Meyer, Perez, Fulton lead next wave of Marlins arms

February 2nd, 2022

JUPITER, Fla. -- Much is said about the Marlins' young starting pitching at the Major League level, but even more is on the way.

"The Marlins have promoted some really intriguing pitchers in the last two years, such as Sixto Sánchez, Trevor Rogers and Edward Cabrera, but the next generation might be even better," MLB Pipeline senior writer Jim Callis said. "Max Meyer went from the No. 3 pick in the 2020 Draft straight to Double-A and nearly led the Minors in ERA. Eury Perez has as much helium as any pitching prospect in the game right now and won't turn 19 until mid-April. And Dax Fulton looks great after recovering from Tommy John surgery and could make a huge jump in 2022."

Look no further than the backfields at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex, where the organization's loaded farm system is getting a head start with a Minor League development camp. On a chilly -- by South Florida standards -- Tuesday morning, Meyer overmatched hitters in a live batting practice session.

The Marlins selected Meyer, who turns 23 on March 12, with their first pick two years ago. As the club found itself in the playoff hunt, there had been rumblings that he could debut during the shortened 2020 campaign or in the postseason. Instead, he settled for time at the alternate training site and instructional league.

In his first season of professional ball in 2021, the right-hander was among the Double-A South leaders in ERA (2.41), WHIP (1.23) strikeouts (113) and innings (101). After a promotion to Triple-A Jacksonville, Meyer allowed just one earned run in 10 innings across two starts.

"Everything is always like what ifs, you know, stuff like that," Meyer said. "But I'm happy I was able to get a full season in the Minor Leagues. When I go up, I want to stay there. I don't want to go back and forth. So I'm happy with where I'm at with the whole season I had, and we're going to keep improving every single day."

Eleven of Miami's Top 30 prospects are pitchers, and three are in MLB Pipeline's Top 100: Cabrera (No. 29), Meyer (No. 30) and Sánchez (No. 41). Further down the pipeline is the towering duo of Perez (6-foot-8) and Fulton (6-foot-7), both of whom could reach or surpass those heights if they continue their progression.

Ranked as Miami's No. 6 prospect, Perez earned a promotion to High-A Beloit after posting a 1.61 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP in 15 starts for Low-A Jupiter during his first taste of pro ball. At the higher level, the righty didn't experience much of a regression against competition more than five years older than him, compiling a 2.86 ERA and a 0.73 WHIP in five starts. Perez, who turns 19 on April 15, was an easy choice for the organization's 2021 Pitcher of the Year.

In a recent MLB Pipeline Inbox, Callis made the bold claim that Perez could be the top pitching prospect in baseball at some point. Perez credits the time he spent at the DR Academy for his development.

"It feels very good," Perez said via an interpreter. "People are talking about you, but it's something that you've got to continue working and keep showing that you can do the work and handle the job. Just continue being myself, continue working really hard every day, and just working physically, keep growing and gain some muscles."

Fulton followed that same trajectory in 2021, with a few more bumps along the way. Picked in the second round of the '20 MLB Draft, the left-hander returned to the mound in a competitive setting for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery during his senior season at Mustang High School in Oklahoma.

The 20-year-old, ranked as Miami's No. 9 prospect, admitted he's still learning how to pitch, though he began to figure things out midway through the season. It became apparent during consecutive scoreless outings in August, when he struck out 18, walked none and allowed just two hits.

"My whole goal was to make it to the next level, that's everybody's goal," Fulton said. "I wanted to make it up there being so young. That was definitely one of the bigger moments in my career last year."

Despite the language barrier, Fulton and Perez have become close. They have shared experiences, like navigating the airport and flying up to Beloit together upon their promotion. Both have dominated pitching at an early age, relying on repetition to keep their delivery consistent despite their stature. They can learn from each other. Fulton likes to pick up on Perez's pitch grips and how he throws his pitches.

But there's also a friendly competition, a desire to be the best that drives each of them as professional athletes. Fulton recalled how a simple running drill turned into a footrace among the pitchers at camp. And though Meyer hasn't seen Perez pitch, his roommate -- none other than fellow Top 100 prospect JJ Bleday -- wouldn't stop raving about him. Meyer hopes he can match up with Perez in a live game soon.

"I think that's what they set up the organization to be is pitchers, and we've got to compete," Meyer said. "Everyone wants to one-up each other. I love that. My college was like that. Everyone's throwing really hard and everyone's kind of cheering for each other. 'Look at me, I got three punchouts here, what are you going to do?' And stuff like that. So I think it's great. Having all these guys definitely fuels us."