Prospect spotlight: These Marlins’ Minor Leaguers have caught MO2’s eye
The Minor League season has begun, and the Marlins’ system is off to a fast start. Max Meyer lives up to expectations, and other prospects that caught Man On Second Baseball’s attention
By Joe Frisaro @ManOn2nd
MIAMI — Minor League season is underway, and many Miami Marlins’ prospects wasted little time making strong first impressions.
MO2, as part of its mission to cover “all things Florida baseball,” will be providing extensive coverage of the Minor Leagues.
Today, we stick with the Marlins’ system, which is as deep as its ever been.
Here’s our close look:
Pensacola Blue Wahoos:
The Double-A squad is loaded, featuring prospects like Max Meyer, JJ Bleday, Jerar Encarnacion, Peyton Burdick and Victor Victor Mesa. The sleeper pitcher on this team is left-hander Jake Eder. More on him in a minute.
The star performance in the opener was turned in by Meyer, making his professional debut. The No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, Meyer came as advertised on Wednesday night.
Meyer threw five shutout innings, with five strikeouts and no walks. The lone hit the right-hander yielded came in the fifth inning.
With is innings being managed and the fact it was Game 1, Meyer’s night was done after five innings.
Besides the numbers, what did we learn. Meyer indeed is a strike thrower. His fastball was in the 93-97 mph range, which is exactly what the club expected. His slider has been called the best pitch in the 2020 draft.
The pitch to keep an eye on with Meyer is his changeup. It’s got a chance to be a third plus pitch. Right now, Meyer is going with a three-pitch mix. If all three are plus, you have the makings of a top of the rotation pitcher.
As for Eder, the Marlins have high hopes for their fourth rounder in the 2020 draft. A lefty from Vanderbilt University, Eder has impressed by his performances since signing with Miami.
Outfielder JJ Bleday, the Marlins’ No. 1 pick in 2019, is starting off at Pensacola. In his first game, he had two hits, but what became the obvious question is, why was he starting in center field instead of right field?
The answer is simple.
Minor League ball is about player development. The Marlins are trying to increase the versatility of their prospects. Bleday doesn’t project as an everyday big league center fielder, but he’s certainly athletic enough to handle the position, if necessary. So look for Bleday to move around in the outfield. He was the DH on Thursday.
Look for Victor Victor Mesa, who played left field in the opener, to get his share of time in center field. The Marlins also had Jerar Encarnacion starting at first base. The plan is for Encarnacion to play plenty of corner outfield, and continue to get work at first base, which increases his versatility. Encarnacion was in the outfield on Thursday.
Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp: Now the Marlins Triple-A affiliate after being Double-A for ages, Jacksonville is filled with players and pitchers who have at least some big league experience.
Left-hander Braxton Garrett got the Opening Day start. Miami’s first-round pick in 2016 threw well in his first outing. More than the numbers (2 runs, 3 2/3 IP, 4 ks), pay more attention to how he threw the ball, which was well.
Garrett got a taste of the big leagues last season, and is a rotation option should the Marlins have a need.
At Class A Advanced Beloit, catcher Will Banfield connected on an opposite-field home run on Wednesday night. Banfield is an advanced defensive catcher, who has yet to prove himself at the plate.
Banfield has power. It’s a matter of him continuing to improve the offensive part of his game.
Defensively, he’s already a standout in terms of his catching abilities and handling the pitching staff.
Another catcher to keep an eye on is Nick Fortes at Double-A.
In the opener, Fortes had two hits. Offensively, he has good bat-to-ball skills.
Defensively, the Marlins are entrusting Fortes to catch Meyer, and the rest of the Pensacola staff.
Fortes and Banfield each benefited by being at the alternate training site in 2020, where they worked with players from all levels.