More so than the typical MLB team, the Marlins are heavily reliant on trade acquisitions and players picked up off the scrap heap (waiver claims and minor league free agents). Critical building blocks like Trevor Rogers and Brian Anderson have spent their full professional lives with the Fish, but the previous front office was responsible for drafting them (in 2017 and 2014, respectively). The Marlins’ objective to consistently contend for postseason berths is a pipedream unless their new player development operation can continue converting amateur talent into useful big leaguers.
That’s what makes the recent call-up of catcher Nick Fortes so significant. He is just the second fully homegrown player of the Bruce Sherman/Derek Jeter era to reach the highest level.
Fortes debuted in Saturday’s Marlins loss to Pirates. He singled, homered and caught a baserunner attempting to steal.
Regardless of what happens during the final two weeks of this season, he’ll enter 2022 in competition for an Opening Day roster spot.
The 27th-ranked player on my Marlins top prospects list, Fortes certainly has the potential to produce above the major league replacement level. His skill set is unexciting yet useful for a club whose catchers have been liabilities since J.T. Realmuto’s departure.
So...what happened to everybody else from Fortes’ 2018 Marlins draft class?
That year, Miami selected 41 players and signed 34 of them. Worth noting, they picked in the middle of the first round—13th overall—and only had MLB’s 14th-largest bonus pool. A franchise on the ground floor of a rebuild usually has more favorable draft position than that.
As hinted at earlier, lefty reliever Alex Vesia beat Fortes to The Show after dominating from rookie ball up through Double-A. However, he wasn’t able to take advantage of his first opportunity (18.69 ERA, 14.73 FIP, 3.23 WHIP in 4.1 IP last season). The Marlins sent him to the Dodgers in February in exchange for the more established Dylan Floro. Since returning from the minors in July, Vesia has been fantastic for the reigning world champs.
As the season winds down, 16 of the Marlins’ 2018 draftees remain with the organization.
The tables below include their 2021 stats and MiLB levels (updated through Friday’s games):
Davis Bradshaw (11th round), Zack Leban (12th round), Tristan Pompey (third round) and Jake Walters (ninth round) have each reached Triple-A Jacksonville at various times. However, they were only there as reserves and “fresh arms,” unlike Fortes who genuinely earned a promotion.
Walters is set to undergo Tommy John surgery. The other pitchers are relief-only candidates moving forward.
Osiris Johnson is a bat-first prospect who simply hasn’t produced at the Low-A level. Great defensive catcher skills have carried Will Banfield to High-A, but so far, there is no evidence he will be able to reach base at an acceptable level to help the Marlins in the majors. It’s premature to give up on either of them considering that they were drafted out of high school, but their stocks have certainly dropped.
Salvaging solid value from this class will rest heavily on the shoulders of Fortes and first-rounder Connor Scott. Scott’s age-21 season was his best as a pro, featuring a 111 wRC+ with Beloit (100 represents league average). He showed the versatility to play every outfield position.
Scott has ascended to the No. 22 spot on my prospects list.
Even so, patience is needed—Scott’s lack of upper-minors experience still leaves him with a lot to prove.
How many of the Marlins’ 2018 draft picks will play for them in the majors?
This poll is closed
2 (only Fortes and Vesia)