Six days away from the MLB trade deadline, the Miami Marlins find themselves in a damning position. The current scope of things:
- Their franchise player is on the 60-day IL.
- Their two top and closest to MLB ready pitching prospects are injured.
- Their third starter and breakout star last year is struggling and is possibly on the verge of a trip to AAA.
- What has become a power-first offense is hitting .238/.293/.364 since June 1st.
- The team has glaring holes at shortstop and in center field.
Kim Ng and the Marlins need to be honest with themselves: are they ready to compete in 2022 or should they begin planning for 2023 and beyond?
It is clear and evident: minus the acquisition of Joey Wendle, Miami’s offseason has produced very negative results, so much so that the Fish faithful are begging for a way out of some of those contracts and to part ways with some of the team’s veteran players. These deals and retentions at many points have delayed the arrival of younger intriguing in-house options. If Jon Heyman’s latest report is any indication, the club has realized their blueprint for 2022 hasn’t worked and will work to rectify it for both the short and long term future.
Highlighted by Pablo Lopez but not ending with him, the Marlins have multiple assets on their big league roster and a ton of near-MLB ready pieces in the minors that will be intriguing to competitive teams. But who and what should Miami be targeting? Here are our five top options.
SS/CF Royce Lewis, MIN
The Marlins desperately need a shortstop and a center fielder. With Lewis, the Marlins would be able to take their pick regarding which position to place him at. A first overall high school pick in 2017, Lewis just turned 23. Unfortunately, he spent it off the field with a repeat injury to his left knee.
Lewis, injured the same ligament he just partially tore again in February of 2021 and opted for a second surgery. While his health is a concern, his skill set and athleticism stand out even more. A .270/.339/.422 career MiLB bat over four seasons, Lewis was hitting .300 with four doubles and two homers in his first 40 MLB ABs, Lewis went down on May 29th while making an all-out hustle play and a fantastic catch against the wall in center field.
Still far and away the Twins’ top prospect and a top 10 shortstop prospect in baseball, Lewis will be ready to return in 2023. He owned a very complicated set up and approach before his first ACL injury, but worked to simplify it to take stress off his knee. It worked wonders and allowed Lewis to begin to tap into more of his plus plus raw power. When drafted, Lewis owned ridiculous speed, over 70 grade. While it remains to be seen how he comes back in that regard, he still has the athleticism, instincts and arm to handle either of his defensive positions.
Lewis isn’t a right now guy but he is very soon guy that can fill both of Miami’s positions of need and launch them much further into contention next season. When healthy, he is a freak athlete with the potential for all five tools. The epitome of a blue chip prospect, Lewis should be the name *the* Marlins bring up if the Twins, who are in need of pitching and which the Marlins have a surplus of, come calling.
SS Oswald Peraza, NYY
Anthony Volpe may be the more spoken name, but the Yankees and the farm system they’ve worked hard to revamp over the course of the past handful of years have another intriguing middle infielder. That name is Oswald Peraza, an international signing from 2017.
Peraza, who just turned 23, has performed at every level of MiLB he’s spent time at despite being vaulted through New York’s system. A .275/.348/.411 career hitter, Peraza has made it up to AAA in his fifth year pro. After spending two years in rookie ball and 2019 in A ball, Peraza visited three levels in 2021, including a cup of coffee in AAA. This year with Scranton-Wilkes Barre, he is slashing .258/.329/.446 with 13 homers and 24 steals. At the plate, Peraza exhibits good vision and has shown an increased ability to create launch, shrink his ground ball rate and come by more power. On the bases, he shows 60+ grade speed.
On top of an already plus offensive skill set that he is still working to polish off by way of laying off pitcher’s pitches and waiting for better quality stuff he can do his most with, Peraza shows perhaps even better tools in the field. There is no question Peraza, who exhibits superb vision, readability and first-step instincts, will stick as a potentially double plus defender at short at the next level.
Also in need of pitching, New York probably has Miami on speed dial. Peraza should be inquired about in any deal.
CF/RF Andy Pages, LAD
If the Marlins are going to turn the page, why not do it with Pages? A 22 year old signed by Los Angeles in 2017 out of Cuba, Pages has put up impressive on base and power numbers as he’s climbed through the Dodgers’ system including last season when he skipped past the A level and hit .265/.394/.539 with 31 home runs which led the high A central. He also led the high A central in wRC+ at 152 ahead of second place finisher Troy Johnston (139).
A $300,000 signing, Pages has always exhibited a power-first offensive game but also has recently garnered the ability to read and wait for his pitch. Pages came by the improved discipline last season when his K rate dropped nearly four full points to 24% and his walk rate jumped up five percentage points to 14%. So far this season, his K% is down even further to 22% and his walk rate is a similar 11% while he has made the difficult jump up to AA.
Pages has historically favored his pull side but this season, he has begun going to his opposite field a lot more often. So far in 2022, he is hitting balls out to right field at a career high rate of 32%. An aggressive hitter in any count when he gets pitches he likes, Pages crowds the plate and easily gets extended on pitches on the outer half. His positioning in the box has also boosted his OBP by way of 61 career hit by pitches including 11 already this season.
Though his speed is just average, Pages gets good jumps from good reads in the outfield and owns a powerful throwing arm. He’s played more right field than center in the last two seasons, but he has the ability to make it stick up the middle as he polishes off his minor league career.
A guy who is described as a natural born hitter and who has had his offensive skill set compared to Miguel Cabrera’s, Pages — a La Habana native — would be the perfect guy to bring to Little Havana for his big league debut as early as next season. The Dodgers have shown interest in Garrett Cooper and could make for a solid trade partner.
SS Brayan Rocchio, CLE
Y’all like guys with three 60+ grade tools?
Rocchio is a Guardians international signing from 2017. He began his career at age 17. Yet to turn 22, he is one of the better all around hitters in the AA Eastern League this season. Repeating the level after injury in 2021 and still playing against guys three years older than him on average, Rocchio .270/.353/.443 with a 118 wRC+ and neutralized .299 BABIP.
A switch hitter, Rocchio exhibits a repeatable, the first of his 60 grade assets, a hit tool that is equally effective from both sides of the plate. With simple smooth actions and quick hands, Rocchio looks for contact first and lets the rest of his tools go to work from there. When he catches a barrel, he usually catches a gap and can go to all fields. This season, as his body has filled out, he’s caught more fences finding them 11 times, already four away from tying his career high from last year. Last year, in his first full season, Rocchio was getting out in front of stuff particularly in his first showing at AA. However, this season, he’s shown an added propensity for staying back against his elders. It’s led to a 4% decrease in his K rate (which was already good). He strikes out at a minuscule 17.6%. On the bases, Rocchio shows off his second 60+ grade tool, his speed capable of making him a 25+ base stealer and giving him the ability to turn anything into a double. Rocchio has an offensive skill set built for the top of an MLB order.
Rocchio is also a smooth defender with soft hands and the same quick wrists he uses at the plate. In addition to shortstop, he has also played second base and third base, giving him the positional flexibility the Marlins love. His arm is capable of handling any of those positions but he should have no issue sticking at his natural shortstop long term.
Doing so much at such a young age despite the missed COVID year and injury, Rocchio is the name of another pure athlete that could have a regular home up the middle for Miami for a long time. Scouts have likened his ability to that of Francisco Lindor. The Guardians, another team in need of pitching as the second place team in the AL Central, match up well with the Marlins in a potential deal.
CF Colson Montgomery, CWS
Montgomery may be the furthest away prospect on this list, but his MLB arrival may be closer than you think.
Another first overall pick, Montgomery is a high school shortstop who has gotten off to a flying start in his pro career. After a great first impression in which he hit .287/.396/.362 in the ACL, Montgomery made quick work of the A level this season, posting a 154 wRC+ in his first 45 games. Since then, he has gotten the call up to the A+ level where it has been much of the same song. So for the Winston-Salem Dash, Montgomery is slashing a robust .300/.424/.475. A unique lefty hitter righty thrower, Montgomery won’t turn 21 until next February.
A lot like Rocchio, he is playing against guys 2.5 years older than him on average. But that hasn’t stopped him from posting a a wRC+ of near 150 in his first 21 showings against them. Montgomery is doing all of this despite spending a lot less time on the Diamond than your average prospect. Another guy who is has been endowed with the gift of pure athleticism, he also played basketball (as a walk on) and starting quarterback for his high school alma mater before committing to baseball full time in his senior year. He won state honors as Indiana’s 2020-21 Athlete of the Year.
At the plate, Montgomery stays high in his 6’4” frame but has so far shown the plate discipline and selectiveness necessary to negate a larger strike zone. A pull heavy hitter coming out of high school, Montgomery begun to go to his opposite side in his initial pro showing in Arizona and that has permeated this season. At A he went oppo 32% of the time and so far in A+, he’s at a 41% clip. With 70 grade raw power and ceiling 50+ grade game power that he’s already begun to tap more into, Montgomery makes great swing decisions and consistent loud contact.
Defensively, scouts differ on if a player of Montgomery’s size and stature will stick at shortstop for his entire career. However, Montgomery, who exhibits great lateral movement and a plus arm, appears to be well ahead of his projected arrival date. With continued success in A+ and a positive jump to AA next season, Montgomery could make himself eligible to contribute to a big league squad as early as late 2023 and could bridge the gap to prospects such as Jose Salas, Nasim Nunez and others.