The Marlins have been in the headlines this off-season more than ever since their sale to a Derek Jeter fronted group, and they haven’t been positive. Since the last out of the World Series, the Marlins have traded away their entire star-studded outfield of Giancarlo Stanton (to the Yankees), Marcell Ozuna (to the Cardinals), and Christian Yelich (to the Brewers) in addition to speedy infielder Dee Gordon (to the Mariners). Catcher J.T. Realmuto is likely on the block as well. The question for remaining Marlins fans is: Are we ever going to compete again? The answer may be less bleak than is currently apparent.
Forgetting for a moment that the Marlins are likely misappropriating revenue-sharing funds that are supposed to go to payroll, Miami is following a purge-and-develop strategy that has yielded the last two World Series champions, the Astros and Cubs. The strategy is dependent, of course, on acquiring and developing outstanding young talent.
On that front, the biggest asset the Marlins got in return has the potential to be a Rookie of the Year in 2018 and an All-Star for Miami in the not-too-distant future. Lewis Brinson, a hometown boy, was acquired from the Brewers in the Yelich trade and is likely to be the Marlins’ Opening Day centerfielder. Brinson, just 23, hit .331/.400/.562 with 13 HR and 11 SB for Triple-A Colorado Springs in 2017. He has a good arm in the outfield and his 206 lb., 6’5” frame promises a lot of power as he develops.
Another top prospect in the Yelich trade is OF Monte Harrison, an intriguing 20 HR/20 SB-type player who hit 272/.350/.481 with 21 HR and 27 SB in low- and high-A baseball last year. The former 2nd round pick has been plagued by injuries but could be a valuable piece for the Marlins if he builds on last year’s success.
Infielder Isan Diaz, another return from the Brewers trade, likely slots into the Marlins’ top 5 prospects. The 21-year-old lefty from Puerto Rico has hit a combined .261/.357/.458 over 4 seasons in the minors with 49 HR and projects good power for a second baseman.
It is certainly debatable whether the Marlins got enough of a return outside of the Yelich deal, but a number of quality prospects received from the other trades slot right into the new listings of top Marlins prospects. The Stanton trade brought arguably their new best pitching prospect, Jorge Guzman, from the Yankees. Right-hander Guzman, with a 100+ MPH fastball, dominated the short A-level New York-Penn League with a 2.30 ERA and 88 strikeout in 67 innings.
The Cardinals gave up a couple of intriguing prospects for Ozuna, including another flamethrowing RHP Sandy Alcantara and speedster OF Magneuris Sierra. Alcantara, 22, made the jump from AA to the majors last season, with career minor league stats including a 3.95 ERA and 1.34 WHIP and 365 strikeouts in 369 innings over 4 seasons. Sierra also went from AA to MLB for the Cardinals, with a .270/.318/.363 batting line and 22 SB across two levels in the minors in 2017.
Pitchers Nick Neidert and Robert Dugger highlighted the Dee Gordon return. Neidert, 21, boasts excellent off-speed pitches and ruled High-A with a 2.76 ERA, and 109/17 K/BB ratio before struggling after a promotion to AA. Dugger struck out 116 in 117.2 innings in A-ball last year with a sparkling 1.16 WHIP.
Even before their off-season trade haul, the Marlins had some good prospects that are likely to make an impact in the future. Brian Anderson made his MLB debut last season after a .275/.361/.492 with 22 HR year at two levels in the minors, and projects to be the starter for the Marlins in 2018. Further down the road, Miami has 3B prospect James Nelson, who took home the 2017 Marlins Minor League Player of the Year award after hitting .309 (the best in the Marlins system) with 31 doubles and 59 RBI for the Single-A Grasshoppers. 22-year-old Merandy Gonzalez had a great 103/26 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a 1.66 ERA in 2017 at the A-level.
Sure, the next few seasons in Miami are likely to be bleak for the home team as they rack up the losses in a very good NL East. There is, however, reason for hope that the Marlins may be 2021’s Cubs or Astros and rise up to be a contender for many years to come.
Featured photo by Bobby Stevens/MiLB.com.