Months of traveling, scouting and evaluating are coming to a close. Now, it’s decision time.
The 2014 First-Year Player Draft is set to begin, and the Marlins are sitting in a sweet spot, possessing the second overall pick. Also on Thursday, they will have the Nos. 36 and 43 choices.
Which way the Marlins go will depend upon the Astros, who hold the No. 1 pick.
The top two teams are playing their hands close to the vest, leading to speculation of what may occur.
The way things are shaping up, it appears the Astros and Marlins will each take pitchers.
Houston could be going with lefty prep star Brady Aiken from San Diego. But don’t be surprised if the Astros end up with Tyler Kolek, raised on a ranch near Houston.
From the Marlins’ standpoint, if Houston goes with a prep pitcher, it clears the way to go with North Carolina State lefty Carlos Rodon. This may be the ideal situation for Miami.
There are several reasons why Rodon would be a dream pick.
General opinion is Rodon would have been the top choice if he were in the 2012 and 2013 Drafts. The red flag was a dip in velocity, from 97 mph to 94.
If there is still 97 in the arm, then Rodon would be a serious choice for the Marlins, because he could help out the big league club perhaps as early as August. If not then, certainly in 2015.
The No. 2 pick carries a big financial tag, as the slot value of the pick is $6.8 million.
For an organization like the Marlins, to spend that kind of money, they’d have to go with the safest choice. They can’t afford to reach and miss. Remember, in 2008, they had the sixth pick and took catcher Kyle Skipworth, who hasn’t panned out.
That’s the risk of a high school pitcher and position player.
Obviously, there is risk with a college arm. But Rodon, some evaluators believe, has a slider right now that would be a plus pitch in the big leagues. Combine that with his fastball, and he has two pitches right now that can work at the highest level.
The Marlins certainly don’t want to over-reach to make 2014 a memorable one at the MLB level. But how the team is performing right now should be a factor.
The rotation already took a hit with Jose Fernandez being out for the season.
In the next week or two, Andrew Heaney, the ninth overall pick in 2012, could be an answer to help the rotation.
If Rodon is picked, and gets into big league shape by August, the big lefty also could be an option out of the bullpen, if not the rotation.
The chance of Heaney and Rodon helping in 2014 would give Miami two impact pitchers that are home grown. The club wouldn’t have to make a trade for an arm.
Rodon grew up in North Carolina, but he has family ties to Miami and Cuba. He would be an immediate fit, and has the makings of being a huge fan favorite.
Imagine Fernandez and Rodon as a way to market in Miami?
Moving forward, the Marlins could be looking at a rotation with Fernandez, Rodon, Heaney, Nathan Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez.
Those five could be lined up sometime around the All-Star Break of 2015.
For all of that to happen, the Astros would have to go with either Aiken and Kolek, and the Marlins to go with the lefty who isn’t far away from helping the big league club right away.
If Rodon isn’t the choice, Kolek is the likely second option.
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — The Marlins sent down one power lefty bat and are calling up another.
Justin Bour, who has nine homers and 36 RBIs at Triple-A New Orleans, will have his contract selected by Miami on Wednesday, and the left-handed hitting first baseman will join the team at Tampa Bay.
After Miami beat the Rays, 1-0, on Tuesday night, the club optioned second baseman Derek Dietrich to New Orleans. Dietrich hit five homers with Miami, and he will look to polish up his defense and all-around game with the Zephyrs.
Bour, 26, is a 6-foot-4, 250-pound lefty-handed hitting first baseman. He has been a force in the middle of the lineup at New Orleans, batting .330.
Bour provides a left-handed power bat off the bench, and depth a first base for Garrett Jones.
The Marlins, after going 2-3 on their homestand, open a seven-game trip on Wednesday at the Rays. The trip also includes three games at Wrigley Field against the Cubs over the weekend, and two games at Texas next week.
Playing in AL parks means Miami will use a designated hitter, and Bour could be an option.
The Marlins’ bench has right-handed pinch-hit options in Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker, but they are thin with left-handed power off the bench.
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — It’s 18 days and counting since Jose Fernandez underwent his Tommy John surgery.
On Tuesday, while his teammates were taking batting practice, Fernandez actually picked up a baseball for the first time since his injury. Actually, the Marlins’ ace simply held a baseball.
Wearing a brace on his right arm, Fernandez is eager to actually throw a baseball. But that won’t happen until around mid-September.
Fernandez maintains he will not rush his recovery, which will be roughly 12-18 months.
Most likely, Fernandez anticipates being out about 13-15 months, which could mean a return around the 2015 All-Star Break.
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI – Kevin Gregg is on the verge of making his second stint with the Marlins.
Miami has reached agreement with the veteran reliever, pending completion of his physical, which could come as early as Tuesday.
News of Gregg’s pending signing was first reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports. MLB.com has confirmed the deal.
Gregg was the Marlins’ closer in 2007-08, collecting 61 saves in 74 opportunities.
With the Cubs in 2013, Gregg saved 33 of 38 attempts. The right-hander has 177 career saves.
The Marlins have been in the market for experienced relief help.
The bullpen is thin on experience, especially after Carter Capps was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right elbow sprain. Capps will be evaluated by Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday, and Tommy John surgery is a possibility.
On Sunday, the Marlins dealt a Competitive Balance A Round pick (No. 39 overall) to the Pirates for reliever Bryan Morris, who joined the team on Monday.
The slot value for the No. 39 pick is worth $1.4 million, and that salary space is going towards signing Gregg, who broke in with the Angels in 2003.
Gregg provides another option to set up closer Steve Cishek.
Once the deal is official, Gregg will report to the Marlins complex in Jupiter, Fla., where he will spend about a week getting ready to join the team.
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — Bryan Morris will be joining the Marlins on Monday.
More moves are to follow, and at least one is expected before Thursday’s First-Year Player Draft.
Acquiring Morris from the Pirates is the first piece of some wheeling and dealing the Marlins have been working on over the last few days.
The Marlins did some outside the box thinking in landing Morris, the 27-year-old right-hander. They obtained him for a Competitive Balance Round A pick, which will be the No. 39 overall selection in Thursday’s First-Year Player Draft.
After announcing the trade, Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said: “I don’t think we’re finished trying to improve our club.”
Asked how Marlins fans should read into sending a high Draft pick for a reliever with 81 big league games of experience, Hill replied: As a sign the team is looking to win.
There is still uncertainty about what is next. From what I’m hearing, another piece to the puzzle is expected to be finalized in the next few days. Stay tuned.
The Marlins clearly are looking for bullpen help with big league experience. Carter Capps was to be one of those pieces. But the hard-throwing right-hander is on the disabled list with a right elbow sprain, and he will be evaluated on Wednesday by Dr. James Andrews.
With Capps out for an extended period, and perhaps the season if Tommy John surgery is required, the Marlins are short on experienced relievers.
Morris throws 94-97 mph and he has a good curveball. He’s also battle tested. Last year with the Pirates, he appeared in 55 games and threw 65 innings.
The trade is a proactive move, because trades really don’t start picking up until closer to the All-Star Break.
The Marlins have a surplus of high picks. They also possessed one of 12 Competitive Balance Round A picks. Those are the only picks that can be traded.
While Miami moved pick No. 39, the club still has the Nos. 2, 36 and 43 picks.
So they acquired a big league reliever without having to trade an actual player in their system. Plus, they still are well positioned at the top of the Draft.
It’s hard to fault the logic, and it is another example of how the front office isn’t abiding by strictly conventional thinking.
Behind the scenes, there is more to come. Within the next few days, we will learn what else the club has up its sleeve.
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — The Marlins on Sunday morning placed catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia on the seven-day concussion disabled list. The club recalled catcher J.T. Realmuto from Double-A Jacksonville.
Saltalamacchia, hitless in his last four games (0-for-13), has had his batting average drop to .237 on the season with six home runs and 17 RBIs. The catcher also has struggled in the field.
In Saturday’s 9-5 loss to the Braves, Saltalamacchia made a throwing error in the ninth inning that led to an unearned run.
Realmuto will be making his MLB debut.
– Joe Frisaro
MIAMI — The Marlins received some good news on Saturday and some not so good news on their medical front.
The positive is Henderson Alvarez threw a 20-pitch, pain-free bullpen session, and the right-hander has been cleared to start on Tuesday at home against the Rays.
Alvarez has been dealing with some right elbow stiffness, stemming from his start on Wednesday at Washington.
The negative came with the news that reliever Carter Capps will be heading to see Dr. James Andrews on Wednesday for a second opinion on his right elbow sprain.
Speculation is Capps could be headed for Tommy John surgery.
When Miami placed Capps on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday, the team announced at the time the hard-throwing right-hander would be shut down a month before resuming throwing.
More on Capps’ condition will be known after he consults with Dr. Andrews.
– Joe Frisaro
WASHINGTON — Giancarlo Stanton is doing damage with more than just his lethal bat. In Miami’s 8-5 win over the Nationals on Wednesday night, Stanton made a major difference with his glove.
Three defensive gems helped the Marlins prevail in a game they watched a four-run lead disappear.
Stanton’s improved all-around play has been evident all season. On Wednesday night, he showed his range and athleticism as well as his throwing arm.
In the second inning, Stanton doubled-up Ian Desmond at first base after making a running catch into the gap in right-center to snare Kevin Frandsen’s liner. Desmond was on his way to second when he had to retreat, only to have Stanton’s throw reach first baseman Garrett Jones in time for the out.
Stanton came through in the field again in the sixth inning. With Miami clinging to a 4-3 lead, the Nationals had the bases loaded for Anthony Rendon, who ripped a liner to deep right field. Stanton drifted to the warning track and made another terrific play.
Washington may have won the game in the ninth inning if not for Stanton’s arm coming to the rescue yet again.
Wilson Ramos led off with a single down the line in right field. Stanton ranged over, and because of his angle, Ramos gambled and tried to stretch the play to a double.
Despite his momentum taking him away from second base, Stanton was able to make a strong, accurate throw to Adeiny Hechavarria, who tagged out Ramos.
If not for that play, Ramos would have been on second with no outs in the ninth inning in a tie game.
Stanton now has four outfield assists, which is tied for the most by any outfielder in the National League.
With 456 1/3 innings in right field, Stanton has played in the fourth highest amount of innings in the NL.
The only outfielders with more than four assists this year are Cleveland’s Michael Brantley (six) and Toronto’s Melky Cabrera (five).
– Joe Frisaro
WASHINGTON — The last highly-touted lefty pitching prospect the Marlins had who wore No. 35 was Dontrelle Willis in 2003.
Eleven years later, Andrew Heaney is drawing some D-Train-like attention as he progresses through the Minor Leagues.
Heaney continues to build his case that he is close to being big league ready. On Tuesday night, while the Marlins were being rained out at Washington, Heaney was breezing through six innings of shutout ball.
For Triple-A New Orleans, Heaney made quick work of Round Rock in the Pacific Coast League. He yielded a first-inning single to Bryan Petersen, who formerly played for the Marlins. That was the only baserunner the lefty allowed, as he struck out seven and didn’t walk a batter.
Heaney retired 16 straight and he came out for the seventh inning before the game was delayed and eventually stopped due to rain.
New Orleans won 9-0, giving Heaney his first Triple-A win in two starts. He wasn’t involved in a decision in his first outing.
The Marlins are moving differently with their top prospect. In years past, the organization repeatedly brought pitchers straight from Double-A to the big leagues, if they showed they were ready.
Willis did it in ’03, making the leap after six Double-A starts. The D-Train went on to be an All-Star that year, and he was the N.L. Rookie of the Year.
Miami’s change of thinking is to give their prospects some more experience against the highest Minor League level. At Triple-A, a number of those hitters have previously played in the Majors, like Petersen.
Heaney clearly is dominating at the Minor League level, and many wonder how good he will be in the Majors. In speaking with numerous talent evaluators, there is a feeling he will settle in as a solid No. 3.
But that isn’t the view of everybody.
I spoke to one scout the other day who has watched Heaney on numerous occasions. The scout feels the lefty can be a No. 1. Not as dominant an ace as Jose Fernandez, but a legitimate top of the rotation talent.
According to MLB.com, Heaney is the Marlins’ No. 1 prospect, and he ranks 25th overall.
Already he’s made two Triple-A starts. The question is when will he be ready for the big leagues?
It could be after two more Triple-A starts. He is next up on June 1, and after that, he lines up as June 6, when the Marlins are at Chicago to face the Cubs.
About that time the super two deadline will pass.
Heaney could make a fifth, and perhaps final Triple-A start on June 11, when the Marlins are at Texas. It is doubtful, the Marlins would want the lefty to make his MLB debut at a hitter-friendly road spot like Texas.
My guess is Heaney could debut with the Marlins sometime in the June 13-15 series against the Pirates at Marlins Park.
– Joe Frisaro
WASHINGTON — A potentially big piece of the Marlins’ thin bullpen is now on the disabled list.
On Tuesday afternoon, Miami placed Carter Capps on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Monday, with a right elbow sprain. Arquimedes Caminero was recalled from Triple-A New Orleans to take Capps’ roster spot.
Marlins manager Mike Redmond said Capps has been recommended to not throw for four weeks, and then he will be built back up. The initial hope is he will be fine with rest.
“We feel like right now it’s something that can be treated with rest,” Redmond said. “He’s going to go four weeks without throwing. He will be down for an extended period of time, and then building back up, and we’ll go from there.”
Capps threw one inning on Sunday in a 7-1 loss to Milwaukee at Marlins Park. The hard-throwing right-hander allowed one run on two hits with a walk and a strikeout.
“He had some tenderness in there after the game,” Redmond said. “So we got him checked out. They found out that he does have a sprained elbow.”
Velocity was not an issue in the appearance, as he struck out Ryan Braun to end the inning. During the at-bat with Braun, one of Capps’ fastballs was clocked at 99 mph. The 23-year-old’s fastball has reached as high as 101 mph this season.
Capps, who opened the season at Triple-A New Orleans, has become an effective late-innings option since being called up in late April. In nine appearances for Miami, he has a 3.00 ERA, and he’s struck out 15 while walking three in 12 innings.
Miami acquired Capps from the Mariners last December for Logan Morrison.
Capps, a converted catcher, is a promising right-hander and an extremely hard thrower.
In Spring Training, he was working on adjusting his delivery, which is one reason he didn’t make the Opening Day roster. The club opted to let him iron out his mechanics at New Orleans.
Capps impressed in seven Triple-A appearances. In 11 innings, he struck out 17 and walked just six.
News of Capps’ elbow sprain comes on the same day Jose Fernandez returned to Los Angeles to have his cast and stitches removed from his Tommy John surgery.
When Fernandez was placed on the disabled list, he was listed as having a right elbow sprain.
Caminero is making his second stint with the Marlins. The right-hander appeared in five games, giving up seven runs in 4 2/3 innings.
– Joe Frisaro