Barry Jackson

‘He can be incredible’: Marlins excited as Gallen prepares for big-league debut

A six-pack of Marlins notes on a Wednesday:

So what can the Marlins expect when right-hander Zac Gallen makes his first major league start on Thursday in place of injured Pablo Lopez?

“He can be incredible,” said Marlins catcher Chad Wallach, who caught him in spring training. “It’s cool to see how mature he is. He was throwing 97-98 this spring. His offspeed stuff is as good as his fastball. His curveball has come a long way. He has as good a shot as anybody here of making it as a big-league pitcher.”

Gallen, one of four players acquired by the Marlins from St. Louis in the Marcell Ozuna trade, was the best player in the Marlins’ system this season; not only was he 9-1 with a 1.77 ERA in 14 starts at Triple A this season, but he has allowed only 48 hits and 17 walks in 91 1/3 innings. Batters are hitting .153 off him.

“He throws every pitch for strikes and throws a lot of strikes,” said Marlins reliever Jeff Brigham, who was Gallen’s teammate in New Orleans before his promotion.

▪ This was significant: The Marlins on Wednesday signed California prep right-hander Evan Fitterer, their fifth round pick, persuading him to bypass an offer to UCLA by offering him $1.5 million --- $1 million above the slot money, according to Jon Heyman. He’s the best pitching prospect snagged by the Marlins in this month’s draft and a potential future rotation piece.

According to mlb.com researcher/writer Andrew Simon, Jordan Yamamoto is the first pitcher (at least since 1908) to begin his career with back-to-back outings of at least seven scoreless innings and three or fewer hits allowed. Yamamoto has allowed five hits and four walks, with 12 strikeouts, in 14 scoreless innings to begin his major league career.

Gary Denbo, the Marlins’ director of player development and scouting, spoke optimistically of the future in a podcast with Craig Mish, noting that “we have a great plan in place here. We are executing that plan. We’re starting to see some of the players that will be part of our championship run when we get to that position.”

He said Georgia prep shortstop Nassim Nunez, drafted in the second round and subsequently signed, is “very much everything you look for in a middle infielder. We think he will stay as a shortstop. [Has] plus arms strength. Eighty runner on the grading scale, which is as high as you can be. Great body control. All he needs is a little bit of added size and strength. He’s got an excellent opportunity to be a major league shortstop in the future.”

Marlins CEO Derek Jeter knows Curtis Granderson more than perhaps any other player on the roster from their time together as Yankee teammates (2010-13).

And Jeter has used him as a resource this season.

“Derek will ask me, ‘How do you see things going?’ and ‘How are things going with the things we’re trying to change here?’” Granderson said. “We talk that you need time and volume [to judge players].”

Though he’s hitting only .179, Granderson’s leadership and mentoring have had real value. He’s in a group text with Marlins outfield prospects Lewis Brinson and Monte Harrison and shortstop prospect Osiris Johnson and is available whenever they need him.

Granderson believes Harold Ramirez and Garrett Cooper have a real chance at being successful big leaguers because Harold “makes contact a lot, which is good. The more you make contact, the better your [chances are of longterm success]. And Garrett hits the ball to all fields, which is a good thing.”

Minor league notes: A strong case could be made that it’s time to promote outfielder Lewis Brinson, who’s hitting .297, with eight homers and 37 RBI in 43 games since his demotion to New Orleans. But he’s still striking out more than you would like to see, with 50 in 155 at-bats….

Monte Harrison is at .287, 8, 19 in 45 games but also continues to strike out more than you would like, with 60 in 171 at-bats at New Orleans....

Right-hander Tyler Kolek, who missed the start of the season after offseason thoracic outlet surgery (resulting from a disorder that occurs when blood vessels or nerves in the space between the collarbone and a rib are compressed), made his 2019 debut on Sunday, pitching a scoreless inning with two strikeouts for Batavia.

Selected second overall in 2014, Kolek -- who has had bad luck (including Tommy John surgery) -- is trying to avoid ranking among the biggest busts in South Florida sports history. His career minor-league numbers: 5-15, 5.34 ERA.

Here’s my Wednesday Dolphins six-pack.

Here’s a look at what a current NBA scout and former scout say about the Heat’s draft options.

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