The Miami Marlins know they added talent to a much-depleted minor-league system over the past 13 months.
But they also know they still have a long way to go before their work is done rehauling it.
The organization’s minor-league system ended 2018 ranked 19th among the 30 MLB teams, according to Baseball America. It’s a noticeable jump from the last two years when Miami ranked 30th and 29th, but still lacks quality depth behind its top dozen or so prospects.
But Gary Denbo, the organization’s director for player development and scouting, has seen the recent uptick in production and said he believes the Marlins’ minor-league system is still trending int he right direction.
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“We are in a much better position that we were last year,” Denbo said, crediting President of Baseball Operations Mike Hill, VP of scouting Stan Meek and director of amateur scout DJ Svihlik for the work they have done over the past year.
Denbo went on to guess that about 75 percent of the Marlins’ top 20 prospects were brought in over the past year.
He was pretty close.
Based on the MLB Pipeline rankings, 14 of the Marlins’ top-20 prospects — 70 percent — joined the organization between December 2017 and this past October.
The team’s top prospect, outfielder Victor Victor Mesa, signed on Oct. 22 with his younger brother Victor Mesa Jr. He is likely the only Marlin who will be ranked a top-100 prospect overall when MLB Pipeline releases its updated rankings.
Nine others — including half of Miami’s top-10 prospects — came from the quartet of trades in December 2017 that resulted in the departure of Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, Marcel Ozuna and Dee Gordon. Those nine:
▪ Outfielder Monte Harrison (No. 2 Marlins prospect), middle infielder Isan Diaz (No. 9), and pitcher Jordan Yamamoto (No. 17) came to the Marlins from the Yelich trade with the Brewers. Harrison is coming off a Fall league in which he hit .290 with 16 RBI and just 19 strikeouts in 19 games. Diaz is pegged as the No. 4 overall second base prospect in the minors. Harrison and Diaz are contenders for callups at some point in 2019.
▪ Pitchers Sandy Alcantara (No. 3) and Zac Gallen (No. 20) came from the Ozuna trade with the St. Louis Cardinals. Alcantara worked his way into the starting rotation at the end of last season, posting a 3.44 ERA over 34 innings of work and is a heavy favorite to be part of the rotation this season. Gallen went 8-9 with a 3.65 ERA over 25 starts in Triple A New Orleans.
▪ Pitcher Nick Neidert (No. 4) and shortstop Christopher Torres (No. 18) came from the Seattle Mariners organization in exchange for Gordon. Neidert went 12-7 with Double A Jacksonville and posted a 3.24 ERA and 154 strikeouts in 152 2/3 innings.
▪ Pitcher Jorge Guzman (No. 6) and middle infielder Jose Devers (No. 13) came to the organization from the Stanton trade with the Yankees.
The other four top prospects acquired this year came through the draft in outfielder Connor Scott (No. 5), catcher Will Bainfield (No. 8), shortstop Osiris Johnson (No. 14) and outfielder Tristan Pompey (No. 16).
“We’ve made a nice jump,” Denbo said. “I’m not sure where we are in relation to other teams. I’m not too much worried about that. I’m more concerned about our guys developing in the right way and doing everything we can to serve our players so their development happens at the right pace that they help us at the Major League level.”