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Kevin Barral’s Top 30 Miami Marlins Prospects (2022 Midseason Update)

Courtesy of Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp

Since the last time I released my Marlins prospect rankings, new players have joined the organization and others have graduated from eligibility. Here is the midseason Top 30 update. This was probably the hardest list I have had to put out considering the amount of young talent that there is in this system as well as how good some guys have performed in 2022.

  1. Eury Pérez
  2. Max Meyer
  3. José Salas
  4. Jake Eder
  5. Yiddi Cappe
  6. Ian Lewis
  7. Jordan Groshans
  8. JJ Bleday
  9. Dax Fulton
  10. Jacob Berry
  11. Kahlil Watson
  12. Peyton Burdick
  13. Joe Mack
  14. Sixto Sánchez
  15. Victor Mesa Jr.
  16. Jerar Encarnación
  17. Nasim Nuñez
  18. Jacob Miller
  19. Zach McCambley
  20. José Gerardo
  21. Antony Peguero
  22. Ronald Hernández
  23. Cody Morissette
  24. Troy Johnston
  25. Paul McIntosh
  26. Griffin Conine
  27. Karson Milbrandt
  28. M.D. Johnson
  29. Jordan McCants
  30. Josh Simpson

Eury Pérez (AA—injured list)

Eury at the number one spot on this list shouldn’t surprise anyone. He has been the best pitcher in the system and one of the best in Minor League Baseball. He has put up a respectable 4.19 ERA for Pensacola, but an even better 3.47 FIP which is more reflective of his talent in my eyes. He is proving to be a dominant strikeout pitcher (12.58 K/9) and he does it without walking many batters (2.59 BB/9). The only thing I’m still waiting to see is whether he’s capable of going deep into games consistently. Hopefully he gets back on the mound at some point in September to continue building up his innings.

Max Meyer (MLB—injured list)

Although Tommy John surgery has ended his 2022 season and almost all of 2023, for Meyer it still shouldn’t go without mention of how good he was when he was healthy. He managed to keep a low ERA and FIP in the minors and showed the ability to improve his changeup. Thankfully, Meyer got the call-up right before the All-Star break and made his MLB debut.

Meyer stays at number 2 just because of how good he has been and the confidence I have in him to continue succeeding when healthy again.

José Salas (A+)

After struggling at the beginning of the season in Low-A, Salas heated up and earned himself a promotion to High-A Beloit where he has been a solid player. He isn’t hitting for a high average, but striking out right under 20% and walking at almost 10% shows promise, plus he’s still running at the bases at an elite level.

Salas is probably going to transition to 3rd base at some point, but at the moment he is getting opportunities at shortstop and 2nd base as well. Salas ranks 3rd on my list due to the fact that his ceiling and floor are both extremely high with the hit tool that he holds.

Jake Eder (AA—injured list)

Eder is a full year removed from Tommy John surgery. He put up monster numbers for Pensacola before that (1.77 ERA, 2.48 FIP, 12.49 K/9, 3.41 BB/9 in 71.1 IP). He is expected to be back in 2023 and hopefully make the majors at the end of that season or the beginning of 2024.

Eder should be immediately good again upon returning to the upper minors and continues to rank highly for me.

Yiddi Cappe (A)

Cappe started off extremely hot and earned himself a promotion to Low-A early on in the year. It is fair to say that he has stayed hot, emerging as the best player on the current Hammerheads roster and one of the focal points of the Hammerheads offense. This season, Cappe is hitting for contact and getting on base at an extremely high rate (.368) since making it to Jupiter. His strikeout rate is about half of the Florida State League average.

The Marlins paid millions of dollars to sign Cappe as an international free agent and they are getting their money’s worth.

Ian Lewis (A)

Another talent teenager, Lewis is walking at about a 10% rate and striking out just over the 20% marker. He has a .333 BABIP and is getting on base at a .347 rate.

Lewis ranks behind Cappe partly because of Cappe’s consistency. The time Lewis has missed due to a hand injury makes a difference as well. If Lewis plays at a high level for the rest of the season, he has a chance to open up 2023 in Beloit.

Jordan Groshans (AAA)

Groshans was the hardest player to rank in the Top 30 due to his weird skill set and untapped potential while also being so close to major league-ready. This season Groshans has been an on-base machine but the power has been at an all-time low. His OBP this season with the AAA affiliate of the Blue Jays was .348 and with the Jumbo Shrimp, it is even higher at .396.

Groshans ranks over a guy like Bleday due to the fact that Groshans is the better bat-to-ball player, making contact consistently. His exit velocities suggest that more home runs will come if he elevates the ball.

When it comes to Groshans’ defense, he currently projects at 3rd base. However, he feels very comfortable at shortstop where he is a lot more experienced.

For more on Jordan Groshans, you can listen to the latest episode of Fish Stripes Unfiltered:

JJ Bleday (MLB)

JJ Bleday was another hard player to rank due to the amount of back-and-forths I have with him. He is an amazing power hitter, has a great eye, and walks at a high rate. The cons are that he isn’t the best best contact hitter, strike outs at a pretty high percentage, and had an uneven track record of minor league production.

Bleday was given the call-up this season and hasn’t disappointed much. There are some flaws that have been mentioned a good amount but his defense in CF has been impressive. He does project better in left field but if there is ever a need for him to play CF, I have no issue going with Bleday.

Although Belday is a great slugger and has a great eye, there are still holes in his game.

Dax Fulton (A+)

Although the 4.07 ERA may not impress you, the 3.09 FIP is what really stands out for Dax Fulton. He has been a pretty dominant strikeout pitcher this season for Beloit. Even the walk rate has gone down.

Dax is also only 20 years old which is incredible. He is on pace to make it to AA in 2023.

Jacob Berry (A)

The 2022 1st-round pick is off to a shaky start in his pro career. There are moments where he does in fact look like a top prospect, but overall Berry’s defense is shaky and he has been struggling on the right side of the plate. Some of the positives so far on Berry have been his hitting from the left side and being able to draw some walks as well.

2022 Low-A Stats: .222 BA, .302 OBP, .296 SLG, .598 OPS

For such a successful college hitter, Berry’s numbers will inevitably improve. That still leaves the question of what to do with him defensively between keeping him at 3rd, trying the corner outfield spots or limiting him to being a designated hitter. Berry will start at 10 but should go up if I see improvements in terms of his current flaws.

Kahlil Watson (A)

Although Watson is only 19, there have been a lot of issues with him so far in his pro career. He had an incident disrespecting an umpire over a check swing, he is arguing too many calls and is having issues in the clubhouse. He has also missed time due to injuries in both 2021 and 2022.

Possibly the biggest flaw on the field for Watson has been the amount of impatience he has had at the plate. He is currently striking out at a 38.6% rate against a 7.1% walk rate. Whiffing so often and struggling to reach base prevents him from using his amazing tools.

2022 Low-A season: .217 BA, .279 OBP, .358 SLG, .637 OPS, 8 HR, 39 RBI

I truly do hope that Watson can reset mentally to where he was at the beginning of the season and finish this year on a high note.

Peyton Burdick (MLB)

After a hot stretch in AAA, Peyton Burdick received the call-up to the bigs. His defense at all three outfield spots has translated immediately, but not his production at the plate. Burdick is being a little bit too impatient. Like Bleday, he will probably graduate from prospect eligibility in September.

Joe Mack (A)

Joe Mack has been able to produce at a high rate when healthy. When drafted, Mack was described as a bat-first catcher. That is what he has been. He is getting on base at an extremely high rate (.422) and walking at almost 30% this season. Yes, it is a 20-game sample size, but no other Marlins prospect is getting on base at the rate that Mack currently is.

2022 Low-A stats: .215 BA, .422 OBP, .338 SLG, .761 OPS, 2 HR, 9 RBI, 26.7% BB, 24.4% SO

He still needs to improve on the bat-to-ball skills because pitchers will challenge him with more strikes at the more advanced MiLB levels.

Mack ranks in the top 15 because of how valuable the catcher position is. If I see improvement on the defensive end confirming that he can stick behind the plate long term, he will definitely be moving up on the list.

Sixto Sánchez (AAA—injured list)

Although we haven’t seen Sixto since the 2020 season, I still hold out hope for him to make it back in some sort of role as a high-leverage reliever going forward. The latest report on Sixto is that he felt some “mild shoulder discomfort.” He continues to throw from 60 feet, but is taking a break from facing live batters. It’s clear he still has work to do to compete for a spot on the Marlins staff next spring.

Victor Mesa Jr. (A+)

Although Mesa Jr. has been good this season, he hasn’t been one of the top guys in the system. To begin with the positives, he is walking at 10.2% and striking out under 20%. Although he has a .254 BA, Mesa Jr. is only 20 and has time to develop a bit more. His .705 OPS would be better if he added power (only 5 HR in each of the last 2 seasons). His wRC+ for the Sky Carp is just average (97).

Mesa Jr. cracks the top 15 due to the fact that he still looks like an option for center field. That position is thin in the Marlins organization.

Jerar Encarnación (MLB)

The freshly called up Jerar Encarnación has already a couple good moments in the big leagues, such as hitting a grand slam against the New York Mets and an RBI double against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Nasim Nuñez (AA)

The last time we spoke about Nasim, he was struggling offensively and had never hit a home run in his pro career. A couple of months go by and Nasim is on one of the hottest stretches of his career in terms of his offense. He now has 2 home runs, he is walking over 15% in every minor league level he has been at this season and has solid bat-to-ball skills as well.

Not only has Nasim’s hit tool improved, but the defense is still one of the best, if not the best in the Marlins minor league system. Before the season Nasim was named to the MiLB all-defense second team.

I would have liked to rank Nasim higher on this list, but he will need to convince me with better results at AA (.561 OPS so far).

Jacob Miller (FCL)

The 46th overall MLB Draft pick, Jacob Miller was a good value at where the Fish got him. Miller has hit 97 mph with his fastball which is graded 55 according to MLB Pipeline. Miller had a lot of success in high school as he won Gatorade’s Ohio Player of the Year.

Like most inexperienced pitchers, Miller still needs to work on the changeup, but we have seen how the Marlins have repeatedly helped other prospects through that process.

Although Miller has struggled in the FCL with a 7.36 ERA, he is only 19. His high velocity and great breaking balls set a strong foundation for his future. All that is left is for him to develop under one of the top pitching systems and see how it goes.

Zach McCambley (AA)

One of the most up-and-down players this season has been Zach McCambley. He began the season on a low and then midway was on a tear and now is back on a low again as he has a 5.65 ERA and 5.13 FIP. His K/9 is right under 10 and the BB/9 is high (4.98) which is concerning, but Zach is still young and has ways to go.

If McCambley’s control won’t allow him to be a reliable starter, there’s a possibility that the Marlins get the best out of him as a reliever, as Alex Carver of Fish on the Farm and Aram Leighton of Just Baseball have mentioned.

José Gerardo (DSL)

One of the best players in the DSL makes it into the top 30. José Gerardo is a player who does have immense power along with a high OBP at .424. Gerardo is currently the best Marlins hitter in the DSL and was July’s DSL Player of the Month. His 30% strikeout rate shows he isn’t a finished product yet.

Something else to note about Gerardo is the 80-grade “rocket” arm tool that he has. Several other Marlins prospects are above average in that area, like Encarnacióm, Bleday and Burdick, but he is one another level.

Antony Peguero (DSL)

Antony Peguero who has also been on a tear this season in the DSL. Peguero has shown the ability to have incredible contact hitting with a .283 BA and a 16.4 % walk rate. He has shown some flashes of power with 4 home runs and .405 SLG, but that hasn’t been his main asset on offense.

Peguero is a candidate to play at Low-A next year, which will be a better test of his talent. He will be a fast riser on the list if he follows in the footsteps of Yiddi Cappe.

Ronald Hernández (FCL)

After a decent 2021 season in the DSL, Hernandez received the promotion to the FCL and did improve his batting average, but has been statistically worse in every other way. He is striking out at a higher rate and walking at a lower rate. He is only 18 years old which shows that time is on his side, but improvements need to be made.

Cody Morissette (A+)

In my opinion, Morissette is the Marlins best power-hitting 3rd basemen in the system and the closest to him is probably Yiddi Cappe or Jacob Berry. Morissette has 13 home runs and is slugging .405. He is responsible for the only 3-homer game by a Marlin in 2022.

Cody dropped on the list due to the fact that he was injured. I still want to see some more contact hitting to balance out the power . Morissette will definitely be a riser as I believe he will improve.

Troy Johnston (AAA)

One of my favorite prospects in the system is newly promoted Troy Johnston. At the age of 25, Johnston was a little bit too old for the AA Level which he dominated by slashing .292/.360/.450/.810 and 10 home runs. He has been slashing .267/.267/.533/.800 for Jacksonville and hit his first homer already. Johnston provides defensive versatility at 1st base and left field, and he has enough thump to deserve reps at DH.

Paul McIntosh (AA)

McIntosh in my eyes is one of the most unappreciated players when it comes to MLB Pipeline not wanting to add him to the top 30 list. McIntosh has been an above-average hitter that gets on base pretty consistently (.376). McIntosh has also provided a good amount of power with 10 homers, 40 RBIs, and a .452 slugging percentage.

Alex Carver of Fish on the Farm has mentioned before that maybe at some point we can see P-Mac play a corner outfield spot or first base.

Griffin Conine (AA)

Griffin Conine has declined in production and his strikeout percentage is at a single-season high of 37.1% against a 14.6% walk rate. Although the walk rate is a lot higher than in 2021 (at the AA level), Conine is still striking out at a rate where he will not be able to have a sustainable MLB career. On a more positive end, Conine is still showing his immense power with 19 home runs and 62 RBIs and his 108 wRC+ is good to see.

Karson Milbrandt (FCL)

Milbrandt was the Marlins 3rd round pick of the 2022 MLB Draft. Miami did have to go way over slot ($1.5 million) to sign Milbrandt, stealing somebody who many experts saw as being a possible 1st or early 2nd round talent.

Milbrandt shows an arsenal of fastball (60-grade), curveball (50-grade), slider (50-grade), and changeup (50-grade). According to MLB Pipelines description on Milbrandt, his 4-seam is in the low 90s, but peaks at 96 mph which is impressive for a young 18-year-old.

M.D. Johnson (A+)

Johnson is a player who I am surprised he has not been promoted to Pensacola seeing his age (25) and the overall improvements he has made to his K/9 (10.39) and BB/9 (2.13) along with being able to keep a low ERA and FIP.

This is the first time I rank Johnson due to the improvements made and the way he has been a little bit more strikeout dominant than last season. Before moving him higher on the list, I want to see how he handles tougher competition.

Jordan McCants (FCL)

McCants has been a solid player overall in his Miami Marlins minor league tenure. He is walking over 10%, striking out just over 20%, hitting for a normal average (.245), and is getting on base a good amount (.327). The reasoning to keep him low on the list is the fact that I have seen no improvement, but no decline in his stats either.

Josh Simpson (AAA)

The only reliever that makes the list is Josh Simpson who very recently got the deserving promotion to AAA. Aside from getting blown up a couple times, Simpson was fantastic out of the Blue Wahoos bullpen. The Marlins have taken notice of his breakout season, according to Craig Mish of SportsGrid, and will probably call him up to the big leagues in September. We will see how he does then.