Florida Marlins: Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

Florida Marlins: Scouting Reports

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, 2008.

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Florida Marlins

Stop us if you've heard this before: The Marlins continue their push for a new baseball-only stadium but haven't let that fruitless pursuit interrupt their quest to stockpile young talent for the future.

While the major league club suffered through an injury-marred season under first-year manager Fredi Gonzalez, dropping to 71-92 and last place in the National League East for the first time in eight years, the top levels of the organization enjoyed rare stability. Owner Jeffrey Loria followed the disappointment of 2007 by locking up four key members of his baseball operations staff through 2015.

Loria promoted general manager Larry Beinfest to president of baseball operations, with assistant general manager Michael Hill moving up to the titular role of GM. Beinfest and Hill will retain the same basic duties, with the new titles merely an attempt to head off potential inquiries about future positions elsewhere. Player-personnel guru Dan Jennings and scouting-and-development czar Jim Fleming also received identical extensions as Florida doled out uncommon security to its leading baseball thinkers.

This was Loria's way of letting his top advisers know he believes they're on the right track, even if the results on the field in 2007 failed to show that. Despite fielding the majors' second-lowest payroll at $32 million, the Marlins again boasted some of the top young talent in the game. Hanley Ramirez, in particular, built on the gains of his rookie-of-the-year season, putting himself in the same sentence as Jose Reyes and Jimmy Rollins for shortstop supremacy in the National League.

On draft day, the Marlins picked 12th and added a player who one day could play alongside Ramirez as Miguel Cabrera's eventual successor: California prep third baseman Matt Dominguez. They signed Dominguez, who hails from Beinfest's alma mater, Chatsworth (Calif.) High, for $1.8 million just before the Aug. 15 deadline.

It was the first time since taking Jeremy Hermida with the 11th overall selection in 2002 that Florida had gone away from its pitching-first approach to the draft. Scouting director Stan Meek called out names of position players with his first four selections, adding California prep outfielder Mike Stanton in the second round, Fresno CC catcher Jameson Smith in the third and UC Irvine outfielder Bryan Petersen in the fourth. Internationally, the Marlins proceeded cautiously amid stunning inflation but did sign Venezuelan shortstop Miguel Torres for $250,000.

The attempt to restock the organization with position talent seemed wise, especially considering the mound-heavy flavor of the Marlins' Top 10 Prospects list. Their best five prospects and six of the top eight are pitchers. Four of those arms came from the first and supplemental first rounds of the 2005 draft: Chris Volstad (No. 1), Ryan Tucker (No. 3), Sean West (No. 4) and Aaron Thompson (No. 8).

In the minors, Florida again struggled to produce victories as many of its top prospects were pushed along or even promoted to the majors. The farm system produced a cumulative mark of 323-367 (.468), with no affiliate reaching the playoffs and only three managing winning records. That was a slight improvement over 2006, when the affiliates won at a .465 clip and just one topped the .500 mark.

1.  Chris Volstad, rhp   Born: Sept. 23, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-7Wt: 190
 Drafted: HS—Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., (1st round)Signed by: John Martin
Chris VolstadBackground: Raised well by a dentist father and hygienist mother, Volstad committed to Miami out of high school. Though education was important to the family, it surprised absolutely no one when his stock rose to such an extent that he virtually had to turn pro.

A significant buzz followed him from the Area Code Games before his senior year, and the Marlins, who sponsored Volstad's team at that event, didn't forget what they saw from the righthander.

At least one Florida scout attended 11 of his 13 senior starts, and the scouting staff was ecstatic to make him the first of five pitchers they took before the second round of the 2005 draft.

The first prep pitcher selected at No. 16 overall, Volstad quickly signed for $1.6 million. He got on a major roll down the stretch at low Class A Greensboro in 2006, pitched effectively at high Class A Jupiter for the first four months of 2007 and received a late promotion to Double-A Carolina.

Whenever he makes the majors, he will tie the mark for tallest pitcher in franchise history. But that title could be short-lived with 6-foot-8 Sean West coming up through the system as well.

Strengths: Volstad keeps his fastball in the zone, typically at 89-92 mph, and hitters routinely drive the pitch into the ground. He will touch 94 mph occasionally with his four-seamer and, as he adds strength, some see him potentially adding another tick or two to that heater.

Pitching coordinator Wayne Rosenthal and Jupiter pitching coach Reid Cornelius changed Volstad's curve to a modified spike grip, and the early results were outstanding. He throws the curve for strikes at 80-82 mph and also has the makings of a plus changeup. Extensive experience as a high school basketball player helped Volstad improve his footwork and agility, which came in handy when he reached his current height as a junior.His makeup and intelligence draw rave reviews, and he's also a sponge for instruction. He shows good poise on the mound, consistently maintaining a poker face regardless of the results.

Weaknesses: Volstad gave up an alarming number of hits in 2007, especially at Jupiter, and you'd expect to see more strikeouts out of an organization's No. 1 prospect. His defenders say he's simply around the plate too much and that a lot of those hits are the result of defensive deficiencies behind him. He needs to do a better job of elevating his fastball to make young hitters chase. He's still learning how and when to bury his curveball, and he has to trust his changeup and use it more often. Though he shows good coordination, Volstad's big frame makes maintaining his delivery more of a challenge for him than with most pitchers.

He still has room to add muscle to his frame, particularly in his lower half. He must do a better job of holding runners, who take advantage of his high leg kick.

The Future: No. 1 on this list for the second straight year, Volstad must start showing he can miss a few more bats, but he's right on schedule. He'll spend at least the first half of 2008 in Double-A, with a chance at a second-half callup to the majors. Whenever he arrives, he projects as a solid No. 3 starter for years to come.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Jupiter (Hi A) 8 9 4.50 21 20 2 0 126 152 8 37 93 .293
Carolina (AA) 4 2 3.16 7 7 0 0 43 41 4 10 25 .252
2.  Brett Sinkbeil, rhp   Born: Dec. 26, 1984B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 170
 Drafted: Missouri State, 2006 (1st round)Signed by: Ryan Wardinsky
Brett SinkbeilBackground: Because Sinkbeil missed three weeks with a strained oblique, he slipped to the 19th pick in the 2006 draft, where he signed for $1.525 million. He missed time with elbow and lower back concerns in his first full pro season, the latter a herniated disc suffered in weight training that cost him six weeks the end of the year. It responded well to rest and rehab and he headed to Hawaii Winter Baseball.

Strengths: A hard worker, Sinkbeil has two plus pitches. His fastball sits between 91-94 mph with late life and his slider is the best in the system. He has made significant strides with his changeup, especially after Marlins officials felt his early elbow troubles were the result of leaning too heavily on his slider.

Weaknesses: Sinkbeil's injuries have led to concerns about his durability, and some see him as a future reliever as a result. Some scouts don't like his pendulum-style arm action and feel that could contribute to his physical problems.He has to be careful to work down in the zone because his stuff tends to straighten out when he elevates his pitches.

The Future: After missing 10 weeks at Jupiter, Sinkbeil figures to return to high Class A for the start of 2008. A big showing in Hawaii or a fast start could get him to Double-A early in the year.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Jupiter (Hi A) 6 4 3.42 14 14 1 0 79 82 8 14 49 .268
3.  Ryan Tucker, rhp   Born: Dec. 6, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 190
 Drafted: HS—Temple City, Calif., 2005 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: John Cole
Ryan TuckerBackground: A huge senior season, highlighted by 69 strikeouts in 43 innings, moved Tucker into the sandwich round of the 2005 draft, and he signed for $975,000. He was suspended last season after disputes with Jupiter pitching coach Reid Cornelius, but Marlins officials chalked that up to a natural flareup between two strong personalities.

Strengths: Armed with the biggest fastball in the system, Tucker runs it up there at 93-96 mph and has touched 98. He has gotten better at holding runners, thanks to a slide step he has been able to incorporate. His changeup is solid and he's learned to use it effectively as a second pitch. His mound presence is excellent and he doesn't lack for confidence.

Weaknesses: Tucker could go straight to the big leagues if he just develops a legitimate slider. His success rate with the pitch remains down in the 20-30 percent range, and that must improve markedly. That's why pitching coordinator Wayne Rosenthal mandated a minimum of 10-15 sliders per game late in 2007. Previous attempts at mastering a curveball or a a cutter were scrapped.

The Future: Tucker should move up the ladder and open the year in Double-A. While some still see him as a future closer, the Marlins plan to keep him in the rotation until he proves otherwise.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Jupiter (Hi A)
5 8 3.71 24 24 1 0 138 142 6 46 104 .264
4.  Sean West, lhp   Born: June 15, 1986B-T: L-LHt: 6-8Wt: 200
 Drafted: HS—Shreveport, La., 2005 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Ryan Fox
Sean WestBackground: After signing for $775,000 out of high school, West showed he might have the highest ceiling of any of the five pitchers Florida took in the first 44 picks in June 2005. Signed away from San Jacinto (Texas) JC, he could become the tallest pitcher in Marlins big league history, but his timetable was set back when he had season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum last March.

Strengths: Aggressive and competitive, West can overwhelm hitters with a 90-93 mph fastball that touched 96 mph and showed good tail before he got hurt. He has a Randy Johnson-type look with his height and three-quarters arm slot. He has two different sliders, one tight and the other with a larger break. His changeup has shown plus potential at times. Considered immature in the past, he worked hard on his conditioning during his rehab, adding additional trunk strength.

Weaknesses: West's secondary pitches didn't get a chance to improve, because he not only missed a season but was restricted from using them when he was able to return to the mound. Durability will be a concern. He still has a tendency to rush his delivery, letting his arm drag behind that big frame.

The Future: While the rest of his draft class moves on to Double-A, West will have to head to high Class A and show he can stay healthy.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Did Not Play—Injured
5.  Gaby Hernandez, rhp   Born: May 21, 1986B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 210
 Drafted: HS—Miami, 2004, (3rd round)Signed by: Joe Salermo (Mets)
Gaby HernandezBackground: Acquired from the Mets in the Paul LoDuca salary dump, the hometown Miami kid keeps impressing as he climbs the ladder. Hernandez annually has been among the youngest players at each level, but that has yet to catch up with him.

Hernandez' tight curveball comes and goes but still ranks as the best in the system. His fastball sits at 88-92 mph and touches 94 mph with good deception. His changeup is improving and shows plus life at times. He has proven to be durable, missing time in 2006 with a minor toe injury but having no other physical problems of note. He has a well-developed frame and good athleticism.

Weaknesses: Hernandez wore down in the final month, when he posted an 8.48 ERA, and may have put too much pressure on himself with a potential big league callup dangling in front of him. He needs to be more consistent and do a better job of resisting the urge to pitch backward. He can overthink at times and be too self-critical.

The Future: Hernandez will come to spring training with a chance to make the Marlins rotation, but more likely he will go to Triple-A Albuquerque for a few additional months of seasoning. Once he makes it to Florida, he profiles as a back-of-the-rotation piece who can eat up valuable innings.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Carolina (AA)
9 11 4.22 28 28 1 0 154 144 14 56 113 .245
6.  Chris Coghlan, 2b   Born: June 18, 1985B-T: L-RHt: 6-1Wt: 190
 Drafted: Mississippi, 2006 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: Mark Willoughby
Chris CoghlanBackground: Coghlan hit the radar by winning a Cape Cod League batting title (.346) the summer before he went 36th overall in the 2006 draft and signed for $950,000. While at Mississippi, he drew comparisons to Bill Mueller for his dirtbag playing style and ability to put the barrel on the ball.

Strengths: Coghlan's plate discipline is rated the best in the organization, and Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria considers him one of his favorites. After playing mostly third base in college, Coghlan adapted well to second. He has improved his pivot and footwork around the bag, and his aptitude and work habits are excellent. He has an average arm.

Weaknesses: Coghlan struggled at the plate after a second-half promotion to high Class A, but he had hernia surgery before reporting to the Arizona Fall League and showed better movement and balance after recovering. He had an extreme inside-out swing, and hitting coordinator John Mallee has taught him to stay behind the ball better and use the whole field, which also improved his gap power. He's an average runner at best, but has good instincts on the bases.

The Future: Depending on how he performs in the AFL, Coghlan could return to Jupiter or jump to Double-A. He's on track to reach the majors by 2009.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Greensboro (Lo A)
.325 .419 .534 305 60 99 26 4 10 64 47 43 19
Jupiter (Hi A)
.200 .277 .331 130 17 26 5 3 2 18 15 19 5
7.  Matt Dominguez, 3b   Born: August 28, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 180
 Drafted: HS—Chatsworth, Calif., 2007 (1st round)Signed by: Tim McDonnell
Matt DominguezBackground: A standout on the same Chatsworth (Calif.) High School team that produced No. 2 overall pick Mike Moustakas, Dominguez played for the U.S. junior national team that played in Cuba the summer before his senior year. Dominguez signed on the Aug. 15 deadline for $1.8 million.

Strengths: Dominguez is a tremendous defender, slick of glove and smooth of hands. He has drawn comparisons to Ryan Zimmerman and Mike Lowell for his work at the hot corner, as well as a bat that should add gap power as he matures and gains strength. He has a strong arm and is judicious about showing it off. He shows loose hands at the plate and good whip in his swing, plus the ability to put the bat on the ball.

Weaknesses: Dominguez was lunging at the plate upon first signing, but hitting coordinator John Mallee helped him concentrate on staying back to better handle the inside pitch. He tended to tinker too much with his swing in high school, rather than maintaining a consistent stroke. He doesn't run well.

The Future: Dominguez should head to Greensboro, where the forgiving conditions for hitters should help him gain confidence. His glove is advanced, but his bat will dictate how quickly he moves through the minors.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
GCL Marlins (R)
.100 .136 .100 20 0 2 0 0 0 2 1 2 0
Jamestown (R)
.189 .211 .324 37 3 7 2 0 1 4
1 12 0
8.  Aaron Thompson, lhp   Born: Feb. 7, 1987B-T: L-LHt: 6-3Wt: 195
 Drafted: HS—Houston, 2005 (1st round)Signed by: Dennis Cardoza
Aaron ThompsonBackground: Thompson signed with the Marlins for $1.225 million in 2005 after a coaching upheaval at Texas A&M changed his mind about his college commitment. Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria was struck by his rare polish during predraft film sessions, at one point jumping up and blurting out how much he looked like Whitey Ford.

Strengths: Part of a standout Jupiter rotation in 2007, Thompson more than held his own by comparison. His fastball sat at 88-91 mph and touched 93 mph, showing good run and effectiveness against righties. His changeup is among the best in the system, and both his curveball and slider show plus potential. He keeps the ball down, allowing just two home runs all season. He holds runners well and shows excellent poise.

Weaknesses: Thompson needs to do a better job of pitch selection, as he too often tries to make a perfect pitch or trick hitters rather than simply working the plate. He still overthrows at times as well, and he must do a better job of maintaining his arm slot on the curve.

The Future: Thompson is pretty close to his ceiling as a No. 3 or 4 starter now. With a little experience at Double-A in 2008, he could be ready for a shot at the big leagues.
2007 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Jupiter (Hi A)
4 6 3.37 20 19 2 0 115 121 2 35 84 .266
9.  Mike Stanton, of   Born: Nov. 8, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-5Wt: 205
 Drafted: HS—Sherman Oaks, Calif., 2007 (2nd round)Signed by: Tim McDonnell
Michael StantonBackground: A former three-sport star at Notre Dame Academy, Stanton was offered a baseball scholarship by Southern California and a chance to walk on in football as a receiver/defensive back. Nevada-Las Vegas wanted him to play two sports as well, but the Marlins signed him for $475,000 as a second-round pick in 2007.

Strengths: Stanton wasted little time showing his raw power. He hit a couple of homers that traveled close to 500 feet in a postseason minicamp, reminding some of a young Pat Burrell. Others saw Dave Winfield in his setup and loose swing. He shows good intelligence and work ethic. He ran better than the Marlins expected, flashing plus speed and arm strength.

Weaknesses: Though he shows the ability to put the barrel of the bat on the ball, Stanton is still raw. He struck out 21 times in 56 pro at-bats, though he should be able to make quicker adjustments now that he's focusing on baseball full-time. More repetitions also should help him improve as a right fielder.

The Future: Despite struggling badly in his debut, Stanton still should begin 2008 at in low Class A. He likely will need a year at each level for his first few pro seasons, but his ceiling is as high as any position player in the system.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
GCL Marlins (R)
.269 .321 .346 26 6 7 2 0 0 1 1 6 0
Jamestown (SS)
.067 .147 .200 30 2 2 1 0 1 2 3 15 0
10.  Gaby Sanchez, 1b   Born: Sept. 2, 1983B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 225
 Signed: Miami, 2005 (4th round)Signed by: John Martin
Gaby SanchezBackground: Suspended for undisclosed reasons as a junior at Miami, Sanchez signed with the Marlins for $250,000 as a fourth-round pick in 2005. The recommendation of East Coast scouting supervisor Mike Cadahia, who had known Sanchez for years, was a key factor in the decision to draft him.

Strengths: Sanchez has excellent plate discipline and a solid understanding at the plate. He makes adjustments and uses the whole field. Thanks to hard work with infield coordinator Ed Romero, Sanchez has made himself into a solid first baseman. He's getting better jumps and reading contact better, and his hands even look a little softer. He moves laterally much better than he did even a year ago and still shows a strong arm.

Weaknesses: Sanchez fell into some bad habits, diving for pitches and struggling against top-quality stuff. He uncharacteristically started to chase bad pitches in the first half but got back to his normal approach in the final two months, when he hit .287 with seven of his nine homers. A below average runner, his body is still a work in progress and could be an issue for him.

The Future: Sanchez should advance to Double-A in 2008 and with continued improvement, he could push Mike Jacobs for Florida's first-base job in 2009.
2007 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Jupiter (Hi A)
.279 .369 .433 473
89 132 40 3 9 70 64 74 6

Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
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Photo Credits:
Carl Kline (Volstad)
Mike Janes (Sinkbeil, Dominguez, Stanton)
Steve Moore (Hernandez, Coghlan, Thompson, Sanchez)
Morris Fostoff (Tucker, West)