What you should really think about the Marlins farm system

by | Jun 11, 2019 | Minor Leagues

Coming into this year, Miami Marlins baseball was in a weird place. The 18 month trade puzzle seemed to be done for the most part. The team had just made the biggest splash in the international free agency market in its history, signing the Mesa Brothers, but the team was still smack dab in the middle of a rebuild.

It’s a rebuild that not everyone has embraced fully, and with good reason. We live in an age of a time called “FOMO” — fear of missing out. It’s a real thing.

We see our former stars make the playoffs and win a National League MVP, while the guys they got in return struggle across the majors and minors. The simple thing to do is make rash judgements that all the trades were losses by the Marlins, but that’s simply not true. As we stand today, I believe this team’s farm system is in the best place it’s been in team history. While I say that knowing they’ve had a former elite core come through the system together, this current group is building for a consistent future.

They have put together a stable of top flight arms across every level of the minor leagues, like Zac Gallen in New Orleans or Edward Cabrera in Jupiter. They have elite prospects at the cusp of being MLB assets in Isan Diaz and Monte Harrison. They’ve taken the last two drafts and stocked a barren system with upside and potential one year and proven power the next. “Sticking to the plan” is something I’ve been saying a lot lately with this team because, even for the last 18-20 months, it’s something brand new for this franchise.

Today, in my debut article here on Swings and Mishes, I’ll break down the different levels of the minor leagues and how those teams are performing three months into the MiLB season (with stats as of Monday, June 10).

Clinton Lumberkings (A Full) — Record: 30-30

Clinton came into the 2019 season as a brand new affiliate for the Miami Marlins and filled with lofty expectations. They’re an extremely talented roster that boasts two of the top Marlins draft picks in 2018 in Connor Scott and Will Banfield. I would include another top pick in Osiris Johnson, but unfortunately he’s missing the 2019 season due to surgery for a stress fracture in his leg. The young kids are likely to get a full year in Iowa, and results are *slowly* starting to show after a tough start with the bat for both Scott and Banfield.

Last 30 Days

  • Will Banfield: .253/.286/.394, 3 HR, 5 2B, 19 RBI, 4/28 BB/K
  • Connor Scott:  .245/.300/.363, 2 HR, 2 2B, 2 3B, 6 SBs, 8/26 BB/K

The real gems on the offensive side of things to start the year are Jerar Encarnacion (.302/.375/.477, 8 HR and 41 RBI) and Bubba Hollins (.305/.377/.432); a couple of names who probably aren’t on your prospect radar but are playing the best baseball of the young careers and are possible candidates for promotion in the near future. The last thing I’d like to touch on with Clinton is two of their pitchers from the Marlins’ 2018 draft class. A 5th rounder and a 29th rounder — Chris Vallimont and C.J Carter — are pitching their tails off in their respective roles.

  • Vallimont, SP: 63.1 IP, 2.98 ERA, 73 Ks, 25 BB
  • Carter, RP (who throws submarine): 28.2 IP, 2.51 ERA, 3 Saves, 34 Ks, 7 BB

Both guys again are playing some of the best baseball of their career to start the season. In fact, Vallimont has looked like a completely different pitcher in 2019 already striking out triple the amount of guys he did in 2018, and we’re just in June.

Jupiter Hammerheads (A Advanced) — Record: 18-41

Coming into the season, I had the highest hopes for this roster. It features 10 of Baseball America’s Top 30 Marlins prospects, including 2 high profile arms coming off Tommy John surgery in Braxton Garrett and Jordan Holloway. Plus, they have Cuban sensation Victor Victor Mesa. I believe it’s the most loaded roster the Marlins have in the minors leagues currently, even with the “win-loss” columns looking the way they do. Running with a quality rotation, the Hammerheads can put a top Marlins pitching prospect on the mound every night, and they have not disappointed.

  • Edward Cabrera: 47.2 IP, 2.27 ERA, 60 Ks, 16 BB (2019 FSL All Star)
  • Jordan Holloway: 44.2 IP, 2.62 ERA, 51 Ks, 30 BB (2019 FSL All Star)
  • Trevor Rogers: 56.2 IP, 3.34 ERA, 56 Ks, 17 BB
  • Braxton Garrett: 46.1 IP, 3.30 ERA, 59 Ks, 19 BB

There has been one glaring problem — the offense has offered zero support through the first three months of the season. As a team, they are hitting .218/.286/.308. That is not what you want to see from a lineup that includes the aforementioned Mesa, Jose Devers, James Nelson, amongst others. I will point out, Jose Devers is having a career year to this point (sans a few IL stints). He’s batting .325/.385/.366 with 5 steals and strikeout percentage under 15%. I do believe one of the biggest blows to the lineup was losing Tristan Pompey in the first week of the season to an apparent injury. His bat is special and truly missed in the lineup. Overall, I think this team will close the season strong due to the strong backbone of pitching. Plus, hopefully, some new guys named Bleday and Misner will be patrolling the outfield in the near future, but that’s something my colleague Luis Davila will tell you more about.

Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (AA) — Record: 24-38

When this roster for Jacksonville was first announced, I was ecstatic. For the first time in a while, it seemed like players were where they were supposed to be. Magneuris Sierra, who’s career has been criminally rushed coming into the year, is the leading off the lineup. It was a sight for sore eyes, and clearly a benefit to his production. So far in 2019, he’s been on fire and just earned a promotion to AAA.

  • Across 2 levels, Sierra: .288/.336/.356, 8 2Bs, 2 3Bs, 11 SBs, and he’s posting the best BB% and K% since Rookie ball

Those are exciting numbers from a guy who truly has 70 grade speed with quality defense. As I say that, the majority of the rest of the lineup has been underwhelming. Joe Dunand and Bryson Brigman haven’t been able to really get it going yet, and Justin Twine blazed to open the year But has slowly came back to earth. An unfortunate but common theme across Jupiter and Jacksonville has been a lack of offensive firepower. There are some bright spots, however, including the best prospect in the Marlins organization, Sixto Sanchéz, flamethrower Jorge Guzman, and the rest of the rotation, who all boast an ERA under 4.

  • Sixto Sanchéz: 5 G, 26.1 IP, 3.42 ERA, 25 Ks, 5 BB
  • Robert Dugger: 12 G, 65.2 IP, 3.29 ERA, 68 Ks, 19 BB  
  • Cody Poteet: 10 G, 60.2 IP, 2.67 ERA, 37 Ks, 13 BB
  • Jordan Yamamoto: 12 G, 65.1 IP, 3.58 ERA, 64 Ks, 25 BB
  • Jorge Guzman: 12 G, 66.1 IP, 3.93 ERA, 57 Ks, 36 BB

I think you can eventually manufacture some runs, but if this rotation keeps pitching close to this level, they are going to keep themselves in any game.

New Orleans Baby Cakes (AAA) — Record: 35-28

So far in 2019, New Orleans has been the gem of the Marlins farm. Juiced baseballs or not, Zac Gallen has been incredible. I was able to catch his last outing in Spring Training where he started and shut down the Opening Day Cardinals lineup. He took that strong spring and flipped it into an absolute dominant summer. With quality starts in 11 of his 12 outings, he’s going at 5.2 innings in every game. Check out these numbers:

  • Zac Gallen: 81.0 IP/ 1.67 ERA/ 0.69 WHIP/ 99 Ks/ 15 BB

Those aren’t normal stats, guys. He leads the PCL in innings pitched. He also leads in ERA by nearly a full run, all while baseballs are leaving the yard at the highest pace in history. Appearing on the Swings and Mishes podcast early on in the year seemed like a good move for Zac.

While I could talk about Gallen all day, another pitcher was dominant for NOLA early on. The Marlins’ Rule 5 pick last year, Elieser Hernandez, dealt with some growing pains last year on the big league club, but the 24-year-old looked magical in his AAA time this season.

  • Elieser Hernandez: 9 G/ 48.0 IP/ 1.13 ERA/ 69 Ks/ 14 BB/ 1.02 WHIP (prior to his call-up)

Again, in the PCL, those numbers for both are highly unlikely in today’s day and age. With that being said, let’s talk about the damage being done on the offense side on Bourbon Street. Austin Dean and Harold Ramirez were putting together career years before being called up. Lewis Brinson is getting needed time to right the ship. He already has as many walks as he had in 2018 in 70 plus less games.

Isan Diaz and (currently injured) Monte Harrison are putting it all together. Diaz started the year pretty slow — at one point he had the lowest average on the roster — but since then, he went on a tear. My personal favorite prospect in the system has found his power in a big way in 2019, homering in 5 straight games during one stretch and now sitting with 14 homers on the year. One thing is take into account is something Craig tweeted this week: all of Diaz’ home runs have come off right handers, until Saturday Night.

Harrison has carried a re-tooled swing and strong Arizona fall league performance into a hot start to 2019. Prior to his cautionary IL stint, right now, his look is looking quite nice.

  • Monte Harrison: .288/.386/.472, 7 HRs/ 5 2Bs/ 2 3Bs/ 19 SBs/ 12.2 BB% (highest since Rookie ball)

Those numbers will definitely play. Anytime. Anywhere. Harold has clearly carried his early success into a great start in the MLB. We can hope the same is next for the likes of Gallen, Diaz and Harrison.

Overall, this farm system excites me. Deep pitching is something no long-term Marlins fan is used to. It’s a wonderful sight. The word “peanuts” is thrown around with a lot of the new prospects that have came in the organization via trade, and that take is starting to become a bit comical. This team is building a new/old guide to sustaining success. If I end up being wrong, so be it, but these kids have an extremely bright future ahead and Marlins fans are lucky to see them come up through the Marlins system.

 

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