2014-15 International Reviews: Miami Marlins
Top signing: OF Anderson Castro, Venezuela, $600,000.
Six-figure signings: OF Christian Capellan (Dominican Republic), SS Andres Villalobos (Venezuela), RHP Alberto Guerrero (Panama), RHP Luis Mojica (Dominican Republic), SS Samuel Castro (Dominican Republic), SS Ronal Reynoso (Dominican Republic), OF Juan Borges (Dominican Republic).
Total signings: 25.
Despite working with one of the most restricted international budgets in the game, the Marlins have managed to find quality talent in Latin America under the watch of international director Albert Gonzalez, with Marcell Ozuna starring on the big league team and four of the team's top 10 prospects hailing from the Dominican Republic. Now the organization has started to invest more money in the Latin American amateur market--their $3.13 million estimated spending on international amateurs in 2014 ranked 11th in the game--which should only help the Marlins boost their profile in that arena.
Just after the 2014-15 international signing period opened, the Marlins signed Venezuelan outfielder Anderson Castro for $600,000. Castro, 17, has a promising package of size (6-foot-4, 200 pounds), tools and athleticism. With above-average speed, he moves extremely well for his size, which will allow him to start his career as a center fielder in the Dominican Summer League, though as he fills out his body he projects to slow down and likely move to a corner outfield spot. With his strong, accurate arm, he has the tools to be an above-average defender in right field. He shows the raw power to go over the fence in batting practice and should gain even more pop as he gets stronger, with an offensive profile that will likely be more power than pure hitting ability from the right right. Castro trained with Alexis Quiroz.
The Marlins grabbed another big-bodied outfielder in July, signing Christian Capellan for $500,000 out of the Dominican Republic, but he is expected to miss the entire 2015 season due to injury. Capellan, 17, went to instructional league in Jupiter, Fla. in September, then went back to the Dominican Republic for the team's three-week minicamp in November. During his offseason conditioning, he hurt his right knee, which resulted in ACL surgery and will likely sideline him until September. Capellan has a strong 6-foot-4, 210-pound build with good power for his age from the right side of the plate. A righthanded hitter, Capellan can hit fastballs but will need a lot of work to improve his ability to recognize breaking pitches and cut down on his swing-and-miss. He's a below-average runner who should have the arm strength for right field. Capellan played in the International Prospect League and trained with Edgar Mercedes.
Andres Villalobos is a defensive-oriented Venezuelan shortstop who signed for $350,000 on July 2. Villalobos, 17, is 5-foot-11, 160 pounds with excellent hands and feet. His arm is a tick above-average with a quick release. The only drawback in the field is that he's a below-average runner with wide, square hips and doesn't have a wiry frame, so if he doesn't develop more foot speed and range, he could slide over to second base. Some scouts look at Villalobos and see the components of a future catcher, but the Marlins plan to use him at shortstop. He's a switch-hitter with a short, compact stroke that produces line drives with gap power. Villalobos trained with Guido Mendez.
The best player the Marlins signed last year could end up being Alberto Guerrero, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound righthander from Panama who signed in July for $300,000. Guerrero, whose older brother Jesus was the catcher for the Marlins' DSL team last year, signed throwing 86-88 mph with a loose projectable arm that's come on faster than expected. In the fall, his velocity jumped to 90-94 mph, a range he held in January and February while pitching 5 1/3 scoreless innings for Panama Metro in the country's junior national tournament. With good feel for pitching and for his secondary pitches (a curveball and changeup) when he signed, Guerrero is advanced enough now that he could debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, with a chance to emerge as a mid-rotation starter. Guerrero trained with German Gil.
Dominican righthander Luis Mojica, who signed for $275,000 in July, is 6-foot-1, 190 pounds with a fastball up to 92 mph at age 17. He's not quite as polished as Guerrero but already shows feel for a changeup that's ahead of his slider.
The Marlins also added three Dominican position players right after the 2014-15 international signing period opened, including 17-year-old shortstop Samuel Castro for $150,000. Castro drew the Marlins' attention for his ability to hit from both sides of the plate. He's a quick-twitch athlete with a short, compact stroke with a knack for squaring up the ball for line drives with doubles power from his 5-foot-10, 160-pound frame. He's a spark plug type player with plus speed and basestealing potential. He has a chance to stay in the middle of the infield but might fit better at second base unless his below-average arm improves.
Dominican shortstop Ronal Reynoso, a $100,000 signing in July, is also a plus runner who stood out more for his speed and athleticism than his baseball polish, although the Marlins were pleased with the progress he made since signing. Reynoso is still 16, with a projectable frame (6-foot-1, 165 pounds) and bounce in his step, with the tools to project in center field if he can't stick at shortstop. His lefthanded swing gets long, so he will need time for his offensive game to develop.
Juan Borges, 17, was another $100,000 signing in July out of the Dominican Republic. Borges is a long-range projection who's still raw in all phases of the game. He has a lanky, athletic build at 6-foot-2, 160 pounds, with the tools still developing but a chance to improve once he adds another 30-plus pounds.
The Marlins also made an unusual Cuban signing in December, giving $250,000 to 26-year-old outfielder Yuniel Ramirez in December on the recommendation of their pro scouts. Ramirez only played one season in Cuba, recording just 10 plate appearances for Ciego De Avila during the 2009-10 season. In addition to having almost no experience playing in Cuba, Ramirez was arrested in 2012 in the Dominican Republic in connection with a group that was charged with trafficking players out of Cuba, though later released, along with Edgar Mercedes.