The Miami farm system looks a lot better after an off-season full of trades. While the top two on the list, and their star potential, would have garnered plenty of praise, the rest of the system lacked depth and offered more questions than answers. The addition of players like Jake Marishnick, Justin Nicolino, Adeiny Hechavarria and Alfredo Silverio provide much more depth and shine to the system.
1. Jose Fernandez – RHP (Last Year’s Rank: 2)
Fernandez was well thought of heading into the 2012 season but his performance cross two levels vaulted him to new heights in the prospect world. With a big fastball, quality secondary pitches and off the charts makeup, Fernandez has all the ingredients to become a front of the rotation starter. His ascension to the top of the Marlins rankings isn’t his biggest move of the 2012 season; that title belongs to his standing as one of the elite pitching prospects in the game today.
2. Christian Yelich – OF (1)
Yelich did nothing to diminish his prospect stock in 2012, he was simply lapped by Fernandez, forcing him down a spot on the Marlins list. Yelich is a gifted hitter with the potential to hit .300 at the highest level. He controls the strike zone well, works counts and puts himself in an excellent position to drive the ball. His power may end up more in the doubles variety, but he should slug plenty, regardless of which outfield spot he finally mans.
3. Jake Marisnick – OF (NR)
If Yelich doesn’t stay in center field, Marisnick might just be the reason why. A gliding defender with great instincts and strong arm, Marisnick has premium defensive ability in the middle of the outfield. He also has some pop in his bat that is only curtailed by his raw hitting approach and the remaining questions about how much quality contact he will make. Marisnick struggled in a brief Double-A trial in 2012 and his task for 2013 will be to master the level and be ready for a big-league assignment in 2014.
4. Justin Nicolino – LHP (NR)
Nicolino is a bit of a classic command and control lefty with solid but not spectacular stuff. His feel for pitching at a young age is exceptional, allowing him to work over a lineup with ease. His fastball sits at 88-90 mph, touches 91 in every start and rarely scrapes 92-93 when he needs it. His curveball is presently as fringy as his fastball, but has the potential to cement in the 50-grade range. Nicolino’s change-up stands out as a plus offering that he sets up very well. His feel for pitching, command profile and solid arsenal give him a chance to be a low-end number three starter or very good number four.
5. Marcel Ozuna – OF (6)
There are times where Ozuna’s viewing seems to suffer from a bit of prospect fatigue. He’s been around a while and has posted some intriguing numbers, but nothing that makes you sit up and take notice. His tools, now those will make you take note. He has huge raw power and arm strength, earning 70 scores for both. His defense in center field is solid, thanks in no small part to his intelligent approach to the game. The biggest question with Ozuna is just how much he will hit. The scouts that believe he can hit .250-.260, see a guy capable of playing quality defense in center or right field while also blasting 25 home runs a year.
6. Andrew Heaney – LHP (NR)
The similarities between Heaney and Nicolino exist, but the parallels are not exact. Heaney has a tick more fastball in the tank and his curveball is the dominating second pitch, while Nicolino relies on the change-up. Heaney also lacks the control/command profile of Nicolino, battling his delivery at times and losing the strike zone as a result. With a good frame and a fastball-curveball combination that both earn above-average to plus grades, he should sit squarely as an inning-eating fourth starter.
7. Rob Brantly – C (NR)
Brantly is a player I have liked since his days in the Tigers organization. He has improved dramatically behind the plate, showing average potential as a defender. His arm is an above-average tool and while he still boxes some pitches, his receiving now borders on average grades as well. Brantly augments his solid defense with an excellent offensive approach, good contact ability and the overall potential to hit .280 with plenty of gap power.
8. Adeiny Hechavarria – SS (NR)
We’ll get the obvious out of the way. Hechavarria is a brilliant defender. He has all the makings of a Gold-Glove caliber defender at the toughest infield position, and he can perform at that level the second he arrives in the big leagues. Where Hechavarria must prove himself is at the plate. Scouts saw strides in 2012 but most remain unconvinced that those strides are permanent. Even if Hechavarria can hit seventh or eighth in a big league lineup, he will be an everyday asset.
9. Austin Brice – RHP (NR)
Brice has exceptional physical projection and the flashes of the raw stuff to match. His fastball reached as high at 97 mph last year and he sat at 92-94 consistently, showing good life and an ability to miss bats. He also showed a true plus curveball at times, giving him the potential for two legit plus pitches. All that side, Brice remains extremely high risk because of his poor change-up and lack of control. He will need to make strides in those areas in 2013 or scouts could start talking about a move to the bullpen.
10. Alfredo Silverio – OF (NR)
Silverio came over from the Dodgers via the Rule 5 draft, and while he is still recovering from a sever car accident, the Marlins may have gotten a bit of a steal. His tools across the board grade out very well, with his ability to drive the ball standing out the most. He chips in a little bit in just about every facet without truly being exceptional in any one area, making him a valuable player. With the Marlins in a rebuilding mode, Silverio could very well stick on the big league roster this season and be a contributing part of the Marlins outfield for several years.
11. Avery Romero – 2B (NR)
Romero has the type of profile I have become very wary of in the time I have been ranking prospects. He has limited defensive projection, with scouts mixed on whether he fits better at third base or second base, but all seemingly convinced he will max out as a fringe-average defender. His bat has to carry the load as a result and while he has the potential for 20-25 home runs and lots of doubles, that requires his hitting ability to mature to a maximum projection in the average to solid-average range. That’s a lot to ask and a very risky overall profile.
12. Jose Urena – RHP (12)
I fall for players like Urena all the time; long, lean, extremely projectable and already the ability to dial his fastball up to 97-98 mph and sit at 94-95. I can’t explain it, I’m just drawn to the profile. Urena’s arsenal needs a little focus as he tries to throw both a slider and curveball, getting caught in between frequently, and his change-up has some potential but remains below average. Still more of a thrower than a pitcher, his entire approach to pitching requires development, and as a result, his ceiling could range from number three starter to high-powered reliever.
13. JT Realmuto – C (5)
Despite making progress in 2012, Realmuto has many more improvements to make. Scouts remain mixed on his overall hitting projection. If he doesn’t make consistent contact and prove he can hit for average, then his average power is sapped and plays at a lower level. His defense is improving and has some potential to be an average defender down the line. Realmuto is a very good runner, particularly for a catcher, and given his athleticism, that tool could continue to impact the game at his peak.
14. Kolby Copeland – OF (NR)
The Marlins supplemental third round pick last June, Copeland is an explosive athlete that is just now focusing on baseball full time. He shows good pop in his bat with the potential for average power down the line. To reach that power ceiling, he will have to develop as a hitter, where he remains quite raw. His athleticism doesn’t always play in the field and he may be more of a left-field type once he fills out and reaches his physical peak, putting a lot of pressure on the development of his bat.
15. Jesus Solorzano – OF (NR)
The Marlins have been patient with Solorzano, allowing him to spend two season in the DSL, one season in the GCL and then all of 2012 in the NYPL as a 21-year old. His tools really began to translate last season as he posted a .314/.374/.519 line in the always tough environment of the NYPL. With five tools that can flash average, Solorzano reminds some scouts of the Marlins tenth rated prospect, Alfredo Silverio. Solorzano will have to temper his approach at the plate if his power is going to play in games, which it will have to given his corner outfield profile.