Barry Jackson

Opposing major-league scout sizes up the Miami Marlins’ young pitchers

Miami Marlins pitcher Pablo Lopez, pitching here in an Aug. 7 game against St. Louis, has impressed the Marlins since being acquired in the David Phelps trade with Seattle last summer.
Miami Marlins pitcher Pablo Lopez, pitching here in an Aug. 7 game against St. Louis, has impressed the Marlins since being acquired in the David Phelps trade with Seattle last summer.

This year for the Marlins has been all about figuring out what young players can be long-term building blocks.

An opposing scout from another MLB team who’s assigned to evaluate the Marlins assessed many of the organization’s key young pitchers, on condition of anonymity. His feedback:

Pablo Lopez ( 2-3, 4.49 ERA for Marlins after posting a 1.44 ERA in the minors this season): “There’s a lot to like with him. He’s one of those spin rate guys when the ball looks like it’s coming 98 [mph] and it’s really coming 92-94. His changeup has been pretty good. Real poised, a big strike thrower. His breaking ball is my personal question on him. I don’t know if he has ace stuff, but he’s definitely a guy you can see logging 175-200 innings for the foreseeable future.”

Note: Marlins see him as a potential longterm rotation piece.

Sandy Alcantara (Made one start for Marlins — allowing one run in five innings — before being diagnosed with an arm infection. Now back at Triple A; he’s 6-3, 3.57 in the minors this season): “I’ve seen him in Triple A and he has a hell of an arm. He’s a strike thrower but the secondary pitches need to evolve more. Some think he’s a bullpen guy, but I think he could do either. There’s a lot to like there as a potential starter or reliever.”

Note: Marlins see him as a potential longterm rotation piece.

Jorge Guzman ( 0-7, 3.81 ERA in 18 starts at Single A Jupiter; one of key pieces acquired in Giancarlo Stanton trade): “To me, he’s not a starter because of lack of weapons, lack of command and lack of athleticism. I think he will be a big leaguer but for me and other scouts I’ve talked to, he’s more a reliever who will throw 98 to 101. I would take Alcantara over Guzman because he [throws more strikes].”

Note: Marlins insist he’s a starter.

Jose Urena (3-12, 4.74 ERA): “You are always going to be dealing with a No. 5 starter [on a good team]. They might think he’s better than that. Doesn’t have enough command to ever be that top of the rotation guy.”

Note: Free agent after 2021. Will need to compete to keep rotation spot moving forward. Leads National League in losses and now at epicenter of controversy after hitting Braves star Ronald Acuna in Thursday’s game.

Trevor Richards (3-7, 4.28 ERA): “I am a big Richards guy. Is he a top three rotation guy with his stuff? No. He has one of the better changeups in the league but the fastball has very little margin for error. When you’re throwing 90, 91, you can’t miss [with location]. He’s developed a slider this year and trying to get a little bit more movement on the breaking ball. He would be a No. 3 starter for them, a really awesome No. 5, maybe a No. 4 for a really good team.”

Note: Has exceeded expectations but Marlins hope he can develop consistent third pitch.

Jarlin Garcia (1-1, 4.37 with Marlins this year; was 2-2, 5.01 ERA in Triple A): “What the hell happened to him [after a strong first few starts]? I never thought he was a starter. I don’t think he can start physically long-term because of shoulder issues. Too much effort when he throws. He is a guy they can build value with in the bullpen. In the bullpen, as a lefty specialist, [MLB people] like him.”

Note: Marlins remain committed to seeing him as a starter.

Three starting prospects acquired in the winter trades: Nick Neidert (10-6, 3.23 ERA at Double A) and Zac Gallen (7-7, 3.85 ERA at Triple A) “are similar guys, not top of the rotation guys. Do they have upside as a No. 4? Maybe. I don’t love either one of them. Gallen’s fastball can run up to 93, 94, 95 but he doesn’t command it. Their ceiling is limited because they don’t have big stuff.”

Jordan Yamamoto (5-1, 1.92 at Single and Double A) “we watched this year” and this scout wasn’t impressed. But the results have been encouraging.

Note: Marlins regard all three as legitimate potential rotation pieces. Neidert has been the best of the group. Gallen was torched in spring training but pitched better at Triple A.

Two former first-round picks — Tyler Kolek and Braxton Garrett — are sidelined in the aftermath of Tommy John surgery and 2017 first-rounder Trevor Rogers is 1-4, 5.02 at Greensboro.

As for relievers…

Adam Conley (3-3, 4.33, 1 save): “For me, all he can do is relieve. He’s gotten his velocity back.” but sometimes it’s difficult “to trust where the ball is going with him.”

Kyle Barraclough (0-5, 3.75, 10 saves, 6 blown saves): “He’s reluctant to challenge hitters with his fastball sometimes, which gets him in trouble and he ends up walking a lot of guys. He hasn’t had great luck, either, during this stretch.

“My gut told me he’s not a ninth-inning guy. He’s probably more of a mid-reliever for a championship-caliber team. If the plan was to trade him, they held onto him too long. They were treating him as if he was Craig Kimbrel; they wanted four guys for him. They overvalued him and he pitched like garbage before the deadline and it killed them. But he is under team control for three more years.”

Drew Steckenrider (3-2, 3.29, 1 save): “His stuff has regressed. His fastball was 97 last year, this year more 93-94. Fits more in mid reliever role.”

Tayron Guerrero (1-2, 4.11, 56 strikeouts in 46 innings): “He has the best stuff of all these relievers. But one day he gets a lot of swings and misses and then the next day he walks two and gives up two doubles. He will always thrown hard but at that size [6-8], it’s hard to have everything in sync consistently” (though there are obviously elite exceptions such as Randy Johnson).

On some of the others: “Drew Rucinski is a lot like Tyler Cloyd. They’re place-holders. If you’re good, they won’t make your team … I don’t understand Elieser Hernandez. Saw him pitch four times. What does he do that’s above average?

“I love Brett Graves but his stuff has regressed because of the injuries. I always liked Nick Wittgren. But he will give you two good weeks and then get his [butt] kicked. Every time I’ve seen Dillon Peters he’s been good. Wouldn’t give up on him, but longterm he probably belongs in the pen.”

Here’s my piece from earlier this week with that scout’s evaluation of many of the Marlins’ young position players.

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