Maybe they have trouble holding onto these guys once they blossom into big-league stars but there is no end in sight to their seemingly endless pipeline of young talent. So, as we continue to examine farm systems that could have an impact on 2009 and beyond, Florida has to be taken into account. No, it will not be dealing away any prospects but the outstanding minor-league depth once again will allow it to sell off its more expensive major leaguers.
The Next Wave
Michael Stanton, OF -- There aren't too many talents floating around the minor leagues with as dynamic a skill-set as Stanton, pictured above and to the right. What's most interesting about him is the way he approaches his at-bats and the huge power he's able to produce. This is not your typical pull-happy, over-swinging young slugger. Watching him take batting practice is a fascinating sight as he spends at least a couple rounds not only focusing on taking the ball to right field, but driving shots out of the park that look like they should be coming off the bat of a left-handed slugger.
He has a compact swing and has a calm at the plate few young hitters can match. What the Marlins have here is a superior athlete with special physical skills that has evolved into a nearly complete ballplayer. It won't be too long until he's making a splash with the big club.
Matt Dominguez, 3B -- The polish has not yet arrived for Dominguez, and he may not be on the verge of bursting onto the big stage, but the physical tools are clearly present. Fans will be most curious about his bat but his glove nearly guarantees him a big-league future. He's especially quick to his backhand side and has the arm to pull off the spectacular play. His good hands may carry him to a Gold Glove sometime down the road.
Jake Smolinski, 3B -- With Dominguez in the system it's easy to see how Smolinski could be glanced over, but, you won't find too many guys who make hitting look as pretty as this 20-year-old. He has solid tools across the board, but nothing that jumps out. That is, of course until you get to his hitting tool. A player who works very hard at his craft in the cage, Smolinski has the profile of a perennial .300 hitter with some power to all fields.
His stance and swing mechanics resemble Evan Longoria's, and although he likely won't develop that type of power, he is as consistent a line-drive hitter as you'll find in the minors. If he can stay healthy and maintain his compact stroke, it's difficult to envision him hitting many roadblocks on his way up. This is a major sleeper and he could be a big part of Florida's future.
The Future of the 'Pen?
Steven Cishek, RHP -- If Florida needs a bullpen arm sometime in 2010, Cishek could come up and be a viable option pretty quickly. In his fastball and slider, he is the owner of two plus pitches and has the command of each to allow him to quickly move up the ladder. He mixes in a changeup now and then, but primarily works off the fastball and slider. His fastball sits at 91-93 mph, and he has shown the ability to reach 95 when needed. The slider has looked a little inconsistent at times, but the majority were plus, swing-and-miss pitches at 82-85 mph.
What makes him so difficult, however, is his funky leg kick and three-quarters delivery. He's very difficult for right-handed hitters to pick up, and he also has enough command to combat lefties. This is not a guy who will need to be used situationally. What the Marlins may have in him is a setup man who can pitch multiple innings. Cishek may have only reached advanced Single-A ball this year, but he has a veteran's approach and is not far off from contributing in the majors.
Daniel Jennings, LHP -- With their ninth-round selection in 2008, the Marlins may have netted themselves quite a steal. Jennings was outstanding at three levels this year, ending the season at Double-A. Jennings probably has the stuff to start, but Florida has elected to use him in the 'pen. He showed plus command for the most part, although during the year he hit a patch where he struggled with his control. But, when he's on, he throws his 90-93 mph fastball and sharp breaking ball at 80-83 for strikes.
He likes to pound the zone and work quickly, and shows off a very calm, professional demeanor. Jennings has the raw stuff and command to miss both left-handed and right-handed bats and could fill a key setup role on a contending club. It wouldn't be unreasonable to think Jennings could be pitching in the majors by the end of 2010.
Jhan Marinez, RHP -- In 2008, Marinez was scuffling in the Gulf Coast League. What I saw in 2009 was perhaps one of the best kept secrets in the minor leagues. At first it was curious why a a pitcher with an ERA north of 6.00 in rookie ball a season before would warrant such a big jump all the way to advanced Single-A ball with Jupiter (Fla.). The reason became clear the first time I saw Marinez enter a game. As he sat 96-99 mph, touching 100 in his first inning of work, it was apparent that the 21-year-old righty had experienced a tremendous velocity spike. In other outings, the velocity remained consistently around 95-97 mph, touching the upper 90s with ease.
Marinez also owns a slider, which at this stage is rather inconsistent, but has shown flashes of being an above average offering. When he has both pitches working, he is essentially unhittable at the minor-league level. He's still very raw and inexperienced, but with a superb breakout 2009 season, showing the type of explosive stuff he had on display, Marinez must be placed squarely on the prospect radar screen.
Frankie Piliere spent the last three seasons working as a scout, most recently in the professional scouting department for the Texas Rangers in 2009. He now serves as the National Baseball Analyst here at FanHouse.