Marlins Top 10 Prospects
By Mike Berardino
Henry went on to use his $158.5 million golden parachute to buy the Red Sox, while Loria and stepson David Samson, the Marlins new president, were left to pick up the pieces of a broken South Florida market. They took over less than a week before the start of spring training, and missteps were plentiful along the way. Florida wound up 29th in attendance, and even that required the last-day purchase of 15,000 tickets by an anonymous "benefactor" to clip the reviled Expos by an average of seven fans.
Even so, the Marlins would have ranked third in Pacific Coast League attendance, trailing the Sacramento River Cats and the Memphis Redbirds. The Mexican Leagues Saltillo Sarape Makers also outdrew the Marlins.
On the field, prospects were better. The major league club finished 79-83 under new manager Jeff Torborg, who came south from Montreal with dozens of other employees on the baseball side. The fourth-place finish was disappointing but understandable considering the stream of key injuries to such players as Josh Beckett, A.J. Burnett, Alex Gonzalez and Brad Penny.
In the minors, an already solid collection of talent was augmented through a trio of trades. Lefty Dontrelle Willis and catcher Ryan Jorgensen came from the Cubs in a controversial deal near the end of spring training. Willis was the Marlins minor league pitcher of the year after going 12-2, 1.83 at two Class A stops.
At midseason, trades that sent Ryan Dempster to Cincinnati and Cliff Floyd to Montreal netted young pitchers Don Levinski, Justin Wayne and Ryan Snare. Wayne, a former first-rounder out of Stanford, received a September callup and the other two arent too far away.
As he had in Montreal, Loria showed a willingness to spend in the draft. Outfielder Jeremy Hermida received a $2.0125 million bonus as the 11th overall pick and did nothing to disappoint. Second-rounder Robert Andino, a slick-fielding shortstop, signed for $750,000 and the Marlins had signed 17 of their top 20 picks.
Two more key additions came in the front office, as former Devil Rays scouting director Dan Jennings and former Rockies farm director Mike Hill came aboard during the season.
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 180. Signed: Venezuela, 1999. Signed by: Louie Eljaua and Miguel Garcia.
Background: Signed for a Venezuelan-record $1.9 million bonus, Cabrera grew up with a diamond just beyond his backyard, and his instincts show as much. He was called up from the winter parallel league in his homeland at age 18 and has been a key member of the Aragua Tigers the past two winters. Hes the youngest player to appear in the Futures Game in the four years of the event, achieving the distinction in 2001 in Seattle and returning last year in Milwaukee. Cabrera benefited from playing with roommate Adrian Gonzalez at low Class A Kane County in 2001. Gonzalez helped him achieve a comfort level with a foreign language and strange land. Some wondered how Cabrera would fare when Gonzalez jumped ahead to Double-A last year, but Cabrera stood out at high Class A Jupiter.
Strengths: Signed as a shortstop, Cabrera moved to third base last spring and fared well. Hes a below-average runner but is quick on his feet and has drawn comparisons to countryman Andres Galarraga in that regard. He has soft hands and a plus arm thats accurate and ranks as the best among the systems infielders. Cabreras line-drive swing has produced more doubles than homers so far. While some of his teammates were frustrated by hitting in the Florida State League, Cabrera just took his doubles off the wall and stayed positive. He projects to hit for both average and power, with annual totals of 35-40 homers not out of the question down the road. He loves to play, doesnt get too emotional and constantly works to get better.
Weaknesses: While he has a good grasp of the strike zone, Cabrera should accept more walks and lay off breaking balls out of the zone. He isnt much of a threat on the bases, though hes an instinctive baserunner. He was plagued by a lower-back problem in 2001 but had no relapses last season. Having outgrown shortstop, Cabrera could get too big for third base if he continues to add bulk and wind up at first base, which would give the organization a perplexing logjam.
The Future: With Mike Lowell two seasons from free agency, Cabrera is poised to take over at third base by 2005, if not sooner. Hell start the year at Floridas new Double-A Carolina affiliate.
Click here for prospects 2-10.
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