Mike Berardino took your Marlins questions
Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections
of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development
personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards
of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time)
are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2006.
The Marlins thought they loaded up for a playoff run with the offseason
signing of first baseman Carlos Delgado to a four-year, $52 million
deal. Delgado held up his end of the bargain with his typical 30-homer,
100-RBIs output, but that didn’t lead to his first postseason
appearance. The Marlins lost 10 of their last 15 to short-circuit their
Rather, it was what Florida did with a handful of compensatory draft
picks following the free-agent losses of Carl Pavano, Armando Benitez
and Mike Redmond that allowed them to load up for future playoff runs.
Blessed with five of the first 44 picks and eight of the top 96 in the
2005 draft, the Marlins restocked a farm system that had been thinned
by attrition in recent years.
Six of those choices were spent on pitching, including the top five.
First-rounders Chris Volstad and Aaron Thompson cracked this Top 10
Prospects list, as did supplemental first-rounder Ryan Tucker. Florida’s
first five picks cost a combined $5.575 million, a small down payment
on the future.
Since becoming general manager at the end of the 2001 season, Larry
Beinfest has shown a willingness to use prospects in key trades, but
he found only one such opportunity to his liking this season. At the
July 31 deadline he shipped righthanders Yorman Bazardo and Mike Flannery
to the Mariners for veteran reliever Ron Villone. The Marlins strongly
considered a deal that would have sent prospective free agent A.J. Burnett
to the Orioles for a blend of young and veteran talent, but in the end
Beinfest chose to ride out the season with Burnett and take the extra
picks in the 2006 draft.
As usual, the farm system produced several key contributors during
the 2005 season. Lefthander Jason Vargas, a second-round pick in 2004
from Long Beach State, made the biggest impact after soaring from low
Class A Greensboro to the majors by mid-July. Earlier, fellow lefty
Scott Olsen made a handful of starts after being summoned from Double-A
Carolina. Olsen might have stayed longer if not for a minor bout with
Randall Messenger and Chris Resop led a class of rookie relievers summoned
to bolster an injury-wracked bullpen. Most struggled, but those two
showed some potential to stick at the front end of the bullpen in 2006.
Top positional prospects Jeremy Hermida, Robert Andino and Josh Willingham
all saw big league time in 2005. Hermida tore up the Southern League
and made the Futures Game, yet he still had to wait until Aug. 31 to
make his big league debut. Andino showed enough in a September callup
to throw his hat in the ring as Alex Gonzalez’ successor should
the flashy Venezuelan leave via free agency.
On the international front, Florida made no big-name signs. Fred Ferreira
and Marc DelPiano, the club’s chief international scouts, made
a strong run at 16-year-old Venezuelan righthander Delois Guerra, but
he signed instead with the Mets. The Marlins did sign a development
deal with Chitose, a Japanese amateur team in Hokkaido.
22 Ht: 6-4 Wt: 200 B-T: L-R
HS—Marietta, Ga., 2002 (1st round) Signed
by: Joel Smith
Background: As a high school standout in the
Atlanta area, Hermida was ticketed for Clemson along with local rival
Jeff Francoeur until the Marlins took him 11th overall in the 2002 draft.
Hermida earned Baseball America’s nod as the top pure hitter on
the prep level and the fourth-best position player overall. Scouts compared
him to Eric Chavez, Paul O’Neill and Andy Van Slyke, though Hermida
himself preferred Shawn Green as a role model. He signed without acrimony
for $2,012,500. His father groomed his hitting stroke from a young age,
converting him from a righthanded batter to a lefty at age 4. Hermida
was working with wood bats at age 13 and counted former big leaguer Terry
Harper among his early private instructors. All those lessons paid further
dividends in 2005, when he played in the Futures Game, was MVP of the
Southern League All-Star Game and hit a grand slam off Cardinals righthander
Al Reyes in his first big league plate appearance on Aug. 31. That made
Hermida the first big leaguer to do that since “Frosty” Bill
Duggleby in 1898. This is Hermida’s third straight winter atop this
list, a first in franchise history.
Strengths: After he totaled just 16 homers in his first three
pro seasons, Hermida’s power showed up in 2005. Working with Double-A
Carolina hitting coach Steve Phillips and roving instructor John Mallee,
Hermida was able to add more lift to his swing and started to pull inside
pitches for power. His slight frame continued to fill out. His biggest
selling point, though, is a tremendous ability to control the strike
zone. As his power increased and his reputation spread, Southern League
pitchers routinely avoided throwing him strikes. To his credit, Hermida
refused to expand his zone and piled up the third-highest walk total
in the minors. For the first time as a pro, he walked more than he struck
out. He also runs well and has been caught stealing just 10 times in
77 career chances. His arm is average.
Weaknesses: Nagging injuries remain a concern, as he battled
minor knee and hamstring problems in the middle of 2005. Earlier in
his career he dealt with an ankle problem (2002), a heel injury (2003)
and a pulled right hamstring (2004). A left wrist injury delayed his
promotion to the majors in late August but he downplayed its role in
some of his initial struggles with the Marlins. He continues to make
defensive progress, but Hermida is still working to improve his jumps,
routes, throwing accuracy and arm strength.
The Future: Everything has gone according to plan so far. The
next step is for Hermida to take over for free agent Juan Encarnacion
as the starting right fielder on Opening Day 2006. It’s possible
the Marlins will re-sign veteran Jeff Conine or import another veteran
option as an insurance policy, but after Hermida’s late burst
in September no one is thinking negatively. If given 500 at-bats as
expected, he should challenge to become the Marlins’ second National
League rookie of the year in four seasons.
HS—Crystal Lake, Ill., 2002 (6th round) Signed
by: Scot Engler
Background: Considered a project out of
high school, Olsen cost just $160,000 in bonus money. Jeff Schwarz, his
pitching coach in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, made a few mechanical
adjustments and soon Olsen was roaring through the system. He reached
the majors after just 397 minor league innings.
Olsen pitches at 91-93 mph and tops out in the mid-90s. His fastball
has late life and he has shown a vicious slider at times. It tends
to drop straight down like a changeup or a split when it’s
really on. He has a bulldog demeanor.
Olsen tends to overthrow when he gets in trouble and still needs
to learn when to subtract velocity instead of adding it. He has
gotten better at controlling his emotions and has packed more
muscle on his naturally slight frame, but he can improve further
in both areas.
Shut down for the final six weeks of the season with elbow inflammation,
Olsen is expected to be fine come spring training. He will compete
for a spot at the back end of a rotation that could have no one
over the age of 25.
HS—Tulsa, Okla., 2002 (4th round) Signed
by: Darrell Brown
Background: Signed for $300,000 out of high school,
Johnson just keeps improving. He has yet to repeat a minor league stop
and reached the majors after just 359 pro innings. He joins Graeme Lloyd
and Bill Hurst as the tallest pitchers in Marlins big league history.
Johnson uses his size to create a good downward plane in his delivery.
His best pitch is a 91-93 mph fastball that tops out at 95. His
changeup and slider continue to show progress. He has strong makeup
and mound presence.
For the second time in four pro seasons, Johnson missed time with
shoulder tendinitis, this time in May. He’s around the strike
zone so much that he can be hittable at times, and his secondary
pitches still need more work.
After getting a September callup, Johnson will compete in the
spring for a spot at the back end of Florida’s rotation.
He got some of his big league jitters out of the way during a
wild-card race and figures to be a fixture as a Marlins starter
for years to come, provided his shoulder cooperates.
HS—Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., 2005 (1st round) Signed
by: John Martin
Background: Volstad struggled in his final high
school start, throwing just 48 strikes in 92 pitches in a Florida state
semfinal playoff loss, and that allowed him to fall to the Marlins as
the 16th overall pick in the 2005 draft. After signing for a $1.6 million
bonus, he ranked as the top pitching prospect in both the GCL and the
short-season New York-Penn League.
For his experience level, Volstad is extremely polished. He shows
good poise, sound mechanics, an easy and repeatable delivery and
a willingness to take instruction. He pitches at 89-91 mph and
tops out at 94 mph. He can bury his curveball when necessary or
throw it for strikes. He has a solid changeup for his age and
generally keeps the ball down in the strike zone.
At times Volstad will slow his arm speed when he throws his changeup,
and he’ll also overthrow his curve. Adding more strength
would help him add velocity, and that should come with time.
Volstad should start 2006 at low Class A Greensboro. From there
he could move rather quickly through a system that has shown it
knows how to develop starting pitching.
2005 (1st round) Signed by: Dennis Cardoza
Background: One of Thompson’s biggest baseball
influences has been Kevin Millar, whom he has known since he was 5. Thompson’s
grandparents served as Millar’s host family when he played at Lamar,
and Thompson was a Lamar batboy. Thompson committed to Texas A&M and
was considered a tough sign until the Aggies fired their coaching staff,
which made his decision to accept a $1.225 million bonus easier.
Some believe Thompson has a higher ceiling than Chris Volstad.
Thompson shows good poise, savvy and competitiveness on the mound.
His fastball sits at 90-92 mph and he has a solid changeup and
Like most young pitchers, Thompson needs better command of his
secondary pitches. He also could stand to improve his pickoff
move and attention to detail. He has a good frame but will need
to add strength.
Thompson figures to join Volstad at Greensboro to start 2006.
As long as they keep showing an ability to master each level,
the Marlins won’t stand in their way.
2005 Club (Class)
GCL Marlins (R)
21 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-0 Wt.: 170
HS—Miami, 2002 (2nd round) Signed by: John
Background: Andino signed for $750,000 despite
organizational division on his real worth. When he hit just .188 in his
first full season, there were legitimate concerns but he turned things
around midway through 2004. Andino came up in September and started a
number of games in the National League wild-card race.
Andino shows tremendous range, a plus arm and the ability to make
the highlight play. His bat speed has improved and he has done
a better job of staying back on offspeed pitches after significant
work with Double-A hitting coach Steve Phillips and hitting coordinator
John Mallee. He was an effective basestealer in the minors.
Andino still makes too many errors, sometimes losing focus on
routine plays. At the plate, he appeared overmatched at times
in the majors. He must improve his upper-body strength and pitch
Incumbent Alex Gonzalez is a free agent and might prove too expensive
to retain. Andino is the top in-house option as his replacement.
More likely, Andino will head to Triple-A for more seasoning.
2005 Club (Class)
22 B-T: L-L Ht: 6-2 Wt.: 225
Alabama, 2004 (1st round) Signed by: Dave Dangler
Background: Tankersley’s father is a nuclear
physicist and his paternal grandfather pitched briefly in the minors.
It was Earl Tankersley who taught his grandson the importance of pitching
inside at an early age. The lessons paid off with a $1.3 million bonus
Tankersley is a strike thrower with a bulldog mentality. He pitches
at 88-90 mph and tops out at 92 mph with a fastball he releases
from a low three-quarters arm slot that makes him particularly
tough on lefties. His breaking ball is a slurve with good depth.
His changeup is making progress after he started throwing it more.
After dropping too much weight last offseason, Tankersley missed
two months with shoulder tendinitis. He struggled at times after
his return, especially with a breaking ball that needs more variation
in speed from his fastball. His stuff isn’t overpowering,
so he must be solid with his location.
Tankersley switched to the bullpen full-time in the Arizona Fall
League after the season. He figures to stay in a relief role in
2006, when he’ll probably open at high Class A Jupiter.
North Alabama, 2000 (17th round) Signed by: Larry Keller
Background: Willingham’s stock rose significantly
after he tried catching in instructional league in 2002. He has spent
limited time in the majors each of the past two seasons.
Willingham has molded himself into one of the best pure hitters
in the system. He shows a short swing, power to all fields and
tremendous command of the strike zone. His game-calling has improved
and his arm strength is average.
Despite all his hard work on his receiving and throwing, most
view Willingham as a DH stuck in the wrong league. He threw out
just 13 percent of basestealers in 2005, and missing two months
with a stress fracture in his left forearm cost him a chance to
get more comfortable behind the plate. Previous knee problems
have left him with below-average speed.
Paul LoDuca is signed for another two years, so Willingham figures
to keep bouncing around in a utility role with the Marlins. His
best hope for playing regularly would be a trade to an American
Clemson, 2005 (2nd round) Signed by: Joel Matthews
Background: Harvey's father Bryan is a former
all-star and the first closer in Marlins history. A two-way standout in
college, Kris hit 97 mph on the mound and finished second in NCAA Division
I with 25 homers last spring.
Harvey has easy power and the ability to handle high breaking
balls. IHe can turn around quality fastballs, and the ball seems
to jump off his bat. Playing right field was no problem for Harvey,
who showed a strong and accurate outfield arm. Late in the season
Harvey moved to third base, where he showed enough potential to
remain for the near future. The Marlins were surprised to discover
he has above-average speed, and he has the makeup to match his
Harvey's pitch selection needs improvement. So far he has gotten
by on natural strength, but he could stand to add muscle to a
thin frame. He had to shorten his arm action at third base, an
adjustment he continued to work on in Florida's year-end minicamp.
Harvey figures to start 2006 in low Class A. With his college
background and the system's void at third base, he could move
up the ladder rather quickly.
2005 Club (Class)
19 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt.: 190
HS—Temple City, Calif., 2005 (1st round supplemental) Signed
by: John Cole
Background: Tucker’s draft stock gathered
steam behind a plus fastball that had scouts drooling all spring. Several
clubs, including the Cardinals, considered taking Tucker as a first-rounder
but he fell to the Marlins as a sandwich pick. They signed him for $975,000
as a compensation choice for the loss of free agent Armando Benitez.
Tucker’s fastball sits at 92-95 mph and touches 97 with
late life. He shows great competitiveness on the mound. A good
athlete, he has a loose, fluid delivery and isn’t afraid
to pitch inside.
Because his fastball always has been so dominant, Tucker hasn’t
needed to develop a consistent breaking ball. The Marlins took
his curveball away temporarily and asked him to concentrate on
a slider with mixed results. He’s listed at 6-foot-3 but
is closer to 6 feet tall.
Some view Tucker as a future closer while others would like to
see him given a chance to develop as a starter. He was hit hard
at short-season Jamestown and could be sent back there in 2006.
2005 Club (Class)
GCL Marlins (R)
Thompson: Rich Abel
Hermida: Robert Gurganus
Tucker, Volstad: Cliff Welch