Examining the back half of the Marlins’ top position prospects and where they stand

Cortesía de Pensacola Blue Wahoos.

Part 3 of a six-part series on the Marlins’ rebuild, which has stalled, and the organization’s future.

During the first three seasons of Bruce Sherman’s ownership (2018-2020), MLB.com’s list of the top 30 Marlins prospects — for each of those years — included 33 position players. Only one (Jazz Chisholm Jr.) has become an above-average big-league hitter. Only one other (Brian Anderson) has become even an average player, as noted in Part 1 of the series.

Miami so far has extracted nothing or little, at least on the Major League level, from the others.

But mlb.com’s 2022 list of top Marlins prospects offers hope for a bunch of players who are very early in their pro careers and can’t yet be fully judged. In Part 2 here, we examined the top eight.

Here’s a look at the next 11 position players on mlb.com’s top 30 list of Marlins prospects and where they stand:

OF Jerar Encarnacion

He’s as intriguing as anybody on this list.

“He reminds me of [Giancarlo] Stanton,” shortstop Miguel Rojas said. “Same kind of power and arm in the outfield. He can move well for someone that big; Stanton could do that.”

Has hit .263 with 57 homers in 415 minor-league games but is hitting just .182 in 82 plate appearances for the Marlins. The power potential is intoxicating: He hit a grand slam in his first big-league game and has three homers and 14 RBI in limited appearances for the Marlins.

Though the Marlins used him some at first base in the minors, manager Don Mattingly indicated the team isn’t inclined to play him at first base in games just yet. He will continue to get work at corner outfield spots and at designated hitter. But he might eventually be given a shot at first if Lewin Diaz can’t hit big-league pitching.

“This is his first very time here in this level,” Mattingly said. “Just hit Triple A for a little bit this year also. Jerar is getting pushed pretty fast. Jerar, to me, has a pretty good swing. It’s being able to understand the pitching moving forward. His swing is pretty solid.”

Count Garrett Cooper, the Marlins’ most consistent hitter this season, among those intrigued with Encarnacion’s upside.

“He’s huge,” Cooper said. “There’s so much potential there for that body, that swing. From watching him the last few years as he progressed from a hitter that was just swinging in the minor leagues with a lot of power.

“To see the kind of in game adjustments he’s made, they attack your weak spots here until you figure out how to hit that pitch. You see the swing, you see the power, the adjustments I’ve seen over the last few years from him. That body is going to produce 30 homers. That’s a big league body and a big league swing. He’s going to refine some small things up here.”

OF Victor Mesa Jr

Now a better prospect than his brother but with a backup outfielder ceiling, according to two scouts. The three-position outfielder, only 20, has hit .244 with five homers and 50 RBI in 121 games at High A Beloit.

MLB.com’s take: “Mesa has one of the smoothest left-handed swings and some of the best bat-to-ball skills in the system. He makes consistent hard contact and controls the strike zone reasonably well, and the next step will be to get stronger so he can do more damage. He cleaned up his lower-half mechanics and began to turn on more pitches last season, and he could have 15- to 20-homer power if he can make some adjustments to drive balls in the air more regularly.”

IF Ian Lewis

It’s too soon to know what the Marlins have in the 19-year-old second baseman/shortstop/third baseman, who hit .265 (.347 on base), with two homers, 21 RBI, 16 steals in 17 attempts in 51 games at Jupiter.

He played 29 games at second base (five errors) and 14 at third (two errors), while getting limited time at DH and shortstop.

MLB.com sizes him up this way: Has “athleticism, power and speed in a compact frame. A switch-hitter with a quick swing from both sides of the plate, he has gotten stronger since signing and opened eyes by displaying at least average power in his debut. His hand-eye coordination and patient approach allow him to make consistent contact, though he’ll have to prove he can handle quality breaking balls at higher levels. With his well-above-average speed, Lewis is a base-stealing threat and covers ground in the middle infield.”

OF Antony Peguero

He was signed for $575,000 out of the Dominican Republic in January, and MLB.com say he’s “the most advanced player in Miami’s 2021-22 international class. He made an easy transition to the rookie-level Dominican Summer League and should possess at least average and perhaps solid tools across the board once he gains more strength and experience.

Peguero, who can play center or right, hit .286, 5 homers, 33 RBI in 50 games in the Dominican Summer League.

OF Jose Gerardo

The 2021-22 international signing “has some of the best tools in the system,” per MLB.com, adding that “he was clocked at 102 mph on a throw from the outfield as an amateur, prompting the Marlins to discuss whether they wanted to make him a pitcher, but they opted to see how his broad base of tools will play out as an outfielder.

“If 10 homers in his first month in the rookie-level Dominican Summer League are any indication, they made the right choice. Gerardo has more bat speed and present strength than most 17-year-olds, not to mention plenty of projection remaining in his athletic 6-foot-1 frame.”

He finished at .284, 11, 31 in 50 games in the Dominican Summer League.

C Ronald Hernandez

The Marlins signed him out of Venezuela for $850,000 in January 2021, but unlike Mack, he’s better defensively than offensively. So far, he hit .236, 2, 22 in 41 games in rookie league this year.

Per mlb.com, his “most impressive tool is his solid-to-plus arm strength, though he still needs to refine the accuracy of his throws. He’s a steady receiver who has the quickness to block balls behind the plate. He displays leadership ability and can communicate with pitchers in English and Spanish. Hernandez hasn’t produced much at the plate in his first two pro seasons, but the Marlins like the switch-hitter’s swing from both sides of the plate and believe he’ll improve offensively with more strength and experience.”

1B/OF Troy Johnston

The 2019 17th-round pick from Gonzaga has hit as well as any Marlins position prospect this season, hitting .292, 10 homers, 49 RBI in 85 games at Pensacola before his promotion to Jacksonville, where hit .176 with four homers in 91 plate appearances.

He has played mostly first base, with some starts in left field and at DH.

Per MLB.com, “Johnston is a professional hitter who knows his left-handed stroke, repeatedly makes good swing decisions and consistently barrels the ball to all fields. While he has enough bat speed and strength for at least average power, his swing is relatively flat and geared more for line drives than fly balls that will carry over the fence. He is a gifted hitter, so he could make the adjustments to turn on and lift more pitches to produce enough pop to profile as a regular at first base.”

2B Cody Morissette

The second-round 2021 pick out of Boston College hit .232 (.351 on base), 13 homers, 51 RBI in 84 games at High A Beloit this season. He started 68 games at second base and had nine errors.

MLB.com said: “He employs a compact left-handed swing with a patient all-fields approach that should enable him to produce high batting averages. His power is more in question because he has solid but not plus bat speed, needs more strength and frequently hits the ball on the ground.”

SS Nasim Nunez

The 2019 second-round pick hit .261 with 14 RBI in 38 games at Double A Pensacola.

And this is impressive: Between Pensacola and Beloit this season, Nunez was 70 for 86 on stolen base attempts. The Marlins are encouraged by his offensive growth and see him as a potential top-of-the-order hitter. He’s arguably the best base-stealer in the minors.

MLB.com’s take: “He’s an electrifying defender and base runner, but questions persist about his small stature and offensive upside. He batted just .222/.347/.251 his first two pro seasons and his ability to provide offense will determine whether he becomes a regular vs. a glove-first utilityman.

“Nunez might contend for a Gold Glove in the big leagues right now. He’s silky smooth with fast-twitch actions, quick hands and feet and a plus-plus arm that delivers accurate throws from any conceivable angle. He can make plays that most shortstops can’t and also is remarkably consistent for a young defender.”

OF Griffin Conine

Jeff’s son can hit for power (24, 74 RBI in 118 games at Double A this season) but hasn’t been able to get a handle on strikeouts. He’s hitting .215 in Pensacola this season with 183 strikeouts in 496 plate appearances. The Marlins would like to keep him and try to develop him further.

MLB.com calls him “a feast-or-famine hitter who combines plus-plus raw power with poor contact skills. His bat speed and strength produce tape-measure shots and jaw-dropping exit velocities from the left side of the plate, but his homer-happy approach leaves him vulnerable to velocity up in the zone as well as breaking pitches.”

Jordan McCants

The Marlins’ 2021 third-round pick out of Pensacola Catholic High, he hit .245 with 11 RBI in 50 games in rookie league this season, playing second base and shortstop.

MLB.com said: “McCants has an efficient left-handed swing and repeats it well. He also has a disciplined approach and can beat out grounders with speed that grades as at least plus, so he should hit for average. Once he packs some needed muscle on his projectable 6-foot-1 frame and learns to turn on pitches and drive them in the air, he could grow into 15-homer power.”

Here’s Part 1 of the series on why the rebuild has imploded.

Here’s Part 2 of the series with why a Marlins employee says the future is bleak, and a look at the team’s top position prospects.