2023 International Reviews: Miami Marlins

The Marlins cut the ribbon on a sparkling new Dominican academy in Boca Chica after the 2022 season. With two teams in the Dominican Summer League, it will be home to one of the largest signing classes of any club this year. The Marlins spread their money around to an array of physical, athletic position players and came away with one of the more impressive groups of pitching prospects signed this year, with several arms already trending up.

Top Of The Class

A two-way player, Janero Miller has shown promise on the mound and as an outfielder signing for $950,000 from the Bahamas. Early on, he has already taken a significant leap forward on the mound. He’s 6-foot-2, 195 pounds, a lean, long-limbed player with excellent athleticism and more space to fill out. For much of the tryout process, Miller was throwing mid-to-upper 80s and starting to scrape the low 90s leading up to his signing. After going on a professional throwing program, Miller took the mound for his first live batting practice session at the Marlins academy in the Dominican Republic this spring and reached 96 mph. It’s already a big fastball, with good cut and riding life, and he has the physical projection that indicates there’s more in the tank. Miller shows good feel for a slider too, with spin rates up to 2,700 rpm. His breaking ball is ahead of his changeup, but he has big hands that should help his ability to manipulate that pitch. There’s still some rawness on the mound, but the stuff, athleticism and remaining strength projection stack up among the best in the world for his age. If Miller doesn’t hit well right away, it might be tempting to just convert him to full-time pitching, but he shows promise as a position prospect, too. He’s athletic, a plus runner and has good defensive instincts in center field, with a chance to stay there depending on how much speed he retains as he fills out. He’s a switch-hitter and some scouts had concerns about his higher swing-and-miss rate against live pitching, but those highest on him thought he did have a patient approach that could help offset some of his strikeouts, with good bat speed and power potential. 

Names To Know

Andres Valor, OF, Venezuela: Valor was one of the big signings for the Marlins this year, landing a $520,000 bonus. In camp this spring, Valor has been the most electric position player in a group of players who signed this year and who played last year, with an exciting mix of size, athleticism, tools and performance. He’s 6-foot-3, 180 pounds at 17 with the body type to develop into either a strong physical center fielder or possibly end up in a corner. He’s already a power/speed threat, with big power from the right side that he’s able to tap into against live pitching thanks to a short swing that produces a high contact rate in games. Valor has an accurate barrel with the ability to catch up to high-end velocity, with promising early performance against pro pitching. He might slow down as he fills out, but he’s a plus-plus runner underway with 60-yard dash times at 6.4 seconds. He has the tools and athleticism to develop as a center fielder, though if he outgrows the position he could be an above-average defender in a corner.

Fabian Lopez, SS, Dominican Republic: Lopez signed for $650,000 in part because he’s a true shortstop and a talented defender. He’s 6 feet, 165 pounds at 17 with smooth, easy actions at shortstop. He moves his feet well and has good body control with a strong arm, turning double plays well with the ability to throw from different angles. Lopez is a defensive-oriented player whose offensive game could take a step forward once he adds much-needed strength. He’s a switch-hitter who’s able to generate a lot of torque and separation in his swing and shows solid bat-to-ball skills, though without much power yet.

Osvaldo Heredia, OF, Dominican Republic: At 6-foot-4, 180 pounds, Heredia has a long, slender frame at 17 with significant physical projection to add another 40-plus pounds. He signed for $450,000 and already has a sweet swing from the left side for a long-levered hitter, with bigger power that should come once he packs on more strength. He could slow down as he fills out, but right now he’s an average runner with an above-average arm that could tick up, fitting in right field. 

Jancory De La Cruz, OF, Dominican Republic: De La Cruz is a lefthanded outfielder the Marlins signed for $405,000. He’s 6-foot-2, 180 pounds at 17 with a loose, explosive bat. De La Cruz is athletic and powerful, helping him generate big bat speed and drive the ball with impact for his age. He’s also a plus runner right now with a good gait, having honed his form running track when he was younger. De La Cruz has a chance to develop in center field, though as he fills out he could gravitate to a corner, likely left field given his below-average arm. 

Joseph Tailor, INF, Dominican Republic: Signed for $400,000, Tailor is one of the youngest players in Miami’s class this year, but he might already be the best pure hitter in the group. He’s 16 with a compact 5-foot-11, 175-pound frame and a hitterish look with a smooth, compact swing with good rhythm and a knack for barreling live pitching. He’s strong for his size, so he has extra-base juice, though it’s the hitting ability that stands out the most. Joseph spent time at shortstop as an amateur, but he’s likely a second or third baseman in pro ball. 

Breyias Dean, 3B, Bahamas: The biggest bonus for a player from the Bahamas this year went to Rangers shortstop Sebastian Walcott, who signed for $3.2 million. The next three signed with the Marlins, with Janero Miller second and Dean third at $325,000. He’s 6-foot-3, 185 pounds and off to a good start, showing good bat speed and power potential for a 17-year-old righthanded hitter. At his size, there’s some chance Dean could end up outgrowing third base and flipping across to first base, but he moves well for his size with the hands and arm strength for third. 

Daniel Gaitor, OF, Bahamas: Signed for $300,000, Gaitor is 17 and looks like a running back with his compact build (5-foot-10, 170 pounds), strong lower half and plus speed. As long as he maintains that speed, he should be able to handle center field. It’s mostly alleys power right now from both sides of the plate, though he has strong hands and could end up a power-over hit player given some of the swing-and-miss in his game and strength projection. 

Manuel Genao, RHP, Dominican Republic: Genao spent time as an outfielder before moving to the mound and stood out quickly for his athleticism, arm speed and velocity. Genao has a slender 6-foot-1 frame with an extremely fast, whippy arm, running his fastball up to 93 mph before signing for $300,000 and now reaching 95. There’s feel to spin a breaking ball up to 2,600 rpm with good shape, along with an unusual changeup with cutting action. 

Keyner Benitez, LHP, Dominican Republic: Benitez does two things unusually advanced for a 16-year-old pitcher: He throws a ton of strikes and already has a swing-and-miss changeup. He’s 6-foot-2, 170 pounds with pitchability well beyond his years, locating his fastball well with potential plus or better control. Most pitchers his age either don’t have a changeup yet or are just learning one, but Benitez throws a changeup that already flashes plus, with the confidence to throw it in any count. He will need to sharpen his breaking ball, but a strike-throwing lefty with a polished changeup should have quick success at the lower levels. He signed for $225,000.

Adrian Ibarra, 3B, Venezuela: Ibarra hit well in games as an amateur in Venezuela before signing with the Marlins for $190,000. He has continued to show the ability to string together quality at-bats from the right side with the attributes to get on base at a high clip, with a hit-over-power profile until he fills out his 6-foot-2, 175-pound frame. Ibarra trained as a shortstop but is now at third base, with the actions and arm strength for the left side of the infield.

Khris Almonte, OF, Dominican Republic: Almonte, 17, signed for $140,000. He hit well in games as an amateur, showing good bat-to-ball skills from the right side with doubles power at 6-foot-1, 160 pounds. Almonte’s bat is his best tool, fitting best in an outfield corner. 

Derek Arellan, RHP, Venezuela: Signed for $130,000, Arellan is 6-foot-3, 180 pounds with long, gangly arms and a fastball that has climbed from the upper-80s through the tryout process to now touching 93 mph at 17. There’s some funkiness to his arm action, with a quick, short takeaway, and there should be more velocity in the tank given his arm speed and physical upside. His changeup shows more upside than his breaking ball right now, with large hands that help him manipulate a changeup with good action at times.

Sleeper Watch

The Marlins have one of the biggest signing classes this year, with a handful of sleepers starting to pop among lower bonus players. 

Righthander Bayant Melo signed for $85,000 out of the Dominican Republic. He’s 18 and would have been eligible to sign last year, but he wasn’t registered with Major League Baseball in time, so he had to wait until Jan. 15 this year to sign. The separator for Melo is his curveball, with spin rates that consistently crack north of 3,000 rpm. He’s 6-foot-3, 165 pounds. It’s a long, lanky build with a high waist and a ton of physical projection remaining to add to a fastball that has already been up to 94 mph. Melo’s control has been inconsistent, but once he fills out, he could have two high-grade pitches between his fastball and breaking ball.

Other than Lopez, the Marlins don’t have a true shortstop among their bigger signings this year, but Dominican shortstop Erick Lara (signed for $85,000) is one to watch and could start at shortstop for one of the Marlins’ two DSL teams. He’s a skinny 6-foot-2, 165 pounds but he’s wiry strong and already drives the ball well, flashing home run power to his pull side from a loose lefthanded swing. He’s still 16 with a chance to play shortstop, though he could eventually outgrow the position and fit at third base. 

Adrian Bello, 16, signed with the Marlins for $50,000. He was working out for clubs in Venezuela as an infielder, but he moved behind the plate and started to generate more interest. He’s 5-foot-11, 165 pounds and still learning how to catch, with a chance he could still see time in the infield, but he has the athleticism, arm and instincts that should translate behind the plate. He’s a switch-hitter with a line-drive approach and gap power. 

Two other pitchers to monitor are lefthander Luis Porfirio and righthander Jeyson Mejia, both 17 from the Dominican Republic. Porfirio is an $85,000 signing at 6 feet, 155 pounds with a fastball that has touched the low 90s with good cut and carrying life. The movement on his fastball and feel for his secondaries—a slider and a changeup with good sink and separation off his fastball—should help him miss bats early on. Mejia is 6-foot-2, 175 pounds with a fastball up to 93 mph and a polished changeup for his age that’s already flashing plus. He signed for $65,000. 

The Marlins also signed a 17-year-old shortstop from Curacao, Jaden Felicia, for $35,000. He’s a deeper projection at 6 feet, 150 pounds and will need to get stronger to catch up physically, but he has a hitterish look from both sides of the plate and the actions to play in the middle infield.

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