The Low-A level is one where we see some of the rawest talent when it comes to baseball played stateside. Last season we saw players such as Kahlil Watson, Jose Salas, and Yiddi Cappe play with the Hammerheads, but with Cappe and Watson on their way to Beloit and Salas being dealt, this opens the way for players to get more regular reps with the Hammerheads. Here is what the Jupiter team is looking like to begin 2023 and what we will be looking for.
After missing most of the season due to injury, Lewis returns to Low-A to hopefully see a full season of at-bats. Through the 51 games of action, Lewis slashed .265/.347/.368/.715 with two home runs and 21 RBIs.
Lewis, who did play in the season opener for the Hammerheads saw himself as the DH in the lineup, will best fit in at second base. The Bahamian’s best attribute is his speed which is graded a 65 according to MLB Pipeline, but his patience at the plate is an attribute will get him far in his career. In 2022, Lewis walked at a 10.3% rate and struck out at a 21.1% rate. The expectation for Lewis this season is to see him stay healthy and see if his 2022 success can translate at a consistent rate and eventually have him promoted to Beloit.
After an underwhelming 2022, the Pensacola native looks to bounce back and show that he is still worth the prospect pedigree that he has. In 2022, McCants slashed .245/.327/.342/.669 with 11 RBIs. Offensively, McCants showed that he has the ability to draw walks as he did that at a 10.7% rate in 2022.
Most likely, we can see McCants improve the hit tool and see him hit more for contact and use his 60-grade speed to his benefit. With the bigger bases and the ban of the shift, McCants should see a bump in batting average and on-base percentage. The expectation for McCants is very similar to Lewis: stay healthy, but use the new rule changes to your advantage. McCants has the opportunity to see an increase in infield hits and to put himself in scoring position a lot more often than we saw in 2022.
After the nice start to his major league career, 2022 fourteenth-round pick Torin Montgomery showed his power off by hitting three home runs and 17 RBIs in 31 games played.
Montgomery is one of the few first-base prospects in the Marlins org as this is a position that the Marlins lack organizationally. Montgomery’s only issue in 2022 was the high strikeout rate which almost reached 30.0%. Luckily, the Mizzou product has shown the ability to drive in runners on base and hold up at first base.
Torin can also be used as a DH on a day-to-day basis and if we ever see a position change, maybe right field would be the spot. The best build comp for Montgomery would be Avisail Garcia who is 6’4” and weighs 250 lb as Montogmery is 6’3” and weighs 230 lb.
Many believed that after the early career success, age, and need of a first baseman at the high-A level in Beloit that Montgomery would receive the promotion. With AAA Jacksonville going with major league depth players as their main group, that affected the development of many players in the organization from top to bottom. With Troy Johnston being held back at AA, Zach Zubia returned to High-A. This leaves Montgomery at Low-A for now, but with future success, he could see a push up through the system shortly.
After reaching High-A Beloit in 2022, Allen struggled by slashing .209/.268/.321/.589 with three home runs and 21 RBIs. If you do want to look at some positives, Allen struck out under 20.0% and from time to time would work walks, but just not at a consistent rate. Allen will be going back down to Jupiter this season to work on the basics and see if he can regain his old collegiate form and eventually make the jump back to Beloit.
After a nice 2022 season where Caballero slashed .290/.370/.378/.749 with three home runs and 23 RBIs, he finds himself back in Low-A. At 23 years old, I assumed that Caballero would find himself up in Beloit, but that isn’t the case. One reason Caballero didn’t see a promotion was because of the number of outfielders that reside in Beloit. Caballero wouldn’t have seen many at-bats with the Sky Carp.
Expectations for Caballero would be to replicate his 2022 performance and force the organization to promote him to High-A. A further positive development for Caballero would be to lower the strikeout rate which was at 25.8% last season.
After a nice 2022 season with Beloit, Kyler Castillo finds himself back at the Low-A level. With the amount of outfielders at the High-A level, Castillo finds himself in the same situation as Jorge Caballero: guys who wouldn’t have received at-bats in 2023 at High-A.
Castillo can be described as a professional hitter when you look at what he did in 2022. Slashing .280/.375/.336/.711 with one home run and 27 RBIs, Castillo is an on base machine that can also be put in the middle of the lineup to drive in runs when needed. To expand on the professional hitter statement, Castillo worked to a 12.0% walk rate and 19.9% strikeout rate which shows patience at the plate.
Castillo should be an early promotion candidate to High-A Beloit as he shows the ability to hit at a consistent rate and even help out in the outfield when needed.
The Marlins 2022 second round pick made his debut last season and in three starts at the complex league, he threw 3.2 innings and held a 7.36 ERA and 7.37 FIP. Although not encouraging, his one and only start with the Hammerheads, he went 2.0 innings, allowed one hit, one run, and struck out three.
Ranked as the number eight prospect according to MLB Pipeline, Miller’s best pitch is his 60-grade curveball followed by his 55-grade slider and fastball. At only 19 years old, Miler is hitting 97 mph, This showed regularly during his three game stint in the minor leagues.
Another top 30 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, it took the Marlins a hefty signing bonus to get the Vanderbilt commit to come play pro-ball for the Marlins.
At just 18 years old, Milbrandt got the nod to be the Opening Day starter on Thursday and he did not disappoint. Showing 97 mph velocity and good spin rates, he struck out four through his four innings pitched, One of his strikeouts came against Cardinads’ big leaguer Paul DeJong.
Fall had a nice 2022 season in which he started 14 out of the 18 games he pitched in. Holding a 3.71 ERA and 2.71 FIP through 87.1 IP, Fall will be a prospect to watch out for. A 6’6″, 240 pound lefty, Fall is a model specimen that the Marlins have been targeting and advantageously developing. We see him make the jump to Beloit this season,
Gibson was the Marlins’ 10th round pick in 2022. He made nine appearances last year but only made one start. Gibson showed how strikeout dominant he can be by having a 12.86 K/9 at the complex league and then having a 11.74 K/9 at the Low-A level in 2022. He held a 1.29 ERA and 2.25 FIP in 2022 at the FCL and a 0.00 ERA and 2.48 FIP with the Low-A team.
Gibson will be a reliever moving forward which is where he had success at in college and where he is now started to have success as a professional. There is a good chance we see Gibson make the jump to Beloit if he replicates his early 2022 success.
Poland is another of the 2022 draft picks who pitched in five games combines between the FCL and Low-A. As a starter in Jupiter, he pitched to a 1.80 ERA and 3.92 FIP. Poland is someone who if need be, can be a strikeout dominant pitcher and sometimes you can see him rely heavily on his defense.
At 23 years old, Poland may not see himself staying in Jupiter for a long time. If he can show that he can get outs quickly, the promotion to High-A Beloit won’t be too far from reality.
Although this isn’t the level where you have all the flashy names, it is a level where we will see a lot of the guys who were drafted in 2021 and 2022. Names like Miller and Milbrandt are probably the biggest that we should be looking out for on the starting pitching side with Gibson on the relief side. On the offensive side of the ball, I am intrigued by the potential of Lewis and Montgomery.
Something to keep in mind is that although the guys want to win games and have overall team success, this is a level where we want to see development and improvement. Also we want to see if they can show enough to move up to the next level of the minor leagues. That will continue to be the main focus for the Hammerheads in 2023.