FUTURE FISH: Strong Pitching Will Be Essential

Larry Blustein
April 12, 2018 - 10:49 am
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Larry Blustein

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Whether it be from the recent amount of prospects they received in the offseason – or the players who have been in their farm system for some time, the emphasis on building a solid pitching staff has never been greater for the Marlins.

The minor leagues obviously develop these drafted – and non-drafted players – but how they respond and live up to their evaluation is something that has been in place from the beginning.

As this season is important from a developmental standpoint, the objective for new ownership is to get these players ready to advance at any time.

The days of climbing that ladder from rookie, to low A, high A, AA and AAA are over. Too much is at stake and the athletes are more resilient than ever. You can be in the big leagues two years after drafted if you come from college – and three to four if you come from high school.

FIRST WEEK ENCOURAGEMENT

Every season brings new hope and dreams – and the 2018 minor league season got under way last Thursday.

With weather playing a huge part for some, the Marlins have a majority of its teams in the south – including Greensboro (NC) and Jupiter – both Class A teams that have some pitchers who figure to make some noise over the next few years.

As the South Atlantic season got started, the Grasshoppers got out of the box with Edward Cabrera, Remey Reed, Colton Hock, Brady Puckett, Brandon Miller and Ryan Lillie to a tune of a 3-3 record.

Cabrera is trying to bounce back after a 3-9 season in 2017 all at rookie ball, but he does have tremendous control – and that is something that will get him to that next level.

As predicted – loaded with some young prospects, the week was very successful for the Jupiter Hammerheads, posting a 5-2 record and leading the Southern Division of the Florida State League.

This was a team that perhaps defined the recent trades – with a number of prospects up and down the lineup – but the pitching is where this team could really benefit.

In the opening week, Sam Perez, Parker Bugg and Robert Drugger (Seattle) all made an impression.

Bugg, a 6-foot-6 former 27th rounder out of LSU, will start to settle in as a reliever, which is something that this franchise will need plenty over the next few seasons. 

Perez is indeed one of those fifth round Marlin selections from two years ago that has a chance to be special. Exceptional control and will keep his team in games.

In addition, lefties Daniel Castano (Cardinals prospect), Sean Guenther and prospect Dylan Lee – and right-handers Ethan Clark, Elieser Hernandez (one time Astros prospect), Kyle Keller, Zech Lemond, Alejandro Matteo, Michael Mertz and Lukas Schiraldi have the nucleus to get this franchise moving.

JUMBO SHRIMP, JUMBO PLANS!

The Double A squad in Jacksonville this season was to be the place where quality prospects have the chance to make a move up – at any time.

The pitching staff is stacked with prospects that we talked about last week – already digging in and turning some heads.

The Jumbo Shrimp opened the first week with two wins in six games, but the quality pitching started to surface – with Jeff Brigham, Merandy Gonzalez (Mets), Max Duval and Cody Poteet showcasing their skills.

Winning 11 games the past two years at Jupiter, Brigham, a one-time fourth round selection for the Dodgers, is one of those experienced players who can make a difference.

With former major leaguer and Jacksonville resident Storm Davis working with this staff, look for right-handers Brandon Barker, Andy Beltre, Jorgan Cavanerio, Marcus Crescentini, Esmerling De La Rosa, Kolton Mahoney, Jose Pena and highly regarded Nick Neidert.

Jacksonville also has lefties Jose Quijada and Jeff Kinley.

BABY CAKES HAVE THE PROSPECTS

While New Orleans is well over 1,000 miles away from Miami, the shuttle between the two cities almost wore out the past two years.

Once again this season, the Baby Cakes figure to keep that flight path between the two cities as the lineup will adjust – just like any other organization.

Pitching wise, expect many of the players who started the season at AAA to see some action in Miami – at some time in 2018.

Among the pitchers off to a solid start in New Orleans include the prospect of the future Sandy Alcantara – as well Ben Meyer, James Buckelew, Severino Gonzalez, Joe Gunkel, Chris Mazza and our good friend Adam Conley, who got off to a rocky first week.

The 5-2 Baby Cakes also have more arsenal in Nick Wittgren, Alex Wimmers, veteran Jacob Turner, Colton Murray, Zac Gallen and Junbo Diaz.

Larry Blustein has followed - and covered minor league baseball for over 50 years, tracing careers from the draft to major league rosters. This look into the Marlins’ farm system will be a regular blog - throughout the summer.