Miami Marlins: Why the Marlins’ farm system is ranked dead last


Our beloved Marlins found their minor league system to be ranked 30th out of 30 on a statistic based prospect list by Tony Blengino of FanGraphs.

This system is a little complex but essentially takes player’s most predictive stats (OPS for hitter’s, and K/9, K/BB for pitcher’s) into account, factoring in the averages for the league/level the player was in this year. It also adjusts for the player’s age relative to the level, the younger the better.Â

This spits out a reasonably accurate picture of how each teams prospects are performing at the moment. This is supported by the fact that Calros Correa topped the list for hitters and Julio Urias was ranked #1 for pitchers. This system seems to be effective at measuring a player’s baseball skills relative to his peers.

But this system fails at evaluating the tools. The term ‘tools’ basically refers the kind of what scouts look for, including athleticism, size, and other intangibles. Organizations make use of these two aspects with varying degrees of emphasis. As seen in Moneyball, the difference between stats and tools is evident. Billy Beane makes the switch away from focusing on tools, resulting in team success.

As of yet, the Marlins haven’t made this switch. They remain among the organizations most dependent on scouts over numbers, if not the most dependent. For this reason, the Marlins will always be a bit underrated on lists such as these. like this.

I may be more of a number’s guy, but I’ll admit that this approach can have it’s advantages. Typically, tool-sy players have a much higher ceiling, as the physical gifts they already have can’t be taught, while the baseball skills they lack can be. Giancarlo Stanton is an example of this working out. Mostly a football player before being drafted, his power was obvious, but there was a question about whether or not he’d be able to make enough contact to translate into home runs. Obviously he did and Stanton is now one of the best hitters in the majors.

May 18, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria before a game against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

A recent example of this strategy is the case of 20-year-old RHP Tyler Kolek. The Marlins drafted Kolek 2nd overall in the 2014 draft based solely on his tools. In short, Kolek is really big. Listed at 6’5, 270 he has the exact body scouts look for in a starting pitcher. In addition, his fastball sits in the elite 93-98 mph range while occasionally hitting 100 mph.

Back in his high school days, Kolek struck out over half the hitters he faced his senior year. However, he played in a lower competition league and his dominance may have actually hurt him. No one could hit his fastball, so he never had to develop a change-up or any consistency on his secondary pitches.

Since he’s turned pro, the caliber of hitters he’s faced has increased significantly…and the results have adjusted accordingly. His Low-A strikeout rate of 6.71 this year was actually below average, alarming from a top prospect whose biggest selling point was an ability to miss bats.

But don’t give up on Kolek yet, he’s extremely young with only have two years of data, so it’s very possible that he could turn it around and live up to expectations. But the numbers really don’t look good, and unless he magically discovers a change up soon, he’ll probably never be able to pitch in a rotation.

Regardless of what you think of Blengino’s statistical ranking method, there is obvious reason for concern when it comes to Miami’s minor league affiliates. As long as Loria continues to build based solely on genetics, and not consider actual baseball talent, we won’t see consistent talent coming up through the farm system. Sure there might be a few hits here or there, but the odds with the current approach stack overwhelmingly towards busts.

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