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Ely Sussman’s Top 30 Marlins prospects: Tier 3

Breaking down Kahlil Watson, Edward Cabrera, Peyton Burdick and JJ Bleday.

Prospects within the same tier are largely interchangeable—considering their ceiling, floor, injury risk, position, room for development, ability to adjust and intangibles, I expect them to have similar career value.

The notes below were last updated on June 5, 2022.

3) INF Kahlil Watson

Kahlil Watson was a top-five talent in last year’s amateur draft class who fell into the Marlins’ lap at No. 16 overall. He is more physically mature than the typical high school pick and has grown to 5-foot-11 after being listed at 5-foot-9 entering the draft.

Watson’s outrageous swinging strike rate early in the 2022 season has unfortunately persisted. But his quality of contact has been elite whenever he does put the ball in play. I do not use that term casually—Watson’s hard-hit rate with the Hammerheads is above 50%, a threshold only cleared by the finest major league players.

How much longer will Watson stick at shortstop? He has about the same number of errors committed as he does double plays turned—even in the low minors, that ratio makes me uncomfortable.

4) RHP Edward Cabrera

The similarities between Cabrera and Sandy Alcantara are undeniable, from their Dominican roots and 6-foot-5 stature to their plus-plus velocity and deep pitch mixes to their minor league results. Cabrera will occasionally be able to silence major league lineups on pure stuff alone.

But Alcantara evolved into a top-of-the-rotation pitcher as his command improved. That’s the unknown with Cabrera, who threw far too many non-competitive pitches during his initial call-up in 2021. That got him into undesirable counts, culminating in a disastrous combination of walks and loud contact.

Cabrera can accomplish a lot with his breaking balls alone, dropping curveballs into the zone to steal strikes early in the count and turning to sliders in putaway situations. The key is going to be locating his fastballs with more precision.

5) OF Peyton Burdick

I want to begin with Peyton Burdick’s defense. During his first summer in the minors, Burdick was used almost exclusively in left field. Since then, he’s been getting about half of his innings in center, and it’s not just a gimmick! His arm strength, route-running and decision-making compensate for his limited top-end speed. He can fake it there in MLB games depending on his supporting cast.

Burdick is a “three true outcomes” hitter—he produces a lot of home runs, walks and strikeouts...and not much else. His steep upper-cut swing path makes it difficult for him to connect with pitches above his waist.

He’s an imperfect player, but a valuable one.

6) OF JJ Bleday

JJ Bleday has bulked up and now physically resembles Burdick far more than he used to. He understands the benefits that come with elevating the ball, hitting fewer grounders than any other Marlins minor leaguer over the last few seasons. Even while slumping, he demonstrates great selectivity at the plate.

However, Bleday does not scorch the ball as regularly as Watson or Burdick. The former top draft pick has had a mid-.200s BABIP in the upper minors and that’s unlikely to improve in The Show if we continue to live in a world where infield shifting is permitted.

I doubt there’s a path to Bleday becoming an All-Star, but he is a sophisticated hitter who can diagnosis his issues and make adjustments.