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Marlins system remains strong-armed

BeefWillingham

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From MILB.com

After watching the 2006 Florida Marlins in action, it'd be hard to believe there'd be anything left in the Minors to call upon. With a rookie just about everywhere you looked, it appeared that the entire farm was up in the big leagues.

That would not be entirely accurate. While the system was stripped at the upper levels by the ascension of all those first-year players, it won't be long before more talent will be coming through the pipeline. And most of it will come on the mound.

Over the past couple of years, the Marlins have made a concerted effort to stockpile young pitching via the draft, international signings and trades. Some of those arms are already in the Marlins' rotation. But there will be legitimate pitching talent at each full-season level when the 2007 gets underway. Class A Advanced Jupiter's staff trumps them all, with an all-first-round rotation.

The Marlins have never been shy about moving pitchers quickly based on merit, regardless of age. Now they don't really have to, thanks to the depth from the top down. There's no reason to rush the Jupiter staff up the ladder when most of the pitchers in the big leagues are in their early 20s. They say you can't have enough pitching. The Marlins will get prove just how true that is in 2007.

Climbing the Ladder

Triple-A Albuquerque

Brett Carroll, OF
Carroll is a much more intriguing player than his .241 career average might indicate. The 2004 10th-rounder hit 18 homers and stole 10 bases in his first full season in 2005. He followed that up last year by hitting 17 homers and swiping 13 bags, splitting the year between Jupiter and Carolina. He did strike out 110 times, but his 36 walks represented a doubling of that stat from 2005. He's an all-out outfielder with an unbelieable throwing arm, and he fared well in the Arizona Fall League. The Marlins thought enough of him to send him to the Rookie Career Development Program this past January. If he can continue to improve his plate discipline, the power numbers should spike, starting this year in the thin air of New Mexico.

Jose Garcia, RHP
There weren't too many places Garcia didn't pitch in 2006. He began the year in Jupiter and finished it in the Marlins bullpen. When it was over, he had thrown 165 2/3 Minor League innings and struck out 161. He won the organization's pitching triple crown with 12 wins, a 2.88 combined ERA and the 161 K's. He did all of that while walking just 45, showing an outstanding feel for pitching. Just 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds, he's got the repertoire to remain a starter, with a fastball, changeup, slider and curve. If injuries befell the starting rotation any more, he could see Florida again soon.


Others to watch: Originally an infielder, Jose Campusano's future is as a speedy outfielder. He stole 37 bases last year and still is learning to harness his plus speed. ... Remember 1B Jason Stokes? He hit 27 homers in 2002 and 24 in 2004, but he hasn't been healthy much since. But he's still just 25 and raw power like his doesn't grow on trees.

Double-A Carolina

Brad McCann, 1B
The brother of Braves catcher Brian McCann had a terrific first full season in 2005, but took a step backward in Jupiter last year. Originally a third baseman, he moved over to first and never got into a rhythm offensively or defensively. He still has an excellent swing that generates power. If he can regain his confidence, he can resemble the hitter who had 28 homers, 106 RBIs and a .552 SLG in 2005.


Gaby Hernandez, RHP
Hernandez had an outstanding first season with the Marlins after coming over from the Mets. Pitching at age 20 in the Florida State League, he had the ninth-best ERA in the circuit (3.68). He struck out 115 and walked just 35 in 120 innings. He's got a three-pitch mix -- fastball, changeup, curve -- that is improving quickly, though he may feature a slider as his breaking pitch in the future. He won't turn 21 until late May and will move up one notch as one of the youngest pitchers in the Southern League this season.
Hernandez on the Rookie Career Development path

Others to watch: RHP Jesus Delgado joined the Marlins along with Hanley Ramirez and Anibal Sanchez. He's had some injury issues, but when healthy has been a dominant reliever. ... RHP Harvey Garcia was also part of the Beckett deal and saved 21 games for Jupiter last year. He's got a plus, plus fastball and should close games for the Mudcats. ... He'll likely share the role once again with RHP Scott Nestor, who had 10 saves for Jupiter last year.

Class A Advanced Jupiter

Gaby Sanchez, 1B
In his brief pro career, Sanchez has seen time at third, behind the plate and at first. The one thing that seems for certain is that his bat will play wherever he holds a glove in the field. For now, they've settled on first, thinking that's the best place for his offensive talents to thrive. He won the New York-Penn League batting title in his debut in 2005, then hit .317 last year in Greensboro, but missed time with injuries. He did well in the Arizona Fall League and should use that to springboard to the Florida State League in 2007.

Chris Volstad, RHP
For the second straight year, a Marlins affiliate will have a rotation made up of first-round picks. Last year, it was Greensboro. Now it's Jupiter's turn, at least to start. Volstad could very well be the best of the lot. Pitching at age 19 in full-season ball last year, he made some impressive adjustments in the second half. He had a 4.05 ERA at the All-Star break, then turned it on and went 6-1 with a 1.53 ERA post-break. He doesn't strike out many (99 in 152 IP in 2006), instead relying on tremendous command and the ability to get ground balls. The Marlins have never hesitated to push young pitchers in the past, though with the depth they have, there isn't a need to. That being said, he starts off like he ended, he'll see Double-A before the year's over.

Others to watch: The other 2005 first-rounders in Jupiter will be LHP Aaron Thompson, a command lefty who walked just 35 last year, fellow southpaw Sean West, a supplemental first-rounder with better pure stuff than Thompson, RHP Ryan Tucker, another supplemental pick with a high ceiling. He didn't have a good first full season, with a 5.00 ERA, but he pitched better in the second half, and Jacob Marceaux, the one college guy from the '05 group. He's a righty who could start moving quickly if he can stay healthy. ... Joining that group should be 2006 first-round prize Brett Sinkbeil, the right-hander.

Class A Greensboro

Chris Coghlan, 3B/2B
A third baseman in college, Coghlan has always been able to hit for average and get on base. He had a .357 average and .424 OBP as a sophomore, then won the Cape Cod League batting title that summer. He followed that up with a .350/.437 junior year. He doesn't have much power and might profile better at second, where the Marlins started to move him at the end of the summer and into fall minicamp. The lack of pop isn't as much of a worry at second, rather than third, while his plate discipline and work ethic could help him move quickly.

Kyle Winters, RHP
At 6-foot-4, it might seem hard to believe that Winters could fly under the radar. But when you consider the pitchers -- particularly from the same 2005 draft Winters was taken in -- it's not as surprising. A step behind the first-rounders, Winters has nonetheless pitched extremely well thus far, with a 2.83 ERA in just over 130 career innings. He's walked just 27 in that span while yielding only 100 hits. He held New York-Penn League hitters to a .194 batting average against. He'll give full-season ball a try for the first time this season.

Others to watch: OF Kris Harvey, the son of former Marlins closer Bryan, had a stirring debut in 2005. An oblique muscle injury cost him a lot of time and numbers in his first full season. He's got some serious pop when healthy. ... He'll be joined in the outfield by Tom Hickman, the 2006 second-rounder who has drawn comparisons to Jeremy Hermida.

Under the Radar

Brett Hayes, C
A good athlete who has played numerous positions in the past, Hayes hasn't generated that much attention as a legit catching prospect. Some of that has been because of injuries (he had just 278 at-bats in 2006). He's got the makeup, leadership, work ethic, intelligence and arm strength you want in a young catcher. There aren't many backstops in the system to get in the way, so if he can stay healthy, he'll move up the ladder quickly after starting in Jupiter.

Todd Doolittle, RHP
It's hard not to root for a nondrafted free agent. Coming out of Mississippi State in 2005, he stands just 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds. He makes up for his lack of stature with an aggressive approach, some deception and a plus curve to go along with a decent fastball and slider. He's struck out 176 in 138 1/3 innings and held hitters to a .213 average against. He made it to Jupiter last year and posted a 0.84 ERA in 21 games there, so he could jump to Double-A to start the year.

2006 Draft Recap

First-rounder Sinkbeil had the kind of debut you want from your first pick, making it to full-season ball and striking out 54 in 62 innings. ... RHP Hector Correa (4th round) had a 1.76 ERA over 41 IP for the Gulf Coast League. ... OF John Raynor (9) went 21-for-23 in stolen-base attempts while hitting .286 for Jamestown in the NY-Penn League. ... RHP Jay Buente (14) had a 3.09 ERA and 41 K's in 43 2/3 IP for Jamestown.

Predictions

Organizational Player of the Year -- Gaby Sanchez
The combination of health, moving to first base and another year of experience should mean even better numbers for Sanchez, who's put up a .320 AVG/.415 OBP/.514 SLG over his first 136 pro games.

Organizational Pitcher of the Year -- Chris Volstad
Pick a first-rounder, any first-rounder. Any member of Jupiter's pitching staff could be in line for this, but here's betting Volstad's second half of 2006 is what he's going to do for a full season in 2007.

Quotable "It's a good problem to have. I don't think I'd ever say you can have too much [pitching]. I've gone into seasons before thinking we have ample pitching, then within two or three weeks, you're scrambling to move guys into spots due to injuries or callups. It seems it's such a hard position to maintain an abundance of. Pitching certainly wins in the big leagues and we're always looking to generate more. As far as the backlog goes, it's something we haven't faced before. If it happens that we're fortunate enough to have to hold guys back, we'd approach those guys and explain the situation. We'd tell them it's a long season and if they keep doing what they've been doing, they're going to get an opportunity." -- Marlins director of player development Brian Chattin
 

Ramp

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Would love to see Brad McCann bounce back from a terrible 2006
 

geemoney

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RHP Harvey Garcia was also part of the Beckett deal and saved 21 games for Jupiter last year. He's got a plus, plus fastball and should close games for the Mudcats
That must be SOME fastball.
 

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