Last off-season, the Miami Marlins farm system was ranked as one of the worst in all of baseball. Last January, John Sickels ranked the Marlins organization 29th out of 30 teams. This is what Sickels had to say last year:
"29) Miami Marlins: Relatively even balance between hitting and pitching, but not a lot of impact coming up."
With some gradual improvement in the system, especially with the continued emergence of the Marlins top two prospects, Christian Yelich and Jose Fernandez, whom we will get to discussing later on, has dramatically improved. Combined with that and the trades the Marlins made the past few months, the Marlins system has grown to become one of the best in baseball.
This is what Sickels has to say about the Marlins organization on year after ranking it the second worst in baseball:
"8) Miami Marlins (29): Quick turnaround here. Strengths: star power at the top with Christian Yelich and Jose Fernandez. Trades have added some depth (Marisnick, Nicolino, Hechavarria, Dietrich, Brantly). Some sleeper pitching arms (Charlie Lowell, Mason Hope). Weaknesses: much of the improvement is due to trades and not internal development, especially on the hitting side."
Even with the 2013 season unlikely to be exciting for the Marlins in terms of fielding a winning product on the field, the fans have a lot to look forward to in terms of young players and top prospects.
Without any further ado, let’s take a look at the Marlins top prospects, starting from #20-16.
#20- Mason Hope, right-hand pitcher
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 190
Born: June 27, 1992 (age 20)
2012 Stats (at Low-A Jamestown): 3-4, 2.90ERA, 3.20 FIP, 14 GS, 71.1 IP, 35 BB (3.4 BB/9), 53K (6.7 K/9), 1.388 WHIP
Mason Hope was a fifth round selection by the Marlins in the 2011 MLB June Amateur Draft. Hope is one of the more promising pitchers in the Marlins system. Mason was overshadowed in High School by his teammate and 2011 first round pick for the Arizona Diamondbacks, Archie Bradley. Hope was a late signee, but he was still able to strikeout 31 batters while walking only 7 in his first taste of pro ball in 2011. Hope flashed an impressive 10.2 K/9 in rookie ball.
Hope had another solid season in 2012 in the New York-Penn League. Hope’s sinking fastball sits between 90-94 MPH, a very good curve-ball, and is currently working on his change-up. While Hope did not miss a lot of bats in the NY-Penn League, he did have a decent 1.75 GO/AO ratio, which is due to his strong sinker.
Hope is a decent prospect for the Marlins and has a decent chance to become a mid-rotation pitcher for the Marlins. He will not be Major League ready for a few more seasons.
Bold Prediction: Hope will start the season in High-A Jupiter and continue to develop as one of the better Marlins pitching prospects. Hope will be included in the Marlins top 10 prospects next season.
19- Zack Cox, third base
Height/Weight: 6’0”, 215
Born: May 9, 1989 (age 23)
2012 Stats (between AAA and AA): .254/.301/.409, 10 HR, 43 RBI, 1 SB, 22 BB, 90 SO, 108 G (422 PA)
The St. Louis Cardinals selected Zack Cox 25th overall in the 2010 Amateur Draft out of Arkansas. Cox was seen as one of the best hitters in the 2010 draft. At the 2012 MLB trade deadline, the Marlins were able to acquire Cox for relief pitcher Edward Mujica. Although his stock had fallen, Cox was still one of the best offensive players in the Cardinals farm. Cox was blocked by David Freese.
The hitting tools that made him a first-round pick are still apparent, with a short, quick stroke and the ability to spray line drives to all fields, but he has failed to live up to the hype as a hitter that surrounded him when he came out of Arkansas. There are questions about whether Cox will stick at third long term, as he does have the arm for third, but his range is not quite that good.
Cox will get a chance to make the big league team out of spring training, but will more than likely be given a bit more seasoning in Triple-A before the Marlins hand him a chance to become the regular third baseman.
Bold Prediction: Cox will continue to falter as a prospect in Triple-A, as his numbers from last season will prove to be no fluke. His defensive struggles will also lead the Marlins to eventually move him off of third base, further depreciating his prospect status.
18- Tom Koehler, right-hand pitcher
Tom Koehler will have a legitimate shot at making the Miami Marlins rotation out of Spring Training. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 190
Born: June 29, 1986 (age 26)
2012 Stats (at Triple-A New Orleans): 12-11, 4.17 ERA, 3.99 FIP, 28GS, 151.0 IP, 61 BB (3.6 BB/9), 138 K (8.2 K/9), 1.42 WHIP
Tom Koehler is a tad bit old to be a prospect at the age of 26, but he is an underrated pitcher and has the stuff to be a four/five pitcher, or an effective reliever. He showed some of that promise last September when he received a call-up. Koehler pitched decent, though his MLB numbers would suggest otherwise. Seven of the eight runs he allowed came across two games, five out of the other six appearances Koehler did not allow a single run. Koehler also made one start, as a fill in for Mark Buehrle.
Koehler posted a 13/2 K/BB in first 13 major league innings down the stretch, which if he can repeat, will earn a spot on the Marlins opening day roster, either as a reliever or as the fifth starter.
Bold Prediction: Tom Koehler will make the Marlins team as a relief pitcher out of spring training, but due to injuries and inconsistencies from the Marlins young rotation, Koehler will make some spot starts and prove to be a valuable asset for the Marlins.
17- Kolby Copeland, outfielder
Height/Weight: 6’0”, 190
Born: Feburary 5, 1994 (age 19)
2012 Stats (between Rookie Ball and Low-A Jamestown): .280/.330/.397, 0 HR, 34RBI, 4 SB, 19 BB, 29 SO, 62 G (262 PA)
Kolby Copeland was seen as a first round talent that instead fell to the Marlins as a supplemental third round pick. If he pans out like experts expect him to, Copeland will be an absolute steal for the Marlins. The toolsey outfielder, has a ton of power potential, and the early reports on his bat are positive. Copeland has not been confined to one outfield position as of yet, and his position will not likely be determined until he gets some more minor league experience.
Kolby played in 56 games in Rookie Ball with the Gulf Coast League Marlins putting up a .286/.331/.406 line driving in 34 runs and converting only 2 out of 8 stolen base attempts. Copeland also played 6 games for low-A Jamestown. Copeland is regarded as an above average runner, so he should improve on his stolen bases as he progresses.
Copeland is an intriguing prospect for the Marlins, and could emerge as a star player down the line. The Marlins and their fans should be very excited about this kid. He is a few years away, though, as there is no need for the Marlins to rush him.
Bold Prediction: Copeland will start the season at Low-A Jamestown and progress to A-Ball Greensboro by the end of the season. He will continue to progress and move up the Marlins prospect rankings in a hurry. This kid is one of my favorites in the Marlins system.
16- Austin Barnes, catcher/second baseman
Height/Weight: 6’0”, 190
Born: December 28, 1989 (age 23)
2012 Stats (between Rookie Ball and Low-A Jamestown): .318/.401/.481, 12 HR, 65 RBI, 9 SB, 59 BB, 61 SO, 123 G (566 PA)
Austin Barnes was drafted by Miami in the ninth round of the 2011 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft out of Arizona State, where Barnes played both second base and catcher. Since the Marlins drafted him, Barnes has done nothing but hit. Barnes has the ability to be a catcher, but with J.T. Realmuto and Rob Brantly, both players we will get to later, ranked above him as catching prospects, Barnes is more likely to play second as he moves up the Marlins organization latter, especially with the lack of depth at that position.
In 2011, Barnes played 57 games for Jamestown, starting 31 at catcher and 12 at second base. Barnes hit .288 with a .369 OBP and more walked more than he struck out (25/22). Barnes ability to take walks makes him more valuable if he is never able to fully develop his power.
In 2012, the Marlins decided that Barnes future was no longer at catcher, but rather at second base, as of the 123 games he played in, he only appeared 16 of those as a catcher. Barnes continue to hit well in 2012, posting a line of .318/.401/.481 with a 59/61 BB/K ratio. This strong showing earned Barnes a chance to be a mid season South Atlantic League All-Star.
In 2013, Barnes is expected to start the season in High-A Jupiter and could even get a chance to move up to Double A if he continues to show his excellent patience and plate approach.
Bold Prediction: Barnes is another prospect in the Marlins system that with a strong season could move up the Marlins prospect latter pretty fast. I agree with Sam Evans, author on Fishstripes, that Austin Barnes is an underrated prospect and ready to break out in 2013.
Those are my #20-16 prospects. As I mentioned before, the Marlins organization is stocked with some decent prospects. The future of the team looks a lot brighter than the bleak present does. Things will only improve for the Marlins and their fans moving forward, that is if Jeffery Loria does not meddle into the teams affairs, like has in the past.
I will have my #15 prospect post up later today or tomorrow morning. So please look out for that.