The Marlins’ vice president of player development and scouting Gary Denbo reiterated once the recent draft ended what type of pitcher the club has been looking to acquire in recent months whether through trades or the draft.
“We value strike-throwers, guys that miss bats and guys that create weak contact and are athletic on the mound with quality repeatable deliveries, guys that can split a breaking ball and have pitchability,” Denbo said on June 7.
The Marlins have begun to see those profiles developing in several pitchers acquired during the past year and even in some that were already in the system since last year’s draft who have been working with the club’s new development staff.
Here’s a look:
▪ Jorge Guzman: The hard-throwing right-hander acquired in the trade for Giancarlo Stanton with the Yankees struggled early this season with his command of that plus-100 mph fastball.
But after some mechanical adjustments to his delivery, Guzman appears to be improving his overall arsenal as he has compiled a 1.91 ERA in nine starts at Single A Jupiter.
“He kind of got out of whack his first start [in April],” said Kevin Randel, the manager of the Jupiter Hammerheads. “He came right out throwing 101 and 102 about five pitches to the first hitter of the game. It was another learning experience, and we talked about it. He’s going to try and establish the fastball and establish it in the zone. He’s going to have those experiences, and that’s what you need at this level.”
Guzman, rated the No. 3 prospect in the Marlins’ organization by MLBPipeline, has steadily improved that walk to strikeout ratio with more experience.
In three of his past four starts, Guzman has thrown five or more shutout innings, and allowed three earned runs overall in his past 22 2/3 innings. Over that span, Guzman has struck out 21 and walked 10.
“There’s some intensity on the mound when he pitches,” Randel said. “Big power arm, but he’s still raw in that aspect. He’s developing the changeup and the slider and the command with both and that all just comes with getting his innings.”
▪ Sandy Alcantara: The crown jewel for the Marlins in the Marcell Ozuna trade with the St. Louis Cardinals has begun consistently pitching deep into his starts at Triple A New Orleans. Alcantara, the Marlins’ top pitching prospect (No. 2 overall), is 5-2 with a 3.76 ERA in 13 starts (79 innings) and has pitched into the sixth inning in each of his past six starts. Four of those have lasted seven or more innings as Alcantara has struck out 24 and walked 13 during that span.
The Marlins figure to remain patient with Alcantara as he develops more command on the mound, but a call up at some point this season is very likely.
▪ Pablo Lopez: Despite missing all of 2014 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, a healthy Lopez is making a quick rise through the ranks this season and appears to be a candidate for a major-league call-up later this season. Lopez, who was traded to the Marlins in the David Phelps deal with the Seattle Mariners last year, compiled an impressive 0.62 ERA in eight starts (43 2/3 innings) at Double A Jacksonville before being moved up to Triple A New Orleans earlier this month.
Lopez, a 22-year old right-hander ranked No. 21 in the Marlins’ system, has since made two starts and gone 1-1 with a 3.27 ERA with nine strikeouts and just two walks.
“He’s a big physical starting pitcher,” Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. “We had done our homework on him, but until we got him in camp, we really hadn’t seen this guy is pretty special in the sense of his poise and maturity. He’s another one who’s young but seems wise beyond his years in the sense of his preparation and how he goes about his business every day.”
▪ Nick Neidert: Acquired in the trade with Seattle last December for Dee Gordon, Neidert pitched in spring training and has had a strong season at Double A Jacksonville going 6-4 with a 3.16 ERA in 13 starts (68 1/3 innings). Neidert, the Marlins’ No. 8 prospect per MLB.com, has shown improved command with 77 strikeouts and only 17 walks.
▪ Merandy Gonzalez: Got a call-up to the major-league club during the weekend in Baltimore with Marlins starter Caleb Smith on the bereavement list. Gonzalez, who the Marlins sent back to Jacksonville on Monday to continue to develop as a starter, pitched 4 1/3 innings on Sunday against the Orioles and gave up four runs on five hits (including a pair of homers to Jace Peterson and Mark Trumbo) with five strikeouts and a walk.
"It was a good experience because here's where you want to be," said Gonzalez, who recently overcame a fingernail injury that sidelined him for nearly three weeks. "I feel like my changeup has become more effective as well as my curveball and sinker are both coming along."
▪ Robert Dugger: Also part of the Dee Gordon trade, Dugger made seven starts in Jupiter, going 3-1 with a 2.40 ERA with 34 strikeouts and seven walks before recently getting promoted to Jacksonville. Since then, Dugger has pitched 27 innings and struck out 24 with 11 walks.
“I’m working on locating my pitches and keeping hitters off balance and initiating weak contact get ground balls and fly balls to give my team a chance,” Dugger said in an interview while at Jupiter. “I’m just trying to be more efficient. I’ve had problems getting too deep in counts. I just have to go right at guys.”
▪ Jordan Yamamoto: Acquired in the Christian Yelich trade with the Brewers along with Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison and Isan Diaz, Yamamoto has pitched well in four starts at Jupiter (2-0, 2.18 ERA) since being activated from the disabled list. Yamamoto has been regarded for a high spin rate on his fastball, which he has complemented well with a solid breaking ball.
▪ Edward Cabrera: Hill was impressed with this 20-year old righty the Marlins signed in 2015 from the Dominican Republic. In 63 1/3 innings at Single A Greensboro, Cabrera has compiled a 3.27 ERA with 45 strikeouts and 23 walks. Cabrera (6-4, 175 pounds) is ranked No. 11 among the Marlins’ top prospects by MLB.com and could be on track for a 2020 major-league debut.
▪ Ryan Lillie: A fifth-round pick in the 2017 draft out of UC Riverside, and a converted catcher, Lillie could prove to be a surprise in the Marlins’ system. Lillie, 22, was chosen to start in the upcoming South Atlantic League All-Star Game after going 6-1 with a 2.27 ERA in 13 starts (75 1/3 innings) and compiling 73 strikeouts and 10 walks for Greensboro, North Carolina.
▪ Trevor Rogers: The Marlins’ 2017 first-round pick is being brought along slowly in his first action at Greensboro. Rogers has yet to pitch more than four innings in any of his first five starts, striking out 19 and walking six despite allowing 14 earned runs in 17 1/3 innings (7.27 ERA).