Top 2020 Prospects: Miami Marlins

The Miami Marlins are a baseball team. I mean the sport they play is recognizably baseball. 

Other than that, there isn’t a lot of certainty in Miami. Even 2019 Whit-alike contest winner Jon Berti seems as likely to fall back as spring forward in 2020. 

Is it really darkest before the dawn?

Anyway, hope floats just off the coast. Er, inland, where Marlins affiliates are loaded with the fruits of an organizational tear-down that would’ve been vetoed in my home league. 

“Fruits” feels kind of extreme. Maybe we should call it the “eggplants” of an organizational tear-down. 

The eggplants for all-world Christian Yelich were players who do everything but hit, which seems to be something of a type for the Front Office helmed by Derek Jeter and Gary Denbo. They whiffed on Lewis Brinson who whiffs at everything, and they face a similar fate for everything in those Yelich and Stanton deals from two winters past unless someone (looking at you, Monte Harrison) changes their trajectory. 

Either way, even with those brutal trades, the Marlins are trending up thanks to a deep farm with rich soil for arms. 

 

Format: Position Player | Age on 4/1/2020 | Highest level played | ETA

1. SS Jazz Chisholm | 22 | AA | Early 2021

If you’re going to trade away your best piece from the one tear-down trade that didn’t suck, you’d better get a number one prospect out of it. 

The Marlins were both lauded and panned for their mixed bag of deadline moves this July. The front office is confident it can find and develop arms, but I think they sold a little early on RHP Zac Gallen. With another half-season anything like his 2020, he’d be among the best long-term assets traded at the deadline in recent memory. The counter argument: Gallen was already a premium piece, and Jazz was the best prospect moved in July. 

 

2. OF Monte Harrison | 24 | AAA | Mid 2020

3. RHP Sixto Sanchez | 21 | AA | Early 2021

4. OF JJ Bleday | 22 | A+ | Mid 2021

5. RHP Edward Cabrera | 21 | AA | Mid 2021

I have Monte ahead of Sixto in my Top 150 because speed with power has more value than pitching, but Harrison is less likely to actualize at the major league level thanks to his volatile hit tool. That said, he was on a 27 HR 60 SB pace across 54 AAA games this season, finishing 20 for 22 in stolen base attempts. 

Sixto Sanchez gives Miami exactly what Denbo wants: a fastball with enough pace to live atop the zone and a curve change slider off-speed compliment to get hitters chasing down and out. His strikeout numbers haven’t been elite, but everything else has, and he’s always been young for his level. 

I said some stuff about JJ Bleday in the 150, where I’m afraid I overrated him. He’s unlikely to steal bases and will have to hit well to stay ahead of the age curve and justify the Marlins’ pick and my ranking. He’s got the talent to do exactly that—I just think I ranked some guys below him who’ve got better situations, track records and topsides. 

Edward Cabrera is something of a supersized Sixto with more strikeouts but less command. Huge upside with upper 90s heat. 

 

6. OF Jesus Sanchez | 21 | AAA | Mid 2021

Acquired in a deadline trade with Tampa, Sanchez is the Marlins’ ideal acquisition: big tools that supersede in-game utility. 

My guess is he never equals the value of Nick Anderson, who was the most dominant reliever in baseball after switching over to the AL East. 

I realize we love bats in dynasty, but every single MLB team is seeking relief help every single season. If you’ve got one of the best relievers on the planet, don’t trade him for an above-average power, average speed corner outfielder who swings at everything. Just one man’s opinion. 

 

7. SS Jose Devers | 20 | A+ | Early 2022

8. OF Kameron Misner | 22 | A | Early 2022

9. LHP Trevor Rogers | 22 | AA | Mid 2021

10. LHP Braxton Garrett | 22 | AA | Late 2021

11. 1B Lewin Diaz | 23 | AA | Early 2021

Jose’s cousin Rafael credited his 2019 breakout to working hard on physicality and fitness, and I can’t help but wonder if maybe Jose will stay at his place, drink creative and pump iron all off-season. 

A guy can dream. 

Which is what the Marlins are no doubt doing about a kid who hit .325 in 33 games as a 19-year-old in High-A. That’s not normal. He didn’t get to any power, and he might never really thump, but good-hands shortstops with plus speed and great hit tools climb fantasy lists like no other demographic. 

Kameron Misner looks like a find at pick 35 overall in this year’s draft. He hit the ground running in A ball, and rumors of his batting practice exploits are drool-inducing. In typical new-fish fashion, Misner is safely plus or better everywhere but the hit tool. 

Trevor Rogers had some beautiful days in his neighborhood this summer, effectively rebooting a disappointing pro career for the 13th overall pick in 2017. 

At 6’6” he has a huge advantage when he finds consistent mechanics that maximize extension. Over his final eight starts in high A, Rogers struck out 66 hitters in 53.2 innings on his way to a 1.68 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and 29.1 K-BB percentage. Safe to say he earned that promotion to AA. 

The story of Braxton Garrett’s 2019 season is pretty similar. Injuries had robbed 2016’s seventh overall pick of his chance to shine, but he showed well when he finally enjoyed a run of good health. 

Acquired from Minnesota for Sergio Romo and Chris Vallimont at the deadline, Lewin Diaz might see some major league at bats in 2020 if he forces the issue. He hasn’t struck out much on the way up the minor league ladder despite being young for the level and long levered at 6’4″. He has the perfect skill set to benefit from juiced balls.

 

12. OF Jerar Encarnacion | 22 | A+ | Early 2022

13. RHP Jorge Guzman | 24 | AA | Late 2020 

I’m not typically big on hitting statistics from the Arizona Fall League, but the pitching is a little sharper this year because there’s no dead time between the MiLB season and the AFL. I’m still more likely to ignore than overreact to a couple weeks of exhibition games, but when a hitter who’s coming into his own produces like Jerar Encarnacion, it merits some attention. He’s slashing .289/.353/.533 against strong competition. It’s only been 45 at bats, but his three HR are third in the league, and this is just a continuation of the development he enjoyed during the season. 

A key piece in the return for Giancarlo Stanton, Jorge Guzman can touch triple digits deep into his starts but hasn’t shown the command he’ll need to start in the majors. That said, he ended the season on fire, striking out 36 in 30 innings with a 1.20 ERA and a 0.63 WHIP. 

 

14. OF Peyton Burdick | 23 | A | Mid 2022

15. OF Victor Victor Mesa | 23 | A+ | Late 2022

16. LHP Alex Vesia | 23 | AA | Late 2019

17. RHP Nick Neidert | 23 | AAA | Late 2020 

A third-round pick this June, Peyton Burdick fits in well with the MO: plus power, speed, and throwing arm. Might be physically maxed out, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Seasons don’t get much more disappointing than Victor Victor Mesa’s. His value plateaued before he took a stateside at bat and cratered shortly thereafter. A bounce back to some extent borders on the inevitable. I don’t think I’d be trading for Mesa, but if your league is shallow enough that he’s been dropped, you’d be wise to see if you can fit him on your roster in case he starts fast in 2020. 

Alex Vesia was untouchable in relief across three levels in 2019 and will throw big league innings in 2020. I’m betting they will be good enough innings that he’ll find himself in the closer conversation in 2021. 

I can’t read Nick Neidert without thinking about Animal House, so that’s cool. He might find himself on double secret probation after posting a 1.63 WHIP in AAA but might also find himself on the Miami mound if his command and plus changeup allow his average fastball to play. 

 

Radio Flier:   

RHP Humberto Mejia will have to be added to the 40-man roster or risk exposure in the Rule 5 draft, which means he could find himself called up during a pinch anytime in 2020. He finished 2019 with a successful month in A+, so he’s on track to make the big leap to AA early. 

 

Note: 

I used a lot of mid 2021 in predicting the estimated time of arrival, but those could all be 2022 if the front office decides to cloister the wave. I staggered it here because that’s how I’d play it, letting some of the kids matriculate into the system as they’re ready for the challenge rather than gaming service days, which I think backfires as often as not. I especially like to see players get a few big-league months before a full offseason to prepare for their first chance at an everyday MLB gig. 

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