On the Cusp: Miami Marlins
In this series, Bernie Pleskoff takes a team-by-team look at which top prospects are poised to make a contribution at the big league level in 2015.
The Marlins continue to bolster their lineup and pitching depth with new faces for the coming season.
While they have plenty of prospects waiting in the wings, their time may not come right away. Nonetheless, the club is poised to sprinkle in its own developed players at some point to complement the new offseason additions.
Here are the Marlins prospects I think have a chance to make an impact in Miami in 2015, listed by their rankings in the Marlins' Top 20 Prospects list.
Justin Nicolino | LHP | 6-foot-3, 190 pounds | No. 2
Nicolino came to the Marlins as part of the blockbuster November 2012 deal with the Blue Jays. The additions of Mat Latos and Dan Haren to the rotation, and the pending midseason return of ace Jose Fernandez from Tommy John surgery may delay his arrival in Miami. However, if a lefty is needed until Fernandez returns, Nicolino may fit the bill. He throws a three-pitch mix that includes a reliable fastball from the mid-80s to the mid-90s, an average curveball and a wicked changeup that is probably his best pitch. Nicolino knows how to pitch. He throws strikes. He locates well and can pound the lower half of the strike zone with good command and control.
Trevor Williams | RHP | 6-foot-3, 228 pounds | No.4
Williams is probably more likely to arrive in Miami at some point in 2016, but he is worth noting. He scuffled at Double-A Jacksonville following a promotion from Class A Advanced Jupiter last year. Williams throws his fastball from 90-95 mph and adds a changeup, slider and a less advanced curveball as his secondary pitches. His arrival in Miami will depend upon his ability to throw strikes and show that he can retire quality hitters.
J.T. Realmuto | C | 6-foot-1, 215 pounds | No. 5
The right-handed-hitting Realmuto has worked hard to improve his defense and overall catching mechanics. A good receiver with a strong arm, he has the qualities teams seek in their catching corps. Offensively, Realmuto has flashed some power in his Minor League career, but he has shown an inconsistent hit tool. With veteran Jeff Mathis schedule to back up Jarrod Saltalamacchia behind the plate, Realmuto's best shot may come if there is an injury or a performance concern.
Adam Conley | LHP | 6-foot-3, 215 pounds | No. 6
One of the great strengths of the Marlins is their stable of left-handed starting pitchers. If needed, Conley is versatile enough to help the big league club in the rotation or in relief. He has a wide-ranging high-80s to low-90s fastball that sets up his average slider and solid changeup. Conley needs to find consistent control and work out some kinks in his delivery. But he's clearly a solid pitching option for the club.
Jose Urena | RHP | 6-foot-2, 195 pounds | No.7
The 23-year-old Dominican may very well get a chance to pitch for the big league club this year -- even before Williams. Urena can bring his fastball to 97 mph with little effort. He also throws a challenging slider and a mediocre changeup, but both pale in comparison to his fastball. Basically, refining Urena's secondary pitches will be the key to when he is ready to face Major League hitters on a regular basis.
Nick Wittgren | RHP | 6-foot-2, 215 pounds | No. 13
I came away from the 2013 Arizona Fall League tremendously impressed with Wittgren. He clearly has the stuff and makeup of a solid closer, and I think he'll someday assume that role. Basically using a two-pitch mix of a fastball with great movement and deception and an excellent curveball, Wittgren really alters the balance of the hitter. His changeup is not as refined, and he may not even need that pitch to find success. Wittgren is calm and collected on the mound and consistently gets the job done.
Andrew McKirahan | RHP | 6-foot-2, 195 pounds | (Unranked)
The Marlins chose McKirahan in December in the Rule 5 Draft off the Chicago Cubs' roster. They will have to offer him back to Chicago if he is unable to remain on Miami's 25-man roster all season. Working out of the bullpen, McKirahan has thrown 120 2/3 Minor League innings for the Cubs. He had Tommy John surgery in 2012, but he has the type of high-velocity power arm that can thrive in the 'pen. McKirahan's secondary pitches remain a work in progress.