Sign Up! Join our newsletters, get a FREE e-Edition
It took four tries before a 15-year-old Fernandez, his mother and his sister finally escaped Cuba via speedboat in 2008. As punishment for their failed attempts, he was expelled from school, kicked off the baseball team and briefly jailed. When waves swept his mother overboard, Fernandez dove in to rescue her, swimming back to the boat with her clinging to his neck. After a harrowing 36-hour journey to Mexico they reached the United States and reunited with his father, who had fled three years earlier. Fernandez learned English after settling in Tampa, where he led Alonso High to two Florida 6-A state titles in three years. The 14th overall pick in the 2011 draft, he signed for an above-slot $2 million bonus. That looks like a bargain after he ranked as the No. 1 prospect in the low Class A South Atlantic and high Class A Florida State leagues in his first full pro season, leading the minors with an overall 0.93 WHIP. Fernandez's confidence--or cockiness--earns him comparisons to Roger Clemens. It's not arrogance if you can back it up, which Fernandez can. Numerous scouts cited his stuff as the best of any hurler in the 2012 Futures Game. His four-seam fastball sits at 94-95 mph and touches 99 with unbelievable explosion. Using an easy arm action, he'll dial his velocity up and down and climb the ladder on hitters. He also mixes in a 92-93 mph two-seamer to induce groundouts. Fernandez also can overmatch hitters with a hard three-quarters breaking ball that he can run up to 85 mph. He can command it for both called strikes and swinging misses, and he'll throw it any count. He also can use a true slider that's effective. He flashes a plus changeup with deception and nice fade, though he doesn't consistently command it down in the strike zone. With so many weapons to choose from, Fernandez doesn't always throw the right pitch in every situation, though he's getting better at letting a hitter's reaction to certain pitches determine which ones he sees the rest of the night. The Marlins rave about his work ethic, aptitude and drive to win. In one May start, he struck out six hitters in the first two innings, then fanned just two more while working into the eighth. When asked about his change in approach, he told a coach he began pitching to contact to keep his pitch count low so he could stay in the game longer. That kind of maturity is uncommon for a player in his first full year as a pro. Strong and durable, Fernandez had plenty left in the tank when the season concluded. Much of his power comes from his strong lower half, which allows him to explode through his hips. He has good athleticism for his size, though he'll have to watch his conditioning as he ages. The only hiccup in his 2012 season came after his midseason promotion, when he tried to overpower FSL hitters at times instead of simply trusting his stuff. Fernandez might tempt the big league staff to keep him during spring training, but he'll probably open 2013 in Double-A Jacksonville. He could reach Miami by midseason and has the stuff and mindset to become a true No. 1 starter.
Since signing for a $1.7 million bonus as the 23rd overall pick in 2010, Yelich has been Marlins minor league player of the year in each of his two full seasons. He topped the Florida State League in slugging (.519) and OPS (.923) and finished second in hitting (.330) in 2012 despite missing time with an elbow injury and a concussion. Yelich has the pure swing of a future batting champion and an advanced approach. Quick, strong hands allow him to line balls to all fields, though he makes a particular effort to stay in the middle of the diamond. While he projects to hit more for average than power, some scouts envision 25-homer potential once he fills out. Yelich uses his plus speed well on the bases, where he has succeeded on 53 of 64 (83 percent) pro steal attempts. It also plays well in center field, where he gets good jumps and can run balls down in the gaps. A long arm stroke has hampered his throwing since high school, but extra repetitions and improved footwork mean his arm plays as average. The Marlins love his attitude and competitive nature. Yelich's defensive progress has silenced any talk of a move to left field. He should anchor the middle of Miami's outfield and batting order soon. His next stop is Double-A.
The top college lefthander in the 2012 draft, Heaney led NCAA Division I with 140 strikeouts in 118 innings last spring. Negotiations turned acrimonious after the Marlins selected him ninth overall, though they signed him near the deadline for $2.6 million. Heaney got better with each start, with his fastball climbing from 88-90 mph after the layoff to touching 97 in his final pro outing. It should settle at 90-94, and he commands it easily to both sides of the plate. His 83-85 mph slider is already at least a plus pitch, though he's working to give it more deception with late, hard break that will finish out of the hitting zone. His changeup improved in league after Miami got him to finish with his upper half coming more toward the plate. Heaney has a loose arm, effortless delivery and excellent control. While he worked to gain strength coming into his junior season at Oklahoma State, he could stand to add more muscle to his lean frame. Heaney will open his first full pro season at high Class A Jupiter and may not stay there long. He projects as a No. 2 or 3 starter who could join the Marlins at some point in 2014.
Signed for $1 million as a Blue Jays third-rounder in 2009, Marisnick had a breakout .320/.392/.496 season at low Class A Lansing two years later. He found the going rougher in 2012 while reaching Double-A, then became the top prospect included in the 12-player blockbuster that sent Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle from Miami to Toronto. Marisnick has the potential to be a five-tool player, though questions linger about his bat. He has made adjustments to eliminate a hitch in his swing, but he still has a big frame that leads to a long stroke with a lot of moving parts. He needs to do a better job of staying short to the ball, letting pitches travel deep and avoiding chasing them out of the strike zone. It's hard to find fault with the rest of Marisnick's package. His strength and ability to backspin the ball give him plus power. His speed, center-field defense and arm strength all grade as above average. He has a knack for stealing bases, succeeding on 84 of 100 pro attempts. Even if he loses a step, he'll easily fit the profile for right field. Marisnick will return to Double-A at age 22. If he can make the necessary offensive adjustments, he's on target to reach Miami during the 2014 season. He's talented enough defensively to push Christian Yelich to left field.
Despite not going deep in July, Ozuna led the Florida State League in homers (24)--as well as in runs (89), RBIs (95) and total bases (233)--in 2012. He has topped 20 homers in each of the least three seasons and nearly replicated his 2011 stat line despite moving from cozy low Class A Greensboro to cavernous Jupiter. Ozuna oozes tools, particularly with his plus-plus raw power and a cannon arm. He has the power to drive the ball well out of any part of the park, though he tends to get pull-happy at times, flying open with his front side instead of staying back and punishing the ball. Plate-discipline issues that plagued him early in his career have eased significantly as he has advanced, though at times he'll revert to guessing and chasing breaking balls down and out of the strike zone. When he swings at strikes, he rarely misses, thanks to excellent hand-eye coordination. With slightly above-average speed and average instincts, Ozuna should reach double figures in stolen bases. He has plus range and a well above-average arm in right field. He plays with an infectious passion at all times. After gaining a spot on Miami's 40-man roster, Ozuna will head to Double-A. If he can lay off bad breaking pitches and trust his swing, he can become an all-star capable of hitting 30 home runs.
Armed with extra picks in 2010, the Blue Jays rolled the dice on Nicolino, considered a tough sign away from a Virginia commitment. Since signing for an above-slot $615,000 in the second round, he has dominated pro hitters. He ranked as the No.1 prospect in the short-season Northwest League in 2011, then led the low Class A Midwest League in ERA (2.46) and WHIP (1.07) as an encore. He came to the Marlins in the Jose Reyes/Mark Buehrle trade. Nicolino's polish is more impressive than his stuff, but he's not a soft-tosser. He spots a fastball that sits at 88-92 mph and touches 94 to both sides of the plate, and he's not afraid to come inside on hitters. His best pitch is a plus changeup that he sells with deceptive arm speed. He gets under his changeup at times but has the aptitude to make corrections quickly. Nicolino needs to stay on top of his curveball too, but it's a solid third pitch with good shape. Though there's some crossfire to his delivery, that doesn't prevent him from throwing all three pitches for strikes. Nicolino profiles as a mid-rotation starter with an ultimate ceiling of a No. 2. He'll advance to high Class A at age 21. His savvy could put him on the fast track after Toronto handled him cautiously early in his career.
Hechavarria defected from the Cuban junior national team in July 2009. After signing nine months later for a $10 million big league contract that included a Blue Jays-record $4 million bonus, he didn't produce much at the plate until reaching hitter-friendly Triple-A Las Vegas in 2011. He continued to hit there in 2012, earning a big league callup in August. Three months later, he became a Marlin after the Jose Reyes/Mark Buehrle deal. Hechavarria has all the tools to contend for Gold Gloves at shortstop. He has plus range, hands and arm strength, though he's prone to throwing errors because he tends to flip the ball to first base. He's also an above-average runner though not a prolific basestealer. Scouts still aren't sold on Hechavarria's offensive ability, however. He has a simple swing and some bat speed but is still learning how to put together professional at-bats. While he's strong and has gap power, he doesn't project as a home run threat. His command of the strike zone regressed in his first taste of the majors. His defense alone will allow Hechavarria to carve out a big league career. If his offense is simply adequate, he'll secure an everyday job. He'll enter 2013 as the favorite to replace Reyes as Miami's shortstop.
After signing for $52,000 in 2008, Urena spent two seasons in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League before finally reaching the United States in 2011. The Marlins took a cautious approach in his first year in full-season ball, piggybacking him and Austin Brice in the Greensboro rotation in the first half of 2012. Urena has a loose, live arm and a lean, projectable frame. He fills the strike zone with fastballs that sit at 94-96 mph and touch 98. His heater is explosive at times but flat at others. His slider gives him a second potential plus pitch, though it too lacks consistency. It has good tilt and life when it's on, but his arm often comes through late, causing it to flatten. He mixes in an occasional curveball to keep hitters off balance. He sells his straight changeup with fastball arm speed, and it can become an average offering if he can soften it up. Urena's control is better than his command at this stage. He's not yet able to consistently hit his targets within the strike zone, particularly inside on hitters. He works with enthusiasm and a smile. If Urena's slider and command become more reliable, he could reach his ceiling of a No. 2 or 3 starter. He's still raw and will progress slowly for now, with high Class A his next stop.
A shortstop in high school, Realmuto set national records with 88 hits and 119 RBIs while hitting .595 with 28 homers as a senior in 2010. The Marlins saw one of his rare appearances behind the plate and converted him to catcher after signing him for $600,000 as a third-rounder that summer. Realmuto has the potential to become a solid hitter with average power. He uses the entire field and cut his strikeout rate from one per 4.5 at-bats in 2011 to one per 7.0 last season. The rigors of catching wore on him as the year progressed and he occasionally cheated on pitches, sometimes pulling off and opening up too soon. That should happen less frequently as he gets more accustomed to the grind. Managers rated Realmuto the Florida State League's best defensive catcher in in 2012. The former prep quarterback combines quality arm strength with quick footwork and a fast release, turning in sub-1.8-second pop times. He threw out 36 percent of FSL basestealers. His receiving and game-calling took big steps forward last season, though he still must improve at blocking balls and handling tough pitches. He's a tick above-average runner but figures to lose a step as he continues catching. Realmuto will spend 2013 in Double-A.
A closer early in his college career, Conley moved into the Washington State rotation as a junior in 2011 and earned a second-round selection and $625,000 bonus. He formed a stellar 1-2 punch with Jose Fernandez at Greensboro last spring, but Conley couldn't maintain his success after they moved to high Class A. Conley's fastball sits at 92-95 mph and touches 97, and it features so much life that he occasionally has trouble keeping it over the plate. He throws his average changeup with fastball arm speed, and it can dive out of the strike zone. His slider is below average, however, as it's often too big and wide. Conley has a little funk to his delivery that adds deception, though the Marlins are working to simplify it. He appeared tired when he got to Jupiter and his command and control suffered. A perfectionist, he wore himself down further by throwing too much between starts. By September, he was overstriding toward third base and throwing across his body. He bounced back well from rough starts and showed advanced pitchability for someone in his first full pro season. How he holds up in 2013 could help determine whether Conley remains a starter, though he'd still need a better slider to fill a high-leverage relief role. He should see Double-A at some point during the season.
A third-round pick by the Tigers in 2010 as a draft-eligible sophomore, Brantly came to the Marlins along with Jacob Turner and Brian Flynn last July in a deal for Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante. After a stint with Triple-A New Orleans, Brantly was called to the majors and pressed into regular duty. He profiles as an offensive-minded catcher with a solid bat. He makes consistent contact to all fields with a short stroke more suited to line drives into the gaps than clearing the fences, though he has the strength to reach double figures in homers. While he has lacked patience at times, he drew 13 walks in his big league apprenticeship, which may be a function of hitting lower in the order. His speed is solid for a catcher, though he runs more upright than most. Brantly's hands and feet are good behind the plate, and he gets rid of the ball quickly with average arm strength. He threw out 29 percent of basestealers in 2012. His receiving skills need further development, and he's prone to taking an occasional pitch off. Though stronger than he appears, he could benefit by filling out his lean frame. Having proven himself capable of hitting big league pitching, Brantly is in the mix for a significant big league role in 2013. He may be best suited as the lefthanded portion of a platoon with veteran Jeff Mathis, which would alleviate concerns about his durability.
A third-round pick of the Astros in 2007, Dietrich opted to attend Georgia Tech and went a round higher in the 2010 draft to the Rays. After he reached Double-A and moved from shortstop to second base, Tampa Bay traded him for Yunel Escobar after the Marlins added Escobar in their massive deal with the Blue Jays. Dietrich has good power for a middle infielder, as his quick hands and natural strength allow him to drive the ball. He has homered 36 times in his two full pro seasons. While his plate discipline has improved, he struggles at times trying to do too much at the plate, leading to an uppercut stroke. It was only a matter of time before he moved off shortstop, because Dietrich lacks the actions, first-step quickness and range for the position. His hands are soft and he has plenty of arm strength to turn double plays. He's a below-average runner. The trade opens possibilities for Dietrich, as neither second nor third base is settled in Miami. He's likely to start 2013 at second base in Double-A, but he also could supplant Zack Cox as the organization's best third-base option. If he's not a regular, Dietrich's lefthanded bat should help him earn a spot as a utility infielder.
Signed for $50,000 as a raw 16-year-old, Silverio made a slow climb through the Dodgers chain. He exploded in Double-A in 2011, earning a spot in the Futures Game, then was seriously injured in a car accident in January 2012. He missed spring training with back, shoulder and elbow injuries from the accident, as well as concussion symptoms, then needed Tommy John surgery in May. The Marlins plucked him in the major league Rule 5 draft in December. When healthy, Silverio shows five average or better tools. He has a quick, powerful swing, generating line drives from gap to gap and average home run power, mostly to the pull side. His progress in 2011 was a result of improving his strike-zone discipline, which allowed him to put together quality at-bats and make pitchers work harder to get him out. He's an aggressive hitter and will never walk much. Silverio has played all three outfield positions, seeing significant time in center, and is a slightly above-average runner who profiles better on a corner. His solid arm strength and accuracy play well in right field. He DHed in the Dodgers' Dominican instructional league in the fall, where he ran fine and showed a crisp swing, but he hadn't been cleared to throw by December. Silverio must stick with the big league club or else clear waivers and be offered back to the Dodgers for half his $50,000 draft price.
Ramos signed for $1,500 as a senior in 2009, a year after tearing an elbow ligament at Texas Tech. A starter in college, he has averaged 12.3 strikeouts per nine innings as a pro reliever and fanned the side on 13 pitches in his big league debut in September. The 5-foot-10 mighty mite shows no fear on the hill. Ramos used to try to simply throw his fastball past hitters but has learned to hit his spots. He'll mix in a cutter against lefthanders to keep them off the plate, then go back outside with his fastball, which sits at 92-95 mph and touches 97. He'll back-door his hard-breaking slider or bounce it for a swing and miss. He also throws a solid changeup with deceptive arm speed. Ramos' command with all of his pitches has improved significantly since he signed, though occasionally he'll struggle with his location, particularly with his fastball. He's constantly in attack mode and can get too amped up at times. Humble and hardworking, he pitches like he has something to prove every night. Ramos' September audition puts him in the mix for a set-up role going into spring training. He has the stuff to handle an eighth-inning role and eventually may work his way into closing games.
Regarded as the best pure hitter in the 2010 draft, Cox went 25th overall and netted a $3.2 million big league contract from the Cardinals that included a $2 million bonus. He rocketed through the system, reaching Triple-A last spring, but fell out of favor and was dealt to the Marlins for Edward Mujica in July. Cox still has quick hands and shows gap power with a compact, line-drive swing. When he's on, he works up the middle. Attempts to get him to pull the ball threw off his timing and mechanics last year, when he hit just .254/.301/.409. He has the strength to hit 15-20 home runs a year, though without much lift in his swing he projects as more of a doubles hitter. Cox's body has gotten thick and a little stiff. He needs to get leaner to regain flexibility and fluidity, both at bat and in the field. He must improve his range and footwork at third base, where he's susceptible to bunts and rarely seems to find easy hops. While his arm is strong enough for the hot corner, some scouts foresee an eventual move to first base. He's a below-average runner. The Marlins felt Cox belonged in Double-A when they acquired him, and that may still be the best place for him to open the 2013 season. Third base is wide open in Miami, but someone else will have to keep it warm until Cox proves he's ready.
The top-rated North Carolina high school pitcher in the 2010 draft, Brice parlayed his raw arm strength into a $205,000 deal as a ninth-round pick. He led Greensboro with 122 strikeouts last year in his full-season debut. To protect his arm the Marlins alternated him with Jose Urena early in the season, with one starting and the other relieving. Brice already shows an ability to spot his fastball, which sits at 91-95 mph and could step up as he learns to pitch. He gets natural spin on a downer curveball that is also a plus pitch at times, though the break gets big and could be tightened up. His changeup needs work but has the potential to become an average third pitch. His command can be erratic, but his control is better than his high walk totals suggest. Brice needs to be more consistent with the release point on all of his pitches. His head also tends to drift left, causing his pitches to flatten out and allowing hitters to see them better. When he keeps his delivery together, he can be dominating. He maintains his poise well. Because he's still learning to pitch, Brice could return to low Class A to open the season. He projects as a No. 3 or 4 starter.
Just before the signing deadline last summer, Romero inked a $700,000 deal as a third-round pick. His stocky frame reminds many in the organization of Dan Uggla, who hit 154 homers in five season with the Marlins. Romero has an advanced approach at the plate and uses quick hands, good hand-eye coordination and a short swing to rip line drives into the gaps. He hangs in well on breaking pitches and hits the ball where it's pitched. He projects as an above-average hitter and has the raw power to match. Though he's a below-average runner, he shows good instincts and a quick first step. A shortstop in high school, Romero split his time between third and second base in his pro debut. Despite his build, he's a quality athlete. He has soft hands and quick feet, though he has to work on turning the double play at second. His arm is strong enough for third base, where he looks more comfortable. The Marlins would like Romero to settle into a position, but they have yet to pick that spot. His bat may be polished enough for him to handle low Class A in his first full pro season.
A baseball and football star in high school, Copeland was suspended for part of his 2012 senior season due to a drunken-driving charge. He impressed enough upon his return to entice the Marlins to take him with a supplemental third-round pick and sign him for $367,200. He's physically mature, with a good approach and a compact, line-drive swing that should make him an above-average hitter. There's not a lot of loft in his stroke, but the barrel stays in the hitting zone a long time and he makes consistent hard contact. He showed plenty of extra-base pop in his debut, and despite not homering he projects to have at least average power when he learns how to turn on pitches. Copeland has average speed and runs the bases well, though he doesn't project as a big basestealing threat. He shows good instincts and a quick first step in center field, but he likely will wind up on a corner. His arm is average and more suited for left field than right. Copeland has been well coached and doesn't make the mistakes many young players do. He could jump to low Class A for his first full pro season.
An infielder at perennial Houston-area power Klein Collins High, Dean moved to the outfield after signing as a fourth-round pick last June for $367,200. Though Dean hit just .223/.337/.338 in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League, the Marlins raved about the adjustments he made both during the summer and in fall minicamp. His bat speed compares with anyone's in the system, and the ball makes a nice sound coming off his bat. He wants to pull the ball too much, even on outside pitches that he should take the other way, and needs to learn to let the ball travel a little deeper and trust his quick hands. He also needs to narrow his strike zone. He made mechanical adjustments to his lower half to improve his balance, which should allow him to tap into his above-average raw power. Dean is an average runner with enough athleticism to handle left or right field. He saw time in center but profiles better on a corner. His arm is average. Dean's spring showing will determine whether he jumps to low Class A or waits for a short-season assignment in June.
Solorzano spent two years in the Dominican Summer League before making his U.S. debut in 2011. He led the short-season New York-Penn League in slugging (.519) and OPS (.894) last year, though he was old for the league, having turned 22 in August. An aggressive hitter who can turn around a good fastball, Solarzano has the raw strength to develop plus power. He needs to rein in his all-out approach and recognize different game situations instead of always going with his free-swinging mentality. He makes strong contact when he stays in the strike zone but too often gets himself out by chasing pitches. His speed is a tick above average, and while he's a good baserunner he hasn't shown the instincts to steal bases. A solid defender, Solarzano has played all three outfield spots and profiles best on a corner. His arm strength is average and he needs to improve the accuracy of his throws. He's prone to mental lapses in the field and at the plate. He'll get his first crack at full-season ball this spring.
The top defensive catcher in the system just three years ago, Hatcher shifted to the mound in 2011 and reached the big leagues within months. Though a poor camp cost him a shot at last year's Opening Day roster, he was called up several times during the season and excelled in Triple-A. Despite his relative inexperience, Hatcher is a natural strike-thrower. His fastball sits at 93-94 mph and touches 96 with a little armside run. His sharp, late-breaking slider gives him a second plus pitch. His changeup has nice fade and could be an average offering, but he uses it sparingly. Hatcher brings a bulldog mentality to the mound and isn't afraid to work inside. His delivery is compact and he has a quick arm. Hatcher's Miami appearances were limited to losses and blowout wins last year, so his next hurdle is convincing new manager Mike Redmond that he's ready for a more significant role. He has the stuff and makeup to be a set-up man.
Lazo's uncle is Pedro Luis Lazo, the all-time wins leader in Cuba's Serie Nacional and the closer on Cuba's national team for more than a decade. Raudel also pitched on the national team until he defected in early 2011. Though his fastball sat at 87-88 mph when he worked out for teams in Mexico, the Marlins liked his projectable, wiry frame and signed him for $60,000. He proved a pleasant surprise during his 2012 pro debut, showing a quick arm and good feel for three pitches. Lazo throws strikes and generally works ahead in the count. His fastball has jumped to 90-92 mph and runs up to 94 with good life. He commands it well most of the time, but occasionally it wanders on him. He varies the speed on a hammer curveball that's an out pitch. He can make it break straight down or give it more of an 11-to-4 bend with some sweep to it. At times he'll throw it harder for strikes, with velocity that gives it more of a slider look. Lazo's changeup has sinking action that generates a lot of swings and misses. He's lights out against lefties (.176 average last year) and effective enough against righties to project as a set-up man. Despite his small build, he proved durable and served as the go-to guy in Jupiter's bullpen. He should start 2013 in Double-A and could move quickly.
Esch played baseball, basketball and football at Cretin-Derham Hall, the same St. Paul high school that produced Joe Mauer, before heading to Georgia Tech. A relief pitcher as a freshman, he played second base for a season alongside Derek Dietrich, then replaced Dietrich at shortstop in 2011. Though Esch worked just five innings in his draft year, the Marlins had seen him throw well during fall practice. They took him as a pitcher and paid him $200,000 in the 11th round. Despite his inexperience, he has a clean delivery and a feel for throwing strikes. His fastball sits at 92-94 mph and reaches 96 with good downhill plane. He throws both a slider and a curveball and separates them well, and both should become average offerings. He has the elements of a nice changeup, but it's lags behind his other pitches for now. He fields his position like an extra infielder, popping off the hill to snare anything in his vicinity. Esch has the stuff to be a solid mid-rotation starter and made as much progress as anyone in the system last year. He pitched for Great Britain in a World Baseball Classic qualifier in the fall and will likely return to low Class A to open 2013.
A year after the Tigers signed Flynn for $125,000 as a seventh-round pick, they packaged him with Jacob Turner and Rob Brantly to acquire Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante from the Marlins. The big, physical lefty is raw but reached Double-A in his first full pro season. Flynn commands the bottom half of the strike zone with an 89-92 mph fastball that touches 94 and has decent movement. He throws two breaking balls, getting more swings and misses with his slider than with his curveball. He's not afraid to throw his changeup, which improved significantly by the end of last season. Flynn attacks the zone and has good angle on his pitches. Though he's a quick study who's willing and able to make adjustments, he has been susceptible to lapses in focus. His lack of athleticism shows at times, particularly on defense and with the running game. Flynn projects as a back-of-the-rotation starter and will challenge for a Triple-A job in spring training.
Dayton had relieved exclusively since turning pro in 2010, but the Marlins moved him into the Jupiter rotation for six starts last spring so he could work on his breaking pitches. His fastball, which sat at 94-97 mph in 2011, dipped to 89-91 but came back once he returned to the bullpen in May. Its late life makes it difficult for hitters to square up. His fastball command remains an issue, however, and he walked eight in 12 innings in the Arizona Fall League. Dayton mixed in a curveball while starting, but once back in the pen he used his 83-84 mph slider as his primary breaking pitch. He gets good depth and angle on his slider, and he can drop it on the back foot of righthanders. He shows good feel for his changeup, which can be a solid pitch. Dayton attacks with quality stuff and keeps the ball down, working both sides of the plate. He projects as a middle reliever who could face both lefties and righties. He'll head back to Double-A to start 2013.
The 18th overall pick in the 2009 draft, James has notched double-digit losses in each of his three seasons since signing for $1.7 million. His 2012 season ended in late August when he was suspended for a violation of team policies. His fastball, which once sat at 95 mph, now runs 90-93 mph. He gets nice downward action on his slurvy slider, which has the potential to be an average or better pitch. He'll also throw a big, loopy curve. His straight changeup is good at times but lacks consistency, which could be said for all of his pitches as well as his delivery. James fails to repeat his mechanics, and when he gets moving side to side he loses downhill tilt, his pitches flatten out and hitters have little difficulty seeing the ball. His command is poor and he has particular trouble throwing his secondary pitches for strikes. James needs to field his position better and make strides controlling the running game. When he reported last spring, it was clear he hadn't put much effort into his offseason conditioning, a mistake he vowed not to repeat this winter. James has flashed the stuff to be an effective mid-rotation starter, but his commitment to the game will determine whether he reaches that ceiling.
Originally signed by the Padres in 2004, Ceda went to the Cubs in a 2006 trade for Todd Walker and came to the Marlins in a 2008 deal for Kevin Gregg. Managers rated Ceda the best relief prospect in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 2011, and he was making a case for a big league job last spring when he tore a ligament in his elbow and required Tommy John surgery. Before he got hurt, Ceda's fastball was clocked at 95-96. He also had a solid slider and added a splitter as to combat lefthanders. A lack of command has troubled him, though he did a better job of locating his pitches in 2011. Last year marked the second time in four seasons he had missed an entire campaign, as he spent 2009 working his way back from shoulder surgery. Conditioning has been an issue for him in the past. Ceda is on schedule to return this spring, though he'll need to build his arm back up in the minors before he's ready to help in Miami.
Unheralded out of high school, Black spent two years at Feather River (Calif.) JC raising his profile. He turned down the Yankees as a 42nd-round pick in 2009 and transferred to Oklahoma, where he helped the Sooners reach the College World Series in 2010. The Marlins signed him for $125,000 in the 14th round that June, and he was moving swiftly though the lower levels of the minors before a sprained right wrist ended his 2012 season in mid-July. Black projects as an average hitter who will make line-drive contact. He has no home run power, but he has enough strength that the bat won't get knocked out of his hands and he should collect his share of doubles. Black is adept enough to drop down bunts and has the plus speed to beat some of them out for hits. Once on base, he's an aggressive baserunner who generally gets a good first step. He could enhance his offensive value by drawing more walks. A solid defender with above-average range and arm strength at shortstop, he also can play second and third base. Black should open the year in Double-A.
The nephew of former big league utilityman Mike Gallego, Barnes shifted from infield to catcher when injuries created a need at Arizona State. Though he started the 2012 South Atlantic League all-star game at catcher, he spent most of the season at second base. His average bat profiles well at either spot. He consistently makes hard contact with a compact swing, peppering line drives all over the field, and has gap power geared more for doubles than for homers. He has a patient, disciplined approach with enough confidence to let the ball travel deep and take it the other way. An average runner, he shows good instincts on the bases. Fundamentally sound behind the plate, Barnes looked comfortable even playing there only once a week. He has quick feet and soft hands, and he blocks and receives well. His arm is a tick below average, but he has a quick, accurate release. Small for a full-time catcher, he needs to get stronger. He's athletic enough to play anywhere on the infield, though his arm is light for anything more than spot duty on the left side. The Marlins see him as a catcher and would like to get him more time behind the plate in high Class A this season.
A national Punt, Pass & Kick champion as a 15-year-old, Keys hasn't been able to fully show off his athleticism as a pro. Hampered by chronic hamstring injuries, he logged just 539 at-bats over his first three seasons. After devoting himself to strengthening his legs before the 2012 season, he stayed on the field long enough to capture the South Atlantic League batting crown (.335), though he again missed time with hamstring problems. An above-average hitter who manages his at-bats well, Keys keeps his swing short with little wasted movement. He gets the bat head through the hitting zone quickly and uses the entire field. He lacks the strength to turn on the ball and has little home run power. He profiles as a No. 2 hitter who's happy to take what the pitcher gives him and covers the plate well. He will take a walk, drop a bunt or spray the ball and run. When Keys' legs are healthy, he's a plus runner who can steal bases. An average center fielder, he has above-average range, gets good jumps and takes the right angles. His arm is solid. Keys is a dirtbag with great all-around instincts for the game. He'll advance to high Class A to begin 2013.
In order to access this exclusive content you must have a Baseball America Account.
Login or sign up