02/06/12 11:00 AM EST
Marlins' organization preview, Top 20 Prospects
By Jesse Sanchez / MLB.com
Marlins director of player development Brian Chattin can envision the future, and he likes what sees coming.
"We've graduated some players from our system into the big leagues, and we feel good about that," Chattin said. "We also feel that we have some potential impact players heading up through system, primarily in the lower levels. We also have some guys at upper levels that we like who will hopefully help us."
Outfielders Christian Yelich and Marcell Ozuna are part of the reason Chattin is feeling confident these days. The pair led Class A Greensboro to the South Atlantic League title last season. Yelich also won the South Atlantic League batting title after hitting .312 with 32 doubles, 15 home runs and 77 RBIs.
"[Yelich] is an exceptional talent as a baseball player," Chattin said. "The thing that is so encouraging is that he is an even better person. He's a mature young man that enjoys the process, loves coming early, and he has a talent that he does not take for granted."
As for Ozuna, he hit .266 with 23 home runs and 71 RBIs in 131 games for the Grasshoppers. He also stole 17 bases and appears primed for another strong season.
"Ozuna had a very productive year from a developmental standpoint," Chattin said. "He struggled in low [Class] A and came on strong late. That's a credit to work he put in, a credit to the coaches and the manager. He continues to work and can do a lot of things."
The 21-year-old Ozuna, like many young players, needs more game experience in 2012. He needs at-bats and is working on recognizing breaking pitches, along with improving his selection at the plate.
"There is no substitute for playing games," Chattin said. "We hope the development process continues with him."
Top 20 Prospects
Yelich and Ozuna understandably receive a lot of attention among the players at the lower levels, but others -- including catcher J.T. Realmuto, infielder Noah Perio, outfielder Jesus Solorzano and pitchers Mason Hope, Austin Brice, Adam Conley and Rob Rasmussen -- also give Miami reason for hope in the future.
"It's encouraging to see, and you feel optimistic about the players in your system at the lower levels making progress and showing development," Chattin said. "You feel they can be productive big leaguers. But until they get there, there is a lot of work to be done and a lot development to do. We are optimistic, as are 29 other teams, but we just have to continue the process and hope these guys can fulfill their potential."
Realmuto, who was a shortstop in high school, continues to make strides in his conversion to catcher. You can argue that nobody made more progress on his all-around game in the organization from the start of the year to the end of the year than Realmuto did at Class A Greensboro in his first full season behind the plate. He hit .287 with 12 home runs in 96 games and showed his athleticism on defense.
marlins' top prospects
Under the Radar
Right-handed reliever Evan Reed has a power arm, a good slider and is headed to big league camp this spring. Reed, who is coming off of Tommy John surgery, shined in the Arizona Fall League and pitches well when he is healthy.
Hitter of the Year
Yelich's skills were on display last season, but he's also developed into a leader in the clubhouse. He might not be as vocal as other players, but he leads by example and his statistics speak for him. It's not a stretch to expect more of the same as he continues to develop in 2012.
Pitcher of the Year
There are high hopes for Jose Fernandez, selected in the first round by the club last season, and it's easy to understand why. He led his high school to two state baseball championships during his three seasons there, and the Marlins are hopeful his penchant for success will transfer into his first full pro season.