Which prospects are making waves in this great Marlins farm system? Here is my final 2021 in-season update.
This Top 30 reflects my own preferences and not the Fish Stripes staff as a whole.
Most outlets are married to MLB’s archaic definition of prospect eligibility which uses at-bats/innings pitched/non-September days on the major league active roster.
My criteria is slightly different. I graduate players from prospect status once they have taken 200 career MLB plate appearances or have faced 200 career MLB batters. Also, players can graduate if active for at least half a major league season (81 team games)—that’s all about catching relievers and bench bats from slipping through the cracks.
This Top 30 is divided into six tiers, plus a seventh tier of just-misses. Prospects within the same tier are largely interchangeable, which means when considering their ceiling, floor, injury risk, position, room for development, ability to adjust and intangibles, I expect them to have similar career value.
My opinions on Marlins prospects are no doubt influenced by local and national experts. I encourage you to check out their own up-to-date top prospect lists:
- Fish On The Farm (Alex Carver and Daniel De Vivo)
- Prospects Live
- FanGraphs (Eric Longenhagen and Kevin Goldstein)
- MLB Pipeline
- Baseball America ($)
Next to each player’s name, I put their current level of competition in parentheses. Those with an asterisk (*) are either on the Marlins 40-man roster or would be if not for injury/illness.
1) RHP Edward Cabrera* (MLB) | previously ranked 1st
2) RHP Sixto Sánchez* (AAA—injury) | previously ranked 2nd
Cabrera is the only selection in my top three tiers who was inherited from the previous Marlins regime. His fastball, breaking ball and changeup each have the potential to be ridiculously fun pitches depending on which day you’re watching him. Good call by the organization to greenlight him to spend the final month-plus in The Show.
The quality of Sixto’s stuff distracts from his special pitchability. No other prospect-eligible player in this organization is a safer bet to get outs at the highest level when healthy. In the aftermath of a shoulder tear that resulted in season-ending surgery, there’s just enough uncertainty to drop the 23-year-old from the No. 1 spot.
3) RHP Max Meyer (AA) | previously ranked 3rd
4) SS Kahlil Watson (Rk FCL) | previously ranked 4th
5) RHP Eury Pérez (A+) | previously ranked 5th
Meyer’s fastball-slider combination gives him a great foundation. He showed impressive control during his first professional campaign, filling up the zone with more than 70% strikes. He also does the little things well to outperform his peripherals, like controlling the running game and fielding his position.
It’s an inconsequentially small sample size, but Watson has done everything possible to justify his top draft pick status by performing like one of the complex’s leagues best offensive players. He’ll turn 19 on April 16 and should be assigned to full-season Jupiter by then.
Pérez is striking out more than one-third of all opponents. You’d assume that the projectable 6-foot-8 teenager is raw and volatile...and you’d be wrong. The Dominican right-hander would become the youngest major league pitcher in Marlins history if recalled before the end of the 2023 season.
Eury Pérez records his 100th strikeout of the season pic.twitter.com/hZGRBCwxd8— Fish Stripes Prospects Coverage (@FishProspects) September 4, 2021
Pérez’s ceiling is otherworldly, but I’m not comfortable elevating him into the top tier until observing how he fares against tougher competition. It’s been relatively smooth sailing since his promotion to High-A (where he is more than five years younger than the league average).
6) SS José Salas (A) | previously ranked 8th
7) OF JJ Bleday (AA) | previously ranked 7th
8) 1B Lewin Díaz* (MLB) | previously ranked 9th
9) OF Peyton Burdick (AA) | previously ranked 12th
10) LHP Jake Eder (AA—injury) | previously ranked 10th
11) LHP Dax Fulton (A+) | previously ranked 11th
12) OF Kameron Misner (AA) | previously ranked 14th
Always something to watch with developing switch-hitters: are they consistent from both sides of the plate? Salas has barely gotten any reps against lefty pitchers in the pros so far, but he’s been excellent in that sample. His sub-.900 fielding percentage is obviously not ideal.
Bleday has spent much of his first full MiLB season hugging the Mendoza Line. The Marlins are anxious to bring him to the big leagues, but his performance simply does not merit that. It’s been a year of constant tinkering for the former Vanderbilt star as he continues fouling off so many pitches that he should be barreling.
It wasn’t that complicated: if the Marlins wholeheartedly believed in Lewin Díaz, they would have traded first base roadblock Jesús Aguilar by now. Perhaps they share some of my concerns about Díaz’s swing path. He’ll mash 20-plus home runs over a full-length season, but countless innocuous high fly balls as well. Díaz now has an element of defensive versatility to his game, roaming left field on four occasions for the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.
Burdick plays with a terrific motor and is fully filled out physically. Totaling more defensive innings in center field than the corners for Pensacola has been a pleasant surprise. The Wright State alum seems to tap into most of his game power by sitting on specific pitches when ahead in the count. Will that approach still be effective for him in the majors where pitchers are less predictable?
Left-handed batters had only six hits against Eder all season. His breaking ball might be less imposing than Meyer’s, but it isn’t far off.
Eder underwent Tommy John surgery on September 1. That is disruptive to his career—he won’t appear in another minor league game until 2023. But unless he suffers some kind of setback during rehab, I don’t think it affects his prospect stock too much. Fellow ranked prospects Dax Fulton, Jordan Holloway and Braxton Garrett are also TJ survivors.
Misner is the most efficient high-volume base-stealer in the Marlins org and a valuable fielder at all three outfield positions. The 23-year-old is a line drive machine. He’s been the beneficiary of a high batting average on balls in play since turning pro, but I believe that’s mostly sustainable for somebody with his swing path and exit velo.
Misner strung together an on-base streak between Beloit and Pensacola that spanned more than one-quarter of the MiLB schedule (31 games).
13) RHP Kyle Nicolas (AA) | previously ranked 13th
14) C Joe Mack (Rk FCL) | previously ranked 16th
15) OF Bryan De La Cruz* (MLB) | previously ranked 18th
16) RHP Jordan Holloway* (AAA—injury) | previously ranked 15th
17) RHP Zach McCambley (AA) | previously ranked 17th
The organization’s MiLB strikeout leader, Nicolas has worked a ton of deep counts and allowed a ton of fly balls. He initially dominated upon being promoted to Double-A, but has since come back down to Earth. Hitters really struggle to catch up to his heater. Changeup needs further development.
Even though his overall results in the complex league have been underwhelming, Mack’s massive walk rate suggests a thorough understanding of the strike zone.
DLC has been warmly received by a Marlins fanbase that is so desperate for competent hitting at the major league level. The jury is still out on whether or not he’s anything more than an average offensive player—right now, he’s the beneficiary of remarkable BABIP luck. The Dominican’s smooth, versatile outfield defense gives him a solid floor.
Incase you weren't familiar with Bryan De La Cruz already: pic.twitter.com/g3KiWlgiiV— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) September 9, 2021
Holloway has a knack for suppressing hard contact in the air. He’ll be extremely trustworthy as a high-leverage reliever even if inconsistency eventually removes him from the rotation mix. The arrow is pointing pretty strongly toward a bullpen future given his Triple-A mediocrity (4.88 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 21.6 K% in 31.1 IP).
McCambley is best known for his filthy curveball, but he can get the job done with fastball command as well.
18) OF Víctor Mesa Jr. (A) | previously ranked 22nd
19) SS José Devers* (MLB—injury) | previously ranked 19th
20) OF Griffin Conine (AA) | previously ranked 20th
21) SS Yiddi Cappe (Rk DSL) | previously ranked 21st
Only four home runs for Víctor Jr. with the Jupiter Hammerheads, but he easily projects to crack double digits in future seasons once he fills out physically and moves to a more hitter-friendly environment. According to Low-A Southeast batted ball data, he posted a maximum exit velo of (at least) 110 miles per hour, which is right in line with productive major leaguers.
Poor Devers cannot stay healthy—he has fallen short of playing two-thirds of his team’s games during every season of his Marlins career. His 2021 campaign officially came to an end following surgery to repair a posterior labrum tear in his right shoulder. Still just 21 years old, though.
It’s difficult to place Conine, the presumptive Marlins Minor League Player of the Year. Nobody else in this farm system has as much all-fields game power. However, his swinging strike rate is alarmingly high. He’s far more likely to be Peter O’Brien than Joey Gallo...but that upside is so tantalizing.
Cappe’s production tailed off following a hot start, then partially rebounded. It’s mildly surprising that the $3.5 million signee hasn’t made the move stateside yet.
22) SS Nasim Nuñez (A—injury) | previously ranked 23rd
23) RHP Nick Neidert* (AAA) | previously ranked 24th
24) OF Connor Scott (A+) | previously ranked 25th
25) LHP Braxton Garrett* (AAA) | previously ranked 26th
26) OF Monte Harrison* (AAA) | previously ranked 27th
27) C Nick Fortes (AAA) | previously ranked 28th
28) RHP Evan Fitterer (A) | previously ranked 29th
29) 1B/OF Troy Johnston (A+) | previously ranked 30th
30) 2B/SS Ian Lewis (Rk FCL) | previously unranked
Are Nuñez’s on-base skills legit—career .347 OBP while being young for each level—or is he just exploiting raw pitchers who cannot hit a tiny target? He has drawn 70 walks in 103 minor league games. Nuñez could rise quickly on my list in 2022 if his offensive game translates to High-A, because his shortstop defense on its own gives him at least one way to contribute at any level.
I was excited about Neidert entering this year. Alas, despite a league-average ERA in occasional MLB action, his poor control and propensity for fly balls are perplexing given his track record. That’s not going to work for him long term. I’m putting trust him in to make adjustments.
The former top draft pick Scott has added more pop to his game—his isolated power this season was better than the High-A Central league average. He’s made the same steady progression in strikeout rate during his career.
The 26-year-old Harrison is doubtful to be a competent big league hitter. However, he can impact games with his other skills.
Fortes demonstrated more than competent ability with the bat while being challenged at the Double-A and Triple-A levels. The Marlins should be creating room to protect him on their 40-man roster in advance of the Rule 5 draft.
Fitterer theoretically possesses a full starter’s skill set. Unfortunately, he has yet to complete five innings in any official game. His career groundball rate is extraordinarily high at 67.2%.
Outside of one bad road trip in late July, Johnston has been phenomenal in 2021. Really the only knock on his hitting is the lack of power production in left-on-left matchups. Johnston’s path to the majors is hazy in an organization that is well-stocked in first base/corner outfield types, but that’s a good problem to have for a former 17th-round draft pick.
Lewis got increasingly aggressive at the plate and on the basepaths as the summer progressed, and he flourished as a result. A teenage switch-hitter like Salas, the Bahamian infielder has had limited exposure to lefties thus far.
In anticipation of possible offseason trades, here are the next men up (Tier VII):