How do Marlins' top prospects fit Miami's needs?
This series is designed to evaluate the role prospects play in each Major League organization, looking at the short- and long-term needs of each club and illustrating how prospects fit in both scenarios.
Here's my look at the Marlins:
Without a doubt in my mind, the Marlins have a chance to be one of baseball's most exciting teams. They are loaded with quality pitching and some very young position players that will only get better with experience.
For the coming season, I don't see any prospects breaking camp in the starting lineup or in the rotation. However, that said, last year we saw the introduction of exciting outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna.
PROJECTED 2016 MARLINS LINEUPProjecting the Marlins' 2016 lineup based on players currently in their system.
After making his debut in 2013 and winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award, one of baseball's finest pitchers, Jose Fernandez, is now the ace of Miami's rotation. For me, Fernandez is already among the top five pitchers in baseball.
So where do the Marlins go from here? Clearly, first base is an unmet need that does not brighten with the current class of prospects.
Outfielder Jake Marisnick has played in 40 Major League games and has 118 plate appearances for the Marlins. I'm not sure if Marisnick can consistently hit Major League pitching. The center fielder hit .183 last season in his brief stint with Miami. But it was the same empty bat I had scouted in the Arizona Fall League. When I saw Marisnick in Arizona in 2012, his swing was awkward and he was reaching for pitches. But he plays good defense, has plus speed and a good, solid arm.
Third baseman Colin Moran had a fine debut at Class A Greensboro. A 2013 first-round Draft selection, Moran is a left-handed hitter who can handle the bat well, but he needs time and repetition. Moran has the type of tools that can stabilize a position of need for the Marlins. He has power and makes good contact.
Starting pitcher Andrew Heaney has a chance to be an excellent Major League pitcher. The 6-foot-2, 190-pound lefty has great size a power arm with a very solid repertoire and a mid-90s fastball. There are times, however, when he tries to throw too hard and he loses repetition on his delivery. So I've seen him be very good, and at times, mediocre.
In addition to his fastball, Heaney throws a quality curveball and solid changeup. Those three pitches make it tough on hitters.
Justin Nicolino, like Heaney, is a left-handed starter. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Nicolino doesn't throw as hard as Heaney. In fact, he usually sits at 88-91 mph. But Nicolino uses both sides of the plate efficiently.
Nicolino is crafty on the mound. He uses lots of offspeed pitches to cause deception. Nicolino's changeup might be his best pitch. He misses bats with regularity. Nicolino has a future in Miami's rotation, but he will have to improve the bite on his curveball and not lose any velocity off his fastball to be most effective.
If those two starters aren't enough in the pipeline, the Marlins will also be able to consider right-handed starters Anthony DeSciafani, Trevor Williams, Jose Urena or Austin Brice for their future rotation. Urena may be the furthest along of the bunch, having pitched in Miami's organization for five seasons. The others provide good balance to the left-handed Heaney and Nicolino.
Reliever Nick Wittgren offers the club a power arm as a potential closer. As one of the best pitchers I saw, Wittgren was dominant this past fall in the Arizona Fall League.
Catcher J.T. Realmuto provides some depth for the club behind the plate. Along with Rob Brantly, the Marlins have some stability to support newly acquired free agent Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Jeff Mathis also appears on the club's roster.
Realmuto is more of a defense-first catcher. He has excellent mechanical skills behind the plate, including good footwork and a strong arm. Offensively, Realmuto has some power generated by the strength of a 6-foot-1, 205-pound frame.
Second baseman Avery Romero finished the season playing at Class A Greensboro. He hit only .147, but that was a small 40-plate-appearance sample. Romero has a .265 batting average over two seasons.
Romero is on the rise for the Marlins and has the ability and the type of bat that might offer some sneaky power from the middle infield. At only 20 years of age, he is a raw player with upside on both sides of the ball.