The big league Marlins limp into the break several games out of a playoff spot. However, there is exciting new talent about to enter the system following Sunday’s amateur draft. Moreover, there are a few prospects worth highlighting this week, led by a few dominant relief pitchers and some talented hitters at the upper levels of the minors.
LHP Luis Palacios, A
This Week’s Stats: 6.0 IP, 2 R, 6 H, 7/0 K/BB
Luis Palacios has been one of the pitchers featured most on the weekly roundups this season, and for good reason. Every week, he seems to deliver a quality start that gives the Hammerheads a great chance to win the game. His success stems from one particularly noteworthy trait: exceptional command. In 88.2 innings pitched this season, Palacios has worked just five batters. That ridiculous statistic is augmented by the fact that he has thrown just two wild pitches, and has yet to hit a batter. Palacios knows where the ball is going, and is not afraid to challenge hitters.
His 1.5 BB% is amongst the best figures for any pitcher at any level, which gives me hope that Palacios could eventually slot at the back end of a big league rotation. What gives me doubt that he ever reaches that level is the lack of big league velocity. Palacios is only twenty-two years old, but his fastball speed has gone up very little since signing with the Marlins back in 2016. If this is the highest velocity that his fastball will reach, than it is unlikely that Palacios will ever make it all the way to the Bigs. Sitting in the mid-to-high eighties, he is crafty enough to get hitters out at A-ball. Challenging hitters at the upper level will be another story, and it will be telling for the future of this lefty.
Palacios still does get a relatively high amount of strikeouts due to a decent slider and a plus changeup. He has been a bit unlucky with a BABIP of .321, considering Palacios limits hard contact well as hitters struggle to barrel him up. Right handers have struggled against him even more than left handers, showing just how valuable that changeup can be. Palacios has pitched almost two full seasons at Jupiter, so I would be surprised if he is not promoted to Beloit shortly. It is time to see whether his exceptional command and deceptive delivery can lead to success at a higher level.
LHP Jefry Yan, AA
This Week’s Stats: 3.2 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 9/1 K/BB
The Pensacola Blue Wahoos have had some truly dominant relief pitchers come through their bullpen this season, yet Jefry Yan may have the nastiest stuff of all of them. His deceptive delivery makes a mid-nineties fastball look even faster, while his curveball has a sharp bite to it that often leaves hitters guessing. Yan’s biggest problem remains that he often has just as little of a clue as to where the ball is going as the hitters do. In several minor league stops, Yan has yet to register a single digit walk rate at any point.
That lack of control does not usually translate to a big league future, but Yan has the sort of stuff where it is hard not to dream. Initially signed by the Angels in 2013 out of the Dominican Republic, Yan was released after a few seasons in which he showed little ability to throw strikes. Yan also had issues with tipping pitches, resulting in few swings and misses. After getting hurt several times, Yan finally resurfaced with the Marlins last season a minor league deal. Since then, he has shown major improvements in harnessing his stuff to get swings and misses.
Yet, the control problems remain. In brief stretches, such as this past week, Yan has shown an ability to put it all together. He walked just one hitter in thirteen plate appearances, while striking out nine. That ridiculous K-rate is a glimpse of what Yan could be if he can just throw strikes a little more often. Hitters have to fear that he can get the ball over the plate, otherwise they will not even try swinging against his nasty offerings. The first pitcher that comes to mind when watching Yan pitch out of the windup is Aroldis Chapman. The lengthy lefty has the same kind of presence on the mound, and it is almost impossible for left handed batters to see the pitch out of his hand. It is a worthwhile storyline for the rest of the season to see if Dave Eiland and the coaches at Pensacola can get Yan to limit the based on balls so we can see how dominant he truly can be.
OF Jerar Encarnacion, AAA
This Week’s Stats: 9-24, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 5/3 K/BB
Before the season, I noted that 2022 would be a pivotal season for Jerar Encarnacion. While he has all of the physical tools to be a plus hitter with bigtime power and a cannon in the outfield, Encarnacion had yet to put it all together in real games. He had shown some power, but his in-game power was still a distance apart from his raw power output. Moreover, a concerning amount of swings and misses emerged in his stint at Pensacola last season, making it essential that more power begin to show.
Encarnacion also entered this season at twenty-four years old. While that is an age where there is still plenty of room for improvement and maturity, Encarnacion was getting to the point where he needed to start showing that he could truly hit. Within the first month or so of the season playing for the Blue Wahoos, it was clear that the switch had been flipped for Encarnacion. The big outfielder already has hit a career high seventeen homers between three levels, including the one in the majors in a huge victory over the first place Mets.
While his performance in Jacksonville has not equaled the elite statistics in Pensacola, Encarnacion is starting to get comfortable at the Triple-A level as well. He smashed two homers this week, while also getting on base at a high rate. He has shown plus power at Jacksonville, which is the most important thing considering his ceiling as a big leaguer is as a corner outfielder with 30-40 home run pop. Through three months this season, I am far more confident that Encarnacion can reach that potential than I was a year ago. He has made more contact this season, gotten on base more, and maximized the quality of his contact far more often.
RHP Tyler Mitzel, A+
This Week’s Stats: 3.2 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 5/1 K/BB
The Marlins have truly had a bevy of elite relief pitchers in the minor leagues this season, and Mitzel is a guy who has been deserving of a shoutout at many points this season. Mitzel went undrafted out of Augustana University in South Dakota in 2018, despite a fairly dominant season working as a starter and out of the bullpen occasionally. The Marlins took a chance on Mitzel as a bullpen arm at the lower levels, and he has consistently improved since then.
Now twenty six years old, Mitzel is having his best professional season while pitching in Beloit. He has maintained a WHIP below 1.00, which can be fluky but is usually a good sign of very effective relief work. Most importantly, Mitzel has made hitters earn their way on base. He has walked only six batters over 42.1 innings pitched, while striking out fifty eight. His 3.5% walk rate would easily be a career best, as would his 34.1% strikeout rate.
As is the case with many Marlins relievers this year, Mitzel has also consistently thrown multiple innings. As a former starter, this has proven to be an effective way to get a high amount of innings while maintaining his best stuff out of the bullpen. Having a bunch of guys who can perform in that swing-man role should prove beneficial for the big league team within the next year or so. Mitzel’s repertoire, which is fastball-changeup heavy, also makes him more unique because he serves as a reverse-platoon pitcher. Lefties have batted just .139/.162/.215 against him this season, while striking out in about a third of their plate appearances. With a fastball that sits in the mid-nineties, Mitzel is an exciting prospect with the potential to throw some effective bulk relief innings.
3B Charles Leblanc, AAA
This Week’s Stats: 10-25, 2 HR, 2 2B, 11/1 K/BB
As the major league season heads into the All-Star break, the Marlins will be stuck on an eight game span without hitting a home run. That drought, the third longest in team history, played a large part in the Marlins wasted homestand against Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. While many fans were optimistic about an improved offense this season, the additions that the Marlins made have not moved the needle far enough. Miami currently ranks 24th in the majors in runs scored, after finishing 29th in 2021. While their team wRC+ is up over ten points, they still possess a below average offense by just about any standard.
Considering how solid the Marlins pitching has been this year, it is a shame that they have not scored enough runs to give support to their starters. While improvements from outside of the organization will be needed to seriously turn the offense around, it remains a bit of a mystery as to why the team has been so hesitant to promote and play some of their best Triple-A hitters. Charles Leblanc is the first hitter who comes to mind who would be deserving of a chance at the next level. He has consistently hit the ball well all season long, and has been featured many times in these weekly roundups as a result.
This past week was nothing new from Leblanc. He hit several extra base knocks while getting on base consistently. Leblanc is slugging over .500 for the season, and has arguably been Jacksonville’s best hitter. One potential area of concern for Leblanc is the swing and miss in his game, and if I had to guess it is probably what’s preventing his promotion (along with not being on the 40-man roster). Leblanc has struck out 28.7% of the time this season, which is high but not to an unplayable extent. His power has more than made up for it, and the strikeouts may just be a manifestation of Leblanc maximizing his contact. More importantly, Leblanc can play all over the infield and provides a much higher ceiling than Willians Astudillo or Erik Gonzalez.
Next Up (7/22-7/24)
- AAA Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp vs Charlotte
- AA Pensacola Blue Wahoos at Biloxi
- A+ Beloit Sky Carp at Wisconsin
- A Jupiter Hammerheads vs St. Lucie