Controversy continues to swirl around one of the most talented prospects in the Marlins system, Kahlil Watson, but other players have stepped up in the mean time. A few under the radar prospects who put together their best weeks of the season are featured in this edition of the roundup.
1B Lewin Diaz, AAA
This Week’s Stats: 5-16, 3 HR, 6 RBI, 3/3 K/BB
With the lack of high quality play that the Marlins position players have demonstrated, it remains a bit of a mystery why the big league team has not turned to Jacksonville for reinforcements. The AAA team’s two most productive hitters this season, Diaz and Charles Leblanc, have seen a combined ten major league plate appearances. Veteran ballplayers, like Willians Astudillo and Erik Gonzalez, have seen far more time in Miami despite possessing lower ceilings and not performing as well at Jacksonville.
Diaz, now twenty-five years old, is just about at the point where the Marlins have to decide his future in the organization. For a while, it has seemed like the team has not valued Diaz in the same way as many prospect analysts have. Considering his elite glove and plus raw power, and the Marlins status as a below- .500 team over the past few seasons, the Marlins would be wise to see what they have in Diaz. Over the past two seasons in Jacksonville, the big lefty has hit thirty eight home runs in 148 games; he does not have much more to prove at this level.
Diaz has done an impressive job over the past few seasons to maximize his power output. His swing is designed to do in-air damage, with a slight upper cut that is still quick through the zone. He sees breaking pitches through the zone well, and hammers pitches on the lower half of the zone. Keeping his contact rate as low as it is (hovering around 20% in AAA) will be key to his future as a big leaguer, considering his strong but not elite power. Diaz’s glove remains his calling card though, and could be useful in Miami very soon. Garrett Cooper and Jesus Aguilar are both known as bat-first first basemen, and have combined for a -3 DRS at first this season. In an admittedly small sample size, Diaz has been an exceptional +12 DRS in just fifty seven MLB games.
SS Nasim Nunez, A+
This Week’s Stats: 11-22, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 5 SB, 3/6 K/BB
The forward leaps that Nasim Nunez has made over the past month have been amongst the most exciting Marlins prospect developments going. As the season has gone on, Nunez has hit for more power, struck out less, and continued stealing bases at an astounding rate. It has culminated in Nunez being amongst the most productive hitters in the Marlins system. Ranked fourteenth in the recent Fangraphs Marlins Prospect List, it is fair to expect that Nunez will keep climbing up the rankings.
During his slow start to the season at Beloit, the lack of contact that Nunez was making was probably the most concerning aspect of his game. Nunez was never projected for more than an average hit tool, but it is vital that he reaches that potential as a glove-first, low power middle infielder. Since April, when Nunez was striking out in nearly every other plate appearance, he has gradually brought that rate way down. From June 1st onward, Nunez is striking out in 18.7% of his plate appearances, which is an above average rate. Things have clearly clicked for Nunez, who augmented that contact with more power as well.
The last time that Nunez was featured in the roundup he was fresh off of his first minor league home run. This week he hit his second long ball, while posting another week where he walked more than he struck out. Scouts would certainly say that they would like to see Nunez be a bit more aggressive at the plate, and he does seem to be hunting mistakes by the pitcher more. On the other hand, getting on base at a high rate provides Nunez with a decent floor even if his power never develops much. Continuing to make contact is the most important thing, as Nunez’s speed is a constant threat on the base paths.
RHP Huascar Brazoban, AAA
This Week’s Stats: 3.0 IP, 0 R, 1 H, 5/1 K/BB
Huascar Brazoban stood out in Spring Training, as he was consistently throwing fastballs in the high-nineties and generating swings and misses. Having spent the past few seasons playing in different countries and in independent leagues, Brazoban was given a chance on a minor league deal over the winter. With the way he pitched in the spring, Brazoban deserved a chance in full season ball. The thirty two year old right hander has backed up his opportunity with his best season yet in professional ball.
One of the more intriguing aspects of Brazoban’s season has been how the Jumbo Shrimp, and manager Daren Brown, have utilized him. He has been one of the team’s best relief pitchers, but has also thrown the fourth most innings of anyone on the team. As the season has gone on, Brazoban has gone deeper into games on a per-outing basis. Since the start of June, every one of Brazonban’s outings have generated at least five outs. Most of those appearances have between two-three innings, giving Brown a valuable swing man to use in the middle innings of close games.
Not only has Brazoban given the Jumbo Shrimp that sort of length in his appearances, but he has also pitched very well. His 32% K-rate is well above average, while he has kept his walk rate in the single digits. Considering Brazoban’s past minor league status, when he was consistently walking 12-16% of batters, that is an important improvement. His heavy fastball seems well geared to generating ground balls when hitters do make contact, while the slider will get swings and misses. The Marlins have gone through many relief pitchers this season, but Brazoban has pitched well enough to be knocking on the door.
RHP Zach McCambley, AA
This Week’s Stats: 6.0 IP, 1 R, 0 H, 6/3 K/BB
This has not been an easy year for the development of Zach McCambley. After entering the season as one of the Marlins more electric pitching prospects, McCambley has struggled with control and pitching with runners on base. However, there have still been moments like his start last week against Mississippi, where McCambley shows his potential as a guy who it is very difficult to make quality contact against.
The key to McCambley’s start against the Mississippi Braves was command of his curveball. It is by far his best pitch, and the one most likely to give hitters problems. McCambley consistently commands the pitch better than his other pitches, and can execute it well on the outside corner against lefties. The lack of a quality, high velocity fastball to match that breaking ball is what has slowed his development. His changeup has showed flashes of being a useful offering as well, but it is not as easy to set it up when the fastball is not particularly dangerous in the first place.
Due to the strangeness of that repertoire, McCambley’s future is most likely as a reliever who frequently pitches backwards. Setting guys up with the curveball for a strike, then throwing a fastball or changeup, before finishing with the curveball could be a recipe for success. That’s what his plan seemed to be against the Braves, and he clearly had hitters out of rhythm. McCambley must also continue to clean up the issues with runners on base; his 57.2% left on base rate is concerning, but also likely too low to continue. Commanding his fastball is the first step towards McCambley cleaning that up and lowering his ERA. Last weeks start against the Braves was certainly a positive sign.
1B Zach Zubia, A
This Week’s Stats: 6-14, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 3 2B, 3/6 K/BB
Most of the recent news surrounding the Jupiter Hammerheads has regarded two of the top Marlins prospects. Jose Salas was promoted to Beloit a few weeks ago, and has continued to hit. Back in Jupiter, Kahlil Watson has had a brutal last few months that have culminated in him not playing at all last week due to disciplinary issues stemming from a conflict with an umpire. Unfortunately, it is not the first controversy surrounding Watson this year, but last year’s first round pick has plenty of time to mature. While the Marlins need to focus on that, Zach Zubia has kept on raking in the middle of the Hammerheads lineup.
Zubia came out of the draft last year as a big bodied, athletic first baseman with some serious raw power. He hit over thirty homers in his college career at Texas, while posting impressive strikeout-to-walk ratios. A twentieth round pick in the draft, Zubia did not come with much hype as an older prospect without a clear defensive home. After some struggles last year in his professional debut, in which he failed to hit a home run in eighty five plate appearances, Zubia is looking much more confident at the plate this season and should be in line for a promotion.
The most striking statistic when examining Zubia’s profile remains his strikeouts compared to his walks. He has struck out sixty eight times this season, but walked fifty nine times. His walk rate is over 20%, demonstrating a particularly disciplined approach. However, if Zubia is going to reach his potential, he will have to start being a bit more aggressive and hunt pitches to do damage against. Despite all the walks, Zubia does still swing and miss quite a bit. He has also not hit the ball in the air frequently enough. This past week was a great sign, though, as he hit for extra base power. Zubia’s slugging percentage now stands at exactly .400 for the season, and will need to keep climbing before he earns a promotion to Beloit.
Next Up (7/12-7/17)
- AAA Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp at Syracuse
- AA Pensacola Blue Wahoos vs Chattanooga
- A+ Beloit Sky Carp vs Cedar Rapids
- A Jupiter Hammerheads at Bradenton