Earlier today, Baseball America ranked the Miami Marlins organization as the fifth most talented in baseball. A lot of the love for the Marlins organization has to do with the top 3 players, which I will jump into tomorrow, but also has to do with the overall depth in the farm that the team has collected recently. Trades and better drafting have played an incredible role in this upward movement.
Here is a quick recap of the top 20 prospects we have taken a look at so far:
- #20-Mason Hope, RHP
- #19- Zack Cox, 3B
- #18- Tom Koehler, RHP
- #17- Kolby Copeland, OF
- #16- Austin Barnes, INF-C
- #15- Alfredo Silverio, OF
- #14- Avery Romero, INF
- #13- Derek Dietrich, INF
- #12- Mason Hope, SP
- #11- Adam Conley, SP
- #10- Jake Realmuto, C
- #9- Jose Urena, SP
- #8- Rob Brantly, C
- #7- Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
- #6- Marcell Ozuna, OF
- #5- Jake Marisnick, OF
The next prospect we will take a look, like Marisnick and Hechavarria, was apart of the Marlins fire sale trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. All three of these prospects were inserted into the Marlins top-10 prospect list, which says a lot about the return they got.
Drafted: 2010 2nd round pick
Birthdate: 11/22/1991 (21) Height: 6’3″ Weight: 160 lbs.
Justin Nicolino, a Florida native, was a huge piece of the Marlins’ blockbuster trade with the Blue Jays in November. He adds another quality arm to the Marlins deep pitching depth in the farm. Of all the pitchers in the Marlins system, Nicolino is seen as the most polished.
Toronto selected Nicolino in the second round out of University High School in Orlando in the 2010 draft. The 2010 draft was considered a great one for the Jays, as they drafted a plethora of high-ceiling arms. Along with Nicolino, the Jays drafted Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard. These three combined to make the “Big 3″ for the Jays prospect system.
Of the three, Nicolino was regarded as the one with least “pure stuff” of the three. The Marlins caught a lot of flack for acquring him instead of the other two. However, of the three, he was the most polished and had the highest floor. The Marlins decided to take the safest player, which is not always a bad thing.
Nicolino had a strong commitment to Virginia when he was drafted by the Blue Jays, but they were able to sign him late. This kept him from making his debut, like other prospects, in 2010.
He did make his debut in short-season ball in 2011, pitching for the Vancouver Canadians in the Northwest League. Nicolino dominated his competition, posting an incredible 1.03 ERA in 52.1 innings, while striking out 64 hitters and walking just 11. His 5.82 K/BB ratio. His dominance earned him a promotion to low Class-A Lansing, where he made three starts to end the season.
The Blue Jays decided to start him in Low-A again for the 2012 season, where he spent the entire year. Nicolino posted great numbers again. He posted a 2.46 ERA in 124.1 innings, while striking out 119 and walking just 22. He posted an impressive 5.67 K/BB ratio.
Nicolino’s fastball comes in at 92 MPH, but can touch 94. That is decent velocity for a left handed pitcher. If he can add a bit more weight on his frame, he could add more velocity on his fastball with more consistency. He also does a good job of hiding the ball, which makes his fastball seem a bit faster than it actually is.
Nicolino also has good off-speed pitches that supplement his fastball. His best pitch maybe his changeup. The pitch has good sink and should be a pitch he turns to when he gets into trouble. He also features a curveball that is seen as a work in progress right now, but could be another above-average pitch once its developed.
This is what prospect guru John Sickels had to say about Nicolino:
3) Justin Nicolino, LHP, Grade B+: The most polished of the terrific rotation the Blue Jays had at Lansing last year. Superior command and control of solid fastball and curve, plus changeup. Could become number two starter.
Nicolino has the potential to be a number two or three starter for the Marlins in the future. He will start the season in High-A Jupiter for the Hammerheads. He will likely spend all of 2013 in Jupiter, unless he begins to be unchallenged down there. If everything breaks right, Nicolino could make his debut in Marlins Park in late 2014. He could become a permanent fixture in the Marlins rotation by 2015.