Analyzing all 8 Marlins prospects picked for 2023 Arizona Fall League

Nasim Nuñez, Jacob Berry and the rest of these Fish farmhands will go to the desert as members of the Peoria Javelinas.

There is still hope for the Miami Marlins to earn a postseason berth. Regardless of whether they do or how far they advance, we are assured of seeing notable Marlins minor leaguers in action throughout the month of October. On Oct. 2, just one day following the end of the MLB regular season, the Arizona Fall League gets underway. These eight Fish farmhands will go to the desert and get extra reps as members of the Peoria Javelinas.

INF Nasim Nuñez

2023 MiLB stats (AA): .224/.341/.286 (79 wRC+), 5 HR, 52 SB in 125 G

Rule 5 eligible? Yes.

Nuñez is undoubtedly the key Marlins player to watch in the AFL. The 2023 All-Star Futures Game MVP posted a career-best strikeout rate this season (18.3 K%) and set a Double-A Pensacola single-season record for stolen bases. He’s also the best defensive shortstop in the Marlins organization.

On the other hand, after 351 professional games, Nuñez’s career slugging percentage still begins with a two (it’s .286, to be precise). Use whatever caveats you want, there just is not much precedent for prospects who perform so poorly in that category becoming starting-caliber big leaguers.

Nuñez is eligible for this offseason’s Rule 5 Draft if not selected to Miami’s 40-man roster beforehand. He enters the AFL as a true borderline candidate for that. I’m particularly intrigued by the possibility of the 23-year-old switch-hitter fully turning his focus to the left side of the plate, where he has been consistently better in the minors.

INF Jacob Berry

2023 MiLB stats (A+/AA): .233/.284/.388 (83 wRC+), 9 HR, 10 SB in 107 G

Rule 5 eligible? No.

Miami’s $6 million man had a disappointing first full season in the pros, interrupted by finger and foot injuries, though his production gradually improved as the year progressed. Drafted as a third baseman despite lacking many of the skills required to succeed there, Berry made first base his primary position following his midseason promotion to the Blue Wahoos. That move across the diamond puts more pressure on his bat.

Berry is an Arizona native, so maybe the intangibles of being close to his support system will benefit him during the fall.

C Paul McIntosh

2023 MiLB stats (AA/AAA/A): .244/.355/.419 (106 wRC+), 14 HR, 3 SB in 77 G

Rule 5 eligible? No.

The oldest player in this delegation, McIntosh turns 26 shortly after the AFL season ends. The Marlins have not given up on him as a catcher, but he will need to do all the little things right to compensate for a lousy throwing arm. Perhaps he’ll get a few reps at easier defensive positions with Peoria.

P-Mac possesses plus power. The strange thing is, it doesn’t show up much against left-handed pitching (when he has the platoon advantage). It’s difficult to envision a big league role for him unless that changes.

RHP Gabe Bierman

2023 MiLB stats (A+): 3.46 ERA, 3.82 FIP, 1.14 WHIP in 91.0 IP (19 G/19 GS)

Rule 5 eligible? No.

There frankly were not many starting pitchers who performed well for Marlins minor league affiliates in 2023. Bierman is one of the exceptions. His ability to suppress home runs stands out most—he surrendered only three of them (one over his final 12 starts).

The Indiana product gets nice armside run on his sinker, but merely averages about 91 miles per hour with it, and it doesn’t actually yield many grounders. Bierman also has a slider, curveball and changeup. He may need a greater velo separation between his fastball and changeup for the latter to be viable.

RHP Ike Buxton

2023 MiLB stats (A/A+/AA): 2.45 ERA, 4.27 FIP, 1.23 WHIP in 77.0 IP (20 G/13 GS)

Rule 5 eligible? No.

A 2022 draft pick, Buxton was initially used in relief with Low-A Jupiter. It wasn’t until July that he got fully stretched out as a starter. The Marlins promoted him to High-A Beloit soon after.

Buxton’s fastball velo is a couple ticks higher than Bierman’s and his breaking ball has more whiff potential. With a groundball rate of nearly 60%, he’s capable of outperforming his peripherals to some extent, but it’s hard to deny that he benefited from good luck this season.

His AFL stint will help the Marlins decide whether to proceed with him as a rotation candidate in 2024 or fast-track his development out of the bullpen.

RHP Zach McCambley

2023 MiLB stats (AA/A/Rk): 3.22 ERA, 3.37 FIP, 1.39 WHIP in 44.2 IP (30 G/1 GS)

Rule 5 eligible? Yes.

The Marlins have already made their decision on McCambley: he is a reliever. It’s all about that hellacious curveball of his.

McCambley is a solid bet to get whiffs against righties at the highest level. He just needs to iron out his control issues and find a way to neutralize lefties.

RHP Breidy Encarnación

2023 MiLB stats (A+/A/AA/AAA): 2.03 ERA, 3.37 FIP, 1.10 WHIP in 75.1 IP (41 G/0 GS)

Rule 5 eligible? Yes.

This Dominican right-hander has been in the Marlins organization since 2018. Encarnación’s perceived velocity exceeds his actual velocity thanks to the tremendous extension he gets in his delivery (approx. 7.0 feet). His changeup is legit.

Encarnación’s command is better than McCambley’s, from what I’ve seen. With AFL success, I would not be shocked if he secures a 40-man spot.

LHP Dale Stanavich

2023 MiLB stats (A): 3.56 ERA, 2.78 FIP, 1.45 WHIP in 30.1 IP (24 G/0 GS)

Rule 5 eligible? No.

Stanavich is further away from the majors than any of these other players. His inclusion would seem to be about making up for lost time after spending two months on the injured list.

Worth noting, though, the small southpaw finished his Hammerheads campaign on a heater. Here’s the combined line from his final five regular season/postseason appearances: 10.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 4 BB, 17 K.

Photo courtesy of Pensacola Blue Wahoos

2 responses to “Analyzing all 8 Marlins prospects picked for 2023 Arizona Fall League”

  1. It is important that the Marlins don’t lose Nasim Nunez to Rule 5. As it stands, they don’t have a good answer to SS once Jazz got converted into CF.

    Joey Wendle is garbage and will leave via Free Agency.
    Jon Berti is a year older and will become arbitration eligible soon.
    Garrett Hampson will be a free agent in 2025, and doesn’t have the track record of being anything other than replacement level. This is the only year where he offered a WAR value higher than 0.3, which suggests to me this year is his peak.

    You have Xavier Edwards, but if he goes down due to injury, the Marlins are in trouble. There’s also his defensive concerns at SS too.

    They need Nasim Nunez. They can’t afford to let him go in Rule 5, unless they’re confident they can draft a middle-infielder who can play SS in Rule 5. Even still, that’s a risky gamble I would never make.

    1. Don’t forget Jacob Amaya! Underwhelming second half to his season, but he’ll get another close look in spring training before the organization writes him off as a potential MLB regular.

      I should have clarified that the Marlins obviously want to hold onto Nuñez. It’s just about determining whether he actually needs protection. He’s a tricky borderline case entering this AFL stint.

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