No team experienced a steeper drop in experience and offensive firepower in their outfield than the Marlins after trading Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna in a matter of weeks.
Since then there have been some glimmers of hope like the emergence of Brian Anderson as a dependable right fielder and Rookie of the Year candidate.
And plenty of growing pains like center fielder Lewis Brinson’s well-documented struggle at the plate.
A look at the Marlins’ farm system shows a brighter picture for the future of the team’s outfield.
Matching the talent level of those three departed All-Stars remains a daunting task.
But while the team has seen glimpses of their organizational pitching depth this season with Sandy Alcantara and Pablo Lopez, the deepest unit among the Marlins’ position player prospects may be their outfielders.
The team’s top three prospects according to Baseball America – Monte Harrison, Connor Scott and Brian Miller – are all outfielders.
▪ Harrison, rated the team’s No. 1 overall prospect by MLB Pipeline, came over in the Yelich trade with the Milwaukee Brewers along with Brinson, second base prospect Isan Diaz and prospect pitcher Jordan Yamamoto.
Harrison is slashing .238/.319/.389 and striking out at a worrisome rate (163 strikeouts in 386 at-bats). But his raw power (13 home runs) and speed (22 stolen bases) continue to show his potential as he nears completion of his first season with the organization at Double A Jacksonville.
Harrison turns 23 on August 10th and is likely still a year away from getting a major-league opportunity. If he can continue to cut down on pitch selection and chase fewer pitches out of the strike zone, Harrison has the potential to become a power-hitting and stellar defensive center fielder for years to come.
▪ Scott was the Marlins’ first-round pick in this year’s draft in June. Scott, a 6-4, 180-pound lefty comes highly-regarded for his speed both in the outfield and on the base paths with gap-to-gap power. He’s off to a slow start in the Gulf Coast League (rookie ball) so far hitting only .194 in his first 67 at-bats. If his bat comes along quickly, Scott could rise through the ranks and follow in the footsteps of other recent Tampa Plant High prospects such as Kyle Tucker.
▪ Miller (rated No. 11 by MLB Pipeline) has been one of the most consistent hitters in the organization this year. The 22-year old lefty hitter who starred at the University of North Carolina, could be a top of the order run producer in the future. Miller is a good line drive hitter with some power and definite speed.
Miller, a center fielder, hit .324 with 13 doubles and 29 RBI in 256 at-bats at Single A Jupiter, earning him a promotion to Jacksonville he’s remained consistent (.274). Miller has 28 combined stolen bases and could get a chance at the majors in the next year or two if he continues to progress.
▪ Magneuris Sierra, the Marlins’ No. 15 prospect per MLB Pipeline, made his first major-league start with the club Tuesday and became the eighth player they have used in the outfield this season surpassing the total of seven they used all of last year.
Sierra, another lefty bat, has potential elite speed on the bases, but needs to find ways to get on base more by drawing walks, bunting and developing his approach at the plate. At Triple A New Orleans, Sierra hit .260 with 12 doubles, two home runs, five triples and scored 48 runs in 346 at-bats.
▪ Tristan Pompey, a 6-4, 200-pound potential corner outfielder was the club’s third-round pick in June out of the University of Kentucky. Pompey was quickly promoted from rookie ball to low Single A Greensboro where he’s hitting .277 with two homers and seven RBI in 17 games. Pompey played both right and left field in college and could project as left fielder eventually.
▪ Thomas Jones, rated No. 20 overall by MLB Pipeline, was a third-round pick of the Marlins in 2016 and at 6-4, 195 pounds fits the same profile of athletic players the club’s new regime continues to target. A 20 year-old right-handed hitter, Jones has shown power with eight home runs and 12 doubles at Single A Greensboro, but needs to cut down on his strikeout rate (104 in 274 at-bats).
▪ Austin Dean has been in the system for some time being a fourth-round pick in 2012. But Dean has had a great year in the minors, hitting .420 at Double A and .300 since being moved up to Triple A. Dean, a 24-year old righty who converted to outfield once he turned pro, has 32 multi-hit games in 96 games combined in the minors this year.
▪ Brayan Hernandez, the club’s No. 27 overall prospect acquired along with Pablo Lopez in the trade with the Seattle Mariners last year for David Phelps is playing at short-season Single-A Batavia, but has shown high upside.
▪ Davis Bradshaw, an 11th round pick out of Meridian CC in Mississippi in this year’s draft is slashing .353/.431/.549 in 15 games in the GCL with four doubles and three triples.
▪ Milton Smith, Jr., a 22nd round pick this year also from Meridian CC, has drawn comparisons to Juan Pierre and was hitting .375 in 56 at bats combined between the GCL and Jupiter. before getting injured.
▪ Jerar Encarnacion, a 2015 international signing out of the Dominican Republic, is hitting .313 at Batavia this year. Encarnacion, 20, is 6-4, 220, 20 years old and bats right-handed.
THE BIG THREE
Among the Marlins’ former star outfield, only Yelich continues to have a better statistical season than he did a year ago.
Yelich, who earned his first All-Star nod and hit a home run in the game on July 17th, is slashing .317/.384/.520 with a .904 OPS, 14 home runs and 54 RBI through his first 90 games this season. Last year, Yelich was hitting .282/.359/.411 with a .761 OPS, nine homers and 45 RBI through 90 games.
Stanton is hitting more for average (.281) through his first 100 games of this season as opposed to last year (.274). But after a slow start, Stanton has yet to heat up like he did last summer with 23 home runs and 61 RBI in 391 at-bats so far for the Yankees. That’s fewer than his 33 homers and 71 RBI in 376 at-bats a year ago for the Marlins.
The Yankees will rely a little more on Stanton in the coming weeks with Aaron Judge on the disabled list with a right wrist fracture.
Ozuna has had the toughest season of the three, slashing .264/.308/.372 with a .680 OPS in 387 at-bats through his first 99 games with the Cardinals. Last year through 99 games, Ozuna was hitting .315/.371/.557 with a .929 OPS, 23 home runs and 77 RBI in 384 at-bats.
Ozuna has not homered in his past 35 games and is hitting .216 during that stretch.