Marlins Unfazed By James' Struggles





FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA The Marlins graduated several marquee hitting prospects to the majors the last couple of seasons. Their top pitching prospect likely will remain just that another few years.

Lefthander Chad James, a first-round pick out of an Oklahoma high school in 2009, didn't have an impressive debut last year—at least statistically. The Marlins aren't worried. They expected that James might struggle at low Class A Greensboro, and they thought he had the makeup to handle it.

"He's frustrated," vice president of scouting and player development Jim Fleming said. "He's a very competitive kid and he wants it to happen fast. His first professional inning came this year and it came in Greensboro. He has great stuff. All you have to do is sit behind the screen. You don't have to have a gun. Your eyes tell you this is really good stuff. He's very competitive and very aggressive."

Like many kids with big fastballs, James at times unsuccessfully fought the urge to throw harder when things went south. The resulting stats: 5-10, 5.12 with 105 strikeouts and 65 walks in 114 innings. James also worked through correcting a minor delivery issue.

"It's direction," Fleming said. "As most aggressive kids, they want to pull open a little bit. Instead of working down through the glove he'll work around a little bit, which makes him rotational, makes stuff flat, makes stuff up, arm late. It's not real bad. It's just bad enough to get him in trouble.

"Some guys really pull hard and it's real a mess. You look at his delivery and it's even a little hard to see. You get it on film and can see the lead arm wants to pull a little bit."

James finished the season in good order, completing six innings in four of his last five starts. Over the last 23 innings of that final 29-inning stretch he struck out 20, walked 11 and gave up 19 hits.

One thing to monitor in 2011 is how James performs against lefthanders. He has a plus curveball, but Fleming said he tries to manipulate it against lefties. They batted .310 off him, 51 points higher than righthanded hitters.

FISH BITES

• The Marlins will convert Triple-A catcher Chris Hatcher to a pitcher. Hatcher, who made his major league debut and appeared in five games last season, hit .210 in 1,174 minor league at-bats over his first five professional seasons.

• Lefty Jose Alvarez tossed five scoreless innings with two hits, no walks and three strikeouts over three Caribbean Series appearances for Venezuela. Alvarez, 21, split time between the Greensboro rotation and bullpen in 2010.