A lot of attention is getting heaped on what the Marlins major league team is going to look like on Opening Day.
Most of the stories we write here during January are more or less prediction pieces, where we try to deduce the state of the team come April. Occasionally we’ll write about Marlins history or what the minor leagues are looking like.
Taylor Braley, who is celebrating his 24th birthday, fits in that third category at the present. A sixth-round pick for the Marlins in the 2017 MLB Amateur Entry Draft, with the 179th overall choice. Notable players selected at the position are Bill Russell (1966, Los Angeles Dodgers, 31.3 career WAR), Terry Pendleton (1982, St. Louis Cardinals, 28.5), and Troy Percival (1990, California Angels, 17.0 WAR). Of the 52 players preceding Braley’s selection, 14 have eventually reached the majors, a 26.9 percent success rate.
We previously profiled Braley as the best hitting pitcher in the Marlins system, here. A five-foot-11, 220 lb. right-handed starter out of Southern Mississippi at the time of his selection, Braley was 7-2 with a 3.40 ERA, 78 whiffs in 82 innings, and a 1.256 WHIP in his final season with the Golden Eagles. He also put up a .305/.427/.541 slashline in 138 collegiate contests when he wasn’t pitching. Here’s a 2080 Baseball look at Braley in action on the hill for the Hoppers.
Despite Braley’s power stroke which saw him clobber 17 home runs in his final college season, the Marlins are set on developing him as a pitcher. Over his first two professional seasons, between the Rookie-level GCL Marlins in the Gulf Coast League, the Batavia Muckdogs in the Short-season-A New York-Penn League, and the Greensboro Grasshoppers in the Single-A South Atlantic League, he was 6-11 with a 4.23 ERA starting in 23 of his first 28 appearances.
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Last season, Braley was ensconced at the High-A level from the start of the season to the end with the Jupiter Hammerheads in the Florida State League. With only 65 K’s in 101 1/3 innings, Braley’s swing-and-miss stuff still needs work, but his solid 1.164 WHIP begs further looks. Despite surrendering 103 hits during that time, he only walked 15 batters for a remarkable 1.3 BB/9.
Braley performed well enough in Jupiter to start the 2020 season with the Double-A Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp in the Southern League. He’s still listed as a Hammerhead, but I can’t imagine he would remain there past Opening Day. Braley’s arrival in the big leagues, if it’s meant to be, could happen as early as late this season, but more likely he’ll be in contention for a roster spot sometime during or immediately after next years’ Spring Training.