Barry Jackson

‘This might take five years.’ How a veteran MLB scout assesses Marlins players, rebuild

With the Marlins’ regular season beginning Thursday, we solicited the views of a respected, longtime big-league scout who has watched the Marlins a lot this spring. Some of his feedback:

On pitcher Sandy Alcantara: “With his stuff, he could be a one [No. 1 starter] one day. He looked better to me this spring despite [the control issues]. They’ve done a nice job with him. Control is a concern with young kids, but he’s got enough stuff that he can pitch around some of it.”

On pitcher Pablo Lopez: “He’s the most impressive of their group of young pitchers so far. Totally different from Alcantara in that he throws strike after strike. Has a much more advanced feel for pitching. And his stuff isn’t that far behind Alcantara’s.”

On pitcher Trevor Richards: “He’s a back-end rotation guy for me, but he’s their best pitcher as far as fielding the position. He throws strikes, locates, can navigate his way through a lineup; doesn’t panic. He’s polished. Needs to develop secondary stuff” beyond his fastball and excellent changeup.

On outfielder Lewis Brinson: “He’s made some improvement; but I’m still skeptical about whether he will hit breaking balls. Once the season starts, he’s not going to get the fastballs he’s been getting this spring.... This could be the worst outfield in baseball” with Brinson, Garrett Cooper and Curtis Granderson (at least against right-handers) and Rosell Herrera in reserve.

On Peter O’Brien and Austin Dean (who were both sent to the minors) and Garrett Cooper (expected to start in right field): “O’Brien hits them to the moon in batting practice, but will strike out a ton in games [54 in 153 big-league plate appearances]. On their team, he probably needs to play every day [to get into a rhythm], even though he’s probably not a starter [elsewhere].…

“Cooper plays hard and I know he’s hit [in the minors], but I haven’t seen anything to make me excited. If he was on a contender, he would be in the minors. Dean is a decent left fielder, gritty, has a workable swing. His swing is short enough as opposed to O’Brien’s. I view him as a bat off the bench.”

The scout wasn’t sure how much Granderson has left but “he’s going to have value around their young players” as far as instilling habits and work ethic.

On catcher Jorge Alfaro: ”He’s going to be fine, one of the elite throwers in all of baseball. There’s upside there offensively, and he’s got legitimate power.”

On third baseman Brian Anderson: “Best player they’ve got hands down. Future All-Star. Everything impresses me about him his approach from the offensive side. He’s smart, a competitor, runs good for a big guy, a plus defender at third.”

On minor-league second base prospect Isan Diaz, who figures to replace Starlin Castro in 2020 if he’s ready: “There’s potential offensively, but very sketchy defender right now — even though he has played better defense at second. Still has a ways to go. But it should be his job” to lose after Castro’s contract expires this fall.

On minor-league outfield prospect Monte Harrison: “Super athletic; plus defender; plus runner. But he’s going to strike out another 800 times in the minors before he figures it out. I’m skeptical whether he’ll be able to [hit big-league pitching]. Players are going to do what’s on the back of their baseball cards. Guys that don’t have a history of hitting [for average] in the minor leagues, [remember] the pitching doesn’t get easier up here.”

Harrison is a career .242 hitter in the minors with 52 homers and 197 RBI in 462 games.

On the Marlins’ rebuild: “I like the young pitching, but they’re going to have trouble scoring runs. One thing going against them is the National League East is the best division in baseball, no question. The Mets and Washington young staffs will eat those young hitters alive. That’s 36 times they’re going to be going against those staffs - [Jacob] DeGrom, [Zach] Wheeler, [Noah] Syndergaard, [Max] Scherzer, [Stephen] Strasburg.

“This might take five years. Next year, they’ll be a little better. Following year, a little better maybe. They are in the infancy of their rebuild. From the big picture [perspective], I like what they’re doing, how they’re going about scouting now, the improvement they’ve made in their technology. They are reinvesting in international signings. It’s a step-by-step process. But you’re fooling yourselves if you think this will come together [quickly].”

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