Barry Jackson

Here’s one critical question the Marlins must answer and what they know so far

Marlins outfielder Monte Harrison, considered the organization’s top prospect, runs to home plate during spring training workouts in February in Jupiter.  Harrison has hit 18 home runs but is batting .242 at Double A Jacksonville.
Marlins outfielder Monte Harrison, considered the organization’s top prospect, runs to home plate during spring training workouts in February in Jupiter. Harrison has hit 18 home runs but is batting .242 at Double A Jacksonville. dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Here’s one big question the Marlins don’t yet have much clarity on as they embark on this rebuilding program:

If Brian Anderson ends up at third base long-term, how many starting major league outfielders are in their system?

Beyond Lewis Brinson – who’s hitting .186 and expected back soon from a hip injury – and struggling Magneuris Sierra (.173), the Marlins have eight outfielders ranked among their top 30 prospects by mlb.com:

Monte Harrison (No. 1), Connor Scott (No. 4), Brian Miller (11), Tristan Pompey (15),Thomas Jones (18), Brayan Hernandez (25), Austin Dean (27, and now with the Marlins) and Braxton Lee (28).

Harrison has the highest ceiling of that group and is hitting .242 with 18 homers and 47 RBI and 26 for 34 in steals at Double A Jacksonville. But he has 193 strikeouts in 539 at-bats.

“Monte is a guy we love with his talent, confident kid,” manager Don Mattingly said. “He can do a lot of things. Can run, can throw, has power. One of the things we talk about a lot is a swing and miss at really high rates right now. That’s one of the things we want to get a grip on.”

Mattingly said no decision has been made on September call-ups, but bringing up Harrison would require putting him on the 40-man roster and removing another player.

Of the other outfielders on the Marlins’ top 30 prospect list, the best so far have been two college products -- 2017 compensatory pick Miller (.294, no homers, 40 RBI at Class A and AA) and 2018 third-rounder Pompey (.320, 21 RBI in 43 games at three levels).

Scott, the Marlins’ first-round pick this June, is hitting .231 with 13 RBI in 41 games at two levels.

Three of the others have struggled: Jones (.218, 9, 27 at Class A Greensboro), Hernandez (.223 at low-level Batavia) and Lee (.225 on three minor league teams this year).

The Marlins still can’t be sure what they have in Brinson, who is 3 for 23 on his minor-league rehab assignment. They love his maturity and work ethic and saw improvement in his swing before his hip injury in early July.

Sierra has been a disappointment, both defensively and at the plate; he has no walks in 81 plate appearances.

The Marlins are eager to see what they have in the 24-year-old Dean, a fourth-round pick in 2012 who hit .345 in the minors this year and entered Friday hitting .286 with two homers and five RBI in his first seven games with Miami.

“Had a tremendous [year],” Mattingly said. “You still see a short, compact swing and he is really going to get an opportunity to play and show us what he can do.”

They also want to see what they have in Rafael Ortega, 27, who hit .232 in 66 games for the Angels in 2016 and hit .302 in his first 13 games for the Marlins.

“We’ve seen him a number of times be down 0-2 and end up walking,” Mattingly said. “Shows he’s not panicking with two strikes. You see a lot of polish on him as far as at bats in the minor leagues and major leagues. A guy who’s played a lot of baseball and is comfortable at home plate.”

It’s way too soon to form judgments on any of these players. The early returns are mixed, but the next two years will be quite telling.

Mattingly agrees that much needs to be learned about these outfielders.

“The guys that have the most success here are the guys that make adjustments,” he said.

One question with each, as Mattingly said, will be “Where’s the ceiling? Are you going to be an upper level game changing type player or is it a guy that’s going to be a piece or you are going to need pieces around that [player] to build a championship type club?”

THIS AND THAT

Mattingly said Anderson will play primarily at third base the rest of the season but the Marlins feel no need to determine his long-term position this winter (third base or right field).

“You should leave your options open,” Mattingly said. “Having that versatility is good because you never know what your club looks like at any moment or if your outfield is depleted, you know he could do that.”

The Marlins have shown interest in outfielder Victor Victor Mesa, a 22-year-old top prospect who came to the United States from Cuba in May but isn’t yet eligible to sign.

Asked about him on Sirius XM host Craig Mish’s new podcast, Swings and Mishes, Marlins president/baseball operations Michael Hill said:

“We’re in Miami. We’re the gateway to the Americas, and this should be a destination spot. Our game is a third Latin.

“This [international signings] was an area where there was an obvious opportunity for us to improve, and I touched on it earlier when I talked about the change with new ownership, this was an area where we just weren’t maximizing our effort. It’s nice that ownership is fully supportive in allowing us to do everything in our power to be the best team in this region, and the gateway to America, and for Miami to become a destination spot for all Latin players because this is such an international city, and we have been extremely aggressive in trying to acquire additional international dollars -- not just for potential free agents with two first names, but know that the international market is one where we can make a huge dent and really take advantage of who we are and where we are to continue to add.”

Hill, in that podcast with Mish, said: “You think about the few Latins that we have, but we have Jose Ureña in our rotation, who’s an international signing. Martin Prado and Miguel Rojas, who are both internationally signed players. I think you look across rosters in Major League Baseball and there’s a definite international component to every roster, and it’s an applicant pool where when you have smart and aggressive scouts, and under Gary Denbo and Fernando Seguignol we’ve been extremely aggressive and active in bringing talent into the organization, and I think that’s an area where we needed to get better, and we are and we have. I look forward to continuing to push in that area.”

According to MLB.com, “of the traditionally active teams on the international market, the Marlins have the most money to offer.”

Mesa is expected to do a showcase for all teams when MLB rules him eligible to sign. Baltimore is among other teams with interest.

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