Welcome back to my annual off-season series that has a quick-and-dirty review of all 30 minor league systems around baseball. This feature began way back in 2008.
If you were perusing this series last year you would have read this:
First Taste of The Show: Brian Anderson, 3B: I’ve been a fan of Anderson since he turned pro in 2014. The former third-round selection likely won’t be a star but he should develop into a steady, everyday player for The Fish. And, after appearing in 25 big league games in 2017, he could back-up both second and third base in ’18 — or take over a starting gig if the cost-conscious Marlins get rid of Starlin Castro or Martin Prado. He has a chance to be a very good defender — especially at third base — and projects to be an average hitter with average power, although he should produce good on-base rates with his history of walking at a healthy clip.
Now on to the new stuff:
First Taste of The Show: Trevor Richards, RHP: An unheralded pitching prospect, Richards couldn’t even get drafted and ended up playing independent baseball for two years before signing with the Marlins as a free agent. His rise is far more successful than his stuff. He has a fastball that scrapes 90 miles per hour and lacks a consistent breaking ball. Even so, Richards struck out more than a batter per inning. He succeeds with fastball command, a very good changeup and above-average control. To continue having success, Richards is going to need to work down in the zone more consistently after seeing his ground-ball rate drop more than 10% over his minor league career average to a well-below-average 35.8%.
The Draft Pick: Osiris Johnson, SS: The Marlins took Connor Scott in the first round as a hitter but I liked him much more as a pitcher so I’m going to focus on Johnson, whom I liked a lot leading up to the draft. He could be a steal as a second round selection — but the Marlins already showed questionable decision making in moving him up to low-A ball as a 17-year-old. After a strong showing in 25 rookie ball games, he moved up to face much older competition and struck out 34 times (with one walk) in 85 at-bats. Whatever confidence he built up early was likely torn down. Athletic and toolsy, Johnson has lots of potential but he’s raw and needs time to develop (including making more consistent contact). Johnson also has a bad habit of collapsing his back leg and swinging under the ball. He needs to spend the spring in extended spring training and another year of short-season ball but the Marlins may not give that to him.
The Riser: Edward Cabrera, RHP: Cabrera has quickly gained value as his heater has ticked upward and tickled triple digits. I’m not as sold on his future as others, though. He throws hard from a side-arm slot but then moves to a higher 3/4 slot for his breaking ball that looks more curveball than slider to me. I also don’t love his arm action and he often cuts off the follow through with his heater, leaving to below average command/control. The aggressive hitters in the lower levels of the minors have bailed him out but we can see his walk rate trending up with each promotion. I see a reliever here, albeit one with high-leverage stuff if he can improve his control/command.
The Fallen: Jorge Guzman, RHP: When former Yankees star Derek Jeter gifted Giancarlo Stanton to his old organization, the Marlins received very little in return (an almost laughable return in fact) so there was a lot of pressure for Guzman to succeed. He had a rough first season with the Marlins as his control failed to improve. The right-hander works in the upper-90s with his heat but can’t find the strike zone on a consistent basis and walked 64 batters in 96 innings in 2018 at the A-ball level. He flashes a good slider, too, which he also struggles to throw strikes with… and he lacks a reliable third pitch. Guzman’s future is probably in the bullpen unless he makes big strides in 2019.
The 2019 Contributor: Zac Gallen, RHP: There may not be a better organization for identifying sleeper college talent than the Cardinals and the Marlins received Gallen in a trade with them back in 2017. A starter throughout his pro career, Gallen is probably best suited to relief with his cross-body delivery. Gallen’s above-average athleticism allows him to consistently find the strike zone and the ball can be hard to pick up from this high 3/4 delivery. He lacks a real strikeout pitch but creates excellent movement on his offerings and could be an excellent multi-inning reliever with his fastball, changeup and cutter.
The 2019 Sleeper: Tristan Pompey, OF: I’ve been a fan of Pompey for a while now and he’s a Canadian prospect from my neck of the woods — plus he’s also the brother of Dalton Pompey (Blue Jays). The younger prospect had an solid college career but a lack of success with wood bats and some concerns over consistent effort on the field caused him to slip to the third round (I had him as a supplement round talent) He exploded into pro ball and played at three levels.. He eliminated a stutter-step in his foot work at the plate and began to incorporate more of a leg kick, which has really helped get his timing down. Pompey, 21, has a great eye and patient approach, as well as good athleticism even if he’s a little raw on the base paths and in the field. There is also raw pop to tap into with 15+ homers and lots of doubles possible. He can impact the game in many ways and should be an average regular at the big league level if he continues to put forth the necessary effort.
The 2019 Lottery Ticket: Victor Victor Mesa, OF: A highly-sought-after Cuban player Mesa was given more than $5 million to sign. He’s a shorter player plus has a strong, athletic physique and should produce lots of extra base hits into the outfield gaps. How well he’ll handle pro spin, though, remains to be seen as he punished a lot of modest fastballs in Cuba and on the international scene. Still, he has value for his base running and defence alone. At worst, there is fourth outfielder potential here. I’d expect him to open the year in high-A ball so he can stay in Florida, with a chance to move up to double-A quickly if he shows a more advanced approach than I expect.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.