The Florida State League. Extremely kind to pitchers, a hard knock life (or not at all depending on your viewpoint) for hitters. For years, the country’s southernmost league has had a rich history of stymieing young hitters, including some of the game’s most successful ones. From 2008 to 2013, FSL parks barely rendered numbers north of the mendoza line as they held hitters to just a .256/.326/.372/.698 line, 4.2 runs per game, and a home run percentage of just 1.5. Most of those figures were the lowest in all of minor league baseball. One of the biggest catalysts for the minuscule offensive figures is the home of the Jupiter Hammerheads, Roger Dean Stadium. Over that same six season span, the cavernous park which boasts dimensions of 335/400/325 and is situated in a wide-open space just miles in from the coast which allows swirling sea breeze to become trapped over it’s surface held Florida State League offenses to park factors of 0.876 in runs, .757 in homers and .949 in hits where 1 is average, anything over 1 favors hitters and anything under 1 favors pitchers. The same trend has continued in recent years as Roger Dean has never once posted a park factor over 1 in any category in at least the past eight years. That is why when a player comes along and is able to accomplish what Brian Anderson was able to accomplish in April hitting .313/.412/.470 including .320/.382/.500 at the Dean, scouts heads snap off their necks as they quickly take notice. And that is the reason why he is my first prospect of the month for the 2016 season.
A third round draft pick out of Arkansas in 2014, Anderson forwent his senior year as a Razorback following a .318/.418/.467 NCAA career to join the professional ranks. After signing, Anderson made the move to upstate New York and joined Batavia for the beginning of the short season. After getting his feet wet there by hitting .273/.333/.455 with 3 homers and 12 RBI, he made the move to full-season ball in Greensboro for 39 games. In just 153 ABs, Anderson smashed eight homers, drove in 37 runs and held down a .378 OBP by way of a 28/13 K/BB. His .516 SLG lead the Hoppers that year amongst players with at least 100 ABs, positioning Anderson as Baseball America’s 9th best organizational prospect headed in to 2015. That year, Anderson came falling back down to earth, managing to hit just .235/.304/.340. However, that wasn’t without cause. Not only was it the first time Anderson had played more than 65 games in his career at any level, they all came in the aforementioned offensively suppressing Florida State League at the highest level he’s ever played at. This year, Anderson is back with a new and improved vengeance. Formerly a split stance swinger at the plate that allowed him the tendency to fly open to his far side on pitches away and attributed to his K total of 109 last year, Anderson is now swinging from a completely straight away stance. Most noticeably though is that pre-pitch, Anderson stands straight up and down, staring pitchers down from his intimidating 6’3″, 185 pound frame. He picks up pitches out of the pitcher’s hand well and after release, follows the ball not only with his eyes but also his legs, adjusting his stance all the way through the pitch for movement. He keeps his head down until the ball is in the glove and does not commit to a swing until the pitch is over the plate. He adjusts for, consistently gets wood on the ball, and even more consistently barrels the ball up with a straight through swing that has some loft and can reach fences but can also hit gaps with line drives. Anderson possesses prevalent bat speed on top of wide snappy hips which allow him to get the most out of his present strength. The approach will afford him some strikeouts in the way that he waits pitches out and can rarely hold up on swings once he commits but will also afford him as many if not more walks due to his ability to wait out break, even break of the late variety. If pitchers are going to strike Anderson out, they are going to have the stuff that earns it. While the retooled approach has worked wonders for Anderson against same-side pitching, it has yet to rear it’s head against lefties. However, he has had just 39 ABs vs them this year and has fared well against them in his career so that should regulate as the year goes along.
Defensively, Anderson came up as a second baseman before making the move to third base in 2014 and becoming a full-time corner man in 2015. Though he has plenty of arm strength needed to make it across the diamond, quick footwork, a solid glove and good gap coverage especially for a guy his size, his arm accuracy has been an ongoing problem as he has committed 28 errors in 1612 innings, most of them being of the throwing variety. At 23, unless he can turn things around in a hurry which is always possible with the likes of Perry Hill in the organization to tutor him as he makes his way through the latter stages of the minors, Anderson’s future in the field looks to be at first base.
Long story short: Overall, Anderson is a sizeable power bat who recently retooled his approach for the better after his first full year in the minors. He barrels balls up on the regular with a quick swing with some loft, allowing him to both reach the fences and hit gaps but is also becoming a pesky out to get because of his ability to wait out the break on pitches. Once a pure power threat, he is grasping the ability to hit for average while also holding down a solid K/BB, making him a solid all-around threat. Defensively, Anderson is currently a 3B but his future will likely be as a 1B.
Stone Garrett, CF
A Short Season
Monthly Stats: 26-90 (.289), 5 HR, 3 3B, 5 2B, 20 RBI, 31/5 K/BB
If there is any truth to the adage, “first impressions are everything”, this kid must have the Marlins’ front office convinced that he is a future Hall of Famer.
Miami’s eighth round draft pick from 2014, Stone Garrett has taken the New York Penn League by storm in his second year as a pro, leading it in every major stat category. While the eighth rounder playing like a first rounder so soon in his career may come as a bit of a shock to most of us, it comes as par for the course for those who knew him in his high school days. As a standout at George Ranch High School in Sugarland, Texas, Garrett put together a sweet career, earning first team underclassman honors in 2012 and 2013 and All-Region first team as well as first team All-American honors in his senior year, a campaign in which he boasted a .398 BA and a .461 OBP. The center fielder also flashed good speed all year long and showcased it to potential suitors when he ran a 6.47 60 yard dash in a Perfect Game event at Petco Park in the days leading up to the draft. However, being the best player on a great team has it’s downfalls, especially near the end of the season when scouts are most present. Because of his level of play, Garrett rarely saw quality pitches or many pitches at all on the inner half. Pitching him away with breaking stuff, teams had Garrett, who is a very patient hitter but can press when frustrated, a testament to his young age, had him flailing his long arms and missing a lot as the season dragged on. Because of this, teams shied away from Garrett which allowed the potential first through third rounder fall to the discounted price of the eighth round. That’s where the Marlins were waiting to snag him with pick 227. And they are undoubtedly very glad they did.
This season with Batavia, Garrett is showing his true potential by completely mashing NYPL pitching. Standing from a rock-solid straight away stance, the 6’2″ specimen imposes fear in the opposing pitcher. That fear is justified when Garrett swings the bat. Using a small front foot trigger, he drives through the ball with improved action in his lower body and snap in his hips, an area of focus for the Batavia coaching staff in the days leading up to the start of short season. The strength in Garrett’s hands and the way the ball explodes off his barrel are nothing short of prodigious. A look at his spray chart, his .561 slugging percentage and .270 ISO back that assertion perfectly.
The 19-year-old also rounds the bases and covers ground in the outfield with plus speed. He has stolen 8 bases this year and made some difficult plays look easy in the outfield. The one area of his game that has fallen off in his transition to the bigs is his patience. Whereas there was rarely a game in which he didn’t walk in high school, he has took a turn towards the more prototypical power hitter by posting a .259 BB/K. Again though, Garrett has amazing instincts. Maturation itself will ease some of that pain and coaching should do the rest. With proper grooming, Garrett could turn in to a top prospect by the time he arrives in South Florida.
The bottom line: Garrett is a sizable 6’2″ 195 pounder who is absolutely mashing NYPL pitching in his second year as a pro, leading his league in homers and slugging. Plus speed also has him leading the NYPL in triples and in the top seven in doubles. He also covers all the necessary ground and then some in the outfield. He has transitioned beautifully from high school to the bigs with most of his assets coming to fruition in less than two short seasons. The biggest and quite possibly only hole in his game is the fact that he has taken a turn for the worse when it comes to patience. A lot of that though can be attributed to a 19-year-old mind going up against this level of talent with just 337 at bats under his belt and should be easily ironed out as he progresses. Garrett has great instincts, a beautiful swing, and all the raw tools and talent in the world necessary to allow him to climb top prospect leader boards everywhere as he matures. We are excited as this should be a fun one to watch.
Carlos Lopez, OF
Bi-weekly Stats: 17-47 (.361), 6 2B, HR, 8 RBI, 9/5 K/BB
Lopez is a Marlins draftee from 2013. After a decorated college career at Cal State Fullerton in which he hit .337/.408/.473 with 76 XBHs, 153 RBIs, 34 steals and a 94/76 K/BB, Lopez brought his talents to the majors where he just kept hitting. Fresh out of college a few weeks after the draft, Lopez began his Marlins career with at short season Batavia where he was the Muckdogs’ best hitter with a .318/.385/.417 slash line, 16 XBHs, and a 32/26 K/BB. Lopez’s bat continued to trend in the right direction during his first full professional season last year. Starting 130 of the Grasshoppers’ 140 games, Lopez was the best hitter on the team in all three slash categories (.323/.392/.438). He was second on the team to Felix Munoz in XBHs and RBIs with 39 and 74. His patience continued its excellence as he drew a team high 59 walks to 64 Ks. His 164 total hits set a Hoppers’ franchise record. Lopez’s fabulous year in Grasshopper garnett green and gold was rewarded by a promotion straight to AA this season. While he was a bit outmatched early this year going just 8 for his first 49, Lopez has adjusted like a champ. After a .179 April, he hit .277 in May. This month, he has become one of the biggest offensive contributors in the Suns’ lineup by way of a .375/.437/.578 line, nothing short of spectacular for a guy who did not get a single AB in A+. Lopez hits from the left side of the plate and has a fantastic approach to hitting allowing him to handle both RHPs and LHPs well.
Standing tall in the box in a straight away stance, Lopez sees the ball all the way to the barrell and keeps his quick hands pointed towards it. He snaps his bat through the zone with a prototypical line drive swing, the type of batted ball that has accounted for 24% of his total this season. He swings all the way through the baseball and maintains his power all the way through as well, keeping a two hand grip all the way through his follow through. The swing is fluid, repeatable and mechanically sound. Coupled with a great eye as well as plate presence and patience when he isn’t pressing, Lopez has some of the best offensive mechanics and approaches in the organization. It’s easy to get Lopez’s versatile bat in to the lineup thanks to his versatility on defense. He has eligibility at all three outfield spots as well as first base. Where he is of the most use is in right field thanks to a great arm. He uses great strength behind his online throws that carry. He also runs great routes with his plus speed. In his minor league career in right field, he has contributed 19 assists, posted a 1.8 range factor and a .975 fielding percentage.
Though he is in his final season of prospect eligibility and is a bit of a late bloomer being 25 and having yet to sniff AAA, there is a future for Lopez as much more than just an organizational guy. If he continues to swing the kind of bat he is swinging right now for much longer, a call up to AAA is a distinct possibility sooner rather than later. With continued success there, he could be a September call up to a Marlins squad which has very little outfield depth. If he enjoys a good cup of coffee, he will be on the team’s radar entering 2016.
Scott Lyman, SP
Weekly Stats: 2 GS, 2 QS, 13 IP, 7 H, ER, 5 BB, 7 K
The Lyman family are no strangers to watching their young men dominate early in their baseball careers and share the thrills of being selected early the MLB draft only to see them have disappointing professional careers. Such was the case with Jeff Lyman, who was drafted out of high school in the second round of the 2005 draft by the Braves only to go on to post an ugly 4.9 ERA, 1.559 WHIP, and 1.57 K/BB in 630.1 minor league innings, never even sniffing the majors. So when younger brother Scott went from a similar high when he was drafted out of college in the 10th round of the 2011 MLB Draft only to go to a similar low when he went on to struggle in his first full season as a pro posting a 5.3 ERA by way of allowing more hits than innings pitched and at a .275 clip, it was a bad case of deja vu. However, Scott refused to allow the Lyman baseball legacy to die. Following his tough rookie campaign, Lyman put in the man hours and made all the adjustments necessary to allow him to come back with a vengeance in 2013 and show why the Marlins took him with the 313th overall pick. That season for the Grasshoppers, Lyman posted more than respectable numbers and was the best arm in the rotation. In 105 IP, he totaled a 102/37 K/BB (an average of 9/3 per start). While his 4.11 ERA was heightened in the hitter friendly Sally League and the extremely hitter friendly NewBridge Bank Park, his BAA lowered to the mendoza line (.250) and his WHIP fell 30 points to 1.31. His control was spectacular as proven by his 2.76 K/BB which ranked twelfth in the league amongst pitchers 41 pitchers with at least 100 IP. While the talent was always there, to see Lyman turn a complete 180 in just a single offseason was remarkable.
Lyman’s hard work and dedication paid off at the end of 2013 with a call up to high A Jupiter. There, he was rewarded with some good fortune as well as the help of some good defense allowing his BABIP to fall to .278 and with it, his ERA to 3.62. In six starts, Lyman totaled 32 IP, pitching in to the 6th inning in five of them and recording quality starts in two of them. Lyman’s stint with the Hammerheads in 2013 laid the groundwork for the success he enjoyed with them in 2014. That year, in his first full year with the Hammerheads, Lyman threw a career high 135 innings. His BABIP normalized to an average .307 but he still held down a 3.53 ERA and a 3.77 FIP, proving his stuff had started to turn the corner. He was the second biggest contributor to a Hammerheads rotation that posted fantastic collective numbers including a 3.50 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. At the start of this season, ace Jake Esch as well as two guys Lyman outperformed, Austin Brice and Trevor Williams all made the jump to at least AA. In the case of Esch, he spent a few games there before making it all the way to AAA. However, Lyman started a third year in Jupiter and has remained there the entire season so far. Though there was undoubtedly some frustration in his staying put as he watched his teammates graduate and go on to bigger things that he himself could and should likely be enjoying, Lyman has showed poise and professionalism well beyond his years and is right now pitching some of the best baseball of his career. After getting off to a bit of a rocky start by the standard he has set the rest of the year, Lyman is currently riding a string of seven straight quality outings. His 1.50 ERA and 1.01 WHIP are both second in the Florida State League, making him all but a shoe-in and possibly the starter for the FSL All-Star Team. While he does have slightly more strikeouts than walks, Lyman is succeeding with the style of pitching that has become his forte: pitching to contact. While he has given up a combined 59 hits and walks in his 60 innings pitched, he is stranding 80% of his runners and has given up just one home run. His groundout/flyout rate is an eye popping 1.64. Though it has taken a bit longer than it should have and that Lyman has liked, a call up should be coming any day now.
On the mound, Lyman has five pitches in his repertoire. Although none of them are exactly overpowering, he mixes them up well and keeps the ball down almost exclusively, as proven by his 1.64 GO/FO rate. After getting ahead with either his four-seamer which tops out at 96 or his two-seamer which usually sits in between 92-94, Lyman selects from a secondary arsenal including a 82-85 MPH slider, an 82-85 MPH changeup and a 75-79 MPH slider. The changeup is probably Lyman’s best feel pitch thus the one he goes to most in two strike counts but he also hasn’t been afraid to use the slider which has good sweeping movement and when he hits his spot, is probably his best pitch. Though he is in his last season of prospect eligibility, there is still plenty of potential here. While he probably won’t ever be the ace of a major league staff, Lyman’s ability to keep the ball down, avoid big contact and induce ground balls while limiting his pitch count makes him translate well to either the 4-5 spot in the rotation or the long relief role. Lyman’s call to AA should be coming any day now. With a good showing there in the second half of this season, he should get an invite to spring training and spend next season in AAA. With continued success with the Zephyrs, he could realize his dream in 2016. File Lyman’s name in your not-so-deep thoughts as a good contact pitcher who won’t light the world on fire but who will get outs and could contribute to the pitching staff in that capacity as early as next year.
Austen Smith, OF
Weekly Stats: 13-31 (.419), 3 2B, 6 RBI, 7 BB, 6 K, SB
A 33rd round draft pick out of Alabama in 2014, Smith has taken the Marlins’ organization by storm in his first two seasons as a pro. After a successful campaign in rookie ball, one in which he led the GCL Marlins (among those with at least 20 games played) in OBP (.408), slugging (.667), homers (7) and RBIs (34), Smith made the jump to Greensboro and his first full season. With the Hoppers so far, Smith has continued to rake and shows no evidence that he will slow down any time soon. On the season so far, Smith is hitting .274/.396/.508 with 8 homers 21 RBIs. His .874 OPS ranks second in the entire Sally League as do his .514 SLG and seven long balls. What is most impressive about Smith’s 2015 season so far is in 35 of the 40 games he has played, he has reached base safely. In 32 games, he has had at least one hit and nine of his games have been multi-hit efforts.
Smith is a beastly 6’4″ 240 specimen with prototypical power to match. While he could use to cut down on his strikeout totals and improve upon his plate presence, when he connects, he makes you forget all about those facts. And he connects a lot. In his final college season with the Crimson Tide he led his team in homers and doubles. Last season, he lead the GCL Marlins in longballs and currently leads the Hoppers with 9, on pace to hit 32.
At the plate, Smith uses his extra large frame to generate extra large strength but also maintains his pre-swing looseness well. His terrific bat speed and strong hands allow him to get around well on any pitch and allow the ball to jump off his bat. With a straight away open stance, Smith prefers the pull variety of hitting but has the ability to spread the ball around to all fields. For a Marlins team which has struggled to find power production outside of anyone not named Giancarlo Stanton this year and a team that has finished in the bottom six or worse in its last four seasons in power numbers leading up to this one, Smith is a breath of fresh air that, should he remain healthy (he was hampered by injuries both in high school and college), could be placed on the fast track to the major leagues.
Looking at Smith’s build, you would think he doesn’t have eligibility anywhere but first base. However, he is a surprisingly decent outfielder. In high school he clocked in at 7.36 in the 60 yard run and has flashed an arm with good strength and carry that projects well. Though he will continue to see most of his PT at 1B where he has shown off the same arm as well as good range and flair especially for a 240 pounder, his athletic ability has and will continue to get him looks in left field.
The bottom line on Smith is that he is currently one of if not the best pure power bat in the Marlins’ system who plays two defensive positions with athletic prowess. Should his bat continue to produce this brand of power throughout this year, he should start 2016 in high A Jupiter. Should it continue there, he could see time with the Suns in the second half of the year. He could ultimately be playing alongside Giancarlo Stanton in 2017, a combo that could prospectively combine for 80 homers and end Miami’s long tenure of being cellar dwellers in their power hitting endeavors. In other words, the mammoth Smith should both literally and figuratively not be taken lightly.
Brady Shoemaker, 1B/OF
Bi-weekly Stats: 11-32 (.344), 2 HR, 3B, 4 2B, 12 RBI, 7 BB, 10 K
The road to the show is almost never an easy one and quite occasionally, it is a very hard one to hoe. Just ask Brady Shoemaker.
A country-strong 6’0″ 190 pounder from Indiana, put his athleticism on full display during his days as a high schooler by playing and playing well in two different Northview High School uniforms — baseball and football. In baseball, he was a letterman in all four of his high school years. In football, he won letters in three of his seasons. In his senior year, Shoemaker was named to Indiana’s all-state teams in both sports. Despite his success as a defensive back, Shoemaker always considered his lifelong dream to be a professional baseball player. After high school, he moved on to Olney Junior College where he still owns school records in nearly every major hitting category including best BA (.456), most doubles (53), most runs scored (138) most RBIs (156). From there, he made the jump to the ranks of the NCAA at Indiana State University for the final two years of his college career. In 2009, Shoemaker started all 50 of the Sycamores’ games. He continued his trend of leading his team in all major statistics by collecting the most homers (9), most doubles (13), most RBIs (68), highest slugging percentage (.556) highest OBP (.437) and best K/BB (32/30). In his senior year, the Sycamores posted a 33-21 record, their best season in six years’ time, making them runners up for the division title. Shoemaker once again led his team in offense by way of even more beastly numbers. Not only did Shoemaker once again lead his team in every major batting marker, his totals in runs (65), walks (43), total bases (142), OBP (.512), slugging (.700), and OPS (1.212) were best in the entire Missouri Valley conference and earned him a spot on the All-Conference team. To make it even more clear how ridiculously well he performed that season, Shoemaker ranked 67th in all of Division I baseball in slugging, 60th in runs per game (1.2), 58th in walks, 19th in OBP, and 11th in RBIs per game (1.36). Shoemaker was successful off of the field as well that year. He rounded out his resume by being named to the All-Academic team, making him quite the attractive piece in the 2010 MLB Draft.
In the 50-round MLB draft in 2010, the White Sox took Shoemaker in the 19th. Even for a lot of major leaguers who go on to have successful careers, transitioning from college to the majors is not an easy task. So when Shoemaker hit safely in each of his first 28 games as a pro, he really began to turn heads. What is more is that in those 28 games, Shoemaker proved that he can hit both lefties and righties effectively. A right handed hitter, he even hit righties slightly better over that span (313 vs LHP; .459 vs RHP) which was all the more encouraging. Appearing in 57 of the Bristol White Sox’s 68 games in his rookie year, Shoemaker’s tendency to lead his team in offense reared its head for a third straight year. His .351/.426/.585 slash line along with his 120 total bases, 30 XBHs and 34 RBIs were all tops on that year’s squad. His 1.011 OPS ranked fifth in the entire Appalachian League and outdid the likes of Jose Altuve and Brian Dozier.
Shoemaker’s first full major league season came in 2010 when he appeared in 96 games for the White Sox’s single A affiliate Kannapolis Intimidators. The hits kept coming for Shoemaker, who was once again the best hitter on the team with a .293/.381/.473 line. Shoemaker placed 11th in the entire Sally League in OPS, outperforming league mates Altuve, Juan Lagares and Jimmy Paredes and falling just short of outdoing Nolan Arenado. The only knock against Shoemaker’s game that year was the fact that he posted a career worse 2.51 K/BB but that can be attributed to the fact that he was hitting for a sub-par team that without him slashed just .256/.274/.386. Despite the high K total, Shoemaker looked primed to begin 2011 in A+ and stay on pace to make the majors by age 27. However, the White Sox had other plans. While Altuve and Paredes received promotions to A+ or higher, Shoemaker inexplicably was shunned by Chicago and kept in single A Kannapolis for the bulk of the 2011 season. Despite the frustration of not being rewarded for great play, Shoemaker continued to mash at the plate and put together another great season. As you may have guessed by now, he once again led the Intimidators in all three slash categories (319/.399/.493). The K/BB ratio normalized that season, improving nearly a full strikeout to 1.81. Shoemaker finally made the jump to high A at the end of the season where he posted respectable numbers in a small cup of coffee.
In 2012, Shoemaker responded to the fact that he was ignored by the White Sox an offseason previous by making it impossible for them to take their eyes off him. With the K/BB rate at his norm (1.80), he flew through A+ by hitting .331/.422/.549 with 36 XBHs and 59 RBIs. He was a Carolina League All-Star and was invited to the Home Run Derby which he won. For the second half of the season, Shoemaker was called up to AA Birmingham where he posted respectable numbers in 56 games, including a .408 OBP by way of a 1.31 K/BB the best he had posted at any level since his college days, proving his elevated K rate from 2011 which evidently caused the White Sox to subject him to another year of single A ball (there is no other explanation) was a one time thing.
After everything Shoemaker accomplished and after everything he endured in the first three years of his career, he still looked primed and ready to be a major leaguer by the time 2014 and his 27th year rolled around. Then the end of the season happened when Shoemaker was injured and had to go under the knife for a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. The injury caused him to miss the entirety of the 2013 season. As a 26-year-old who spent a full season away from the game, his baseball career could very well have been over. But the Marlins showed confidence and respect in Shoemaker’s ability and selected him in the AAA portion of the 2014 Rule 5 Draft, acquiring him the same way they acquired their now starting first baseman, Justin Bour. Shoemaker has rewarded that confidence by playing some of the best ball of his career at the highest level he has ever seen. He has reached base safely in 26 of his 27 starts by way of a .297/.381/.446 slash line, each of which rank in the top 15 in the PCL. Without looking at his career statistics and judging simply by the fact that he is once again pacing his squad in slugging, OPS and homers, and is second in RBIs and total bases, one would have no idea that Shoemaker missed an entire season.
At the plate, Shoemaker minimizes the strikezone by getting extremely low and crowding the plate by leaning over it. He uses a front foot trigger to time his swing and gets the bat through the zone with good speed. He is one of the pickiest and most selective hitters in the entire PCL with a great knowledge of the strike zone and the ability to battle back from any count. As is evident by his .202 ISO, Shoemaker hits for extra bases more often than not. He has his soft hands and his ability to hit to the opposite field (which scouts once praised as uncanny) to thank for that. Due to all of his tools, Shoemaker is a guy with good power than could slot anywhere from 3-5 in the lineup but also possesses the patience and hit ability needed to bat second. As he did to start his career, Shoemaker has hit both lefties and righties equally well this year (.342 vs LHP, .299 vs RHP), making him a potential every day player.
“He just has a knack to hit,” manager Andy Haines says. “From what I see, he can be a guy with [good] OBP and slugging with more doubles than homers.”
Defensively, Shoemaker was an outfielder for his entire career prior to his injury. He has posted serviceable numbers in his 384 games and 3254 innings in left field, committing just six errors and posting a range factor right around league average (1.58). Now though, his rehabilitated shoulder and size serve him best for first.
“He has a tough profile,” Haines says. “But first base is most obviously his best position.”
Overall, Shoemaker, now 28, has had some tough breaks in his minor leauge career but through it all, has continued to hit and play well at any level even after spending a season out of the game. With the Marlins who at the moment have limited outfield help (just four on the 40-man) and a high-priced first baseman who has performed poorly and all but been replaced by a rookie and whose contract they may be looking to offload pretty soon, he may have finally found the ticket he needs to get to the majors. Should Shoemaker’s success with the Zs continue throughout the season, his lifelong dream of pulling on an MLB jersey could come to fruition by the end of the year.
Arturo Rodriguez, C/1B/3B/DH
Greensboro Grasshoppers (SAL)
Weekly Stats: 9-26 (.346), HR, 2B, 5 RBI, 2 BB
Between Dan Uggla in the Rule V draft, to career reclamation projects such as Casey McGehee, the Marlins have made a reputation out of finding creative ways to garner positive production. With Grasshoppers catcher Arturo Rodriguez, the Fish may have done it again.
It isn’t often that a Mexican League player makes it to Major League Baseball. The reason: Mexican League teams usually want much more than what a player is worth in order to pull back the maximum amount possible in commission (the league makes 75% commision on each player sold) to keep their operations running in impoverished Mexico. Depending on the player in question, the Mexican League has been known to ask of upwards of seven figures in return for the signing rights. So for a player to be pulled out of the Mexican league, especially by a team such as the thrifty Marlins, said player really has to turn heads.
In his two full seasons, Rodriguez didn’t just turn heads, he broke necks. After hitting an already impressive .279/.344/.431 in his first full season as a professional as a 21-year-old in 2013, all Rodriguez did last season is up his average by a hundred points, his OBP by nearly the same amount, and hit more than twice as many homers in under 130 extra ABs. His .379 average was good for third best in the Mexican League and his .618 slugging percentage and 1.040 OPS each placed fifth. This success at the most advanced level of competetion that Mexico has to offer was enough for the Marlins to invest in Rodriguez.
Judging by the success Rodriguez has had through his first 16 games as a member of the organization, the Marlins, who likely spent a pretty penny to acquire him (still unconfirmed), have to be ecstatic about the return their investment has produced thus far. Through is first 56 ABs with the Grasshoppers, Rodriguez has collected 23 hits, including four XBHS and 10 RBIs. As impressive as his .411 BA and .518 SLG are, the middle portion of his slash line is what is most encouraging. As good as Rodriguez was coming up in Mexico, he was never one to take a lot of pitches. He struck out twice as much as he walked in each of his seasons in the Mexican League. However, so far this season, Rodriguez has walked seven times to just four strikeouts, bringing his OBP to .462. As early as the season is, it is still encouraging to see a guy who posted a meager 5.7% walk rate just a season ago who has dealt with the rigors of both relocating and getting accustomed to an entirely new style of baseball improve upon his greatest weakness. If Rodriguez’s patience continues to develop, he will be nearly unstoppable at the plate.
At 6’0″, 235, Rodriguez is quite the phyiscal presense but at the plate, he cuts down on what would otherwise be an enlarged strikezone. Resembling another Rodriguez in the box, Rodriguez gets low and leans into the plate in order to get the most of his arm extension on pitches on the outer half. Though he slightly favors pulling the ball, Rodriguez has found success hitting the ball to all fields. Judging by his heat map, he didn’t forget to pack that success when he made the trip across the border.
Defensively, Rodriguez is a natural catcher. Behind the plate, he strikes fear in the hearts of runners with a good pop transition and an absolute cannon that allowed him to throw out an impressive 28% of his runners as a 21-year-old and an eye popping 40% of his baserunners in 2014. His large frame serves him well behind the dish as he has only allowed four passed balls in his entire career. Even if the Marlins have found their long term answer behind the plate in JT Realmuto, Rodriguez has eligibility at both corner infield spots. His quick reflexes and glove as well as his well above-average arm follow him in to the rest of the field. He has seen most of his time at first base this year with the Grasshoppers. For his size, his 9.25 range factor per game is fantastic. He makes the right decisions when the ball is hit to him as well. So far this year, he has started nine double plays. With Michael Morse only signed through next season, if Rodriguez develops as quickly as his numbers and approach so far suggest he will, he could find himself pulling on a Marlins jersey during spring training within the next two years. Wherever the Marlins see Rodriguez defensively, the thought f a fully developed Rodriguez hitting behind Giancarlo Stanton is scary. Scary but fun.