Inbox: How fast will Marlins' prospects rise?

Beat reporter Joe Frisaro answers questions from fans

October 29th, 2019

If Jerar Encarnacion has a hot start in 2020, when is the earliest we could see him?

-- @EthanEibe

Encarnacion, the Marlins’ No. 17 prospect as ranked by MLB Pipeline, likely will open next season at Double-A Jacksonville after splitting time at Class A Clinton and Class A Advanced Jupiter, where he combined to hit .276/.331/.425 with 16 home runs and 71 RBIs.

At the Arizona Fall League, Encarnacion impressed with his power. Last Saturday, the 22-year-old outfielder delivered the decisive blow, a grand slam on Saturday, in the Salt River Rafters’ 5-1 win over Surprise in the Arizona Fall League championship game.

In the 19 AFL games leading up to the title game, he had three home runs and 16 RBIs, and hit a respectable .269/.315/.433. Of concern is strikeouts, as he fanned 28 times and drew five walks.

How fast Encarnacion can rise to the big leagues will depend on his approach and plate discipline. He has plenty of raw power, and bat speed, and is a threat to homer to any part of the park. But, in 135 games in the regular season, he struck out 140 times. He probably needs a full season more of development, even if he gets off to a fast start.

It seems James Rowson is highly regarded, and the hiring widely praised. But why did the Twins let him walk then? Is this move a higher position for him? And how will his philosophy of home run hitting work at cavernous Marlins Park?

-- @MKEMovieMan

Clearly this is a significant hire, and a promotion for Rowson, who will move from hitting coach in Minnesota to bench coach in Miami. He also will be heavily involved in implementing a hitting strategy at the big league and Minor League levels.

Rowson also has previously worked in the Yankees’ organization, and has familiarity with many in Miami’s front office and upper management.

The Twins, obviously, set an MLB record with 307 home runs, and the Marlins finished last in homers with 146. Even playing in a big park, the Marlins have players capable of delivering the long ball more frequently.

Clearly, the Marlins hitters need to do better elevating the ball. According to Statcast, Miami’s 8.5 degree team launch angle was last in the Majors. The Twins averaged 14.7 degrees, which was first. Only six teams were lower than 11 degrees.

Are people forgetting about Monte Harrison? Does Nick Neidert have a shot at the rotation coming out of Spring Training?

-- @thepacman321

I don’t think anyone in the organization is forgetting Monte Harrison, ranked by MLB Pipeline as Miami’s No. 5 prospect, as well as the No. 83 prospect on the Top 100 list. But I do think that the trades last July that netted prospects Jesús Sánchez, Jazz Chisholm and Lewin Díaz have taken some of the attention away from Harrison.

If not for right wrist surgery, Harrison would have been a September callup, which would have given him his first taste of the big leagues. Because he missed so much time, it could impact whether he is ready to make the big leagues coming out of Spring Training.

Neidert, Miami’s No. 11 prospect, missed time during the Minor League season with a right meniscus tear, which required surgery. To make up for lost innings, Neidert was sent to the Arizona Fall League, where he was a standout, making five starts for Salt River. At the AFL he was 2-0 with a 1.25 ERA in 21 2/3 innings.

Are the Marlins expected to be aggressive in free agency?

-- @mrTeeple

I do not expect the Marlins to pursue the big-ticket free agents on the market, like Gerrit Cole and Anthony Rendon. But the club still will pursue free agents that make sense and are upgrades. José Abreu will be an interesting veteran to monitor, because he plays first base, a position of need, and is a middle-of-the-order threat. If there is a qualifying offer made by the White Sox on Abreu, that potentially could reduce Miami’s interest. The Marlins aren’t likely to make a play on any free agent that has a qualifying offer. A more realistic free-agent target is someone like Howie Kendrick.

In your mind, of our top prospects, who is the most likely to start the year on the 25-man roster?

-- @NeilCSpencer

For me, keep an eye on Sánchez, MLB Pipeline’s No. 3 Marlins prospect and No. 51 overall. Part of the deal that sent Nick Anderson and Trevor Richards to the Rays, Sánchez is close to making the leap from Triple-A to the Majors. The 22-year-old was a potential September callup in 2019, if not for a hamstring issue late in the season.