Baby Marlins Made A Spring Training Splash

Monte Harrison, New Orleans Baby Cakes, April 13, 2019. Photo credit Minda Haas Kuhlmann, on Twitter @minda33 and on Instagram @minda.haas

COVID-19 has interrupted our baseball season, and there is a lot left unknown. I do want to direct your attention to the Marlins and showcase just how bright the future could be in Miami. I was going to release my thoughts right after the postponement but wanted to wait until we had some clarity about the season, but honestly, I can’t wait any longer. It is hard to temper my excitement, especially since it has been a long time since the future has been this bright. I excluded players that had any MLB experience to emphasize the talent that has yet to debut. The below list only includes players that had redeeming qualities during Spring Training.

Jesus Sanchez – Spring Training highlights: Slugged .917 and hit .500 in 12 at bats. In the limited sample size, he showed an improved K-rate, but he will need to start back in the minors to prove that he can stabilize his K-rate and keep his counting stats productive. The top prospect has a lot to prove but you cannot deny his talent. Look for the 6’3” left hand hitting slugger to roam the OF in Miami for years to come. I think the conservative offensive profile will be a .280 AVG, .355 OBP, 25 home runs.

Jerar Encarnacion – For a guy who has yet to make it to AA, this Spring Training he slugged .929 and hit .429 in 14 at bats. A bit of a concern is the 6 strikeouts and no walks. Encarnacion had a breakout last year in A and A+ and is primed to open the year in AA, assuming there is a year to open in. If his breakout year is sustainable, then we are looking at a future superstar, and don’t forget he is only 22! I think the conservative offensive profile will be .265 AVG, .325 OBP, 35 home runs.

Christian Lopes – Signed to a minor league contract with a Spring Training invite in December, Lopes showed what he could do. His Spring Training invite saw him slug .800 and hit .400 in 20 at bats. I think he may have earned himself a utility role bench spot heading into the 2020 season, and if Isan Diaz struggles to start the year Lopes could push for more at bats. He is not the type player that is going to be part of the Miami future as he is already 27-years-old, but if he gets off to a hot start he is the type of player that Miami could trade to infuse the minor leagues with even more talent. I project that they would trade him for a young fireballer.

Monte Harrison – Raise your hand if you’re still waiting for him to put it all together! Relax, he is only 24-years-old still and enjoyed a Spring Training where he hit .364 with 6 stolen bases (7 attempts), no home runs but he did walk 5 times compared to his 7 strikeouts. I project that he will begin the year back in AAA New Orleans to prove that his improved K-rate can be sustained while improving his Slugging Percentage. He is battling two other guys on this list for playing time and a stable of young guys behind him, the time is now to show what he can do. I think the conservative offensive profile will be a .270 AVG, .330 OBP, 12 HR and 25 SB. His OBP is a little low to be a leadoff hitter but I could see him hitting 7th.

Lewin Diaz – The Marlins need a power bat to stabilize the lineup. Wait, that goes for all teams. Did they find this bat in a July trade to the Twins? Diaz got his first taste of AA last year and the midseason trade may have taken him out of rhythm, but I look for him to start the year in Jacksonville. This Spring Training did provide some optimism as he slugged .522 and hit .304 in 23 at bats. I think an aggressive offensive profile will be .270 AVG, .340 OBP, 30 HR.

Sterling Sharp – Sterling Sharp who? The guy drafted in the 22nd round of the 2016 MLB draft, yes that is the one! This Spring Training he pitched 8 innings with a 1.13 ERA, a 0.88 WHIP, and had 9 K’s. Numbers like this make it probable that Miami’s Rule 5 pick should open the year in The Show. If Sharp can induce the ground balls with his elite sinker, he has a chance to crack the rotation by the end of the season. Even with his strong spring stats he should still open the year in the pen, barring injury. I think the conservative prediction for Sterling is an effective 4th/5th starter.

Nick Neidert – 2019 did find Neidert in AAA for the first time but the results were less than desirable. This spring he tossed 6 innings with a 1.50 ERA, a 1.33 WHIP, and 6 K’s. The former 2nd round pick hasn’t shown that high of a K-rate in the minors so I do expect some regression. Nick should begin the year in New Orleans to see if he can level out his performance and be an effective starter, but it’s clear that he does have some talent in that right arm. I think a conservative prediction for Neidert is an effective 3rd starter due to his command.

Edward Cabrera – Cabrera made it to Jacksonville last season and posted some favorable counting stats. He looks as if he has taken the turn from a power thrower to a pitcher and the results were apparent this Spring Training as he threw 4 innings with a 4.50 ERA, a 0.75 WHIP, and 4 K’s. I think the future is bright for Cabrera but he only logged a little under 39 innings in AA, so he will be heading back there to get some more experience. I think a conservative prediction is that Cabrera will be a high quality 2nd starter that will push for staff ace if he can improve his secondary pitches.

Tommy Eveld – I was drinking the Kool-Aid last year on Tommy! Was I a year too early? Maybe so. This Spring Training – 4 innings with a 0.00 ERA, a 0.50 WHIP, and 3 K’s. I think he has the arm that can push for the closer’s role by the end of the season. He’s older than most prospects at 26, but he should stabilize the back end of the bullpen for the next few years.

Trevor Rogers – After finding himself in AA at the end of 2019 with stellar results he looks primed to start the year in AA. Spring Training 2020 saw him toss 3 innings with a 1.33 WHIP and 2 K’s. At 22-years-old, the former 6’6” 1st rounder from Carlsbad has the stuff to be a true staff ace. I think a conservative prediction for the lefty is a top tier 2nd starter that could blow past that projection if he can harness his secondary pitches.

Alex Vesia – Able to make 9 appearances in Jacksonville 2019 he showed that he was not phased by the advanced competition. This Spring Training he showed that again pitching 6 innings with a 0.00 ERA, 0.50 WHIP and 5 K’s. I think we are looking at a young high-leverage ace and he should begin the year back in AA, but a call up will be imminent with similar success. I think what we have with the former 17th round pick is the future closer for the Marlins.

Braxton Garrett – Wow, what could have been for this 6’3” lefty from Alabama. Hold on! He is still only 22-years-old. The former 1st round pick has been working his way back from Tommy John surgery and logged 106.2 innings in 2019 and flashed why he was taken in the first round. This Spring Training he logged 3 innings with a 3.00 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, and 3 K’s. Granted less impressive than others on this list, but not bad for someone who has pitched only 122 innings since being drafted. I think that he has the stuff to challenge for the 2nd spot in the rotation, but I feel he will slot in as the 3rd starter that will challenge year after year for the 2nd spot.

Remember, this is only highlighting guys with no MLB experience whom flashed some promise during Spring Training. The prospect well is deep in Miami and now is the time to start targeting the talent before the secret gets out. I chose to go with a conservative approach on the projections for the players, but I expect one or two to exceed the conservative approach which means they will be special players. Let me hear your thoughts or comments on Twitter @stoffer81 and let’s get ready for some baseball! Please and thank you.

Stoffer is an avid baseball fan who grew up in the heart of Braves country, but felt he never really fit in until the Marlins came along and then it was game over. He has been playing in deep dynasty keeper leagues for 20+ years and only plays in leagues where there is a prospect component. He currently resides in Jacksonville, Florida, which is the perfect place for him because it's home to the Jumbo Shrimp, the Marlins' Triple-A affiliate.

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