So what are the Marlins getting with the position player prospects snagged in five trades this offseason?
Some perspective from talent evaluators:
▪ Outfielder Lewis Brinson, acquired in the Christian Yelich deal with Milwaukee. Rated MLB’s No. 13 overall prospect. Hit .106 in 21 games for the Brewers last year (5 for 47, 17 strikeouts) but batted .331, 13 homers, and 48 RBI in Triple A last season. Front-runner to start in center field for Marlins this season.
ESPN.com’s Keith Law: “Plus-plus defender in center with great bat speed and big raw power, with staying healthy his main problem so far in pro ball. He should be able to step in immediately to play center in Miami, which would also allow the Marlins to send Magneuris Sierra to the minors to continue developing as a hitter. Brinson’s swing can get long, and he’s going to strike out at a fairly high rate, but the ball comes off his bat extremely well and I think he’ll more than make up for the whiffs with extra-base power.”
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Fangraph’s Eric Longenhagen: “Brinson has loud physical tools: plus raw power, plus speed, plus arm strength, and the ability to play center field despite mediocre instincts. He didn’t hit for as much power as was expected at hitter-friendly Colorado Springs in 2017, but scouting reports on the raw power, and Brinson’s ability to get to it in games, remain strong. …
“Brinson has 25-homer potential. He has had several soft-tissue, lower-body injuries during his career, including multiple hamstring issues, one of which ended his 2017 season. He’s still a plus runner underway but doesn’t reach top speed as quickly as he once did. Should Brinson need to move to an outfield corner, he still projects to hit enough to play every day, but it would limit his value’s ceiling due to positional adjustment. … He projects as a plus regular and potential All-Star on talent.
“Some scouts are turned off by Brinson’s tentative routes in center field and think he needs to retain his plus speed if he hopes to be an average defender there; if he continues to have issues staying healthy that may not be possible. Should Brinson need to move to an outfield corner, he still projects to hit enough to play every day, but it would limit his value’s ceiling due to positional adjustment.”
▪ Outfielder Monte Harrison, acquired in Yelich deal with Milwaukee. Hit .272 with 21 homers, 27 steals and 67 RBI in two levels of A ball last season. Probably a year or two away.
Law: Harrison “had a breakout season as a prospect in low-A and high-A last year, shortening his swing to make better quality contact and more of it. He’s a plus runner who can play all three outfield spots, and has the power for a corner [outfielder], with 21 homers last year, setting a new career high.
“His baseball instincts still aren’t great, as he was a football recruit to the University of Nebraska after starring in multiple sports in high school, so there may be further growth to come and there’s still some risk that he doesn’t get to enough of his power because of the strikeouts.”
Logenhagen: “Harrison has always had late-bloomer traits. He was a multi-sport stud in high school and only committed to baseball full time after turning pro. In parts of three pro seasons entering 2017, Harrison missed time with a hamate fracture and broken leg, which prevented him from getting the reps he needed and diluted the way his tools looked on the field when he was.
“Harrison’s hands still drift up near his head as he loads them and create a downward swing path; he’s also still not used to timing breaking balls with this new leg kick. He remains strikeout prone because of this.
“Harrison is a plus runner with elite arm strength and projects to stay in center field, where he profiles as an above-average defender. There’s still some volatility here because of the bat, but Harrison has an All-Star ceiling and seems hell bent on attaining it.”
▪ Second baseman/shortstop Isan Diaz, acquired in the Yelich deal. MLB’s No. 86 overall prospect, Diaz is a .261 hitter in four minor league seasons but batted just .222 (with 13 homers, 54 RBI) in advanced A ball last season. At least a year away, if not longer.
Law: “Diaz’s year was disappointing after he slugged .469 and hit 20 homers in low-A in 2016, although he played with a hamate injury for part of 2017, eventually having surgery to repair a fracture at the end of August. He has played shortstop in pro ball but he’s not a regular there, with much better defense at second base and the power to profile there. He did play much better in the Pan Am 23U qualifiers in November, showing glimpses of power again, and the Marlins may have done well to acquire him now while his value was temporarily low.”
Logenhagen: “He is strike prone, a result of middling breaking-ball recognition, bat control, and a somewhat violent uppercut swing. Diaz continued a long anticipated transition from shortstop to second base in 2017 and saw more time at second than short for the first time in his career.
“He has an above-average arm but fringy hands and range. Diaz’s combination of power, patience and ability to play an up-the-middle position, even if he’s only average there, give him star potential despite likely issues with contact. He’s a bit risky because the hit tool isn’t in place but projects as an above-average regular and potential All-Star.”
▪ Shortstop Jose Devers, acquired in the Giancarlo Stanton trade with the Yankees: A left-handed hitter, he batted .245 with one homer, nine doubles, three triples, 16 RBI and 16 steals in 19 attempts, plus 12 errors, in 53 games in rookie league, his only season in the minors. Likely at least two years away.
American League scout: “Devers is going to be a superstar. He reminds me of a smaller Tony Fernandez. His instincts are great. The impact he puts on the ball is surprising considering he’s 150 pounds. I think he will stay at shortstop and stay there for many years.”
Sirius XM’s Jim Bowden also agrees Devers will stay at shortstop and likes his “high offensive potential.”
But Law projects Devers “more likely at second than short, with some speed, but doesn’t flash or project to any above-average abilities at the plate. He’s just young, having turned 18 [on Dec. 7], but that’s his best attribute.”
Baseball America’s Jim Callis: “More of a defensive-minded shortstop. Solid runner. Contact hitter.”
Marlins vice president of scouting/player development Gary Denbo: “He’s 18 years old, but he has a body that looks like is going to be a major-league player. He has a great swing that we think … eventually will provide us an everyday major-league shortstop.”
▪ Outfielder Magneuris Sierra, acquired in the Marcell Ozuna trade with the Cardinals: Left-handed hitter batted .270 with 21 doubles, seven triples, one homer, 44 RBI and 20 steals in 30 attempts in Single A and Double A last year, then hit .317 (19 hits, all singles) in 22 games for the Cardinals. Could start in the Marlins outfield opening day or open the season in Triple A.
Law: “He’s a potentially game-changing defender in center with plus speed and good contact rates, unlikely to ever hit for power but otherwise a potential everyday player. His chance to become more than that depends more on his willingness to work the count; he puts the ball in play often, but rarely runs deep counts and thus never walks, which severely limits his [on base percentage] and thus his leadoff potential.”
Denbo: “We’re certainly going to take a good look at him as he comes into spring training this year. He definitely has the skill set to compete for a starting position at the major league level.”
Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill: “We love to tool package, the speed element. An above average defensive player, above average arm. Top of the lineup type of bat. At spacious Marlins Park, [he has an] an ability to cover ground and control the running game with his arm strength.”
▪ Infielder Christopher Torres, acquired in the Dee Gordon trade with Seattle: Switch-hitting second baseman/shortstop hit .238 with six homers, eight doubles, eight triples, 23 RBI, 14 for 17 steals in rookie league and A ball. Only 19; has 61 errors in three seasons. Likely years away.
Law: “A true shortstop who made modest progress at the plate last year but doesn’t project to make much impact with the bat and is probably a bottom-third sort of hitter if he pans out.”
Bowden: “Solid bat to ball skills with solid to above [average] defense.”
▪ First baseman Garrett Cooper, acquired from the Yankees in a trade involving primarily prospects: The right-handed hitter hit .326 with six RBI in 45 Yankees plate appearances this past season (his first big-league experience) after batting .359 with 18 homers and 84 RBI in 83 games in the upper minors in 2017. Figures to back up Justin Bour and occasionally play against lefties.
American League scout: “His swing is improved and I think he’s going to hit. Doesn’t stand out defensively but adequate.”
Denbo: “He has long arms and long legs. From my experience as a hitting coach, those guys sometimes take longer before the power emerges in their swing. Sometimes those types are late bloomers. We hope that the power that he showed over the course of last season continues to emerge and he’s an option for us at first base for the 2018 season.”
We’ll explore pitching prospects acquired in a column later this week.