Miami already reaping rewards of youth movement
MIAMI -- Opportunity for advancement is on the horizon for a number of the Marlins' highly touted prospects.
The organization's shift to youth has created room for advancement at all levels, and already some aspiring talent has filtered up to the big leagues. The trend started before the first pitch of the season.
Out of necessity, Jose Fernandez made the Opening Day roster after Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez each were placed on the disabled list with inflammation in his right shoulder.
Fernandez, a hard-throwing right-hander and Miami's first-round pick in 2011, made the leap from Class A to the big leagues at the age of 20.
Weeks later, also due to injuries, more prospects followed, with Marcell Ozuna, a 22-year-old right fielder, and 23-year-old second baseman Derek Dietrich promoted from Double-A Jacksonville.
A little more than a week ago, lefty reliever Edgar Olmos received the call from Jacksonville.
"So far the guys who have come up have done pretty well," said Marty Scott, vice president of player development. "We've had quite a few injuries at the Major League level, and the Minor League level, as well. We haven't had all the key guys healthy at one time yet."
More prospects promise to follow.
Headlining the list is outfielder Christian Yelich, 21.
Yelich, Miami's No. 1 prospect as ranked by MLB.com, is expected to get his chance in the not-so-distant future, but first he must get healthy.
Yelich was recently placed on the Minor League disabled list with an abdominal strain. He is expected to need about two weeks to recover, and likely another week to rehab back into game shape.
Yelich actually opened the season on the Minor League DL because of a bruised right heel.
"The most important thing for me, from the top of the organization all the way down, is keeping everybody healthy and staying on the field," Scott said.
Yelich is the Marlins' most celebrated hitting prospect since Giancarlo Stanton in 2010.
The club's first-round selection in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, Yelich isn't the power threat Stanton is, but he is projected to be a perennial .300 hitter.
At Jacksonville, Yelich has played mostly left and center field. But when he reaches the big leagues, left field is his likely destination.
By July the Marlins could have an outfield of Yelich in left, Ozuna in center and Stanton in right.
But the outfield depth doesn't stop there. Jake Marisnick is tracking close behind Yelich.
The fastest of the group, Marisnick also is the best defensively. And if it were just a matter of him playing center field, he was ready at the end of Spring Training.
The question is how much he will hit, as there is room for development with his swing. He also has the potential for power, as evidenced by the game for Jacksonville in which he belted two grand slams.
In addition, he homered in each game of a doubleheader for Jacksonville on Monday,
"He's got some adjustments he needs to do at the plate," Scott said. "His hitting has a ways to go. He hit home runs in both games [on Monday], and he's starting to turn things around. He's shown flashes, the power tool will show up, and then he will go into a five-game slump. More consistency at the plate is what we're looking for."
But in terms of skills, running speed, arm strength and power potential, they all grade out as plus.
With a surplus of outfielders either just arriving or on the way, the organization has some decisions to make. Health and performance likely will be a determining factor as to exactly when Yelich and Marisnick are brought up.
A candidate for the rotation who could be called upon in the season's second half is left-hander Brian Flynn, acquired from the Tigers last year as part of the Omar Infante/Anibal Sanchez trade.
The 23-year-old, who stands 6-foot-7, is at Triple-A New Orleans.
"This year I'm seeing more command and a better mound presence," Scott said. "If someone makes an error behind him, it's not bothering him. He gets back up and makes a quality pitch to get out of it. It's a sign of maturity to me. He's done it from the second half of last year, and it's carried over this year."
For the first time in several years, the Marlins are developing depth at many Minor League levels, and the system is about to get an infusion of new talent.
In the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, which concluded on Saturday, the Marlins had five of the first 80 picks.
"We're excited about the Draft," Scott said.
With the No. 6 overall selection, they took University of North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran.
Moran, 21, bats left-handed, and he is considered a pure hitter.
All drafted players have until July 12 to sign. Once Moran is under contract, he is expected to start off at low Class A Greensboro.
"They're all quality guys, with high ceilings," Scott said. "Moran is the type of guy who can move through the system pretty quickly. He's an exciting player with a left-handed bat. Big, strong kid, plus arm strength, average runner. He's what you like at the Major League level, if he can move quickly. But we're not going to rush him just for the sake of trying to fill a hole, if he's not ready."
From there it will be up to him how quickly he advances.
Clearly, the hope is to put him on the fast track.
Perhaps the player from the 2013 class to reach the big leagues the quickest will be reliever Colby Suggs, the closer at the University of Arkansas. The hard-throwing right-hander is regarded as being close to being MLB-ready, and there is a chance he could pitch for Miami this season.
"Down the road, I could see him pitching in a closer-type role," Scott said. "If the game is on the line, and he needs one out, I can see him as somebody you go to."