Marlins Top 5 Fantasy Prospects
1- Christian Yelich, OF
The industry consensus is that Yelich is the top prospect in the Marlins system, and it's not particularly close. Drafted in the first round in 2010, Yelich has raked, raked, and raked some more since joining the pro ranks. Scouting reports since draft day have called for Yelich to hit for a high average. There were mixed opinions as to how much power he'd develop. So far, so good. He may not turn into an elite power hitter, but 20-25 home runs appear within reach during his peak years. He's not just a high average guy either, he also knows how to work the walk, and has a tick above average speed and excellent base running instincts that will make him a threat to best 20 stolen bases annually. Though he was drafted out of high school, his advanced approach, top notch makeup, and excellent performance could get him to the show quicker than expected.
2- Marcell Ozuna, OF
Ozuna is a player that really fine tuned his approach in 2011. His power was already on display in the short-season New York-Penn League in 2010, but he struck out too often, and rarely walked. Both rates improved in 2011, and he still showed plus power popping 23 home runs in 496 at-bats at the Low-A level as a 20 year old. For a guy with plus-plus power that will play in the corner outfield, it would be understandable to assume he's a a big plodder. That's not the case though, and Ozuna has average speed which could help him net a handful or more stolen bases. Even with the advances he made in his strikeout rate, he probably won't ever hit for a high average. If he settles in around .250-.260, his power and speed will be enough to carry him and make him a solid fantasy player.
3- Jose Fernandez, SP
The team's first round pick in 2011, Fernandez, got his first taste of pro ball after signing. Fernandez is a big young man, 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, and features the expected power arsenal of someone that build. His fastball operates in the 92-95 mph range and hits the upper 90s. He backs that with two distinct breaking balls, a curveball and hard slider, as well as a change-up. As with most power pitchers, whether he reaches his ceiling will come down to how well his control and command come around. Neither are awful now, and at just 19 years old, he has plenty of time to further refine them.
4- J.T. Realmuto, C
Realmuto is an above average athlete at the catcher position. Of course, that's less shocking when taking into account he was converted to catcher after playing shortstop in the prep ranks. Above average hitting catchers are fantasy gold, and Realmuto looks to fit that mold. He projects to have average to above-average power, but may have tapped into more of that than expected thanks to an adjustment made during the season. He hit all of his home runs, 12, in the second half of the season, so stay tuned. His strikeout rate is acceptable, but could hinder his average a bit. That said, he won't be a train wreck in the category. He spent the entire year in Low-A, so he's a few years away. Could emerge as a dynasty option this year.
5- Chad James, SP
Oh how worthless win-and-losses are in evaluating the talent of a pitcher. James had an unsightly fives wins and 15 losses in 2011 at High-A. His fastball is no longer a premium offering, even for a southpaw, sitting at 89-92. He did throw harder in the past, so perhaps he can regain a few ticks. His once excellent curveball was so bad he scrapped it for a slider. He's taking baby steps with the change-up, and could have the repertoire necessary to get through lineups multiple times if everything develops. His star isn't nearly as bright as it was when he was selected in the first round of the 2009 draft, but don't give up on him yet.
Bonus- Mason Hope, SP
The Marlins selected Hope in the fifth round out of a high school in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and paid him an above slot $250,000 bonus to lure him away from a college commitment to the University of Oklahoma. He didn't garner the headlines high school teammate Archie Bradley did, and he lacks the ace ceiling of his prep teammate, but he is an intriguing prospect in his own right. His fastball has decent velocity at 90-92 mph, and at 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, has some projection for adding a few ticks. His bread and butter secondary offering is a plus curveball. He debuted in the Gulf Coast League, and was outstanding, striking out 31 batters in 27.1 innings. His control was also very good walking only seven batters. It will be a few years before the Marlins truly see what they got for their investment, but early returns are promising.
Top 5 in 2012
1- Scott Cousins, OF
He profiles as a fourth outfielder, and is likely to start the season in that role for the Marlins. Cousins can provide average-ish power and speed. He really doesn't belong near fantasy rosters, but strange things happen. A hot streak might make him fantasy relevant in NL-only leagues.
2- Jose Ceda, RP
Ceda has a power fastball/slider arsenal and adds a splitter to the mix for good measure. He was flat out dominant in Triple-A, and showed himself well in the majors. Unfortunately, the addition of Heath Bell means the closer role is filled. If an injury were to rear its ugly head and bite Bell, Ceda could temporarily stand in.
3- Chris Hatcher, RP
Hatcher has taken the Jason Motte/Kenley Jansen route of development as a pitcher. In other words, he's a converted catcher. Don't mistake the comparison as any kind of endorsement that he'll match their production, but Hatcher does feature a fastball with plus velocity and control. He backs the fastball with a developing slider and a developing change-up. Like Ceda, he got time in the bigs. He bypassed Triple-A, and wasn't impressive in his major league debut, so expect him to get more minor league seasoning.
4- Matt Dominguez, 3B
Always heralded for his glove, Dominguez fantasy ceiling was never considered high. Prior to the signing of Jose Reyes, he at least had a clear path to playing time going for him. That is no longer the case. At best, Dominguez may be able to offer average power (think mid-to-high teens home run totals).
5- Kyle Skipworth, C
This top five in 2012 is easily the worst I've been tasked with compiling, and Skipworth is a perfect extension of that. He has been a colossal disappointment since the Marlins selected him sixth overall in the 2008 amateur draft. His defense is poor, his approach is ugly, he strikes out too much, and his in game power lags way behind his batting practice pop. Why does he make this list? Someone had to. Catcher is a grueling position, and John Buck isn't a spring chicken. Buck spent time on the disabled list with a herniated disc in 2009, so it's not as if he hasn't been sidelined before.