Barry Jackson

Jeter is raving about this Marlins player, while encouraging signs continue on the farm

Brian Anderson, hitting this week against San Francisco, is hitting .311 and impressed new owner Derek Jeter.
Brian Anderson, hitting this week against San Francisco, is hitting .311 and impressed new owner Derek Jeter.

A six-pack of Marlins notes on a Wednesday:

Beyond overall player development, one of the priorities this season needs to be identifying players who can be long-term pieces — players who will be in the lineup or starting rotation when the Marlins are ready to win again.

Brian Anderson is near the top of that list, after catcher J.T. Realmuto (if he isn’t traded).

Anderson has thrived at third base and right field, hit for average (.311), driven in 32 runs, performed exceptionally with runners in scoring position (.417) and gone about his work diligently. And impressed owner Derek Jeter along the way.

“He's doing a tremendous job,” Jeter said. “Trust me when I say this because I played infield. It's not easy just to go out there and play in the outfield. I used to be someone that thought the outfield was easy. You go out there and try to catch fly balls. It's not easy. It's not an easy adjustment. He's done a great job of that.

“Offensively, he's made adjustments throughout the season. He continues to get better. He has great at-bats. He has probably been one of our most clutch hitters we had all season. I like what I've seen from Brian. He's done a great job."

Anderson spoke about his two hits and the Marlins’ performance against the Chicago Cubs on Opening Day.

Michael Hill, the Marlins’ president/baseball operations, expects the two Marlins’ first-round picks who had Tommy John surgery to pitch again this season, but no time soon.

Tyler Kolek, who is 4-13 with a 5.23 ERA since being drafted second overall in 2014, missed 2016 and most of 2017 after Tommy John surgery and hasn’t pitched this season because of shoulder tendinitis.

“We will see him [this year],” Hill said. “He’s still working his way back. We should see him by the end of the summer.”

Since 2015, Kolek has pitched only 3 2/3 innings, allowing 12 runs.

As for left-hander Braxton Garrett, the seventh overall pick in 2016 remains out after Tommy John surgery nearly a year ago, just four games into his career.

Mattingly talks about the progression of third baseman prospect Brian Anderson, who played in the majors for the first time last season.

“He was a little behind with his rehab,” Hill said. “It will probably be near the end of the regular season” before he pitches again.

Of the 41 Marlins’ selections in last week’s draft, 33 were college players. The team did not select a high school pitcher until the 30th round (left-hander Garrett McDaniels, committed to Coastal Carolina), the longest the franchise has ever gone before drafting one.

And three college players chosen in early rounds by the Marlins in last year’s draft are flashing considerable promise.

Center fielder Brian Miller, selected 36th overall out of North Carolina, is hitting .328 at Class at Jupiter, with 12 doubles, 28 RBI and 19 for 25 in steals.

Shortstop Joe Dunand, selected in the second round out of North Carolina State, is hitting .260 with seven homers in 41 RBI.

And pitcher Ryan Lillie, selected in the fifth round out of UC Riverside, is 5-1 with a 2.47 ERA at Class A Greensboro.

“When we drafted Lillie, we thought he was a low-90s fastball starter,” Hill said. “[But] we see mid- to upper-90s with him. He was a feel guy who has continued to develop [velocity].”

Hill cites those three players, among others, in making the case that national publications had underestimated the Marlins’ farm system before this past winter’s trades.

“We added a lot of players via trade obviously, but there were still a lot of really good players on display,” Hill said. “Yes, we lacked overall depth, but the cupboard was not as barren as people led to believe. There was a lot of talent in our system that is going to allow us to maintain and create that sustainability to allow us to compete year in and year out.”

Pitcher Pablo Lopez, one of four players acquired in last July’s trade with Seattle for David Phelps, continues to rank among minor league baseball’s leaders in ERA (0.91).

Lopez, 22, has allowed 45 baserunners in 49 2/3 innings while striking out 55. Batters are hitting .193 off him. He hasn’t gotten much run support, which explains the 2-2 record.

He made eight starts at Double A Jacksonville and allowed two earned runs in six innings in his first start at Triple A New Orleans last week.

“He's what we thought he was,” Hill said. “When we made that deal, we felt Pablo was a big part of that. You are talking about a physical, durable young man who was pitching at High A last year. We have seen him in the mid-, upper-90s with command of three pitches. And tremendous poise for his age. We knew that from scouting reports but didn't get to see it on display until we saw it in major league spring training. It’s tremendous to see him take advantage of this opportunity.”

Here’s how ESPN’s Keith Law assessed the Marlins’ draft on ESPN.com:

“The Marlins' draft was pretty athletic overall, starting with two very good athletes in Connor Scott (1) and Osiris Johnson (2). Scott, from Plant High School near Tampa, was very good when healthy this spring, showing plus speed, good defense in center and a rotational swing with great hand acceleration. He's also extremely projectable, 6-foot-4 but listed at 180, with obvious room to fill out. Johnson isn't staying at shortstop for long but is a very good athlete and has quick, loose hands at the plate with a potential plus hit tool that might require some patience from the Marlins' player development staff.

"Will Banfield (3) was one of the top prep catchers in the class, possessing more power than hit at the plate and is a solid athlete for a backstop with plus arm strength. Tristan Pompey (4) is an above-average runner with plate discipline and power, but he played left field for Kentucky because he's a well below-average defender in spite of the athleticism.

"Ole Miss catcher Nick Fortes (5) had a breakout junior year, hitting .320/.435/.527 while going from zero steals to 14 and from five homers to 11 and drawing almost twice as many walks as strikeouts. He's a below-average defender who has arm strength, but even if he's a once-a-week catcher, he might have value as a bench guy who can pinch hit and play first or left field. Viscount Chris Vallimont (6), from Division 2 Mercyhurst, is 92-96 with a plus curveball, striking out a hilarious 47 percent of batters he faced as a starter this year. The 6-foot-5 right-hander doesn't have average command and might end up in relief, but I'd send him out as a starter.

"Cameron Barstad (7) — please type that carefully, everyone — comes from Junipero Serra HS, alma mater of Barry Bonds and Tom Brady. He's a left-handed-hitting catcher with a quick release and good hip rotation in his swing but a major overstride that leaves him hitting uphill.”

Jeff Conine could only stay for the first day of the Marlins’ three-day alumni weekend because he wanted to see his son, Griffin, play the outfield for Duke in the Blue Devils’ super regional series against Texas Tech.

But Conine had no qualms about returning, even amid any awkwardness resulting from his departure from the team’s front office under new ownership. (Conine last winter declined an offer to stay with the Marlins with a substantial cut in salary and responsibilities).

“It’s all about the fans and teammates,” he said of his decision to return last week.

Conine said the Mr. Marlin nickname is important to him. “It means a lot to me,” he said. “When people first started calling me that, it was corny at first. But I’ve grown to love it.”

He noted his son, picked 52nd by the Toronto Blue Jays, was selected “1,153 places before me.”

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