Marlins Minor League Spring Training report

April 28th, 2021

The Marlins not only have one of baseball's best farm systems, but it's also brimming with big league-ready talent.

Of their 10 highest-ranked prospects entering the year, two have graduated from prospect status this month (middle infielder Jazz Chisholm, left-hander Trevor Rogers) and five more already have some experience in the Majors (right-hander Sixto Sánchez, first baseman Lewin Díaz, outfielder Jesús Sánchez, left-hander Braxton Garrett, middle infielder José Devers). Righty Edward Cabrera already would have joined the latter group if he hadn't come down with minor shoulder soreness last summer.

The other two prospects in that preseason top 10 are also very much on the fast track, even if they haven't accumulated much pro experience. Outfielder JJ Bleday got 140 at-bats in High A immediately after signing for $6.67 million as the No. 4 overall pick in 2019, while right-hander Max Meyer has yet to throw a pitch in an official pro game since landing a franchise-record $6.7 million bonus as the No. 3 choice a year ago.

The coronavirus pandemic cancelled the Minor League season in 2020, yet Miami has exposed Bleday and Meyer to as many development opportunities as it could. They both played at the Marlins' alternate training site and instructional league program last year and earned non-roster invitations to big league camp this spring. After the Grapefruit League ended, they headed the alternate site again to allow them to face the most advanced competition possible.

 "Both of them are looking really good," Miami farm director Geoff DeGroot said. "Max is making starts there and JJ is swinging the bat well. Both were part of the alternate site last year and they were in Major League camp this year, so they already were up and running and ready to go and play in games."

While the Marlins haven't finalized Minor League assignments, it's quite possible that both Bleday and Meyer will open the season at Double-A Pensacola. Bleday combines hitting ability with prodigious power and used his pandemic downtime to improve his conditioning and quickness. Meyer has a pair of well above-average pitches in his mid-90s fastball and wipeout slider, and he has surprised the Marlins with the quality of a changeup he didn't need much in college at Minnesota.

Camp standouts
Left-hander Jake Eder, who teamed with Bleday to help Vanderbilt win the 2019 College World Series, has been one of the Marlins' most impressive pitchers in Minor League Spring Training. A fourth-round pick last June, he lacked consistency in college but flashed a plus fastball and curveball to go with a solid changeup at his best.

Eder's physicality stood out during instructional league before he pitched well this spring in big league camp and in Minor League camp.

"The momentum Jake is building going into the season is exciting," DeGroot said. "He's made significant improvements since instructional league. His stuff has ticked up a bit across the board and his pitchability and pitch usage have gotten better. He's filling up the strike zone, getting ahead in counts. He's learning how to pitch and use his stuff."

Dax Fulton, another southpaw from the 2020 Draft, is getting his first pro action against hitters during Minor League camp. He might have been a first-round pick had he not missed his senior season as an Oklahoma high schooler following Tommy John surgery in September 2019, and the Marlins grabbed him in the second round for $2.4 million. Armed with a projectable low-90s fastball and a nasty curveball, he's pitching multiple innings per outing and is good to go for his first full pro season.

In the Dominican
Signed for $3.5 million in January, Cuban shortstop Yiddi Cappe is getting introduced to pro ball at the Marlins' Dominican complex. The players there are participating in a full range of in-house baseball activities, but haven't begun playing games against other organizations yet because the start of the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League has been pushed back to July.

After defecting in late 2018, Cappe quickly became one of the most coveted prospects in the 2019 international class. Because most teams had already committed the bulk of their bonus pool money at that point, he opted to wait for the 2020-21 signing period, which didn't open until January in the wake of the pandemic. As a projectable 6-foot-3 shortstop, he draws repeated physical comparisons to Carlos Correa, and he offers the upside of solid tools across the board.

"He's gotten way more physical," DeGroot said. "You can tell he put in a lot of hard work during the shutdown last year. He's in a great place and we're looking forward to him making his debut with us this year. His potential is exciting."

Prospects we’ll be talking about in 2022
Miami had high hopes for shortstop Osiris Johnson when the club signed the California high school product for $1.35 million as a second-round pick in 2018. It promoted him to Low A at age 17 that summer and wanted to see where a player compared to a more athletic version of Howie Kendrick would go from there.

The Marlins are still waiting to find out because Johnson sustained a tibial stress fracture in his right leg during his first Spring Training, necessitating surgery that cost him the 2019 season before the pandemic canceled the Minor League season last year. He did attend instructional league the last two falls and will finally return to official game action in May.

"Who knows where Osiris might be if he had played the last two years?" DeGroot said. "He looks outstanding now, as good as we've seen him, not just physically but also from a fundamental standpoint. He has something you can't teach: elite, freak-of-nature bat speed you just don't see very often."