2014 Marlins Season Preview: Future Looking Bright as Prospects Mature.
Great baseball teams are not bought, rather they are built from the ground up. Free agency, gargantuan cable television deals, billion dollar tax-payer funded stadiums and the general economic structure of baseball has changed this somewhat, but not entirely so.
For teams to succeed they must be able to draft high school and college kids, sign international talent and trade for up and coming prospects. The winter of 2011 was Jeffrey Loria and the Marlins front office trying to play in the figurative free agency big leagues by signing Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell and keeping Omar Infante in the fold.
The hope of the winter of 2011 quickly turned into despair during the summer of 2012. Hanley Ramirez gave up on the team, Josh Johnson was ineffective and Heath Bell redefined ninth inning ineptitude. Ozzie Guillen and Jeffrey Loria clashed over the direction the team should take and the Showtime cameras were there to capture it all.
The ship began to sink as the All Star break came and went, Giancarlo Stanton was on the DL and the team scuffled. At the trade deadline the Marlins blew it all up, Infante and Anibal Sanchez went to Detroit for Rob Brantly and Jacob Turner and the Dodgers received Hanley for Nathan Eovaldi.
August of 2012 was a prelude to the blood bath that was about to come. The winter of 2012 was the exact opposite of the previous one, as the Marlins shipped out all of their shiny free agents to Toronto for a litany of prospects, among them Adeiny Hechavarria and Jake Marisnick and also included flipping Yunel Escobar to the Rays for Derek Dietrich. Dietrich, Marisnick, and Hechavarria are the core of the Marlins future along with Marcell Ozuna and Colin Moran. I am not an expert on prospect evaluation and for me to even claim that would be patently ridiculous. All I want to do here is to outline what I expect from these young Marlins players during the six years that they will be under their rookie contracts before they become free agents.
Again this is not an exercise in projecting future performance but more of an overview, position by position, of the Marlins young players.
Dietrich had probably the most intriguing season of all Marlins players in 2013.Up until that point, Dietrich had about 1000 career minor league plate appearances and only 146 of them in AA. He came up to big leagues and showed a very impressive power bat that was brought down by terrible plate discipline and pitch recognition. According to Carson Cistulli’s research at fangraphs.com, he has devised a way to summarize the “power tool” as “roughly descriptive of a player’s ability to hit home runs at the major-league level.”
The table below describes the difference between players power tool in the 20-80 scale
Dietrich in 2013 compiled a 5.7 HR/Contact rate, .191 ISO, .405 SLG and .313 wOBA. The first two would put him at a 60 grade power tool and the second two at a 50 grade level. Granted both slugging and wOBA are determined by more than pure home run power, but they are still largely indicative of a player’s power skill. Taken at face value, Dietrich’s 233 Major League PA puts him at a 55 grade power tool, which according to Cistulli’s research would put him at 18 HR every 550 PA. Major League teams can’t afford to not put a power bat like Dietrich’s in the lineup. Rafael Furcal will most certainly spend time on the DL this season and when that happens we will see what Dan Jennings, Mike Hill and Mike Redmond will do about bringing Dietrich back to the Majors.
The Marlins gave up on Matt Dominguez way too soon, I never will understand why, but they did. Dominguez was supposed to fill the massive hole left by Miguel Cabrera’s trade to Detroit now he’s manning the hot corner in Houston. In 2012 the Marlins tried Hanley there and the experiment failed. In 2013, Placido Polanco and Ed Lucas took up the job. In 2014 the job is Casey McGehee’s to lose and others like Donovan Solano, Ed Lucas, and maybe even Derek Dietrich could have some say about that.
The Marlins took Colin Moran in the first round of last year’s draft from the University of North Carolina. Moran might be the complete exact opposite of Dietrich as a player.He is not a power hitter but might have as impressive of a plate discipline skill as any other young player. In his senior year at UNC Moran compiled a 17.7%/7% walk to strikeout ratio and followed it up with a much more human 8.6% /14.3% BB/K in low A Greensboro.
Moran profiles as an on-base monster lacking in extra base power, a Moneyball style signing by the Marlins in the mold of Nick Swisher, Josh Donaldson, or Kevin Youkilis. Sometimes it is better to be so good at one thing that the rest of a player’s skill set doesn’t even factor into decision making for a manager and the front office.
Marcell Ozuna is still young as he will only turn 24 this November, but there is no question that the Marlins have an outfielder for the future if his massive power transfers from the Minor leagues to the Major Leagues, if/when Giancarlo leaves.
It is hard to make clear declarations about how a player will perform as he improves and climbs the ladder towards the big leagues but it seems as though Ozuna has enough power to spare as he has moved through his career. In about 1000 Minor League PA before being called up to the Majors early last season, Ozuna had 50 HR and had averaged a .221 ISO, 20.5% HR/FB%, 6.5% HR/Contact ratio and .490 SLG. In short, he has shown raw power in the Minor Leagues which didn’t seem to translate in his time with the Marlins last year. Those numbers again point towards a massive power hitting tool, that will likely show up sooner or later.
Those struggles could have been a question of approach and not of a sudden loss of power. Ozuna must work to get on base more and stop chasing the home run. Ozuna is also a plus defender which is always a bonus for a player who is looking to spend major playing time in centerfield in a place like Marlins Park
Marisnick turns 23 the day before Opening Day and by that point he will have 4 years of professional baseball and has already compiled more than 1500 PA in the minors including 600 PA at AA in both the Marlins and Blue Jays organizations. He is young, probably strikes out too much, and doesn’t walk enough, but ultimately he is not a “premier prospect” as his time in the Minors have gotten longer and longer and his first Major League experience amounted to a .183/.231/.248 slash line with a 20.7 K%
Like Ozuna, his main competition in center field, Marisnick brings plus defense to the equation along with speed and the “X Factor” that makes some players special.
The Marlins future involves many more players than the ones I just listed above, some of which are already solid Major Leaguers like Hechavarria, too talented to miss like Yelich, or in a holding pattern, like Rob Brantly.
The Marlins success for 2014 and beyond will be determined by how good some of these players will be. In short will they become productive Major League players? It is obviously very hard to answer that question but I feel that yes, Dietrich, Moran, Ozuna and Marisnick will be able to contribute to making the Marlins a contender in the near future.
What do you guys think? Is this crop of Marlins prospects something the fan base should be excited about? Which of these guys do you want to see in the big leagues this year? Which of these players will contribute the most in 2014? Let us know in the comments below.