Smart rebuilds tend to come together a year early. They do not tend to intersect with a pandemic that runs roughshod through the organization. Miami’s 2020 season would’ve been impressive in any context—the culmination of an aggressive realignment of resources—but in a world where they signed street free agents to play crucial roles in their decimated lineup, their success borders on the miraculous.
17 new players joined the club to take on Baltimore for four games in three days after the active roster spent a week in quarantine. Naturally, the Miami replacements won all four games, prompting manager Don Mattingly to say he’d “have to write a book after this.” Fast forward two months: the Marlins just swept the Cubs out of the playoffs; Mattingly is working on a nine-book, coming-of-age saga because as fresh as these fish have been this year, the best is yet to come.
Format: Position Player | Age on 4/1/2021 | Highest level played | ETA
1. RHP Sixto Sanchez | 22 | MLB | 2020
Here’s what Prospect Hobbs wrote back on July 9:
“I love Sixto, I want me some Sixto, but Sixto is a paradox. Four plus pitches (depending on your assessment of the slider), velo that sits mid-to-high 90s and some pretty impressive command for a young gun. Yet, the career K/9 sits at 7.9, which takes into account an 8.5 K/9 in 103 Double-A frames last year. That’s obviously surprising, because Sanchez commands all of his offerings — a four-seam fastball, two-seamer with sinking action, changeup and slider — remarkably well for his age (1.7 career BB/9). The four-seamer is plus-plus, while the changeup is a plus pitch as well and you can argue the slider is anywhere from slightly above average-to-plus, although it’s still developing (out of his arsenal, I’ve seen him miss with the slider out over the plate the most). Through 335 1/3 Minor League innings, just 103 of those came at Double-A — and those were in the pitcher-friendly Southern League. All of this leads to the begging of the question, can Sixto be a 9.0+ K/9 arm for your fantasy team in the future?
The answer is yes. The stuff is too good and with elite command comes the ability to pinpoint pitches both in and out of the strike zone. The latter is something Sanchez needs to begin to do more frequently, and I don’t think any fantasy owner would complain about the BB/9 rising anywhere from 2.0-2.9 if he’s able to push his strikeout rates to 9.5+. It’s definitely possible and although some ‘perts’ might argue otherwise, I don’t believe his average strikeout numbers are due to a lack of deception or life on his fastball.”
The only thing that’s changed since then is baseball folks calling Sanchez “Baby Pedro” and ranking him as the best pitching prospect in baseball. Chalk one up for the natural. That sound you hear is the street light outside Hobbs’ house exploding in anticipation of the NLDS.
2. SS Jazz Chisholm | 23 | MLB | 2020
A plus-plus athlete, Chisholm gets to his power and speed in-game despite troubles making consistent contact. His electric energy and supreme confidence give him an edge in a game dominated by failure. It might take a while for him to hit enough to contribute to standard rotisserie leagues, but he’ll have hot streaks that make him a must-own in 2021 and beyond.
3. RHP Max Meyer | 22 | NA | Mid 2021
I’m tempted to quote Hobbs again here because I know he’s a big believer in Meyer, a former shortstop with perhaps the best stuff in the 2020 pitcher class. MLB pipeline’s Jim Callis called Meyer the best athlete in the whole draft, and many thought his elite fastball/slider combination would lead Miami to bring him straight to the show. It seems clearer now that they’ll be careful about developing him as a starter, which sounds good to me, given the successes we’ve seen from Gary Denbo and his crew in South Beach.
4. RHP Edward Cabrera | 22 | AA | Early 2021
Over the winter, we heard whispers that certain scouts liked Cabrera’s stuff better than Sixto’s. At 6’4, he looks the part more than the stocky, six-foot Sanchez, so I can’t help but wonder how much of those whispers were scout-speak for who looks better getting off the team bus. That’s not meant to disparage Cabrera, who’s upper nineties fastball combines with his plus slider and developing changeup to make him a nasty at bat for opponents. He missed time this year with elbow soreness. If he hadn’t, we might’ve seen him hit 100 in a big league game, and I might be tempted to rank him second here. As is, he’ll tumble some in my rankings this winter because I can’t in good conscience recommend investing in a sore-armed prospect, especially one who’s seen his velocity spike over the past couple years.
5. OF Monte Harrison | 25 | MLB | 2020
A top-of-the-scale athlete who’d fit right into an NFL backfield, Harrison did not maximize his chances this year, slashing .170/.235/.255 across 51 plate appearances. Miami wasn’t especially patient with him, sending him back to the training site after just nine starts in center field. He’s always struggled with strikeouts, but I think he’s better than the 51 percent K rate he posted in 2020. His batting stance has been in flux most of his career, and I’m eager to see what he does in 2021 if he has a full Spring Training or a couple months at AAA to get himself in sync. If Roman Quinn and Adalberto Mondesi have taught us anything, it’s that patience can pay big dividends with speedsters.
6. 1B Lewin Diaz | 24 | MLB | 2020
Big league pitchers got inside on Lewin Diaz a lot this year, and he didn’t get much time to adjust to the MLB rhythms. A 6’4” lefty who used to be a bit on the softer side, Diaz has slimmed down over the past few seasons, unlocking improved bat speed and defensive mobility. His glove was already a strength, and while he hasn’t hit well since the Marlins acquired him, he’s still the first baseman of the future, and he’s still a guy who posted a 157 wRC+ for Minnesota’s AA team in 2019, striking out just 16.7 percent of the time across 138 plate appearances there. That kind of contact-skill in a power bat is rare, so the arrows are still pointing up for Diaz regardless of a rough 14 games in the majors (11 wRC+ . . . eep!). Point of information: I’m working to disregard most bad debuts, especially brief ones from guys who didn’t get any game action to prepare.
7. OF JJ Bleday | 23 | A+ | Mid 2021
Bleday’s game made a leap in his Junior year at Vanderbuilt, when he bumped his home run total from 4 to 27, but it’s not like he wasn’t good as a Sophomore, slashing .365/.494/.511 in 166 plate appearances. The Marlins liked him enough to send him straight to high A Jupiter after selecting him 4th overall in the 2019 draft, where Bleday held his own (107 wRC+) and could find himself in AA to begin 2021. The hope is he becomes a plus hit, plus power bat who can hold his own on defense, so margin for error is thin for him to become an impact fantasy player. He spent 2020 at the training site facing the team’s elite young arms on a weekly basis, which could be a very good thing for the team’s young bats, even if they were getting bullied out there.
8. LHP Trevor Rogers | 23 | AA | Mid 2021
Trevor Rogers would’ve been one of the arms with the stuff to bully a young lefty like Bleday.
Some words from last year’s list:
“At 6’6” he has a huge advantage when he finds consistent mechanics that maximize extension. Over his final eight starts in high A, Rogers struck out 66 hitters in 53.2 innings on his way to a 1.68 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and 29.1 K-BB percentage. Safe to say he earned that promotion to AA.”
Rogers’ stint in the majors has thus far mirrored this conceit. When he’s on, he can be dominant. When he’s not, it can get ugly. Pretty common story for a young pitcher, but it’s nice that he has a plus change up to combat righties and a tough angle for lefties. He threw the change just 18.7 percent of the time, the slider 21.3, and the fastball 60, which is too high a percentage for my taste. Here’s hoping he pushes the change to around 30 percent in 2021.
9. OF Jesus Sanchez | 22 | MLB | 2020
Sanchez swings at everything and always has. A corner outfielder with ideal size and crazy bat speed from the left side, he’ll get a lot of chances and have a long time to figure out pitch selection. My worry is that some guys just don’t see spin as well as others, and Sanchez has shown little ability to identify pitch type or location to this point.
10. OF Jerar Encarnacion | 23 | A+ | Early 2022
Here’s what I wrote about Encarnacion on last year’s list:
“I’m not typically big on hitting statistics from the Arizona Fall League, but the pitching is a little sharper this year because there’s no dead time between the MiLB season and the AFL. I’m still more likely to ignore than overreact to a couple weeks of exhibition games, but when a hitter who’s coming into his own produces like Jerar Encarnacion, it merits some attention. He’s slashing .289/.353/.533 against strong competition. It’s only been 45 at bats, but his three HR are third in the league, and this is just a continuation of the development he enjoyed during the season.”
Remember the Arizona Fall League of 2019? Yeah, me neither. Encarnacion is a bit like Bleday in that he’ll have to hit a lot to help us from a corner outfield spot, but he’s a little different in that he has less contact ability and perhaps a little more natural pop.
Thanks for reading!
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