Prospects are a risky business. Sometimes difficult to understand and even harder to predict, the potential stars of tomorrow have been the focus of the Miami Marlins ever since ownership changed hands in 2017. In that time, the team's farm system has gone from one of the worst in the sport to top five, albeit with a little asterisk. Out of all 30 farm systems, Miami's may be the riskiest, with high ceilings and red flags associated with almost every name. In a nutshell, the general consensus is that there is plenty of promise, but no sure bets, resulting in vastly different opinions on some key prospects across different sites.
Take shortstop Jazz Chisholm, who was ranked as the top Marlins prospect in December by FanGraphs, but then lost his top ten ranking as a shortstop by MLB Pipeline this week. Fans should not panic at this drop in stock, though, as it was not totally unforeseen. While the 21-year-old performed well with a .284 batting average over 23 games with the Jumbo Shrimp after the trade, overall he hit .220 in his first taste of Double-A in 2019. The naturally effortless power was still there as the Bahamian finished with more than 20 homers for the second straight season, but he didn't make the immediate leap than many people were anticipating after he tore through High-A at the end of 2018.
However, the time he spent in Jacksonville after being introduced to the organization seems to have represented a change of mindset. His alarming strikeout rate on the season dropped from 33.8% to 25.5%, and being more selective and patient led to him posting a career-best 11% walk rate. Instead of trying to do too much, Chisholm displayed a higher level of maturity at the plate, even if it was only for a handful of games. Sure, the sample size was small, but it was a positive way to end the season. His development has continued throughout the winter, as he has worked on a refined swing to cut down on strikeouts even further and maximize the raw strength that has the ability to turn so many heads.
While Miguel Rojas is the incumbent at shortstop and under contract for the next two seasons in Miami, the Marlins are expected to aggressively promote Chisholm to Triple-A to start the 2020 season, where he will face his toughest test yet.
If he is able to stay afloat at the highest level of the minors next season and even earn a September call-up to the big leagues, then the Marlins coaching and development departments will earn a huge feather in their cap. The fanbase has widely criticized their handling of Lewis Brinson, himself once categorized as a high-risk prospect. Frankly, the Marlins have yet to see any of their premium hitting prospects pan out in the majors over the course of this rebuild. Getting Chisholm back on his development curve would be a huge step in the right direction for the future of the organization.
The Marlins traded a potential long-term mid-rotation piece in Zac Gallen to buy low on the limitless potential and excitement of Jazz Chisholm. The fact that his MLB Pipeline stock has dropped after a trying year overall in his Double-A debut really does not mean much in the long-run—prospects do not always progress linearly. The changes in approach that we saw glimpses of in Jacksonville bode well for 2020 and beyond.