Florida Marlins Top 10 Prospects With 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, 2011.

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Though his team headed into the 2010 season with the National League's third-lowest payroll, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria expressed high hopes during spring training. "I expect us to make the playoffs," Loria said. "We've got all the ammunition we need."

That optimism proved to be misplaced, as little went right in South Florida. In mid-May, Hanley Ramirez wound up in the doghouse for lollygagging after a booted popup—and initially refusing to apologize to his teammates. Twelve days later, Roy Halladay threw a perfect game against Florida.

On June 23, with the team sitting at 34-36, Loria dumped manager Fredi Gonzalez and replaced him with Triple-A New Orleans skipper Edwin Rodriguez on an interim basis. The Marlins dallied with Bobby Valentine before negotiations fell apart, and Rodriguez kept the job after the team went 46-46 with him at the helm.

Then came the injuries. Chris Coghlan, the 2009 NL rookie of the year, tore the meniscus in his left knee while jamming a shaving-cream pie in Wes Helms' face. Ricky Nolasco tore the meniscus in his right knee when he took off a shoe. All told, a club-record 57 players rotated through the clubhouse.

The bad news continued after the season ended, with the Marlins getting rid of Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller in separate deals for three relievers. Once the centerpieces of the blockbuster trade that sent Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers in December 2007, Maybin and Miller failed to establish themselves in Florida. The franchise also continued its tradition of trading away cornerstone players as they get expensive, shipping Dan Uggla to the Braves in November for Omar Infante and Mike Dunn.

There were some positives, however. Mike Stanton opened the year with 21 home runs in 192 at-bats in Double-A Jacksonville and smacked another 22 longballs after his promotion to the big leagues. Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez also claimed regular spots in the lineup. By season's end, the Marlins often were running out a lineup composed of mostly rookies, leading the majors by using 21 in total.

Several more farmhands should add to the youth movement in 2011. The system's top prospect, Matt Dominguez should take over third base at some point. Scott Cousins, who hit .297 during a September callup, will get the first shot at center field in spring training. Lefties Dunn and Dan Jennings and righties Jhan Marinez, Jose Ceda and Steve Cishek all will factor into the bullpen mix.

Overall, though, the farm system is down in the wake of Florida graduating so many prospects to the big leagues in the last couple of years while taking a conservative approach in recent drafts. Relievers are the strength of the system, which is rarely a good sign. Marinez, Ceda, Arquimedes Caminero, Sandy Rosario, Ramon Benjamin and Josh Hodges all can touch the upper 90s, with Caminero was clocked at 101 mph in low Class A last year.

In the draft, the Marlins nabbed a couple of high-ceiling position players early in outfielder Christian Yelich (first round) and catcher J.T. Realmuto (third), then stocked up on college arms. They spent $4.4 million on signing bonuses in 2010, ranking 22nd among the 30 major league clubs, and their five-year total of $22.7 million is the fourth-lowest in the game.

1.  Matt Dominguez, 3b   Born: Aug. 28, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 205
 Drafted: HS—Chatsworth, Calif., 2007 (1st round)Signed by: Tim McDonnell
Matt DominguezBackground: Chatsworth (Calif.) High landed two infielders in the first dozen picks of the 2007 draft, with Mike Moustakas going second overall to the Royals and Dominguez 10 picks later to the Marlins. Florida signed Dominguez away from a Cal State Fullerton scholarship with a $1.8 million bonus. While his high school teammate has grabbled more headlines with his prolific power—Moustakas shared the minor league home run crown in 2010—Dominguez hasn't given the Marlins any reason to regret their selection. He earned MVP honors in the Double-A Southern League all-star game last summer, setting the stage for a strong finish. He batted .301 with 34 RBIs in his final 35 regular-season contests, then his .296 with three homers and eight RBIs in the playoffs to lead Jacksonville to its second consecutive title.

Scouting Report: Dominguez stands out most with his Gold Glove ability at the hot corner. Managers have rated him his league's best defensive third baseman in each of the last two years, and he's big league-ready with the glove. He anticipates well and gets himself in the right position to make plays with quick feet. He scoops the ball with smooth hands, then gets rid of it with strong, accurate throws. Dominguez hasn't been nearly as consistent with the bat. He has struggled with breaking pitches and good inside fastballs, but the Marlins noted significant improvement after they made adjustments to his swing last summer. They dropped the position of his hands from up around his shoulders to a couple of inches lower, and eliminated a top-hand hiccup that created a hole on the inner half of the plate. The changes gave Dominguez a clearer path to the ball, allowing him to make more consistent contact and drive the ball better. He also showed a more disciplined approach, though he still has room for improvement. While he hit just .222 against lefthanders in 2010, he handled them well the year before and the Marlins aren't concerned by his splits. Though he has yet to top the 18 homers he produced at hitter-friendly Greensboro in 2008, Dominguez projects to have average major league power. He drives balls from the left-field line to right-center. A quiet kid who never panics, he avoids emotional ups and downs even as he endures slumps or catches fire. Despite his quickness in the field, Dominguez's speed is well below-average and he has tallied just one stolen base in four pro seasons.

The Future: The third-base job is wide open in Florida, though Chris Coghlan and Wes Helms presently rank ahead of Dominguez on the depth chart. He still has to prove he can handle upper-level pitching and will get at least a couple of months at Triple-A New Orleans to do so. He also needs to get stronger to fulfill his power potential, and the Marlins would like to see him continue to work on the adjustments that allowed him to finish strong last year. Often compared to former Marlins all-star and Gold Glover Mike Lowell, Dominguez eventually should end the revolving door Florida has had at the hot corner since trading Miguel Cabrera after the 2007 season.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Jacksonville (AA) .252 .333 .411 504 61 127 34 2 14 81 56 96 0
2.  Chad James, lhp   Born: Jan. 23, 1991B-T: L-LHt: 6-3Wt: 185
 Drafted: HS—Yukon, Okla., 2009 (1st round)Signed by: Ryan Wardinsky
Chad JamesBackground: James has been the Marlins' top-rated pitching prospect since signing for $1.7 million as the 18th overall pick in the 2009 draft. He made his pro debut in low Class A last year, struggling at times but also showing plenty of upside. His brother Justin is a righthander in the Brewers system.

Scouting Report: Lefthanders with plus fastballs are always intriguing, and James throws his at 91-95 mph. But what makes him special is his power breaking ball, which comes in with slider velocity and breaks down and hard like a curveball. He also flashes a plus changeup, though it's inconsistent and needs to be utilized more frequently. While James got himself into trouble with walks in 2010, his problems came more from nibbling and not trusting his stuff rather than a true lack of control. He pitched behind in the count too often, allowing hitters to sit on his fastball. His mechanics sometimes go awry, with him clearing his lead arm too quickly or landing too upright. He's slow to the plate and needs to learn a slide step after giving up 33 steals in 24 starts.

The Future: His arsenal makes him a potential No. 2 starter, but it will be a couple of year before Florida can pencil James in behind Josh Johnson. He should open 2011 at high Class A Jupiter and could move quickly if he starts challenging hitters.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Greensboro (Lo A) 5 10 5.12 24 24 0 0 114 116 3 65 105 .269
3.  Christian Yelich, of   Born: Dec. 5, 1991B-T: L-RHt: 6-4Wt: 189
 Drafted: HS—Westlake Village, Calif., 2010 (1st round)Signed by: Tim McDonnell
Christian YelichBackground: Yelich comes from the same Westlake High (Westlake Village, Calif.) program that produced big leaguers Matt Franco, Mike Lieberthal and John Snyder, as well as fellow Marlins farmhand Graham Johnson. Yelich produced against top competition in high school and on the showcase circuit, propelling him to the No. 23 overall pick in the 2010 draft. He signed an above-slot $1.7 million deal at the Aug. 16 signing deadline.

Scouting Report: Yelich has an advanced approach for a high school hitter, with smooth swing mechanics that have elicited comparisons to Will Clark's. He reads pitches well and projects as a high-average hitter with average power. Though Yelich played first base at Westlake, he has slightly above-average speed and moved to the left field in pro ball. The Marlins will try him in center field in 2011, though he'll likely settle on a corner. His arm was a question going into the draft, but Florida tweaked his mechanics and believes his throwing can become at least close to average.

The Future: Yelich will return to Greensboro to begin his first full season. After witnessing how seamlessly he transitioned to pro ball last year, the Marlins won't be afraid to move him should his bat warrant another jump. He should arrive in Florida by 2013.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
GCL Marlins (R) .375 .423 .500 24 3 9 1 1 0 3 2 7 1
Greensboro (Lo A) .348 .375 .435 23 2 8 2 0 0 2 1 6 0
4.  Jhan Marinez, rhp   Born: Aug. 12, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 6-1Wt: 165
 Drafted: Dominican Republic, 2006Signed by: Sandy Nin
Jhan MarinezBackground: Marinez long has teased the Marlins with a frustrating combination of great stuff and immaturity. He finally reached full-season ball in 2009, his fourth pro season, and continued his ascent last year by making four big league appearances in July before going on the disabled list with an elbow strain.

Scouting Report: Armed with an explosive fastball that sits at 92-95 mph and reaches 98, Marinez has the stuff to close games. He has an easy arm action and can mix in a two-seamer with good sink. The key to his success will be the development of his slider, which he throws at 88-89 mph. While it took a step forward last year, it lacks consistent action. Marinez loses the zone at times and didn't throw strikes in the big leagues as he had in Double-A. He has to stay healthy, having pitched just 168 innings in five seasons, and his 45 last year were a career high. He had been resistant to coaching earlier in his career, but was much more willing to listen last year.

The Future: Marinez was throwing without pain in Florida's minor league minicamp in September. He should be a candidate for ninth-inning duties in the not-too-distant future, though he may open 2011 in Triple-A.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Jupiter (Hi A) 0 1 1.42 21 1 0 4 25 12 1 14 44 .148
Jacksonville (AA) 1 0 2.16 15 0 0 6 17 9 1 7 20 .164
Florida 1 1 6.75 4 0 0 0 3 3 1 3 3 .273
5.  Osvaldo Martinez, ss   Born: May 7, 1988B-T: R-RHt: 5-10Wt: 190
 Drafted: Porterville (Calif.) JC, 2006 (11th round)Signed by: Carlos Berroa
Osvaldo MartinezBackground: Martinez got a new perspective on life after taking three bullets in a September 2009 drive-by shooting in his native Puerto Rico. After representing the Marlins in the Futures Game last July, he helped Jacksonville capture the Southern League title and earned his first big league callup. He batted .326 in September, with his first hit coming off Chris Carpenter.

Scouting Report: Martinez sprays line drives from gap to gap with a level swing. He won't hit a lot of home runs, though he does have the strong hands to collect his share of doubles. He profiles as a solid No. 2 hitter because he has excellent hand-eye coordination and controls the strike zone well. More quick than fast, he's was caught nine times in 22 steal attempts last year. At shortstop, Martinez's best asset is his strong arm. He anticipates well and shows good instincts and soft hands. Florida loves his all-around game and the way he doesn't let anything intimidate him.

The Future: Hanley Ramirez is blocking his path at shortstop, which could push Martinez to second base. At worst, he should be a quality utilityman capable of playing almost anywhere on the diamond. He figures to spend much of 2011 in Triple-A, getting time at other positions to enhance his versatility.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Jacksonville (AA) .302 .372 .401 516 90 156 28 4 5 54 49 64 13
Florida .326 .383 .465 43 8 14 4 1 0 2 4 6 1
6.  Brad Hand, lhp   Born: March 20, 1990B-T: L-LHt: 6-2Wt: 185
 Drafted: HS—Chaska, Minn., 2008 (2nd round)Signed by: Bob Oldis
Brad HandBackground: A quality athlete who also played football and hockey in high school, Hand became the highest-drafted Minnesota prepster since Joe Mauer when the Marlins made him a second-round pick in 2008. He made steady progress at Jupiter last year, getting promoted to Jacksonville in time for the postseason. He spun 13 scoreless frames in the Southern League playoffs, including a seven-inning, three-hit gem in the finals.

Scouting Report: All three of Hand's pitches have plus potential, with his hard curveball the most advanced. The pitch bites away from lefties and he also can back-door it for strikes against righties. He has improved his command of his 91-94 mph fastball, though he needs to utilize it more frequently. Florida is working to lengthen Hand's stride, which should add a little velocity to his fastball. He also needs to use his fringy changeup more often and do a better job of holding runners. The Marlins love his moxie and presence on the mound. He needs to learn to hold runners better.

The Future: Hand will be one of the youngest starters in the Southern League this year at age 21. A potential No. 3 starter, he'll show Florida he's ready when he masters pitch sequences and learns how to set hitters up.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Jupiter (Hi A) 8 8 3.33 26 26 2 2 141 153 10 49 134 .278
Jacksonville (AA) 1 0 3.00 1 1 0 0 6 3 0 3 4 .143
7.  Scott Cousins, of   Born: Jan. 22, 1985B-T: L-LHt: 6-1Wt: 195
 Drafted: San Francisco, 2006 (3rd round)Signed by: John Hughes
Scott CousinsBackground: A two-way star in college at San Francisco, Cousins has played at every level during his five-year march through the system. He got off to a slow start in 2010 by hitting .210 in April and separating his shoulder when he ran into an outfield in May. He rebounded to bat .335/.386/.544 in the second half of the minor league season and performed well during a September callup.

Scouting Report: Cousins owns average to plus tools across the board. He projects as a .280 hitter with 15-20 homer potential. A streaky hitter, he gets in trouble when he chases pitches outside the zone. He also tends to overthink instead of trusting his natural ability. He credited a tip from veteran Doug Mientkiewicz with helping him solve lefties, against whom he batted .319 last year. Cousins has the speed to steal 20 bases a year and to cover enough ground to play center field. He has plus range and arm strength and the outfield instincts to match.

The Future: Cameron Maybin's failure to secure Florida's center-field job and his subsequent trade leave the door open for Cousins. He'll have to make more consistent contact to win it. He may have to put some time in as a fourth outfielder first, but he has the tools to be a productive everyday player.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
New Orleans (AAA) .285 .336 .461 410 74 117 20 5 14 49 32 78 12
Florida .297 .316 .459 37 2 11 2 2 0 2 1 13 0
8.  Kyle Skipworth, c   Born: March 1, 1990B-T: L-RHt: 6-4Wt: 205
 Drafted: HS—Rubidoux, Calif., 2008 (1st round)Signed by: Robby Corsaro
Kyle SkipworthBackground: After setting a California high school record with hits in 18 consecutive at-bats, Skipworth landed a $2.3 million deal as the sixth overall pick in the 2008 draft. That offensive prowess was missing until he reeled off a 15-game hitting streak last May while repeating low Class A. He capped a strong first half by homering in the South Atlantic League all-star game but tailed off afterward.

Scouting Report: The above-average power Skipworth had shown during batting practice surfaced during games in 2010, though he continued to strike out in a third of his at-bats. An all-or-nothing hitter, he's tempted by low breaking balls and high fastballs. His swing is mechanically sound and has good leverage, and he punishes pitches over the plate. Skipworth has improved behind the dish and was up to the challenge of handling a staff of high-velocity hurlers at Greensboro. After throwing out only 20 percent of basestealers in 2009, he caught 35 percent last year. His arm is plenty strong and his footwork has gotten better. He does a good job blocking pitches, though he has occasional lapses. He's a below-average runner but not bad for a catcher.

The Future: Lefthanded-hitting catchers with plus power are a rarity, so the Marlins will be patient with Skipworth. He'll open the year in high Class A.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Greensboro (Lo A) .249 .312 .426 397 55 99 17 1 17 59 32 132 1
Jacksonville (AA) .000 .125 .000 7 1 0 0 0 0 0 1 3 0
9.  Marcell Ozuna, of   Born: Nov. 12, 1990B-T: R-RHt: 6-2Wt: 190
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2008Signed by: Sandy Nin
Marcell OzunaBackground: A cousin of former Marlins infielder Pablo Ozuna, Marcell opened the 2010 season in Greensboro but lasted only a week before breaking a bone in his left wrist on a play in the outfield. When he healed, he headed to short-season Jamestown, where he set franchise records and led the New York-Penn League with 21 homers and 60 RBIs.

Scouting Report: Ozuna possesses legitimate corner-outfield power. He can drive a fastball out of the park on a rope and can fight off inside pitches to the opposite field. The problem for him is making contact, as he also topped the NY-P with 94 whiffs. He's starting to understand the strike zone better, but he still has a long ways to go. He'll show patience on some days and swing at anything on others. Ozuna runs well, though as his body fills out he may have just average speed. He' still learning how to steal bases. While he has seen time in center field, his future lies in right, where he should be adequate. He has a plus arm, though it's not always accurate.

The Future: Ozuna will return to Greensboro and take another shot at full-season ball in 2011. As he advances, he'll see fewer and fewer strikes until he demonstrates a more disciplined approach.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Greensboro (Lo A) .160 .222 .280 25 3 4 0 0 1 2 2 10 0
Jamestown (SS) .267 .314 .556 270 53 72 11 2 21 60 17 94 3
10.  Rob Rasmussen, lhp   Born: April 2, 1989B-T: R-LHt: 5-11Wt: 170
 Signed: UCLA, 2010 (2nd round)Signed by: Tim McDonnell
Rob RasmussenBackground: Rasmussen struggled his first two seasons at UCLA before breaking out in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2009. Last spring, he helped steer the Bruins to a runner-up finish at the College World Series, where he tossed six shutout innings in the finale. By the time he signed for $499,500 as a second-round pick, he had a tired arm, so the Marlins limited his pro debut to seven innings.

Scouting Report: Rasmussen won't wow anyone with his 5-foot-11 build, but he has the four-pitch arsenal and dogged determination to succeed. His fastball sits at 90-93 mph, though it takes a backseat to his breaking stuff. He has an above-average slider in the mid-80s, and he also has a cutter that looks similar but doesn't dive as deeply. His over-the-top, mid-70s curveball has two-plane break. He also throws a changeup. Rasmussen has a loose arm and the ball comes out of his hand easily, though he rushes his delivery at times. He improved his command last spring, but it still wavers when his mechanics get out of alignment.

The Future: Florida has yet to determine Rasmussen's long-term role. His array of pitches serve him well as a starter, but he could move faster as a reliever who could shut down lefties with his breaking balls. He'll likely open his first full pro season in high Class A.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
Greensboro (Lo A) 0 0 1.35 5 0 0 0 7 6 0 2 4 .240

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Photo Credits:
Jerry Hale (Dominguez)
Brian Fleming (Yelich)