Two studs highlight Marlins' revamped system
Standouts Fernandez, Yelich at forefront of infusion of young talent for Miami
The future success of every Major League team lies largely in its Minor League pipeline. With that in mind, MLB.com is looking at each team's farm system, from the Top 20 Prospects to under-the-radar types.
The first thing that stands out about Miami's farm system is its potential star power. The Marlins have two of MLB.com's top 13 prospects in right-hander Jose Fernandez and outfielder Christian Yelich, and only the Mets can make a similar claim.
But in the long run, the high ceilings of Fernandez (ranked No. 7 overall) and Yelich (No. 13) might not be as important as the sheer volume of solid prospects the Marlins plugged into their system through the series of trades that essentially pressed the reset button on their entire organization.
A year ago, Miami liked its depth from Class A Advanced Jupiter on down. This year, it'll be from Double-A Jacksonville on down. By next year, that depth should extend throughout the Marlins' Minor League system, which should be nearly ready to produce Major Leaguers on a consistent basis.
"We definitely got some very good players in those trades," vice president of player development Marty Scott said. "I think what it's done for us is provide a little more depth in the organization. It's something that we very much needed and lacked when I first came on board in September 2011. But through a couple of good Drafts and some good trades, things are really looking up."
Indeed, the Marlins were busy in 2012. Their offseason spending spree didn't translate to success on the field, so they dismantled their Major League roster and went to work.
An inexperienced big league roster could lead to a low finish in the standings, creating opportunities for talented players like Fernandez and Yelich. Scott cautioned it would be a "very long shot" for any of their prospects to make Miami's Opening Day roster, but they will all get a close look in Spring Training.
"If there's a need in July or August and they're performing well and we're all on the same page that they can contribute, they might get called up," Scott added. "I think Spring Training's going to be a lot of fun. But just because Yelich goes 4-for-4 in a Spring Training game, I don't want to evaluate and say that he's ready now.
"You've got to take your time, not rush, don't put undue pressure on these kids. Just let them have fun, enjoy the experience and go from there."
Top 20 prospects
Fernandez and Yelich were in the Marlins' top three last year, and it's no surprise they're leading the pack again.
"These guys not only have ability, but they've got the best mental aspect of the game that I've ever seen," Scott said. "These two kids are just a joy to be around. They're fun to be around. They love the game of baseball, yet they're respectful to the game. On top of that, they've got a lot of talent."
Fernandez and Yelich are followed by several new names acquired via trade: outfielder Jake Marisnick at No. 3, left-hander Justin Nicolino at No. 4, shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria at No. 6, second baseman Derek Dietrich at No. 9 and third baseman Zack Cox at No. 10. There's also catcher Rob Brantly (No. 11) and left-hander Brian Flynn (No. 20).
And Miami's most recent Draft class already has made an impact on the organization. Among the club's top 20 prospects are left-hander Andrew Heaney, the ninth overall pick in 2012 and now the organization's fifth-ranked prospect, shortstop Avery Romero (third round, No. 14) and outfielder Kolby Copeland (Compensation Round B, No. 16).
marlins' top prospects
Under the radar
Talk about emerging out of nowhere: Raudel Lazo, a lefty who will turn 24 on April 12, moved up to Jupiter from extended spring camp in 2012 and dominated. He went 7-1 with a 2.44 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 61 strikeouts in 59 innings over 41 games. Lazo even got to face a batter, and record an out, for Triple-A New Orleans last year.
But Lazo could be doing far more than that this year: He earned an invitation to Major League Spring Training. He throws in the high 80s to low 90s, touching 92 and 93 mph, with plenty of movement. And the Marlins rave about Lazo's confidence and fearless attitude on the mound.
Shortstop Danny Black might be less "under the radar" if he hadn't missed so much time with a leg injury last year, but he played well when he was on the field. Black, who turned 24 in August, posted a .314/.375/.396 line and stole 17 bases in 78 games for Jupiter.
Playing for Class A Greensboro in 2011, Black hit .280/.338/.383 with 18 doubles, five triples, five homers, 51 RBIs and 32 stolen bases in 120 games. Even if Black doesn't eventually reach the Majors as an everyday shortstop, his left-handed bat and defensive versatility could make him an ideal utility man.
Hitter of the Year
Outfielder Marcell Ozuna has hit 20-plus homers three consecutive seasons, so he's a candidate. But Yelich posted a .330/.404/.519 batting line, with 12 homers, five triples and 29 doubles, scored 76 runs, drove in 48 more and stole 20 bases. He won this award last season, becoming the only two-time Player of the Year in franchise history. Odds are, Yelich will also be the first three-time winner.
Pitcher of the Year
Fernandez also won this award last year. And like Yelich, it's practically impossible to pick against Fernandez here. He put up absurd numbers between Greensboro and Jupiter last season, going 14-1 with a 1.75 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 158 strikeouts to 35 walks and just two homers allowed in 134 innings.