect this sensation to be in Miami’s rotation very early next season.

No. 2: OF JJ Bleday

2019 MiLB stats: none

Acquired via MLB Draft

The Vanderbilt outfielder selected in the first round of this month’s MLB Draft perfectly suits the needs of the Marlins organization. He has demonstrated a combination of plate discipline and power in the SEC (career .327/.448/.555, 32 HR, 17.4 BB% in 155 G), particularly in 2019 (.350/.464/.717, 26 HR, 16.9 BB% in 65 G).

Also, Bleday’s arm strength isn’t far behind his offensive tools. Most likely a right fielder at the major league level, he ought to be able to handle center in emergencies as well.

His professional career remains on hold while Vanderbilt competes in the College World Series. But expect the 21-year-old to rise rapidly through the farm system.

No. 3: 2B Isan Díaz

2019 MiLB stats (AAA): .289/.373/.533, 14 HR in 281 PA

Acquired via trade

The leading candidate for Marlins Minor League Player of the Year, Díaz has racked up 30 extra-base hits for Triple-A New Orleans this season. The bat shows no signs of slowing down as he enters Monday riding a 17-game hitting streak. His 22.4% strikeout rate is nothing to brag about, but that represents his best career mark at a full-season level. If Díaz puts balls in play with approximately league-average frequency, it’s hard to find any true deficiencies in his game.

In ranking the Puerto Rican second baseman higher within the Marlins organization than most outlets would, Fish Stripes expects him to peak as an All-Star-caliber core piece.

No. 4: OF Monte Harrison

2019 MiLB stats (AAA): .287/.381/.480, 8 HR in 197 PA

Acquired via trade

Among this summer’s most compelling statistical storylines is Harrison versus the Miami Marlins on the basepaths. Harrison has 20 stolen bases on his own at Triple-A; everybody on the Fish has combined for 23.

Across the board, professional evaluators grade Harrison at a 50 or higher on each of his tools, especially his makeup, with one key exception: hitting. The former three-sport star hasn’t quite landed on a swing and timing mechanism that allows for consistent contact (though he tells us about the process that led to improvement over the winter).

Choosing between Díaz and Harrison at the No. 3 spot was splitting hairs. The latter’s athleticism gives him a more extraordinary ceiling, though there is the risk that he whiffs too much to justify everyday playing time. Wide range of career outcomes.

No. 5: RHP Zac Gallen (promoted to MLB June 20)

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

2019 MiLB stats (AAA): 1.77 ERA, 3.24 FIP, 33.6 K% in 91.1 IP

Acquired via trade

More so than anybody else in the Top 30, Gallen is a safe bet to graduate from prospect eligibility once we update the list again this offseason. The South Jersey right-hander is ready to be tested in a major league rotation and the Marlins have an opportunity for him.

Adjusting for Pacific Coast League conditions, he’s been arguably the most successful qualified starter in the minors in 2019. Elevating his velocity—maxing out around 97 miles per hour—has improved his stock, as has re-emphasizing the cutter, reports Wells Duesnbury of the Sun Sentinel.

Gallen’s breaking balls might not generate enough swinging strikes in The Show to provide ace production, but he has the makings of a durable mid-rotation starter.

No. 6: RHP Edward Cabrera

2019 MiLB stats (A+): 2.04 ERA, 2.23 FIP, 31.9 K% in 53.0 IP

Acquired via international free agency

The youngest member of High-A Jupiter’s electric starting staff, Cabrera was a slam-dunk Florida State League All-Star selection despite a brief stint on the injured list. His Fielder Independent Pitching mark ranks second in the entire FSL (min. 50 IP). The right-hander surrendered his lone home run of the season in his first High-A start, which was before his 21st birthday.

Everybody knew about Cabrera’s plus fastball—his curveball is now catching up and his refined changeup has become an occasional putaway pitch as well.

Cabrera is at least a full calendar year away from reaching the majors. It’s not saying much given the franchise’s history, but he could prove to be the most successful pitcher ever obtained by the Marlins via international amateur free agency ($100,000 signing bonus).

No. 7: LHP Braxton Garrett

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2019 MiLB stats (A+): 3.35 ERA, 3.26 FIP, 30.1 K% in 51.0 IP

Acquired via MLB Draft

Following Tommy John surgery, Garrett went 22 12 months between MiLB regular season appearances.

Thus far, his 2019 has been very encouraging. The southpaw’s signature pitch is a big, nasty curveball. Facing mostly older competition in the FSL, it has helped him consistently pile up whiffs (six or more strikeouts in nine of his 10 starts). Garrett’s command remains somewhat questionable, but no lefty in the Marlins farm system possesses more potential.

Barring any physical setbacks, his estimated time of arrival appears to be mid-to-late 2021.

No. 8: OF Víctor Víctor Mesa

2019 MiLB stats (A+): .220/.272/.254, 0 HR in 229 PA

Acquired via international free agency

The Cuban star’s first campaign in affiliated ball is thus far a massive letdown. Despite a couple nagging injuries (hamstring strain in spring training, hand contusion early this month), his anemic production at the plate falls far short of even the most tepid projections. Mesa’s OPS has not cracked the .600 mark at any point this season. His contact ability—12.6% strikeout rate—and center field defense are the silver linings.

Some Marlins fans scoffed at the initial comps between Mesa and the Cubs’ Albert Almora, but at least Almora was a league-average MLB center fielder by age 24. All things considered, that would be a decent outcome for this $5.25 million investment.

As long as Mesa experiences an uptick in the second half of 2019, there’s no reason to panic.

No. 9: SS José Devers

Photo by Alex Carver/Fish On The Farm

2019 MiLB stats (A+): .325/.385/.366, 0 HR in 135 PA

Acquired via trade

I’ll defer to Adam McInturff of 2080 Baseball, who monitored Devers’ progress closely at Low-A Greensboro in 2018 and recently evaluated him again up close:

Devers is a throwback shortstop, unlikely to bring much power to the plate but able to hit, run, field, and throw well enough to potentially fit as a regular at a valuable position. He was one of the youngest everyday players in the South Atlantic League last year, showing the makings of solid bat-to-ball skill but lacking much strength at contact. Devers’ physical gains have started to change that, as his compact swing can now spray hard liners all over the field.

Still only 19(!) years old, Devers has boosted his stock significantly since arriving in the Giancarlo Stanton trade.

Unfortunately, he’s landed on the injured list three times within the past year and is currently without a clear timetable to return.

No. 10: LHP Trevor Rogers

2019 MiLB stats (A+): 3.02 ERA, 3.10 FIP, 23.6 K% in 62.2 IP

Acquired via MLB Draft

Plagued by a comical .398 batting average on balls in play last summer, Rogers is finding much more success in 2019 now that that figure has normalized somewhat (.348 BABIP).

The former first-round pick finds himself behind the typical 21-year-old in terms of professional reps. Thus far, his repertoire is predominantly fastballs, sliders and not much else. He’ll need to expand on that at Double-A.

As Rogers fills out his 6-foot-6 frame, there’s hope for slight velocity gains.

No. 11: RHP Nick Neidert

2019 MiLB stats (AAA): 8.71 ERA, 5.90 FIP, 14.6 K% in 10.1 IP

Acquired via trade

The reigning Marlins Minor League Pitcher of the Year had the first half of his season wiped out by a meniscus injury. It’s a stark contrast from Neidert’s age-21 campaign, during which he led the farm system in both innings pitched (152.2 IP) and strikeouts (154 K), and had MLB Pipeline dubbing him “the most polished pitcher in the organization.”

The likelihood of a 2019 major league debut now seems remote, but the Georgia right-hander’s future remains bright. This drop from consensus top-five Marlins prospect to No. 11 is mostly attributable to his peers taking positive strides, rather than penalizing him for missed time.

No. 12: OF Kameron Misner

2019 MiLB stats: none

Acquired via MLB Draft

Initially, JJ Bleday is the face of the 2019 Marlins MLB Draft class, but there are high hopes for Misner, too.

A star in the Cape Cod League two years ago (.378/.479/.652, 8 HR, 14 SB in 38 G), the toolsy outfielder lost a chunk of his sophomore season to injury. Then this past spring, his swing looked out of sync during SEC play.

Misner’s flaws appear to be fixable, and as of a few months ago, he had been thought of as a surefire first-rounder. Good value for the Fish at No. 35 overall. (Like Bleday, Misner has yet to officially sign his professional contract.)

No. 13: RHP Jordan Holloway

2019 MiLB stats (A+): 2.62 ERA, 3.74 FIP, 27.3 K% in 44.2 IP

Acquired via MLB Draft

Braxton Garrett’s Tommy John rehab buddy has returned to competition with special raw stuff. Other MLB teams took notice, forcing the Marlins to protect Holloway on their 40-man roster prior to the Rule 5 Draft.

But his persistent wildness is a red flag and his .223 BABIP won’t be sustainable.

If you see Holloway in Miami during the 2020 season, it’d probably be in a relief role. Beyond that, perhaps he refines the curveball enough to induce more opponents to chase out of the strike zone and dominate multiple times through a lineup.

No. 14: C Will Banfield

2019 MiLB stats (A): .220/.258/.364, 6 HR in 221 PA

Acquired via MLB Draft

Banfield has already shown himself to be a gifted defensive catcher, nabbing 57.4% of attempted base-stealers in 2019. Nobody else in the Marlins organization boasts his combination of receiving and throwing mechanics.

You’ll have to tolerate some swings and misses from the 19-year-old. He’s no J.T. Realmuto. That being said, his power can go a long way toward compensating for that.

No. 15: RHP Jordan Yamamoto

2019 MiLB stats (AA): 3.58 ERA, 4.13 FIP, 23.7 K% in 65.1 IP

Acquired via trade

Yamamoto’s major league debut last Tuesday was perhaps the most exhilarating moment of the 2019 Marlins season. Given minimal advance notice about the opportunity, he worked seven shutout innings, showing sharp breaking balls and slightly more fastball velocity than anticipated.

Of course, the call-up was more a byproduct of logistics than performance. Both Gallen and Neidert would be favored over him to hold down a steady rotation spot in 2020. Yamamoto’s past shoulder issues and 6-foot frame raise long-term durability concerns.

He is a solid depth piece for Miami, but it would take more production from him at Double-A/Triple-A to convince us that he’s anything more than that.

No. 16: OF Connor Scott

2019 MiLB stats (A): .213/.276/.325, 4 HR in 262 PA

Acquired via MLB Draft

Scott ranks second to Monte Harrison among Marlins prospects this season with 16 steals. His center field defense has impressed enough to push Clinton LumberKings teammate Thomas Jones over to a corner spot.

Encouraging signs, yes, but the No. 13 overall draft pick must hit eventually. Aside from a two-week stretch in early May, the production hasn’t been there.

At his current pace, Scott could find himself repeating the Low-A level. Still too soon to even guess at his MLB ETA.

No. 17: OF Jerar Encarnación (promoted to Jupiter June 19)

2019 MiLB stats (A): .298/.363/.478, 10 HR in 281 PA

Acquired via international free agency

At 6-foot-4 and 219 pounds, Encarnación generates a lot of extra-base hits, showing newfound over-the-fence power for the LumberKings in 2019. His plate approach is more well-rounded than scouts gave him credit for entering the season (8.2 BB%).

Despite putting in the work to improve his outfield defense, the results have been mixed. His 13 outfield assists are largely cancelled out by 12 errors and shaky instincts.

If we are to assume that the designated hitter comes to the National League in the next collective bargaining agreement, or that the Marlins remain unsure of their future at first base, Encarnación becomes more valuable to them.

No. 18: SS Nasim Nuñez

2019 MiLB stats: none

Acquired via MLB Draft

There is some resemblance between Nuñez and José Devers, though the prep shortstop has an extra gear as a baserunner (grading as high as a 70 for his speed).

Marlins executives wanted Nuñez badly—Gary Denbo and D.J. Svihlik have admitted as much publicly. We’ll have a better feel for what he’s capable of when the Gulf Coast League gets underway next week.

No. 19: RHP Jorge Guzman

2019 MiLB stats (AA): 3.73 ERA, 4.04 FIP, 20.8 K% in 72.1 IP

Acquired via trade

The Marlins are keeping all of their developmental options open with Guzman. He’s on pace to comfortably establish a new career high in innings pitched. His production has been consistent for Double-A Jacksonville; the right-handed flamethrower has completed five innings in 12 of 13 starts this season.

Most likely, though, Guzman will be utilized as a menacing, high-leverage reliever at the highest level.

No. 20: OF Brian Miller

2019 MiLB stats (AA): .284/.341/.370, 1 HR in 268 PA

Acquired via MLB Draft

Miller’s MiLB spray chart, 2017-2019 (he is a left-handed batter)
Baseball Savant

Outside of Isan Díaz, Miller is performing as well as any Marlins position player prospect lately. He has reached base safely in all but one of his games over the last 30 days. Just a great pure hitter who owns a .299 batting average since joining the pros two years ago.

The North Carolina native lacks home run power and it’s difficult to imagine him as a center fielder in Marlins Park given his ordinary throwing ability.

However, with the major league club getting minimal production from the leadoff spot, Miller could emerge as a candidate for that role in 2020.

No. 21: RHP Robert Dugger (Promoted to New Orleans June 20)

2019 MiLB stats (AA): 3.31 ERA, 3.45 FIP, 25.0 K% in 70.2 IP

Acquired via trade

Dugger got a bit lost in Neidert’s shadow in 2018. The right-handers were acquired together in the Dee Gordon trade. Dugger had slightly less excellent numbers against slightly less experienced competition, plus none of his secondary offerings stuck out as much as Neidert’s changeup.

Can’t overlook him anymore. The Texas Tech right-hander has 180 innings at Double-A Jacksonville and exactly 180 strikeouts.

With two types of fastballs, two breaking balls and a changeup, Dugger beats you with variety.

No. 22: SS Osiris Johnson

2019 MiLB stats: none (injured—right tibial stress fracture)

Acquired via MLB Draft

Johnson’s first full pro season was wiped out before it even began due to a spring training injury. The Marlins updated his health status last week, saying he is throwing again, but hasn’t started doing any fielding work.

The former second-round draft pick has time on his side, thankfully—he’ll be 19 years old throughout the 2020 campaign.

After immediate offensive success in the Gulf Coast League last summer (.780 OPS, 7 SB), he struggled in comparable playing time with Low-A Greensboro against much older competition (.499 OPS, 0 SB).

Johnson distinguishes himself from his peers with elite bat speed. There’s an All-Star ceiling here...if he can stick as a shortstop.

No. 23: RHP Chris Vallimont

2019 MiLB stats (A): 2.99 ERA, 3.04 FIP, 29.5 K% in 69.1 IP

Acquired via MLB Draft

Vallimont has a mid-90s fastball and good enough control of it to thrive in Low-A. As Clinton pitching coach Mark DiFelice explains, experimenting with the rest of his pitches should pay dividends further down the road.

The Marlins went outside the box to find Vallimont at Division II Mercyhurst University.

No. 24: OF Tristan Pompey

2019 MiLB stats (A+): .154/.290/.154, 0 HR in 31 PA

Acquired via MLB Draft

The third-round draft pick acclimated to pro ball seamlessly last summer, posting a .408 on-base percentage across three different levels. Even with some questions about where he fits as a fielder, Pompey had the look of a prospect who could quickly reach the high minors.

That progress has been halted over the past two months—Pompey played just eight games for Jupiter, then sort of vanished.

The 22-year-old Canadian is back at the Marlins complex now and aiming to salvage something from 2019.

No. 25: OF Víctor Mesa Jr.

2019 MiLB stats: none

Acquired via international free agency

Mesa is right up there with Nuñez as one of the most intriguing players set to compete on the GCL Marlins. He possesses a much different skill set than his older brother. Definitely a bat-first prospect.

He keeps active on Instagram (@victormesajr10).

No. 26: LHP Will Stewart

2019 MiLB stats (A+): 5.09 ERA, 4.34 FIP, 17.0 K% in 58.1 IP

Acquired via trade

The Marlins acquired Stewart coming off a Low-A breakout in 2018 (2.06 ERA, 3.09 FIP, 20.5 K% in 113.2 IP). It’s been a rollercoaster organizational debut for him, featuring a near no-hitter, but several clunkers as well.

The left-hander induces tons of ground balls. He keeps batters off balance by mixing up his fastball and changeup from a low arm slot.

No. 27: RHP Evan Fitterer

2019 MiLB stats: none

Acquired via MLB Draft

Baseball America had Fitterer ranked as their 60th-best prospect (subscription required) in the entire 2019 draft class, but he fell all the way to the Marlins in the fifth round (No. 141 overall). His fastball velocity already touches 95 mph, with the potential for a plus curveball and average changeup.

The Marlins are in the process of buying Fitterer out of his UCLA commitment, which will require a signing bonus well above slot value. He turns 19 next month.

No. 28: INF Demetrius Sims

2019 MiLB stats (A/A+): .298./403/.470, 6 HR in 217 PA

Acquired via MLB Draft

Sims has been the big beneficiary of Osiris Johnson’s injury. The Marlins didn’t necessarily plan on allocating everyday reps to him, but the former 14th-rounder seized the opportunity. Adjusting for playing conditions in the Midwest and Florida State Leagues, his 155 wRC+ this season leads all qualified Marlins full-season players. All of them!

Currently on the injured list, hopefully Sims is able to recapture his groove upon return.

No. 29: INF Joe Dunand

2019 MiLB stats (AA): .224/.292/.297, 3 HR in 264 PA

Acquired via MLB Draft

For the first time, the Marlins have conceded that Dunand isn’t necessarily a long-term shortstop. The North Carolina State product has started 22 games at third base in 2019.

His struggles with the bat have intensified, and there’s no silver lining to it. Poor numbers at home and on the road, against left-handers and right-handers, especially in clutch situations.

Dunand is the nephew of Alex Rodriguez (yes, A-Rod).

No. 30: INF Christopher Torres

2019 MiLB stats (A): .167/.333/.264, 2 HR in 219 PA

Acquired via trade

Throughout his career, Torres has posted elite walk rates. That remains true this season (20.1 BB%).

Great to see from a 21-year-old, but not much else is working in his favor. Torres’ chances of sticking at shortstop have been fading and his offensive production comes only from the pull side.

The second half of 2019 is critical for Torres to re-establish himself as a piece of the franchise’s future.


Top 30 Summary

Position

  • 13 pitchers (10 RHP, 3 LHP)
  • 17 position players (1 C, 7 INF, 9 OF)

Acquisition

  • 12 Marlins draft picks
  • 4 Marlins international signings
  • 14 via trade

Others receiving multiple votes

Jeff Brigham was called up by the Marlins last month as a reliever
Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images

You can think of these as the No. 31-35 Marlins prospects (in no particular order).