The theme to this part of the season is the challenge that comes with promotions. Four of the five players in this week’s Roundup were recently promoted, and embraced the challenge with a great performance, while the fifth put together a start that should earn him a callup back to the Majors in short order.
SS Nasim Nunez, AA
This Week’s Stats: 10-22, 3 2B, 4 R, 4 SB, 3/1 K/BB
Few players in the Marlins system have had their stock rise as much as Nasim Nunez’s has this season. The Marlins have several of their top position player prospects at shortstop, so Nunez was getting a bit lost in the mix. Moreover, he was playing at the lower levels, with Jose Salas and Khalil Watson hot on his tail. Nunez has responded to that pressure with a promising season that has cemented some of his tools as truly elite.
It is impossible to open a discussion about Nunez without noting his speed. Over three seasons of minor league action, Nunez has 121 stolen bases over 210 games. He has only been caught stealing twenty five times; that success rate of 83% is certainly worth the risk of taking an extra base. Since being promoted to Pensacola, Nunez is still above 80% (11 SB/ 2 CS). Continuing that rate, with that level of frequency, as Nunez advances levels is boosting his stock considerably. For fans of 1980’s baseball, Nunez has some of the most exciting tools of any minor leaguer.
He can steal bases, and Nunez also plays exceptional defense. He will be a shortstop long-term. But, can he hit? That is the question that will decide Nasim Nunez’s future. It will be the difference between a utility infielder and an everyday player with surprising value. Nunez started slow after being promoted to Pensacola, but has really come on in the past few weeks. Nunez finished this week with ten hits, while stealing four bases as well. His plate discipline remains impressive, and his contact rate has gone up while with the Blue Wahoos. Getting the ball in play is vital; Nunez has the speed to post BABIP’s well over .300, as he is right now.
LHP Josh Simpson, AAA
This Week’s Stats: 3.0 IP, 1 R, 0 H, 7/3 K/BB
In a season that has seen some incredibly promising relief work out of Marlins minor leaguers, Josh Simpson has arguably been the most electric of them all. After earning a callup to Jacksonville a few weeks ago, Simpson has continued to show a unique ability to generate swings and misses. He has faced nineteen batters in that time; eight of them (42.1%) have struck out.
Of more concern, however, is that Simpson has also walked four batters out of those nineteen. Two others have been hit by pitches. Control has been an issue for the lefty all season, as he has posted a career worst walk rate. A double digit walk rate is not untenable for a relief pitcher, but Simpson needs to reign it in to keep his ERA low.
Walks aside, Simpson remains filthy on the mound. Along with that career work walk rate comes a career best strikeout rate. Against Bowie this week, he showed just how effective his curveball is. In the encounter against Gunnar Henderson, shown in the video above, Simpson threw three consecutive breaking balls in the zone, and Henderson still did not stand a chance. He is one of the best prospects in baseball, and slugging over .500 this season, yet Simpson is that filthy and deceptive. Lefties in particular cannot touch Simpson. In 22.1 innings against left handers this season, he has struck out thirty eight and limited them to a .143 batting average.
LHP Trevor Rogers, AAA
This Week’s Stats: 6.0 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 12/1 K/BB
When Trevor Rogers is having success on the mound, his profile is not overly complicated. Rogers relies on a heavy fastball-changeup combo, with the occasional slider thrown in to keep hitters honest. He rode those three pitches to a superb rookie season that nearly culminated in National League Rookie of the Year honors.
Rogers came into the season with high expectations after that impressive first act as a big leaguer. Unfortunately, just about everything that could go wrong this season has gone wrong for the big lefty. His command has not been nearly as sharp, while the release points on his fastball and changeup have not been consistent. These mechanical issues are fixable, however, and there should be trust in the Marlins pitching development system to improve upon that.
Neither the fastball or changeup have been commanded as well as last season, but the fastball has been hit the hardest. After being the most effective pitch Rogers threw last season (based on Fangraphs pitch values), it has been his worst pitch in 2022. However, when it comes to Rogers, the fastball and changeup go hand in hand. While the velocity on the two pitches has been close to what we saw last year, both pitches must be commanded well to work off of each other.
Against Bowie this past week, Rogers showed much more promise when it comes to that two-pitch combo. His fastball was consistently at the top of the zone. Rogers struck out twelve batters in six innings, with nine of those being finished with a strikeout. Those pitches consistently came at the top of the zone, allowing Rogers to throw that changeup at the bottom of the zone to throw off hitters. Most swings and misses in the big leagues come as a result of location, not timing. By showing hitters different looks, Rogers looks far more prepared to get his next start in the big leagues.
1B Zach Zubia, A+
This Week’s Stats: 4-21, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 4/4 K/BB
As most teams do in the weeks following the amateur draft, as the second half drifts onward, the Marlins have been promoting players rapidly over the past few weeks. One of the players to earn a trip to another level was Zach Zubia. He truly did earn the call-up; Zubia slashed .232/.404/.380 at Jupiter, good enough for a 135 wRC+. His 21.5% walk rate at that level was eleventh best of all Single-A hitters with at least one hundred plate appearances.
Zubia came out of Texas as a hitter with an impressive college track record. While lacking a clear defensive home, Zubia put up impressive strikeout-to-walk rates while hitting for power. This season, his power has slowly creeped back to the levels that draft experts expected him to show. Since the promotion to Beloit, Zubia has hit four homers; Zubia now has eleven for the season between the two levels.
His first home run for Beloit came a few weeks ago. The 460 foot bomb showed the prolific ability that Zubia has to slug if he can make consistent contact and stays aggressive. He added two more homers to the ledger this week, including a walk off bomb on Thursday to break a 1-1 tie. Zubia certainly possesses a bit of an upper cut swing that is too long, but his patient approach and raw power make for a solid offensive floor. So far, the move to Beloit has not proved to be too challenging for the tall first baseman.
RHP Marcus Johnson, A
This Week’s Stats: 4.0 IP, 2 R, 2 H, 8/2 K/BB
After taking two pitchers out of high school with plus-fastballs, the Marlins selected a much different profile in Marcus Johnson. The tall righthander stands 6’6 and comes with a plus slider that has a ton of movement. The pitch helped Johnson become one of the best relief pitchers in college baseball in 2021, as he helped Duke win the ACC Championship. Hoping to get more out of the righty, Duke moved Johnson into the rotation last season. The results were mixed, but Johnson possesses a three-pitch repertoire that could work in the future as a starter.
Johnson’s control was adequate last season as a starter, with a walk rate just below 8%. However, scouts noted the lack of command he shows. His large frame does not make locating the fastball easy, and it is a pitch with a ton of downward movement. This makes it hittable, especially since Johnson sits more in the low-nineties. So, while Johnson is able to get his pitches near the zone, he is not executing them well within that area. Johnson has already walked six in eight minor league innings, so he will definitely have to clean that area of his game up.
Johnson is a quality athlete, which should help him develop better control moving forward. Cleaning up his delivery will also be easier as Johnson matures. Johnson posted a 5.61 ERA last season for Duke, but the Marlins can help him make some adjustments that will help him reach his full potential. Most importantly, Johnson already possesses a decent changeup, which the Marlins are sure to utilize more frequently. His slider was his most effective pitch in his debut for Jupiter. The pitch has a quick drop, and is especially effective against left handed hitters as it bears in on them. With eight strikeouts in his Jupiter debut, Johnson showed just how promising his entire repertoire is.
Next Up (8/30-9/4)
- Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp at Gwinnett
- Pensacola Blue Wahoos at Chattanooga
- Beloit Sky Carp vs Quad Cities
- Jupiter Hammerheads at St Lucie