As of Friday, David Phelps is a Seattle Mariner. In his place, the Miami Marlins received a package of four prospects:
- OF Brayan Hernandez: Seattle’s no. 8 prospect according to BP’s Futures Guide
- RHP Brandon Miller
- RHP Pablo Lopez
- RHP Lukas Schiraldi
Prospects are always fun to analyze and, given that Miami appears to be transitioning into a rebuild once again, we’ll take an in-depth look at who they have acquired.
Hernandez is the centerpiece of this trade. Initially profiled as a center fielder, a stint with unimpressive defense in the AZL left scouts wondering whether he would eventually end up in a corner outfield spot.
At 20 years old, Hernandez is still young for a prospect, starting 2017 in Low-A — though he appeared in three games at Triple-A back in June. Nevertheless, discounting these three games, Hernandez has shown a penchant for striking out (21.5 percent strikeout rate), while not walking enough (7.0 percent walk rate) to offset them.
Furthermore, if we look at Baseball Prospectus’s True Average, across his minor league career he has sported a TAv .271 (or if you prefer traditional stats, a triple slash of .259/.314/.394). Though these stats are not particularly impressive, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Hernandez is still young, and has a long time to adjust before he could even grab a cup of coffee in the big leagues.
Brayan Hernandez Minor League Stats
According to Fangraph’s Eric Longenhagen, Chris Mitchell’s KATOH+ model (which uses minor-league stats and prospect list rankings) projects Brandon Miller to produce 0.5 fWAR over his first 8 seasons. (That accounts for the fact that he is still in High-A and might never hit the majors, or perform poorly if he does.)
As a prospect, Miller failed to make BP’s list of the top 10 prospects in the Mariners system or FanGraphs’ list of the top 16. Nevertheless, scouts have shown enough interest in Miller due to his fastball/slider mix. Given his upside, Miller could slot in as a backend starter or a relief pitcher, depending on the Marlins’ needs when he’s ready for the majors.
In the 101 innings he’s pitched at A-ball this season, Miller sports an impressive K/9 and acceptable BB/9 at 8.4 and 2.0, respectively. Furthermore, he has a 3.65 ERA and 2.82 DRA (62.5 DRA-). If Miller can hold these numbers while reducing his walk rate as he progresses through the farm system, Miami may have a valuable pitcher to help solidify any future rotation.
But, like all the prospects coming the Marlins’ way in this trade, Miller is still in the lower levels of minor league ball, meaning that there is still time to develop him, and still lots of risk that he doesn’t progress at all. In the best case scenario, he’s part of Miami’s rotation by the end of the decade.
Much like Miller, Lopez is also a strikeout machine (8.0 K/9). Conversely, he walks, on average, one less player per 9 than Miller (1.2 BB/9). He’s just slightly older, 21 instead of 20, and has progressed slightly higher in the Mariners’ system, to hi-A.
Lopez profiles as a ground ball pitcher, with around 52 percent of batted balls against him rolling around the infield. This means that, in order to succeed, he’ll have to have a good defensive team behind him, unless he figures out how to start striking out more hitters.
But good defense is uncommon in the low minors, and perhaps as a result, Lopez has allowed almost 9 hits per nine-inning game (8.85 H/9) in his minor-league career. As a result, Lopez also sports a 5.04 ERA and 3.30 FIP, the kind of gap which, if you’ve read Jim Turvey’s post, would make Ricky Nolasco blush.
Given the case, Lopez seems like a throw-in in this trade, not likely to reach the majors unless it’s as a reliever or in an emergency spot start. But if his struggles are the fault of his infielders and not his pitching, Lopez could have some upside.
Lukas was selected in the 15th round of the 2014 draft and has never been featured in a top 100 ranking. Those two facts alone are almost always enough to dismiss any possibility that a player will provide future major league value — but weirder things have happened, and statements like that can always come back to bite you, as my editor Nick Stellini is prone to reminding me. And Schiraldi might be a familiar name to you; in 4 years in Seattle’s farm system, Lukas has had similar results to those posted by his major-leaguer father, Calvin Schiraldi, over two decades ago.
Across three minor league levels, Lukas sports a 10.0 K/9, 5.7 BB/9, 4.65 ERA, and 5.22 RA9. Except for his strikeout rate, none of the other stats raise any eyebrows (unless you raise eyebrows when viewing bad stats, in which case, raise them).
Lukas Schiraldi Minor League Stats
At 23 years old, Schiraldi looks like a longshot to make the majors, which puts him in the awkward position of being a second throw-in in a trade for a reliever. That should tell you how both teams feel about him. Schiraldi clearly can strike batters out, though, so there’s at least a plausible path to the majors he could take; he’d just have to change almost everything else about his profile.
The way I see it, Miami is betting on these players (and any other players they acquire in the next week) providing some lottery-ticket upside that they can then complement with some of the big free agents from the 2018 class. Given their ages and minor league levels, the time table for this new rebuild could see the Marlins ready to compete again as early as 2019. Then again, nothing stops the Marlins from using these players as trade chips in the future, and kicking the can down the road again.
Martin Alonso writes for Beyond the Box Score and BP Bronx and is constantly geeking out over baseball and Star Wars. You can find him on Twitter at @martnar.