2019-20 MLB International Reviews: Miami Marlins
Last year the Marlins spent most of their bonus pool money on Cuban outfielders Victor Victor Mesa ($5.25 million) and his younger brother, Victor Mesa Jr. ($1 million). During the current 2019-20 signing period, the Marlins added a group of players with quick-twitch athleticism in the middle of the diamond.
Miami's top international signing was born in the home state of the Marlins. Jose Salas, a 16-year-old shortstop, grew up and went to school in Orlando. Before high school, Salas moved to Venezuela, worked out for clubs there, then went to the Dominican Republic before signing with the Marlins on July 2. At 6-foot-2, 178 ponds, Salas has size, speed and athleticism. He's a lean, quick-twitch athlete with plus speed, running 6.5 to 6.6 seconds in 60-yard dash as an amateur. With his size, he might lose some of that as he fills out, but he also has ample physical upside to grow into more strength and power. He already drives the ball well, with a fast bat and a chance for average or better power. Scouts were mixed on Salas' pure hitting ability, as some thought he got too mechanical with his swing and was up and down with his game performance, but others liked his approach and ability to drive the ball to the middle of the field. At shortstop, Salas has quick reactions off the bat and a strong arm at shortstop. Some scouts liked his internal clock at shortstop and thought he had a chance to stay at the position. Others thought he was more erratic in the field and might end up moving to center field with his speed, with another possibility being that Salas gets so big that he outgrows shortstop and ends up somewhere else in the infield. Given how advanced he is and his background growing up in the United States, there's a chance Salas could skip the Dominican Summer League and make his pro debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.
The Marlins were drawn to 17-year-old Dominican shortstop Junior Sanchez for his bat, signing him for $1.15 million. At 6 feet, 160 pounds, Sanchez doesn't have the prettiest lefthanded swing, but the Marlins liked his contact skills and strike-zone judgement. He's a line-drive hitter who takes the ball where it's pitched, using the whole field with gap power. Sanchez's offensive game is ahead of his defense, though his defensive tools have gotten better since teams scouted him as an amateur. He's a little bit faster, going from fringy speed to a slightly above-average runner. He doesn't have the smooth actions or quick-twitch athleticism of other shortstops in the class, so he's likely to end up at second base. He has made improvement with his footwork, doing a noticeably better job of setting his feet to line up his body on his throws to first base, with around a solid-average arm, but he has more room to improve defensively. Sanchez trained at the Quality Baseball Academy.
Shortstop Ian Lewis got the top bonus this year for a player from the Bahamas, signing with the Marlins for $950,000. Lewis, 16, is an exciting, bouncy athlete with fast-twitch movements in a wiry 5-foot-10, 165-pound frame. He's a plus runner who accelerates well and has quick feet at shortstop. Lewis has good body control in the field and is adept at turning both ends of the double play, with a 55 arm that projects to be plus. Lewis has the components in place to be a good hitter once he gets stronger and gains more experience. Right now, he's physically behind his peers, but he has projection indicators that point to him getting stronger and his tools jumping, with long arms, big hands and feet and plenty of space to add weight while staying athletic. He's a switch-hitter with the makings of a sound swing and good hand-eye coordination to make a lot of contact. Getting stronger will help him hold his swing together more consistently, and while he has just enough juice to sneak a ball out to his pull side, right now he's mostly a line-drive hitter with occasional gap shots. Coming from the Bahamas, Lewis doesn't have as much experience facing high-velocity arms compared to other hitters his age from the Dominican Republic, so getting a year or two of professional experience should have a big impact on his development. He trained at the International Elite Sports Academy.
Dominican righthander Eury Perez, a 16-year-old who signed with the Marlins for $200,000, was one of the more intriguing arms in the 2019 class. When teams were scouting Perez last summer, he was 6-foot-5, 155 pounds, with a fastball in the mid-80s. He has put on 30 pounds since then, with a frame that still screams projection, and his fastball has jumped to touch 92 mph since putting on weight and going on a long toss program. Aside from the potential to throw really hard, Perez stands out for his body coordination. While a lot of pitchers his size and age have arms and legs flying everywhere, Perez is able to control his delivery, with smooth arm action and fairly calm mechanics to be able to throw strikes. He leverages the ball well with downhill angle and does a good job of locating his fastball to both sides of the plate for his age. His fastball is his best pitch, but he shows feel to spin a slider with three-quarters break, with a changeup and curveball also in his repertoire, giving him the components to pitch in a starting rotation.
One sleeper from the Marlins' signing class to keep an eye on is Javier Sanoja, a 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop who trained with Alexi Quiroz. Sanoja is small (5-foot-8, 150 pounds) but he's quick, savvy and he rarely strikes out. Sanoja has excellent bat control, so he doesn't swing and miss much. He stings the ball pretty well for his size, but it's mostly line drives with doubles pop. He still goes up to the plate looking for a pitch he can pull for damage early in the count, then with two strikes spreads out his stance and shortens his swing to be more contact-oriented. An above-average runner who gets out of the box quickly, Sanoja is an instinctive player with a high baseball IQ. At shortstop he gets quick reactions off the bat and zips around the field, making all the routine plays and some of the flashier ones as well. He has an average arm and can throw from different angles, with the ability to spin, jump and still make on-target throws. He's a baseball rat who works on shagging fly balls in the outfield during BP sometimes as well.