Barry Jackson

This year will be telling for three Marlins first-round pitching prospects who had setbacks

Marlins CEO Derek Jeter: We’re trying to build something that’s special

Miami Marlins Chief Executive Officer Derek Jeter talks to the media before start of the first full-squad spring training workout on Monday, February 18, 2019 in Jupiter, FL.
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Miami Marlins Chief Executive Officer Derek Jeter talks to the media before start of the first full-squad spring training workout on Monday, February 18, 2019 in Jupiter, FL.

A six-pack of Marlins nuggets on a Wednesday night:

▪ This will be a telling season for three pitchers drafted by the Marlins in the first round – two who have Tommy John surgery in their past (Tyler Kolek and Braxton Garrett) and another (Trevor Rogers) whose pro career has begun unevenly.

Rogers, a left-hander drafted 13th overall by the Marlins in 2017 out of a New Mexico high school, didn’t pitch at all in Miami’s system in 2017 and last season went 2-7 with a 5.82 ERA in low-level Single A Greensboro.

On the plus side, he had 85 strikeouts in 72 2/3 innings. On the flip side, he allowed 113 base-runners in those 72 2/3 innings.

Kolek hasn’t lived up to expectations since being drafted second overall in the 2014 draft, selected ahead of Phillies starter Aaron Nola, among others.

He sat out the 2016 season because of Tommy John surgery and pitched in only three games in 2017 because of injury, allowing 12 earned runs in 3 2/3 innings.

Last season, the 23-year-old right hander –who was once clocked at 102 mph as a high school player – was 1-2 with a 6.32 ERA in 15 2/3 innings for the Gulf Coast Marlins and low-level A ball in Batavia. Unless things turn around, he could end up high on the list of the Marlins’ biggest draft busts in their history, partly for health factors beyond anyone’s control.

But he will get more time to get back on track after arm problems.

Garrett, a left-hander selected seventh overall in the 2016 draft, made his professional debut in 2017 with Greensboro, posting a 1-0 record and 2.93 ERA in four stars before Tommy John surgery that June. He missed all of last season recovering from that surgery.

Garrett and Rogers are in Marlins minor league camp. Kolek reports later this month.

Prospectslive.com rates Rogers the ninth-best prospect in Miami’s system and Garrett 10th-best prospect.

Of Rogers, prospectslive.com said: “There is some projection remaining on his frame, and you have to hope that with it comes some fastball velocity because sitting 93-95 rather than 90-92 will easily elevate Rogers into becoming the best pitcher in the organization…. Rogers has to be one of the most physically imposing lefties in the minors thanks to his gargantuan 6-foot-6 frame.”

Of Garrett, the web site: said: “Tommy John surgery has limited Braxton Garrett to just 15.1 professional innings since being drafted seventh overall in 2016. As such, it’s been very hard to get a good gauge on what he looks like over the course of a full season and now we have no choice but to wait and see how much of his arsenal returns. He had the best curveball of his draft class…

“But alas, pitchers are never safe from going under the knife and now we’re left to wonder if his curveball is still that good and if the command is still there. A successful 2019 for Garrett would be beginning the year in Greensboro and finishing the year in the Florida State League, accumulating about 80-90 innings. Time is still on Garrett’s side, but we’re cutting deeper into his development as a pitcher.”

One scout said he didn’t see Garrett before Tommy John but said of Rogers: “His upside is Matt Thornton. To me, he’s a bullpen guy. Maybe he could be a No. 5 [starter]. I saw him last year; he was throwing 88-92 and struggled to throw the ball over the plate.”

The left-handed Thornton is 36-46 with a 3.41 ERA and 23 saves in a long major league career, almost entirely as a relief pitcher.

▪ Among the many questions that need to be sorted out: Who bats leadoff?

Outfielder Curtis Granderson, in camp on a minor-league deal, is an option against right-handers, presuming he makes the team.

“I think Curtis is a guy who has done that in the past,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “He’s an on-base guy. He gives you good at-bats. I think when he’s in the lineup, he could profile there, for sure.”

He hit .238 as a leadoff hitter last year, with a .343 on base average.

Over the past three seasons, in 753 plate appearances in the leadoff spot, Granderson has hit .230, with a .330 on base average.

▪ Mattingly expects a closer by committee approach.

“I don’t think we have that guy that we’re going to say ‘Romo’s the guy’ or ‘Steck’s the guy’ or ‘Conley’s the guy,’” Mattingly said of Sergio Romo, Drew Steckenrider and Adam Conley, his three best closing options.

“We’ve got enough versatility back there that we should be able to use a number of different guys depending on what matchup’s better.”

▪ Keep an eye on Rule 5 draft pickup Riley Ferrell, a right-handed reliever who was 2-2 with a 1.90 ERA and seven saves with 33 strikeouts in 23 innings at Double A Corpus Christi last season.

He struggled at Triple A Fresno, with a 6.75 ERA in 28 innings.

“[Ferrell’s] a physical kid,” Mattingly said. “He’s going to get a good look. [He’s] a guy with good stuff and a guy we’re excited about.”

▪ Regarding the shortstop battle between Miguel Rojas and J.T. Riddle, Mattingly said it wouldn’t be fair to penalize Rojas for the fact he’s more versatile than Riddle. In other words, having Rojas play off the bench might be more helpful that giving that role to Riddle, who’s primarily a shortstop but has played some second base a couple years ago. But that won’t factor into the starting decision.

“I don’t think that’s fair to Miggy,” Mattingly said of penalizing Rojas for his versatility. “Miggy continues to improve all the time. I think he absolutely should be in the shortstop thing, not just pigeon-hole him into that utility guy. Miggy deserves the chance to compete for being an everyday guy. We’ll see how it unfolds.”

▪ One scout wondered about the Marlins’ decision to possibly play first baseman Peter O’Brien in right field, believing he’s ill-equipped defensively for that role. If O’Brien doesn’t end up in right field, he could return to first to platoon with Neil Walker. Martin Prado also is a candidate for at bats at first. Same with Garrett Cooper.

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Barry Jackson has written for the Miami Herald since 1986 and has written the Florida Sports Buzz column since 2002.


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