Of all the glimpses into their potential future the Marlins have caught this spring, JT Riddle may have witnessed one of the most impressive firsthand.
Riddle recently faced highly-touted pitching prospect Jorge Guzman as fastballs sped past him at times over 100 mph.
"It was coming out hot," Riddle said. "Dusty [Marlins trainer Dustin Luepker] came over and told me, ‘It was 102 [mph].’ He was good."
The Marlins acquired Guzman, rated the Marlins’ No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline, along with starting second baseman Starlin Castro and shortstop prospect Jose Devers in the trade with the New York Yankees for Giancarlo Stanton over the winter.
With a fastball clocked as high as 105 mph – similar to the fastest ever thrown by Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman - and consistently between 97 and 103 mph, the expectation is Guzman, 22, could become a top of the rotation starter or even an elite closer.
"He’s an impressive looking kid," Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. "Obviously, you see the velocity and the body and this guy profiles as someone who could be a guy at the top of your rotation with that kind of stuff. But you’ve seen the maturity too as far as his pitches. His changeup and his breaking ball are coming."
Listed at 6-2, 182 pounds, Guzman began pitching in the Dominican Republic at age 13 and was hitting 99-100 mph on his pitches by the time he turned 18 when he signed with the Houston Astros.
The key will be developing consistent command of that powerful fastball and developing that arsenal of secondary pitches that includes a wipeout slider, which has shown above average results so far and the breaking ball and changeup, which Guzman said he has been working on throughout the spring.
"We’ve been working hard on my command and really working hard to develop that," said Guzman, who said he grew up idolizing the late Yordano Ventura. "I’ve been trying to throw more strikes with my changeup and working on that daily."
If all goes well this season, Guzman could see major-league action as early as next season. Guzman is expected to start this season at Single-A Jupiter but could rise quickly to Double-A if he impresses much as he has in minor-league camp this spring.
Guzman pitched 66 2/3 innings last year for the Yankees’ Single-A affiliate in the New York-Penn League, going 5-3 in 13 starts with a 2.30 ERA, 88 strikeouts and 18 walks, averaging 11.88 strikeouts per nine innings.
"We had a pretty good feel for him when we made the trade and he’s come as advertised," Marlins President of Baseball Operations Michael Hill said. "We got to have him in our ‘Captain’s Camp’ so we go to know the individual and he’s a very respectful kid.
"He’s blessed with a powerful right arm. It’s an explosive fastball. The slider and the changeup are both pitches that are a lot further along than some of our reports said so that’s a good thing."
With Dan Straily still not throwing due to mild right forearm inflammation, it’s not yet known who will make the four starts after Jose Ureña pitches on Opening Day.
The most likely options are lefty Caleb Smith, righties Odrisamer Despaigne and Jacob Turner and possibly lefty Justin Nicolino with one of them transitioning to the bullpen upon Straily’s return.
Elieser Hernandez won’t be one of them since he won’t have time to build up his innings prior to Opening Day. Hernandez will throw a bullpen session Saturday, marking his first time on a mound since March 11 shortly before having a wisdom tooth extracted.
Ureña threw in a minor league game Friday against the Astros in his final outing of the spring. He threw six innings and allowed two earned runs on four hits, walked three and struck out six on 88 pitches.
Ureña, who battled just to earn a spot on the roster a year ago, is concentrating on the entire season instead of focusing on his initial outing Thursday at Marlins Park against the Chicago Cubs.
"Everything was working fine, good movement and working well," Ureña said. "I’m not just getting ready for the Cubs, but everybody I’m going to face out there this year."
▪ Outfielder Cameron Maybin, a late scratch Thursday with hip tightness, participated fully in workouts Friday and is slated to return to the lineup Saturday.
Saturday: Marlins RHP Trevor Richards vs. Washington Nationals RHP Max Scherzer, 1:05 p.m., West Palm Beach.
Sunday (split squad): Marlins RHP Odrisamer Despaigne vs. Houston Astros LHP Dallas Keuchel, 1:05 p.m., Jupiter; Marlins RHP Tyler Cloyd vs. New York Mets LHP Steven Matz, 1:10 p.m., Port St. Lucie.