Much of this Marlins season – both at the major- and minor-league levels – is about starting to get a read on which young players could be here when the team is ready to win.
So what have the Marlins learned?
A respected big-league scout who has evaluated every significant player in the Marlins organization this season offered insight, given on condition of anonymity.
His views on 10 of the Marlins’ young position players (majors and minors) and where they stand as Miami pushes ahead through this 48-71 season:
▪ Right fielder/third baseman Brian Anderson (.282, 9 homers, 53 RBI): “Don’t think he’s going to be a star but a really good player and definitely a building block. He will hit for more power going forward. Long-term he’s a third baseman. Martin Prado can barely move at third. Anderson can be a plus defender. I wouldn’t wait on making that move. You don’t take your best third baseman and put him in right field.”
Note: With Prado due $15 million next season, the Marlins will decide this winter whether to keep Anderson in right field in 2019 before potentially moving him to third base after that. Anderson said he’s fine playing either and the Marlins believe he could play either.
▪ Outfielder Lewis Brinson (.184, 10, 30): “I thought he got a little bit better during the summer before the injury; it looks like he was laying off a few more pitches he was swinging at early. There has to be a transformation there. If you can’t recognize breaking balls, you’re in trouble. But that usually gets a little bit better with more at-bats.
“The mistake was starting him in the big leagues this year, but their other outfield options were terrible. The talent is there. I certainly wouldn’t give up on him at all.”
Note: The Marlins were encouraged how he shortened his swing before his hip injury. He’s expected to return to the Marlins later this month, after beginning a rehab assignment in Double A Jacksonville on Tuesday.
▪ Catcher J.T. Realmuto (.289, 14, 54): “He’s probably the best all-around catcher in the game now. Would hit 25 homers in some ballparks. You have to try to keep him; there’s no catching out there. An offer of five years, $100 million would be a good starting point to offer him.”
Note: The Marlins will gauge his interest in a long-term deal this winter. There’s a good chance he would be dealt if he’s not receptive, with Houston and Washington among possibilities. Free agent after 2020.
▪ Outfielder Magneuris Sierra (.189, no walks in 54 plate appearances): “I am scratching my head on Sierra. His approach has got to mature. When I saw him, you saw nine or 10 pitches and he swung at every one no matter where it was. You shake your head. He’s never going to hit the ball over the fence. You hope he can hit .280. I think he’s a fourth, fifth outfielder. I wouldn’t call him a building block at all.”
Note: Don Mattingly is pretty convinced he’s going to hit. They see longterm starting potential.
▪ Outfielder Monte Harrison (.236, 16, 44 at Jacksonville and 183 strikeouts in 496 plate appearances; rated Marlins’ No. 1 prospect by MLB.com): “There’s a lot to like with his tools. Will he ever figure out the swing and miss thing? He takes strike one down the middle a lot. If he can be more aggressive early in counts, those strikeouts go down by a third.”
Note: The Marlins remain high on him because “he can impact the game in every way imaginable,” as president/baseball operations Michael Hill said.
▪ Infielder/outfielder Garrett Cooper, who’s expected to take over for traded Justin Bour when Cooper returns from a wrist injury in the coming weeks: “Big, slow swing. Not a good athlete. I don’t understand their infatuation with that guy.”
Note: The Marlins remain bullish on a player who had 84 RBI in 83 minor league games last season. They believe he’s going to hit and hit for power. He has hit .276 with eight RBI in 83 career plate appearances for the Yankees and Marlins.
▪ Outfielder Derek Dietrich (.278, 14, 38): “I am not huge Dietrich guy but he’s really had a good year and I have to give him credit for that. Defensively, every time I see a ball go up, I am like, ‘oh boy.’ Probably ends up with an AL team where he can play first base, DH, play a little bit of left field. Surprised they didn’t trade him but that’s telling of what teams think of him.”
Note: He remains available in trade talks. The Marlins have decision to make on whether to tender him this winter; he’s again arbitration-eligible.
▪ Shortstop Jose Devers, one of the key pieces in the Giancarlo Stanton deal who was recently promoted to Single A Jupiter (where he’s 2 for 8) after hitting .273 in lower level Single A Greensboro: “Not a fan. Zero bat impact. Average runner at best. He’s built like Sierra, but Sierra is a plus runner.”
But a scout with another team said he sees All-Star potential. So this is a subjective business, folks.
Note: The Marlins see him as a future starting shortstop.
▪ Second baseman Isan Diaz (.245, 12, 52, 11 steals in Double and Triple A): “Nice player. Tools aren’t eye popping. Poor man’s Robinson Cano.”
Note: Marlins believe he will hit and hit for power and see him as future starting second baseman.
▪ Shortstop J.T. Riddle (.219, 5, 21): “He can play defense but the more I watch the bat, I would have a hard time putting him out there every day. Triple A player or last man on the roster for a good team.”
Note: There’s a growing sense he’s merely a stopgap starter until a better option emerges.
Beyond Harrison and Devers and Diaz, the Marlins’ other top position prospects still in the minors – most in low levels unless specified otherwise - include 2018 first-round pick/outfielder Connor Scott (.235, 10 RBI in 31 games), 2018 second-round pick/catcher Will Banfield (.240, 16 RBI in 28 games), outfielder Brian Miller (..297, no homers, 40 RBI in Single and Double A), 2018 second-round shortstop Osiris Johnson (.289, 15 RBI in 30 games), 2018 third-round pick/outfielder Tristan Pompey (.319, 11 RBI in 33 games), third baseman James Nelson (.230 at Jupiter after hitting .309 in Greensboro last year) and middle infielder Christopher Torres (.364 in 21 games; acquired from Seattle in Dee Gordon trade).
Scott, Banfield, Johnson and Pompey - all drafted in June - were recently promoted to Class A Greensboro. It would be enormously helpful to this rebounding program if at least two of the four become above average major-league position players in a few years.
There are several others of note, too, including outfielder Austin Dean (.346, 12, 68 between Double A and Triple A this season) and first baseman Lazaro Alonso (.336 at Greensboro, .183 in 39 games at Jupiter), among others.
We will have the scout’s view on the Marlins’ young pitchers and pitching prospects in a column later this week.
Good news: For all of you who have been asking for a sports-only subscription to The Miami Herald ... we have convinced the bosses to give you one. For less than the price of a cup of coffee, you can now read all your Miami sports news. It’s available for only $30 a year or $2.50 a month or 8 cents a day.