July 2013

Is timing right to promote top prospects?

The promotions were inevitable. It was always going to be a matter of when.

As it turned out, the when came moments after the Marlins beat the Rockies, 3-1, on Monday night at Coors Field.

In the aftermath of the victory, the club announced they were selecting the contracts of outfielders Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick from Double-A Jacksonville.

The corresponding moves were mildly surprising, as second baseman Derek Dietrich and outfielder Marcell Ozuna were optioned to Double-A.

Ozuna and Dietrich each showed promise. At times, they also showed their youth, and now they will get some more Minor League seasoning. Both still project to be major parts of the organization’s future.

As for Yelich and Marisnick, they now get their first big league chances. Both are highly touted. Both are highly athletic, confident and eager to prove they will be mainstays in Miami’s outfield for years to come.

Yelich, a first-round pick in 2010, has one of the best swings in the Minor Leagues. Look for him to take over in left field.

Marisnick is a speedster who is terrific defensively, and he will likely step in at center field. The question is how much will he hit?

Both bring energy and excitement to a team in a transition year.

Is the timing right now? It’s easy to say, why not? After all, the Marlins have just 36 wins, and they are building for a better tomorrow. They’re pretty much on a three-year plan to becoming a serious contender. They are entrenched in last place, and giving opportunities to other prospects.

Jose Fernandez, remember, was promoted to the big leagues at age 20. He got the nod without pitching higher than Class A. Still, he pitched well enough to be Miami’s lone All-Star.

Some in the organization felt Yelich was ready in Spring Training, when he hadn’t played above Class A.

Marisnick missed a bulk of Spring Training, as well as April, due to a broken left hand. The injury occurred after he was struck by a Trevor Rosenthal fastball in a Spring Training game against the Cardinals.

The big question with Marisnick is whether he will hit? And there are questions about his swing. We are about to find some answers out.

Ideally, both would get more time to develop in the Minor Leagues.

But where Miami is in the standings, the club felt it is worth seeing what both can do right now at the Major League level. So many are getting on-the-job-training already, so it makes sense to move along two more young players.

Miami fans have reason to be excited about the upside of both players.

They also should have some caution.

In talking to a number of scouts who have seen Yelich and Marisnick at Jacksonville, the general feeling is neither dominated at Double-A. Perhaps if they didn’t miss time due to injuries, they would have.

Yelich is more advanced offensively, but still he had his troubles at Jacksonville, especially against left-handed pitchers.

As for Marisnick, some evaluators feel he would benefit by another half year — minimum — in the Minors.

Working in their favor is their talent.

Talent is talent, and in the evaluation process it often weighs more heavily than Minor League statistics. One way to find out how they will handle the games’ highest level is to actually experience it.

Now is their time.

But in the unforgiving big leagues, the bottom line is production.

If they make the necessary adjustments and produce, Yelich and Marisnick should have promising careers. If not, they could be the ones getting sent down for more seasoning.

The way the Marlins’ season has been going, the club believes it is worth the risk to see right now if they are big league ready.

Joe Frisaro

Marlins call up Yelich, Marisnick

The future is starting now for a couple of the Marlins’ top prospects.

After beating the Rockies, 3-1, on Monday night at Coors Field, the Marlins made some eye-opening moves. They selected the contracts of outfielders Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick from Double-A Jacksonville.

The counter move, the Marlins optioned second baseman Derek Dietrich and center fielder Marcell Ozuna to Jacksonville.

Donovan Solan and Ed Lucas are likely to handle second base. And Marisnick and Yelich likely will see playing time in center and left field.

Joe Frisaro

Hechavarria could be moving up in order

MILWAUKEE — Hot-hitting Adeiny Hechavarria may be moving on up — in the batting order, that is.

After going 3-for-3 on Friday in the Marlins’ 2-0 loss to the Brewers, Hechavarria could be heading to the top of the order. He’s raised his season average to .248.

The 24-year-old batted seventh on Friday.

Manager Mike Redmond after the game said he has been considering using Hechavarria at the top of the order, either first or second.

“I’ve thought about it. We’ll see,” Redmond said. “We’ve been talking about it over the last couple of days. It’s kind of one of those things where he starts swinging the bat good where he is. You move him and you risk him trying to do too much. It might be worth it. We’ll see. I’ll sleep on it tonight and see what we come up with.”

Justin Ruggiano, who has been leading off, is in an 0-for-20 slump.

Joe Frisaro

When Yelich may be ready for promotion

MILWAUKEE — Christian Yelich recently got a taste of playing in a big league ballpark when he took part in the Futures Game at Citi Field.

It is just a matter of time before the 21-year-old outfielder gets his first MLB chance with the Marlins. That opportunity likely will come before the end of the month.

Quite simply, it is a matter of Yelich heating up at the plate and showing he is ready.

Miami’s top prospect, Yelich had an RBI double and a single in his two at-bats on Sunday for the United States team in the Futures Game played at the home of the New York Mets.

Yelich continued to swing a hot bat on Thursday night, going 3-for-4 for Double-A Jacksonville.

Ranked as the 10th best prospect in the game by MLB.com, Yelich must show a level of consistency in the next week or two to earn his promotion.

Yelich is regarded as one of the smoothest hitting prospects in the game. But the left-handed hitting outfielder has dealt with injuries in April and June, which has factored into some inconsistent play. His three hits on Thursday raised his average to .268 with 13 doubles, six triples, six homers and 28 RBIs in 45 games for the Suns.

Clearly, the Marlins will use the second half to further develop and evaluate their young talent. But they also have plenty of outfield depth, and are in no need of rushing their top prospect.

Barring injury, it is highly likely Yelich will join the Marlins in either late July or early August, at the latest.

Still, additional at-bats at Double-A will not hurt. He’s had a total of 222 this year, counting rehab assignment stints.

Yelich has been playing center field and left field at Jacksonville. With the Marlins, he likely will start off in center, with Marcell Ozuna moving to left field.

That decision will be more fully addressed when Yelich does arrive.

While Yelich is closing in on being big league ready, the Marlins appear willing to give Jake Marisnick more time in Jacksonville. Marisnick, 22, is the projected center fielder of the future, but the team wants to make sure he is completely ready offensively.

Marisnick is enjoying a strong season at Jacksonville, batting .291 with 10 homers and 41 RBIs.

With Marisnick, however, the team is paying attention to his mechanics more than his actual numbers. There are some areas of his swing the organization first would like to see ironed out.

The speedster still could use another half season of Minor League ball to be better prepared.

Without question, the Marlins have rushed players to the big leagues in the past. Often, it is out of necessity. But with plenty of outfield depth, there is no need to push Marisnick right now. The same is true for Yelich.

Marlins not likely to sign Gonzalez: Cuban pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez is gaining plenty of attention, and reportedly, the right-hander could sign next week. While the Marlins have been linked to Gonzalez, don’t expect the club to be in the mix when a final decision is made.

Gonzalez, cleared earlier this week to sign with MLB teams, reportedly could get a deal of around $60 million for five years.

The Cubs, Dodgers, Rangers, Red Sox, Yankees and Twins have been mentioned as possible landing spots for the right-hander.

Joe Frisaro

Marlins leaning towards staying the course

MIAMI — Teams that reach the All-Star Break firmly in last place typically consider making major moves by the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

That may be the case for many clubs. But it’s not what the Marlins are thinking.

After falling 5-2 in 10 innings to the Nationals on Sunday, Miami entered the break with a 35-58 record. Still, there is plenty of reason for optimism, mainly because its young core is coming together.

Since May 31, the Marlins are 22-17. And they are 21-17 since June 1, compared to a 14-41 mark in April and May.

The fact they’ve built some positive momentum has the Marlins leaning towards staying the course as the July 31 deadline approaches. They aren’t anticipating making any major trades.

Giancarlo Stanton, Logan Morrison, Steve Cishek and Mike Dunn have all been mentioned in trade speculation. All four are eligible for arbitration next year. But the bottom line is all four are considered building blocks for the remainder of this year and in 2014. Don’t expect any of them to be dealt. Of course, a team willing to dramatically overpay could change things. But that is highly unlikely.

In summing up the first half, first-year manager Mike Redmond noted the Marlins are pleased with the improvement, but they recognize there is plenty of room for improvement.

“By no means are we satisfied with where we are at,” Redmond said. “We know we can get better. We know we can continue to improve. We’ll go out there in the second half, and hopefully have a great second half and finish strong.”

The Marlins pretty much made their big move already. A week ago, they dealt Ricky Nolasco to the Dodgers for three pitching prospects.

It was no secret Nolasco was available, because the right-hander will be a free agent after the season. The Marlins feel they have a group of young starting pitchers to replace Nolasco, so they weren’t planning on making an offer to retain him.

With Stanton, there isn’t an obvious replacement. His power is critical for a team that is last in the Majors in home runs. And he’s a threat at Marlins Park, which has allowed the fewest amount of homers of any stadium this year.

Morrison also is viewed as a building block because he is the primary power threat from the left side, and he has the ability to become highly productive. Injuries slowed him down, and the team wants to see what he can do playing regularly.

Cishek has not been made available, largely because with so much strong, young starting pitching, the Marlins are counting on a reliable closer to secure wins. The organization doesn’t want to demoralize its young pitching by having late leads disappear.

For another club to acquire Cishek, its bidding likely would have to start with their No. 1 prospect. Even then, finding a match appears remote.

The Tigers, for instance, have a need. But even their top prospect, Nick Castellanos, may not be a fit. Castellonas plays third base and outfield, two areas the Marlins already have prospects.

The Marlins just signed their first-round pick, third baseman Colin Moran, for $3.5 million. Moran is viewed as the third baseman of the future. And they have young outfielders like Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick. Both could be called up in the second half. So there is an outfield surplus, which also limits the trade market.

Candidates the Marlins could trade are relievers Ryan Webb and Chad Qualls. Placido Polanco, Justin Ruggiano and Greg Dobbs are position players who are possible trade pieces.

Even they may not be moved in July.

Chances are the Marlins could make more moves in August, during the waiver-trade period than by the end of July.

Right now, the club wants to see how its core progresses together.

— Joe Frisaro

Fernandez provides youth enthusiasm

Jose Fernandez celebrates Giancarlo Stanton's home run.

Jose Fernandez celebrates Giancarlo Stanton’s home run.

MIAMI — When not pitching, Jose Fernandez is the Marlins’ No. 1 cheerleader.

Fernandez’s enthusiasm and energy was clearly demonstrated on Saturday night when Giancarlo Stanton blasted the game-tying home run off Rafael Soriano in the ninth inning. Miami completed the comeback win, 2-1, in 10 innings against Washington.

The Marlins’ lone All-Star, Fernandez admittedly wasn’t at his best on Saturday night. In six innings, he gave up one run, but his entire 103-pitch outing was a grind.

Like he does during every one of his starts, Fernandez remains in the dugout to root on his teammates after he exits. He did so by getting extremely emotional when Stanton provided his big blast.

“I got so excited,” said Fernandez, who’s enthusiasm outburst was captured by TV cameras. “I don’t know what I did on the play. I know it was well worth it. I enjoy it. My teammates laugh, so that is good. Everybody was laughing. I was just enjoying it. When he made contact, I knew it was a bomb. I was pretty excited. Their closer is one of the best closers in the league. I got pretty excited. It’s fun.

“I like to have fun. This is a game. You have to play.”

Fernandez is the youngest Marlin ever to be named to the All-Star Game. The right-hander turns 21 on July 31.

In his rookie season, he’s already showing signs of leadership.

“I didn’t have my stuff the way I wanted it,” Fernandez said. “Sometimes you have to battle. That’s the point. Keeping it close, and giving us a chance to win. That feels amazing.”

The Marlins have gone through so much adversity in the first half, and Fernandez is sticking close to his teammates.

“I love this team. I’m going to give it my heart,” the rookie said. “I’m going to give everything to it. Whoever doesn’t like it, I don’t mind. This is my team. This is what I work for every day.”

Joe Frisaro

Moran takes batting practice at Marlins Park

Marlins top pick Colin Moran takes BP.  (Robert Vigon/Miami Marlins)

Marlins top pick Colin Moran takes BP. (Robert Vigon/Miami Marlins)

MIAMI — The Marlins third baseman of the future got a taste of playing at Marlins Park.

Colin Moran, picked sixth overall in the First-Year Player Draft, took batting practice with the big league club on Saturday afternoon.

The 20-year-old third baseman from the University of North Carolina officially signed on Friday. On Monday, the native of Rye, N.Y., will play begin his professional career at low Class A Jupiter.

A left-handed hitter, Moran reminds some in the organization of Robin Ventura.

As a player, Ventura, now the White Sox manager, was a smooth-fielding third baseman and a quality left-handed hitter.

Moran grew up in Rye, N.Y., and he was a fan of Tino Martinez, the Marlins’ hitting coach.

— Joe Frisaro

Marlins very close to signing Moran

MIAMI — The Marlins are very close to finalizing a deal with Colin Moran, their first-round Draft pick.

The contract is expected to be finalized before Friday’s 5 p.m. ET deadline for all teams to sign their picks.

Miami selected Moran sixth overall in June’s First-Year Player Draft.

Moran is a left-handed hitting third baseman from the University of North Carolina. The slot value for the sixth overall pick is $3.5 million.

A deal could be completed by late Thursday.

Joe Frisaro

Marlins’ next step after Nolasco trade

MIAMI — Having already completed one big trade this month, what would it take for the Marlins to pull off another?

A hefty return, that’s what.

On Saturday, the Marlins dealt Ricky Nolasco to the Dodgers for three pitching prospects. Moving the 30-year-old right-hander was expected, because he is eligible for free agency after the season, and he wasn’t part of Miami’s future plans.

The Marlins made it a point to get ahead of the market on Nolasco, not wanting to risk having a chance to complete a deal fall through. The Dodgers, eager to add rotation depth, became the ideal fit.

Although the Marlins didn’t lure in any of Los Angeles’ top five prospects for Nolasco, they trimmed about $5.5 million (the remainder of Nolasco’s salary this season) and adding three quality arms to their system. And in Angels Sanchez, 21, Miami got a starter who they feel has a chance to be solid in the future.

Also in the deal, Miami received relievers Steven Ames and Josh Wall. They did inquire about right-hander Chris Withrow, ranked the Dodgers’ eighth best prospect, but were told he wasn’t available.

Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest made it clear the organization remains open for business on the trade front, but that they also aren’t necessarily to unload any of their core players.

The most prominent name in the organization is Giancarlo Stanton, the 23-year-old slugger. But Stanton isn’t on the market, and he isn’t expected to be dealt this season. There is a chance he could be moved in the offseason, if he declines a multi-year offer. Even if he does, it isn’t automatic he will be traded.

Basically, Stanton could fill a bulk of the $11.5 million that Nolasco was making this year. So financially, the Marlins are well positioned to take on Stanton’s first-year salary in arbitration.

The next player teams would likely have interest in is closer Steve Cishek. Like Stanton, Cishek will be up for arbitration in 2014. The 27-year-old right-hander with the deceptive, side-arm delivery is an ideal trade chip because he is affordable for three more seasons, and three years away from being up for free agency.

All those reasons are factoring into why the Marlins also want to keep Cishek.

If the Marlins were to listen to offers for Cishek, they’d likely command another team’s top prospect.

Hypothetically, let’s say the Tigers were interested in Cishek. To get the Marlins’ full attention, they’d probably have to have Nick Castellanos, Detroit’s No. 1 prospect according to MLB.com, in the package.

Maybe the Tigers would be willing to over-spend, but the Marlins are in position to ask for that, otherwise they have no reason to move one of the promising, young, affordable closers in the game.

Joe Frisaro

Nolasco thankful for times with Marlins

ST. LOUIS — Ricky Nolasco, a Southern California native, is thankful for his years with the Marlins and he welcomes his opportunity to return home.

The Marlins on Saturday night completed a trade with the Dodgers, sending Nolasco to Los Angeles for three pitching prospects.

“I’m definitely excited. It’s L.A., the team that I grew up going to the games as a kid and stuff,” Nolasco told MLB.com. “It’s kind of surreal now, until I’m actually there. It will take time to sink in, but I’m definitely excited. My whole family couldn’t be happier. I’ll try to blend in as quickly as I can.”

Nolasco thanked the Marlins for giving him his first big league shot, including team owner Jeffrey Loria, team president David Samson, president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest and general manager Michael Hill. He also expressed his gratitude to manager Mike Redmond, pitching coach Chuck Hernandez, the rest of the staff and his teammates.

“I definitely want to say thank you to the whole Marlins organization, from top to bottom,” Nolasco said. “These last eight years I will obviously never forget. They’ve been great, although we didn’t go to the playoffs any of the years I was there. I am really glad to have been part of that organization.”

Joe Frisaro