Primer Addendum: Miami Marlins
Today, our NL East Prospect Primers went live over at MiLB.com, including my preview of the year-to-be in the Miami Marlins system. Included over there were notes on Andrew Heaney, Colby Suggs and Trevor Williams, with a little more on Colin Moran, Avery Romero and others. Below, you’ll find a few more thoughts on all those players, plus more on other players to know on the Fish farm.
Andrew Heaney, Left-Handed Pitcher
As mentioned in the Prospect Primer, Heaney will begin the season in Double-A Jacksonville, where the team wants to see him improve on little things like holding runners.
One talking point left out of that writeup is Heaney’s size. The left-hander was slim when he entered pro ball, but has added strength since — Baseball America reported this offseason Heaney has put on 20 pounds since he was drafted.
“He’s made progress since he came in as a pro,” Marlins director of player development Brian Chattin said of the added muscle. “I think, over time, he’ll continue to add to it with the strength and weight gain that comes with age and maturing in his career.
“We’re pleased with the progress he’s made so far since he became a professional.”
Colin Moran, Third Base
The book on Moran — the sixth overall pick in the 2013 Draft — is that he’s a good bet to hit for average in the Majors, but questions about his power ceiling and his defense at third base kept him from being a potential No. 1 pick.
Among Miami’s chief goals for Moran since he signed has been improving his movement at third. The organization is pleased with his development in that department.
“We’ve been encouraged by his development this Spring Training from the defensive side of the game,” Chattin said. “He’s become much more efficient defensively as far as reducing the steps it takes from the time he recognizes the ball, his time to accelerate. He’s always had the arm strength, but his lower half has improved.
“He’s really attacked that part of his game this camp, made big strides. We’re encouraged by that.”
Offensively, Moran has been everything Miami’s expected. The 21-year-old hit .299 with a .796 OPS in 42 South Atlantic League games last season with Class A Greensboro, displaying an above-average hit tool and approach.
“He came as advertised as far as his ability to hit,” Chattin said. “He’s advanced at the plate with his approach, more advanced than what you would expect from an amateur draftee, a college player. He works counts, sees pitches, gets himself in good counts. He’s very patient but aggressive when he needs to be.”
Moran will head to Class A Advanced Jupiter to begin the season. If he continues to make strides defensively and his approach holds up, he could rocket through Miami’s system.
“He’ll show us when he’s ready,” Chattin said. “I’m certainly hopeful he can earn his way out of the Florida State League this season. We’ll let him dictate that based on his development.”
Jake Marisnick, Outfielder
Marisnick entered Spring Training with the chance to compete for the everyday center-field job in Miami, but lost out to Marcel Ozuna. That means the 22-year-old is heading to Triple-A — a level he skipped in 2013 by jumping straight from Jacksonville to the Majors.
The center fielder hit .294 with an .860 OPS as a Sun, but was exposed in 109 Major League at-bats for his overaggressive nature and still developing pitch recognition. More Minor League at-bats, especially against craftier Triple-A hurlers, should do Marisnick good.
“Guys like him, the more they play, the more game-time experience they get, the more those plus tools will show themselves in game action,” Chattin said. “He’s starting to put it all together. The toolbox is pretty full there. He’s starting to show those tools more consistently than he’s done previously in his career.
“We have high hopes for him. He had a tremendous Major League camp this spring, put himself in a position there to possibly make the MLB club. The organization as a whole is encouraged by his development and confident he’ll be impacting the MLB club … at some point in the season.”
Justin Nicolino, Left-Handed Pitcher
Nicolino was acquired alongside Marisnick, Anthony DeSclafani and others from Toronto in the controversial blockbuster with Toronto in 2012. The 6-foot-3 left-hander had a stellar debut with Jupiter in ’13, posting a 2.23 ERA in 18 starts.
His midseason jump to Double-A was less successful, at least from a performance standpoint. Nicolino managed a 4.96 ERA and allowed a .341 batting average.
“It was a step up for him, a challenge for him that gave him some rough nights,” Chattin said. “But there’s no better learning tool than the struggle the game will give any player over time. He learned a lot about himself, what he needs to do to take the next step.
“When he got up there last year, he wasn’t as aggressive in the zone. I think he was giving Double-A hitters a little too much credit.”
Nicolino adjusted near the end of his Double-A stint, striking out 13 in a six-inning stint that inspired hope for stronger results in 2013.
“That’s what he can give you when he gets going,” Chattin said. “We look for him to be aggressive out of the gate and show certainly that he’s not only able to handle that level, but the next two above that.”
Anthony DeSclafani, Right-Handed Pitcher
DeSclafani, another piece in the blockbuster deal with Toronto, was a closer at the University of Florida but has found success in the Minors as a starting pitcher. The hurler posted a 2.65 ERA in 25 starts split between Jupiter and Jacksonville in 2013.
“We liked him as an amateur,” Chattin said. “He was a player we had kept an eye on once he was in Toronto’s system, and when that trade was put together, we ID’d him as a player to acquire and did that.
“Last year, we wanted to establish him in the rotation, leave him there and see how that went. We thought he could start at the Major League level, and that was our primary goal going into last year once we acquired him. He was able to put together a quality year in the rotation among two levels. He was confident and aggressive in the zone.”
DeSclafani showcased his impressive fastball/slider combo last season, mixing in a usable, if still inconsistent, changeup. The quality of that change — and perhaps the performances of other more heralded prospects — will determine whether DeSclafani can remain a starter long term.
Helping his cause, though, is that Miami loves his bulldog mentality, something alluded to in the Prospect Primer.
Brian Flynn, Left-Handed Pitcher
The Marlins also acquired Flynn in a trade, picking up the 6-foot-7 hurler along with left-hander Jacob Turner and catcher Rob Brantly for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante in 2012. In Flynn, the Marlins identified a pitcher with upside who was failing to actualize due to mechanical inefficiencies.
“We saw a projectable left-hander who was still young and had shown some success in the Minor Leagues,” Chattin said. “Our one thought was that any time you can get a left-hander with what we call ceiling, or upside, you try to do that. That’s the reason we were interested in him when we made that trade.
“Our focus with him on arrival was to get his stride lengthened out, get down the slope more and use that leverage and length to his advantage. He took to it, used those adjustments to get his fastball down in the zone more consistently.”
The result was a breakout campaign for Flynn in 2013. The 23-year-old Wichita State product dominated in four Double-A starts before jumping to Triple-A New Orleans, where he had a 2.80 ERA in 23 starts.
Near season’s end, Flynn made four starts in the Majors, struggling to an 8.50 ERA over 18 innings.
“We think he was a little fatigued,” Chattin said. “He left a lot of stuff up in the zone. At any level, you will struggle when you do that, especially at the Major League level. We’re very encouraged with where he is at, what he can do this year and in years to come.”
Avery Romero, Second Base
Romero was a shortstop when Miami plucked him in the third round of the 2012 Draft, but has since moved to second base. The transition has gone well, though there’s still plenty of work for the 20-year-old to do to become even an average Major League quality defender. Improving with the leather is the primary task for Romero in 2014, which he’ll open with Greensboro.
“We want to see him continue to develop more at second base,” Chattin said. “He made strides there last year, especially in his comfort around the bag. We feel like that transition, the finer points of second-base play, that’s where we want to see him continue to focus.”
On the other side of the ball, Romero showed promise in 2013, hitting .297 with Class A Short-Season Batavia. He didn’t show a ton of power, and at 5-foot-8, 190 pounds, he doesn’t figure to become a mid-order slugger. But if he can continue to refine his approach, he could become an above-average offensive threat at second.
“He’s very aggressive, and we like that about him,” Chattin said. “He’s one that likes to swing early and often.
“As he matures through the organization and up the ladder, he’s starting to face pitchers that aren’t often times throwing first-pitch fastballs, that can pitch backwards a little more. He needs to prepare for those types of pitchers up the ladder. His approach offensively overall is something we want to see some maturity with this year.”
Javier Lopez, Shortstop
Way down the list of potential Minor League sleepers is Lopez, a 19-year-old infielder from the Dominican Republic with tremendous athleticism but limited exposure and success in pro ball. At 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds, he looks the part and has added strength to his frame since hitting .174 in 155 at-bats with Batavia last season.
“Javier has come into camp … in tremendous shape,” Chattin said. “Javier is gaining strength, becoming more physical and that’s translating into his bat speed. The power he has in there, it’s starting to translate a little more than previously.”
Lopez is going to open 2014 with Greensboro, where he’ll get regular reps at shortstop. His offensive ceiling is considerably higher than what he’s shown so far as a pro. If the reports on his improved strength and bat speed translate in his performance, Lopez could be a breakout prospect in 2014.
Jarlin Garcia, Left-Handed Pitcher
Garcia came into Spring Training with a chance to earn a full-season rotation spot. Although he succeeded in his task — Miami is sending him to Greensboro — the spring also proved a valuable lesson for the 21-year-old.
“He has a tendency to overthrow sometimes and try to do too much,” Chattin said. “If he relaxes and lets his stuff play, he will have success. Like a lot of young pitchers, I think he was trying to do too much in camp, earn his way onto a club.
“Sometimes that can have negative results, but that’s part of the development. He’ll learn from that experience. His ceiling is high. He’s very young in the development cycle. … We have high hopes for him not just this year but in his career.”
Garcia already boasts a low-90s fastball and a quality breaking pitch. His changeup has come along well, but is still clearly his third pitch right now. The upside is that of a Major League starter, and a solid season with the Grasshoppers could vault him up prospect lists in 2014.