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Isaac Azout’s Top 30 Marlins Prospects

Which Miami prospects should you be most excited about entering 2022?

Miami Marlins starting pitcher Edward Cabrera (79) delivers a pitch against the New York Mets during the first inning at loanDepot Park Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Marlins have done an excellent job revamping a depleted farm system since Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter took over. That is obvious in my top 30 prospects list below, which features some of the best developing players in baseball, and that’s without even including guys like Jesús Sánchez, Lewin Díaz and Jazz Chisholm Jr. who have since graduated from prospect eligibility.

These Marlins prospects are ranked in order based on the impact I believe they will have in the Major Leagues. Keep in mind, a player is not considered a prospect once they have exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in their MLB careers.

1. Edward Cabrera

Cabrera made his highly anticipated debut in 2021, and definitely dealt with growing pains. Arguments could be made that he was called up a bit prematurely, but even during his cup of coffee, he showed flashes of what could make him a highly productive Major League starter. After dominating the minors in 2019 and 2021—there was no minor league season in 2020—Cabrera was called up in late August. While he did struggle with command at times (28 K/19 BB ratio), he allowed less hits than innings pitched and struck out more than a batter per inning. His pure stuff, mechanics, height, and arsenal should leave both the organization and fans very excited about this 23-year-old right hander. He has an ace ceiling.

2. Max Meyer

After being selected 3rd overall in the 2020 MLB Draft, Meyer made about as good a professional debut as possible. After going 6-3 with a 2.41 ERA and 113 K’s in 101.0 IP at AA, he got called up to AAA to finish the season. In total, he pitched 111 innings and struck out 130, while walking 42. Meyer possesses quite possibly the best pitch in the system, a wipeout slider that reaches the low 90’s. At 6 foot flat, there are some concerns about durability, with some scouts saying he is better suited to be a lights-out closer. However, I believe it is way too early to have that conversation. Miami will continue to groom him as a starter (as they should) and he will most likely make his Major League debut some time in 2022.

3. Sixto Sánchez

While coming up through the minors, Sánchez elicited comparisons to the great Pedro Martínez with his combination of pure stuff and control, having a plus changeup, and being “undersized” at 6 foot. Acquired for All-Star catcher J.T. Realmuto, the Dominican right-hander was impressive in his first taste of the big leagues during the shortened 2020 season, pitching to a 132 ERA+ and finishing 7th in the Rookie of the Year voting.

Shoulder injuries wiped out his entire 2021 season, but after going through arthroscopic surgery in July, he should be good to go for spring training in 2022.

4. Eury Pérez

I was stumped about whether to put Eury and Kahlil Watson in the 4th spot. Both are 18 and have immense potential, but Eury’s early dominance in the lower levels of the minors gives him the edge. Standing at a towering 6-foot-8, Eury was one of the best starters in the minors in 2021, while pitching to competition much older than him. Between A ball and A+, he accumulated 108 K in 78.0 IP while compiling a sparkling 1.96 ERA. Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $200,000, his youth, height, pure stuff and advanced pitchability make him a true diamond in the rough for Miami.

5. Kahlil Watson

A top 5 talent in the 2021 MLB draft, Watson fell to Miami at 16th overall due to signability concerns. Listed at 5’9”, 178 pounds, he is an explosive athlete who has the capability to become a 5-tool player.

Watson put up video game numbers in his first stint of pro ball, going 13-for-33 with a .606 slugging percentage in 9 games. Unfortunately, a hamstring injury ended his debut season early. Considered Miami’s shortstop of the future, Watson’s ceiling is as high as any position player prospect in the system. Fun fact: he hit .517 with 13 XBH in 15 games as a high school senior.

6. Jake Eder

Selected 104th overall in the 4th round of the 2020 draft, Eder quickly became one of the best pitching prospects in the Marlins system in his first full season. After 3 solid yet uneven years at Vanderbilt, the left-hander was challenged to make his pro debut at AA Pensacola in 2021. All he did was pitch to a sparkling 1.77 ERA in 15 starts with 12.5 K/9. His WHIP was below 1.00 and he only gave up 3 home runs in his 71.1 IP. He even made an appearance in the Futures Game just like Max Meyer did. Eder suffered a midsummer elbow injury which required Tommy John surgery. He will miss the 2022 MiLB regular season while rehabbing.

7. JJ Bleday

Miami went with the Vanderbilt right fielder as the 4th overall pick in the 2019 draft. Bleday was coming off a breakout junior year in which he led the NCAA in home runs and total bases while propelling the school to a national championship. Since signing for $6.67 million, though, Bleday has put up pedestrian numbers in his pro career so far. Assigned to AA throughout the 2021 campaign, he slashed .212/.323/.373 with 22 doubles and 12 home runs, while striking out 101 times in 397 AB’s. While league-average offensive production is a disappointment for somebody with his tremendous pure hitting ability, there shouldn’t be much concern yet. He trended in the right direction late in the season and carried that over into a tremendous Arizona Fall League performance.

8. José Salas

A potential game-changer, José Salas was signed for $2.8 million in the 2019 international class as a 16-year-old. A switch-hitting shortstop, Salas made his highly anticipated affiliated ball debut in 2021, hitting .370 with an OPS of .969 in the rookie complex league. The Marlins challenged him with a call-up to low-A Jupiter, where held his own and went 27-for-108 with a homer and 4 doubles against much older competition. He has a knack for making hard contact from both sides of the plate and easily has annual 15-20 home run potential when he fills out. He will most likely begin 2022 in Jupiter.

9. Peyton Burdick

A Wright State product, Burdick was taken in the same draft as outfielder JJ Bleday, going in the 3rd round and signing for a below-slot $397,500. In his pro debut at short season Batavia and Low-A Clinton, Burdick combined for an impressive line of .308/.407/.542 with 11 homers, 20 doubles and 4 triples. Like Bleday, Burdick was challenged with a promotion to AA in 2021, where he produced a healthy .848 OPS. He also set a new Pensacola Blue Wahoos record for most home runs and walks in a single season.

Side view of a Peyton Burdick home run Fish Stripes original GIF

He was later moved up to AAA, struggling in that small sample. He is poised to begin 2022 at Triple-A Jacksonville, and may possibly be one of the first outfield prospects called up for the Marlins this season.

10. Dax Fulton

Arguably the best high school left-hander in the 2020 draft, Miami pounced when Fulton was still available at the 40th overall pick. The Tommy John surgery survivor boasts both a plus curveball and plus command. In his pro debut between Jupiter and Beloit, he made 20 appearances (19 starts) and put together a 4.60 ERA while striking out more than a batter per inning. Walks were an issue, especially when he was challenged with a promotion to High-A, but his arsenal puts him along with Eder at the top tier of left-handed pitchers in the Marlins system.

11. Joe Mack

Addressing the catching scarcity in the Marlins organization, Miami went with high school catcher Joe Mack as their second selection in the 2021 draft, right after Kahlil Watson. Mack, 19, showed advanced hitting ability at Williamsville East High, which prompted Miami to sign him to an over-slot deal of $2.5M. He struggled, though, in his pro debut in ‘21, producing a slash line of .132/.373/.208.

12. Victor Mesa Jr.

Victor Jr., or as he likes to call himself, “The Chosen One,” has emerged as the more talented Mesa brother. He has less top-end speed than Victor Victor, but has shown the potential for legitimate offensive impact while also displaying solid defensive tools in the outfield. He slashed .266/.316/.402 in 111 games for Jupiter in 2021, progressively getting better with additional reps. He could be advancing to Beloit to open the 2022 season.

13. Zach McCambley

One of 6 pitchers taken by the Marlins in the 2020 draft, McCambley was taken 75th overall in the 3rd round. He is known for his nasty curveball with high spin rates that can generate tons of swing-and-misses. He has a solid fastball as well, which can top out at 95 consistently. In 2021 between High A and AA, he put up a 4.36 ERA in 97.0 IP, striking out an impressive 120 batters. He will need to refine his changeup if he wants to remain a starter, in my opinion.

14. Yiddi Cappe

A physical specimen, Cappe has a chance to become a hugely impactful player at the highest level. Listed at 6-foot-3, the wiry shortstop signed with Miami for $3.5 million at the start of the 2021 international signing period. Playing in the Dominican Summer League, he slashed .270/.329/.402 with 17 doubles and 2 home runs, while rarely striking out. Cappe has the chance to break out in 2022.

15. José Devers

One of the main pieces Miami received from the Yankees in return for MVP Giancarlo Stanton, José Devers (yes, cousin of Red Sox star Rafael Devers) made his big league debut in 2021. While most felt it was a rushed call-up, Devers held his own while slashing .244/.304/.317, and obviously not hitting for much power.

His biggest problem thus far has been injuries, as his 2021 season ended after he underwent surgery to repair a posterior labrum tear in his shoulder. Still only 22, Devers will be a significant part of Miami’s infield depth in 2022.

16. Jordan Holloway

A similar pitcher to McCambley in some ways, Holloway pitched 36 big league innings in 2021. Holloway possesses two distinct breaking balls with a fastball that plays up due to his tall frame. Holloway was vulnerable to free passes, as he allowed 26 free passes last year, but his tendency to induce soft contact limited the damage. Still, I believe he can be a valuable component of Miami’s bullpen in 2022 and beyond.

17. Cody Morissette

A personal favorite, Morissette was a tremendous pure hitter at Boston College, slashing .337/.400/.507 in his 3 years. That impressed Miami enough to take him with the 52nd overall pick in the 2021 MLB draft. After putting up mediocre numbers in his pro debut, Morissette impressed at Miami’s development camp, making hard contact, spraying balls all over the field, and even homering. He possesses one of the sweeter swings in the system, and is another breakout candidate for 2022.

18. Nick Neidert

For much of his minor league career, Neidert was known for his impeccable control, deceptiveness, and plus changeup. Injuries have derailed him lately, as he tore the meniscus in his right knee in 2019, went down with COVID in 2020 and was sidelined with biceps inflammation for a chunk of 2021. In his short big league time, Neidert has uncharacteristically struggled to throw strikes. He will go into spring training competing for a rotation spot in 2022.

19. Braxton Garrett

A first-round draft pick in 2016, Garrett was one of the better high school lefties available. Scouts considered his curveball the best in the 2016 prep class, since it falls off the table and is effective against both righties and lefties. Things have not panned out the way he or Miami would have liked in the majors, however. Garrett has posted a 5.18 ERA in 10 games (9 starts), while walking 25 and striking out 40. He allows hard contact as shown by the .311 BAA. Garrett is in a similar predicament as Neidert moving forward, needing to make tangible improvements to his game to enter the crowded Marlins starting rotation picture.

Fish Stripes original GIF

20. Griffin Conine

Son of Mr. Marlin Jeff Conine, Griffin possesses the best in-game power in the system. Acquired from Toronto for Jonathan Villar in 2020, Conine was competing with M.J. Melendez for the Minor League home run title, eventually finishing the season with 36 in 2021. To go along with the home runs, Conine has serious whiffing issues. He struck out at an astronomical rate of 40% between A+ and AA. To have any chance to be a big league regular in the future, he is going to have to clean up the timing of his swing. He will most likely repeat Double-A in 2022.

21. Evan Fitterer

A 5th-round pick out in 2019, Fitterer has middle-of-the-rotation potential...if he can stay healthy. One of the more polished high school arms of that class, Fitterer has a fastball with cut action that can top out at 94 to go along with an assortment of breaking pitches. In 2021, he pitched to a 4.15 ERA in 30.1 IP while striking out 33 and only walking 10. He will most likely open 2022 at Low-A Jupiter.

22. Nick Fortes

With a swing that Don Mattingly said reminds him J.T. Realmuto’s, Fortes impressed offensively in his big league debut in 2021—he hit .297 with a 1.030 OPS in 14 games. An agile receiver, Fortes will go into spring training competing with Alex Jackson for the backup catcher spot for Miami. At 25, that seems to be his ceiling.

23. Jerar Encarnación

Listed at 6’5”, 239 pounds, Jerar is another physical specimen who possesses some of the best raw power in the system. Signed out of the Dominican Republic for $78,000 in 2015, Encarnacion broke out in 2019, hitting .276 and slugging 16 home runs. Injuries and a generally inconsistent performance throughout 2021 has hurt his prospect stock. Mainly developed as an outfielder, he has gotten reps at 1st base as well. Having made it all the way to AA in 2021, he could possibly see the Major Leagues with a good showing in 2022.

24. Troy Johnston

Despite his success at Gonzaga, Johnston fell to Miami in the 17th round of the 2019 MLB draft. A brilliant 2021 season between two levels in which he slashed .300/.399/.468 got Johnston invited to the Arizona Fall League, where he performed well. He is an impressive offensive player, though it’s more hitting and plate discipline over power. Johnston should start 2022 at AA Pensacola.

25. Nasim Nuñez

The undersized but gifted defensive shortstop was an on-base machine in 2021, reaching safely at a .366 clip while only hitting .243. His glove alone should allow him to climb up the ranks eventually. That being said, with only 9 extra-base hits through 103 career games, he currently profiles as a Major League utility/bench option rather than a full-fledged starter. He was taken 46th overall in the 2019 draft out of high school.

26. George Soriano

Signed for $55,000 out of the Dominican Republic in the same class as Edward Cabrera, Soriano has a chance to be another steal for Miami. After losing the 2020 season due to the pandemic, Soriano broke out in 2021, throwing 89.1 innings and striking out 114 batters. His ERA was an impressive 3.43 between Low-A and High-A. Soriano has a chance to be included in Miami’s 40 man roster at some point next year.

27. Ian Lewis

Miami’s other Bahamian prince, Lewis put up great numbers in his pro debut. In 43 games, he slashed .302/.354/.497 with 18 XBH while only striking out 24 times. Lewis, 18, still has a long way to go before making it to the upper minors, however his combination of elite speed and solid hit tool makes him a fascinating name to watch going forward.

28. Antonio Velez

When given a true opportunity to start with Beloit in 2021, Velez flourished. In 14 games between High-A and Double-A, Velez went 6-2 in 79.2 IP, pitching to a 1.92 ERA while only walking 6 batters! He will be a fun name to keep an eye on in the Pensacola rotation in 2022.

29. Tanner Allen

Taken in the 4th round of the 2021 draft, Allen was one of the better college bats of that year’s class. He put up lousy numbers in his pro debut, however, hitting below the Mendoza line and slugging .275 across rookie ball and Low-A Jupiter. He will begin 2022 at Jupiter most likely.

30. Osiris Johnson

Cousin of Jimmy Rollins, Johnson was the 2nd pick ever made by the Sherman/Jeter regime. An offensive-minded player, Johnson missed the entire 2019 season after fracturing his right leg in March of that year. He lost another year when the 2020 minor league season was cancelled due to the pandemic. In 2021, Johnson struggled at Low-A Jupiter, slashing .196/.269/.271. Miami has started to give him reps at CF as well. To say he has had bad luck thus far would be an understatement. Fortunately, at age 21, there is still plenty of time for his career to get back on track.