It's been a tough rebuilding season for the Miami Marlins, but help is on the way.
The club is currently in last place in the National League East and has the worst record in the NL. The Houston Astros are the only team in Major League Baseball with a lower winning percentage.
Miami is one of three teams to have used 19 rookies in 2013. The club has trotted out 11 freshman hitters and eight first-year pitchers. Of those 19 players, 10 have received significant playing time. Despite their inexperience, the Marlins front office is building a club with a strong core of young, high-ceiling players. And, even with the significant wave of talent that's already reached the Majors, Miami has more on the way.
The pitching staff stands to be the most significant beneficiary of the talent infusion. The club already has a number of young hurlers that could settle into the starting rotation in 2014, including Jose Fernandez, Tom Koehler, Henderson Alvarez, Jacob Turner and Nate Eovaldi. Four more names could settle into the big league club's starting rotation next season, and the organization has the Toronto Blue Jays to thank for three of the prospects.
None of the names can match the ace-in-the-making ceiling that Fernandez has, but they certainly have the talent necessary to be impact performers in the coming seasons.
Anthony DeSclafani, RHP, Double-A: DeSclafani has a big-time fastball, but an inconsistent college career caused him to slide to the Blue Jays in the sixth round of the 2011 amateur draft. Despite being stuck in the bullpen for much of his collegiate career, the right-hander has thrived as a starter in pro ball.
DeSclafani, 23, was one of the lesser-known names in last year's 12-player trade between the Marlins and the Jays. He's pitched extremely well since joining his new organization, playing at two levels in 2013 — High-A and Double-A. The million dollar question, though, is whether or not he can maintain his success as a starter in the upper levels of the minors and into the Majors.
The Marlins' Director of Player Development, Brian Chattin, said he's not surprised by the young hurler's pro success and added that the organization followed his amateur career closely at the University of Florida: "His slider is an above-average pitch at times and should be a consistent weapon for him as he continues to develop," Chattin said. "His changeup is a work in progress but is showing signs of being a usable third pitch. I am confident he can stick as a starter."
Sam Dyson, RHP, Triple-A: The Marlins more or less stole this talented pitcher from the Jays. Toronto added Dyson to the 40-man roster when he was called up to the Majors last season, but he appeared in just two big league games (both out of the bullpen) before being returned to the minor leagues. In the offseason, the club faced a roster crunch and the former fourth round draft pick was claimed off waivers by the Fish.
With his new club, the 25-year-old Dyson was converted back to a starter after spending much of 2012 in the bullpen. Like DeSclafani, he's had a lot of success in his new role. He's spent the majority of the 2013 season in Double-A but has also pitched well in four starts since being promoted to Triple-A.
According to Chattin, Dyson's ultimate role is still open for discussion: "We are encouraged by his overall development and will consider him for both a rotation and bullpen role if his progress continues," said Chattin. "Our primary focus with Sam this year has been to get him consistent work and establish a usable breaking ball… We like the sinker, as well as the changeup, but want a consistent breaking ball that he will throw with confidence. He used a curveball early but has gone to a slider recently."
Andrew Heaney, LHP, Double-A: The club's first round draft pick in 2012, Heaney has been a fast mover. Despite making just six appearances last season, the southpaw has played at two levels this year: High-A and Double-A. His ERA sits at just 1.41 for the year between the two levels.
Chattin said Heaney's success has come from his ability to throw three average to above-average pitches for strikes. He also has a reliable out-pitch in his slider, and simply needs to add polish. "He needs to log some innings so he can learn the lessons this game naturally teaches through experience," he said. "He also needs to control the running game more effectively."
Justin Nicolino, LHP, Double-A: The third and final former Blue Jays farmhand on this list, Nicolino came over to the organization in last offseason's blockbuster deal involving Jose Reyes. In the Jays organization, he was a member of impressive trio of high-ceiling arms that were all drafted out of high school in 2010: Nicolino, Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard (who was traded to the Mets in the R.A. Dickey deal). The Jays had a plethora of picks that season, and Nicolino was actually the seventh player selected by Toronto despite being nabbed in the second round (80th overall).
Nicolino's success and rise through the system has mirrored Heaney's in 2013. Chattin said the young lefty will see his success continue into the Majors if he trusts his stuff and continues to attack the strike zone. "He is intelligent, pitches with a plan and purpose, throws three pitches for strikes and changes speeds effectively," Chattin explained.