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Top Ten Prospects: Florida Marlins
Complete Index of Top 10s

By Mike Berardino
November 9, 2005

Chat Wrap: 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 wild-card bid.

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 elbow tendinitis.

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.

1. JEREMY HERMIDA, of       Age: 22 Ht: 6-4 Wt: 200 B-T: L-R
Drafted: 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.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Carolina (AA) .293 .457 .518 386 77 113 29 2 18 63 111 89 23 2
Florida .293 .383 .634 41 9 12 2 0 4 11 6 12 2 0

2. SCOTT OLSEN, lhp        Age: 22 B-T: L-L Ht: 6-4 Wt.: 198
Drafted: 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.


The Future:
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.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Carolina (AA) 6 4 3.92 14 14 1 1 80 75 7 27 94 .251
Florida 1 1 3.98 5 4 0 0 20 21 5 10 21 .259

3. JOSH JOHNSON, rhp        Age: 22 B-T: L-R Ht: 6-7 Wt.: 240
Drafted: 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.


The Future:
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.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Carolina (AA) 12 4 3.87 26 26 1 0 140 139 4 50 113 .261
Florida 0 0 3.65 4 1 0 0 12 11 0 10 10 .256

4. CHRIS VOLSTAD, rhp        Age: 19 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-7 Wt.: 190
Drafted: 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.


The Future:
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 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
GCL Marlins (R) 1 1 2.33 6 6 0 0 27 25 1 4 26 .243
Jamestown (SS) 3 2 2.13 7 7 0 0 38 43 0 11 29 .279

5. AARON THOMPSON, lhp        Age: 19 B-T: L-L Ht: 6-3 Wt.: 195
Drafted: HS—Houston, 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 slider.


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.


The Future:
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) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
GCL Marlins (R) 2 4 4.50 8 8 0 0 32 42 1 10 41 .316
Jamestown (SS) 1 2 3.10 5 5 0 0 20 25 1 10 17 .301

6. ROBERT ANDINO, ss       Age: 21 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-0 Wt.: 170
Drafted: HS—Miami, 2002 (2nd round)   Signed by: John Martin

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 recognition.


The Future:
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) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Carolina (AA) .269 .324 .357 516 63 139 30 0 5 48 37 111 22 7
Florida .159 .245 .250 44 4 7 4 0 0 1 5 8 1 0

7. TAYLOR TANKERSLEY, lhp       Age: 22 B-T: L-L Ht: 6-2 Wt.: 225
Drafted: 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 in 2004.

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.


The Future:
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.

2005 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Greensboro (Lo A) 2 7 5.18 12 12 0 0 66 74 12 25 63 .279
Jupiter (Hi A) 1 0 3.38 4 4 1 0 24 21 1 9 19 .247

8. JOSH WILLINGHAM, c/1b       Age: 27 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-1 Wt.: 200
Drafted: 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.


The Future:
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 League club.

2005 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Albuquerque (AAA) .324 .455 .676 219 56 71 14 3 19 54 47 54 5 1
Florida .304 .407 .348 23 3 7 1 0 0 4 2 5 0 0
Jupiter (Hi A) .222 .300 .333 9 1 2 1 0 0 1 0 2 0 0

9. KRIS HARVEY, 3b/of       Age: 22 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-2 Wt.: 195
Drafted: 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 athleticism.


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.


The Future:
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) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS
Jamestown (SS) .300 .320 .479 263 34 79 14 3 9 38 9 60 4 0

10. RYAN TUCKER, rhp       Age: 19 B-T: R-R Ht: 6-3 Wt.: 190
Drafted: 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.


The Future:
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) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
GCL Marlins (R) 3 3 3.69 8 7 0 0 32 35 0 16 23 .315
Jamestown (SS) 1 1 8.36 4 4 0 0 14 21 3 8 18 .323

Photo Credits:
Thompson: Rich Abel
Hermida: Robert Gurganus
Tucker, Volstad: Cliff Welch

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