Friday, January 15, 2010

TEAM #14 – Florida Marlins

Stanton sports one of the Minors most potent bats

Team #14 is the Florida Marlins. While we like the top three players in the organization—quite a bit, the elite level talent drops off quickly, with only seven players earning a grade of ‘B’ or better. You have to go all the way back to the Houston Astros at #27 to find a team with as few as seven B-prospects. The strength of the organization, and hence how it earned this ranking is the overall organizational depth, as the 65 players that earn a grade of ‘C’ or better is the most that we have encountered thus far. Of particular concern, is the lack of quality arms, with only 5 pitchers earning a ‘B-‘. While Chad James is still a relative wild card, the last two drafts have to rate as somewhat disappointing. Furthermore, not including 2009, the last 8 Marlin first round picks have been: Kyle Skipworth, Matt Dominguez, Brett Sinkbeil, Jacob Marceaux, Aaron Thompson, Chris Volstad, Taylor Tankersley and Jeff Allison. With Skipworth floundering in A-ball, it appears that only Domiguez and Volstad have a chance to become impact Major League players. While the Marlins have produced better results with their later picks, their failures in the first round have not helped them. As deep as the organization goes, the likelihood is that some of the prospects that currently earn C/C+ grades will eventually become B-level players, and that should help, but for an organization that has consistently appeared in the top half of baseball, things aren’t as bright as they once were.

Grade A

1) Michael Stanton, RF (2009 Performance Scores – Power 80; First Base Rate 43; Discipline 26; Speed 35)

The Marlins moved Hermida, with Stanton in mind, so there is little doubt as to how they feel about him. Stanton played the 2009 season as a 19yo. He tore through the FSL, where he posted not only the League’s best Performance score, but the second highest score posted by any Minor League player all season. The Marlins then promoted him to the Southern League (SOL), where Stanton was met with his first taste of adversity since his professional debut in 2007. While there are those in the Marlins’ organization that feel Stanton is ready to jump to the Big League club this season, don’t count us among that group. Stanton has as much raw power as any player in the Minors, with good instincts, a quick first step and a powerful arm, he is an exceptional talent. His baseball IQ is very good, and his work ethic is absolute first rate. However, there are still weaknesses to his game, and they were exposed a bit against the more advanced pitchers of the SOL. His nearly 27% strikeout portends significant problems at higher levels. Stanton should begin 2010 back in AA. Providing he shows improvements in his plate discipline, he should be the Marlins RF by the end of the season.

2) Logan Morrison, 1B (2009– Power 67; First Base Rate77; Discipline 62; Speed 60)

An early season wrist injury limited Morrison’s development in 2009, but he is still one of the Minor’s most intriguing players—a natural first baseman with tremendous plate discipline, and one who is still able to generate power. Morrison is another Hi baseball IQ, excellent work ethic player that we have difficulty finding fault with. Despite his size, he is athletic, a solid first base defender, has plus contact skills, and plus Power. Although no speedster, he even managed to swipe 9 bases last year. Though not a fair comparison for anyone, there is no reason to not consider a Justin Morneau type player as his upside. Additionally, he is a high-floor player who is unlikely to become less than an average, everyday, Major League first baseman. With Gaby Sanchez ahead of him, the Marlins are likely to keep Morrison at AAA for most of the season, but make no mistake…he is their future first baseman—likely in 2011.

Grade A-

3) Matt Dominguez, 3B (2009– Power 66; First Base Rate 37; Discipline 47; Speed 33)

Dominguez will be an everyday third baseman in the Major League’s because even if his offense never reaches its potential, his glove is that good. Easily the Minor’s best defensive first baseman, many consider Dominguez’s 2009 season to be a step back. Don’t consider us among them, because Dominguez posted the #5 Performance Score in both the 2008 SAL and the 2009 FSL. While he had some trouble with the adjustment to AA, one must remember that he was playing there as a 19yo. As is often the case with exceptional defensive players, Dominguez has been aggressively promoted, and his offense just hasn’t caught up with his defense. When all is said and done, we expect that Dominguez will have average third base power and contact skills, with plus strike zone management skills. Expect him to have a career that falls, offensively, someplace between Jeff Cirillo and Scott Rolen. Dominguez is likely to begin 2010 at AA. It is our hope that they keep him there the entire season.

Grade B+

4) Chad James, LHP -

We seem to be somewhat in the minority, but we had trouble with this pick when the Marlins took James at #18 last June. It is not that we didn’t expect it, as the Marlins are extremely thin when it comes to premium pitching talent, it’s just that with prep players like Mike Trout and Shelby Miller on the board, and a host of better value college pitchers (i.e. Gibson, Scheppers, etc.), this seemed like the wrong spot to take James—who we had rated as the #34 overall talent. Don’t get us wrong, James has significant upside, has a projectable frame, already throws a low-90s fastball, and possesses two secondary offerings (Curve and Change) that rate among the best in June’s prep class. On the downside, James has some mechanical issues with his delivery that will likely be command impediments until they are corrected. More importantly, when you look at his database comps, the washout rate for similar players is extremely high—the second highest among the Top 25 picks in the draft. James’ repertoire is fairly advanced. While the Marlins won’t make a final decision as to where he makes his debut until this Spring, it should be in full-season A-ball.

5) Gaby Sanchez, 1B (2009– Power 74; First Base Rate 77; Discipline 68; Speed 56)

Sanchez will enter Spring Training as the favorite to win the opening day firstbase job. At 26yo, there isn’t a lot of upside left here, so what you see is likely all that you are going to get, and it isn’t stuff that is really up to snuff for an everyday Major League first baseman. We are expecting his performance over the next two seasons, before Morrison takes over, to be somewhere in the neighborhood of .260/.330/.420. But given the opportunity available to him, and a very good plate discipline, his floor is equally set, making him one of the surest bets going. With Sanchez being a notch below the top three talents on this list, we wouldn’t be surprised to see him dealt as soon as Morrison is ready.

Grade B

6) Ryan Tucker, RP -

Knee surgery essentially wiped out the 2009 season for Tucker, and with it a critical season of development. Now 23yo, Tucker, who was once thought to be a mid-rotation candidate with his mid-90s fastball, and marginal Slider and Change, appears to be destined for the back end of the Marlin bullpen. While his attacking approach may be his greatest strength, control and mental coolness appear to be his biggest obstacles. Look for Tucker to compete for a bullpen spot in Spring Training. If he fails there, he’ll begin in AAA and certainly join the Marlins sometime in 2010.

7) Marcell Ozuna, RF (2009– Power 79; First Base Rate 62; Discipline 47; Speed 46)

The ranking on Ozuna, who finished with the #5 Performance score in the GCL, has likely more to do with the state of the Marlins’ system, of which we warned--thins out early. As an 18yo, Marcel shows plus power, with average contact, strike zone management and defensive skills. Once Stanton joins the Big League club, Ozuna becomes the best OF prospect in the system. Still a considerable ways off, Ozuna has the ceiling of a power hitting, everyday, Major League RF. He should get his first taste of full-season ball in Greensboro in 2010.

Grade B-

8) Kyle Skipworth, C (2009– Power 62; First Base Rate 23; Discipline 23; Speed 31)

At this moment, Skipworth owns the mantle of the most disappointing pick of the 2008 draft class. Chosen as an offensive minded catcher, with scouts throwing around comparisons to Joe Mauer, the only thing offensive about Skipworth has been his performance. 2009 was little different than his debut, as he limped in with a .612 OPS in the SAL. In a similar position as Kevin Ahrens of the Blue Jays (the 2007 version of Skipworth), there is little explanation for his poor showings, as he continues to show the same fundamentally sound approach that got him drafted at #6 overall. On a positive note, the defense has been better than advertised, giving continued rise to the belief that Skipworth might one-day get close to his enormous ceiling. Skipworth is a difficult evaluation for us, as his strike zone management skills have been atrocious and all comps at this stage are beginning to point downward. 2010 will be a key year, as if things don’t turn around, Skipworth is likely to plummet down this list. With only 264 At Bats above rookie ball, Skipworth should return to Greensboro to begin the season. The upside remains high, but the certainty gets lower.

9) Jake Smolinski, 3B/2B/? (2009– Power 70; First Base Rate 60; Discipline 72; Speed 31)

We believe in Smolinski more than most, mainly because we feel that even if his glove can’t find a home in the infield, Smolinski has shown enough offensively, as evidenced by his #6 Performance Score in the SAL, to be playable in the OF, and his floor looks to be that of a 4th OF type. Injuries may be his biggest drawback, though, as through three professional seasons, he has only amassed 670 ABs. We like Smolinski’s make up, as he is a hard-nosed kid he shows at least average power, solid contact skills, and excellent plate discipline skills. Only 21yo, he should begin 2010 at Hi-A. If he can stay healthy all season, this could be a breakout year.

10) Brad Hand, LHP (2009 – Dominance 51; Stamina 67; HRrate 48; Control 26)

Hand entered 2009 poised for a breakout season, after a solid 2008 debut, and then gave up 32 ERs in his first 39 innings of the season. Fortunately he righted the train in the season’s second half and finished with a Top 25 Performance Score in the SAL. With a low-90s fastball and two secondary offerings with Major League potential, including a plus Curve, Hand has the ceiling of a mid-rotation starter. While Hand, uncharacteristically, walked nearly 5 batters per 9IP in the first half of the season, after the all-star break that number was back down to just over 4. Hand comes from the upper Midwest, where prep pitchers typically take a bit longer to develop. He will play the entire 2010 season as a 20yo, likely starting in Hi-A.

11) Jhan Marinez, RHP (2009 – Dominance 66; Stamina 27; HRrate 48; Control 34)

Still more thrower than pitcher at this stage, Marinez checks in at #11 on the potential of his arm that is producing mid-90s heat. While that may be good enough to set his considerable ceiling, there are plenty of caution flags. Marinez has dealt with many maturity issues thus far in his young career. He has a relatively low baseball IQ and questionable work ethic. His secondary offerings are fringy at best, and he often times struggles with control. While he is young at 21yo, he is hardly tremendously precocious. The Marlins have visions of him becoming a front of the rotation starter. While not impossible, the hill is steep from here, and we would more likely bet on a back of the bullpen reliever. 2010 will likely find him in AA.

12) Isaac Galloway, CF (2009– Power 47; First Base Rate 27; Discipline 40; Speed 58)
Galloway is another prospect valued more at this stage for his tools rather than his skills. At one time Galloway was considered a lock for the first round of the 2008 draft, but the Marlins were able to get him in round 8. Galloway is one of those classic highly-athletic, ‘toolsy’, project types that we have little fondness for. With 500 professional At Bats under his belt, we still find ourselves liking him less than others do, as we see only potentially average power, poor contact and poor plate discipline skills. His speed is his only true plus potential skill, but even that appears to only translate to an above average skill on the diamond thus far. Defensively he is raw, and he lacks the arm strength that would guarantee that he remains in CF. Galloway will play 2010 as a 20yo in Hi-A, so he is being pushed aggressively. We will have to see more to enhance our opinion of him.

13) Bryan Berglund, RP -

Although we had Berglund as a 3rd round pick heading into the draft, the Marlins took him in the second round and signed him for 3rd round money. A rather polished pitcher for his age, Berglund features a low-90s fastball, a potentially plus Change, and a solid Slider. There is still some projection left in him, so he may even add a couple of ticks to the fastball. With the long-term ceiling of a solid mid-rotation starter, we expect the Marlins to let Berglund debut in full-season A-ball.

14) Bryan Petersen, LF (2009– Power 40; First Base Rate 73; Discipline 66; Speed 50)

Petersen played the 2009 season in the same outfield with Prospect #15, Scott Cousins, where he posted a better OPS and a better Performance Score, despite Cousins being fifteen months older. Yet…we are one of the few places Petersen rated higher, because he is less athletic, and possesses less in the way of tools. We don’t find either player to have a significant upside and both are unlikely to ever earn the role of everyday player. That said, we like Petersen’s contact and plate discipline skills and think his certainty quotient, given the age difference, is a bit higher. Petersen is likely to begin 2010 in AAA, and will be battling Cousins for a spot on the Marlins’ roster.

15) Scott Cousins, CF (2009– Power 65; First Base Rate 34; Discipline 43; Speed 78)

Cousins has certainly paid his dues since being drafted in the 3rd round of 2006, as he changed positions, battled injuries, been blocked, and now finally finds himself looking at a potential roster spot with the Big League club, sometime in 2010. People in the organization feel that Cousins tool set, provides him with one of the highest position player upsides in the system. We don’t see it, as nearly 1300 professional At Bats project him to be no better than a 4th OF/platoon type. Cousins shows plus speed skills, and potentially average power. Defensively, he can play any of the three OF slots. On the flip-side, he doesn’t make enough contact to take advantage of his speed, and strikes out too much (20% in 2009). Additionally, his OPS was 120 points lower against lefties. Cousins will be given a look in Spring Training, but is likely to begin the year in AAA. At 25yo, it’s time for the tools to start producing.

Grade C+ Prospects –

16) Jose Ceda, RHP; 17) Sequoyah Stonecipher, OF; 18) Thomas Hickman, OF; 19) Wilfredo Gimenez, C; 20) Osvaldo Martinez, SS; 21) Edgar Olmos, LHP; 22) Alejandro Sanabia, RHP; 23) Jai Miller, RF; 24) Kyle Kaminska, RHP; 25) Brent Keys, OF; 26) P.J. Dean, RHP; 27) Brett Sinkbeil, RHP; 28) Jose Torres,SS; 29) Jay Voss, LHP; 30) Jose Rosario, RHP; 31) A.J. Ramos, RP; 32) Josh Hodges, RHP; 33) Kyle Winters, RHP.

Grade C Prospects –

Jeff Allison; Jose Alvarez; Chase Austin; Daniel Jennings; Luis Bryan; Greg Burns; Steve Cishek; Marquise Cooper; Chad Cregar; Dustin Dickerson; Jared Eskew; Daniel Gil; Brett Hayes; Justin Jacobs; Daniel Jennings; Kyle Jensen; Jorge Jimenez; Graham Johnson; Tom Koehler; Chris Leroux; Dan Mahoney; Matt Montgomery; Luis Ortiz; Garrett Parcell; Carlos Paulino; Curtis Petersen; Daniel Pertusati; Stephen Richards; Christopher Shafer; Graham Taylor; Dallas Trahern; Elih Villanueva; Chris Wade.

Feel free to post any questions and or comments. We will try to answer them in our weekly Mailbag segment.

You can find an explanation of our grades here Diamond Futures Annual Prospect Rankings Series and an explanation of our 2009 Performance Scores here Do-It-Yourself - Understanding Performance Evaluation. The Performance scores represent the player’s performance relative to the leagues that they played in during the 2009 season. For additional information on our rankings methodology, see our recent Mailbag article here This Week's Mailbag - Prospect Rankings Questions.

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