The Marlins’ minor-league season — which has been completed for all of their affiliates — included encouraging news on several of their outfield prospects, as we detailed here.
In part 2 of a 3-part series, we explore where things stand with the Marlins’ top prospects in the infield and at catcher:
▪ First base: The Marlins began the season without a legitimate first base prospect. But they end the year with two: Lewin Diaz (acquired in the Sergio Romo trade with Minnesota in late July) and rookie fourth-round draft pick Evan Edwards.
Diaz finished the season hitting .270 with 27 homers and 76 RBI in 121 games on three minor league teams in Single A and Double A.
But here’s one concern: After batting .302 for the Twins’ Double A affiliate in 33 games, he hit .200 for the Marlins’ Double A Jacksonville affiliate in 31 games. The power was still there, with eight homers in Jacksonville and 14 in Double A overall, plus 13 in Single A. The strikeout percentage wasn’t great but wasn’t horrible (21 percent of his plate appearances).
But were the Marlins concerned by the drop in batting average?
“Whenever you’re talking about a significant trade, there’s going to be an adjustment,” Marlins president/baseball operations Michael Hill said. “Overall, we’re happy with the year he’s put on the board, 20-plus home runs, playing Gold Glove defense. We love where he’s at physically and mentally. The goal is when we see the consistency with the offensive approach, then you’ll see a player who’s ready to help the major league club.”
Edwards, out of North Carolina State, hit .285, with eight homers and 48 RBI, in 68 games at Class A Clinton, whose season ended this past weekend.
“We felt he was arguably one of the top seniors available in the draft and he hasn’t disappointed, hitting in the middle of the lineup with [outfielder/rookie second-rounder] Kameron Misner in Clinton,” Hill said.
“He’s played solid defense, been a run producer and excited to have him within the group.”
But neither is close enough to be projected for the majors in 2020, leaving the Marlins either needing to find a first baseman in free agency or using Garrett Cooper there.
▪ Second base: Isan Diaz was the only top prospect in the system at second, and he has struggled in his first five weeks in the majors (.153, three homers, 16 RBI).
But the Marlins say they’re confident he’s going to hit big league pitching.
The Marlins likely will need to determine another 2020 veteran second base option to protect themselves if Diaz struggles badly in spring training, with Jon Berti one possibility.
If Diaz hits well next spring, he likely would begin the season as the starter since he has done all he can at Triple A.
Among other second basemen in the system, the best of what’s left includes Justin Twine (.240, 32 RBI at Jacksonville), 2017 third-rounder Riley Mahan (.279 in 60 games in Jupiter, .217 in 60 games in Jacksonville) and Christopher Torres (.234, four homers, 32 RBI in 122 games in Clinton).
None is projected as a sure-fire big league player, but all have some measure of potential.
The Marlins are expected to buy out Starlin Castro - who has been exceptional in the past month - for $1 million instead of paying him $13 million next season.
▪ Shortstop: Jazz Chisholm, the top prospect in the system, was very good since the trade with Arizona.
After hitting just .204 with 18 homers and 44 RBI in 89 games for Arizona’s Double A team this season, he hit .284 with three homers and 10 RBI in 23 games in Double A Jacksonville in the Marlins’ system.
And remember, he’s only 21 and rated the 56th best prospect in baseball by MLB.com.
“We think he should hit for average and hit for power and he’s an above average runner and [should] be a complete player for us on both sides of the ball,” Hill said. “Excited to get him into our structure and allow his God given ability to shine.”
And there are at least three other quality shortstops in the system: Jose Devers, Osiris Johnson and this summer’s second round pick (Georgia prep standout Nasim Nunez).
Devers missed much of the season with a forearm strain but hit .325 in 35 games in Jupiter.
Johnson, Miami’s second-round pick last year, hit .250 in the low-level minors last year and missed this entire season with a tibial stress fracture.
Nunez, considered a defensive wizard, hit .211 with 12 RBI in 48 games in the Gulf Coast League.
Two other prospects — Bryson Brigman (.250, 28 RBI in 94 games) and Alex Rodriguez nephew Joe Dunand (.242, 5 homers, 42 RBI in 130 games) — were merely OK at Double A Jacksonville.
Miguel Rojas, who’s arbitration eligible, figures to return as the starting shortstop next season.
▪ Third base: Good thing the Marlins have their longterm third baseman in Brian Anderson, because there’s not much in the system.
James Nelson, the only third baseman ranked among MLB.com’s top 30 Marlins prospects this spring (20th overall), hit .228 with four homers and 36 RBI in 121 games at Jupiter.
Air Force rookie Nic Ready, the Marlins’ 23rd round pick, hit .263 with 10 homers and 47 RBI in 67 games at Batavia.
The Marlins will move on from Martin Prado, who told me and fntsyradio’s Craig Mish he wants to continue his career. Prado was candid in this interview with Mish.
▪ Catcher: Jorge Alfaro needs to be the longterm answer, because internal alternatives have struggled offensively.
The organization’s best catching prospect, 2018 second-round pick Will Banfield, is highly skilled defensively but hit .199 with nine homers and 59 RBI in 101 games at Clinton.
Next up this week: an update on the Marlins’ top pitching prospects.