Friday, December 26, 2008

24. Chris Leroux

24. Chris Leroux -RHP - 6'6 - 210lbs
(last year: 28)

Chris Leroux was drafted in the 7th round of the pitcher-heavy 2005 draft. He was the 8th pitcher taken by the Marlins that year, and he was signed for $152,000. Even though he was an easy sign out of Winthrop University, Chris didn’t throw a pitch for the Marlins until 2006. Midway through his final season at Winthrop, he underwent Tommy John surgery and only threw 24.1 innings for the Eagles. Even though he was older than most of his future teammates in that draft, he would not be on the fast track because of how raw a pitcher he was.

In college, Leroux was actually a two way player, catching on days he didn’t pitch. In 2004, Chris hit .288/.382/.407 with 3 homeruns in 118 at bats. Even though he was considered a strong defensive catcher, the Marlins decided to make him a full time pitcher. In his final season at Winthrop, Leroux went 2-0 with a 3.70era and a 1.17whip in those 24.1 innings. In 2006, Chris got into 11 games between rookie ball, Jamestown and Greensboro, finishing with a 0-4 record and a 6.19era in 32 innings of work. That would be the last time he would be pitching as a starter.

Before the 2007 season, the Marlins turned him into a reliever, believing it would be better for him to throw an inning or two every other day or so, than try and go 6-7 innings deep every 5th day. The 6′6 Canadian throws a mid 90s fastball with an emerging slider. Because of how tall he is, along with his release point, the ball catches up to opposing batter very quickly. Back to full strength in 2007, Chris went 2-3 with a 4.14era and a 1.41whip in 71.2 innings out of the pen. He struck out 76 while walking 29. His 3.64 walks per 9 were the lowest he had since his high school days, while his strikeouts were on the rise too.

2008 was a bit of a breakout season for Leroux. He threw 74 innings in Jupiter, giving up just 60 hits while walking 26 and striking out 78. Opposing Florida State League batters hit just .225 against him, including just .208 after the All-Star break. Chris will be 25 in 2009 and will be a key member of the Jacksonville Suns bullpen. He is totally recovered from TJ Surgery and will be placed one of the first arms the Marlins look to if there is injury in the major league bullpen as he is now on the 40 man roster. Many believe he will make an above average closer, especially if his changeup improves over the next year or so. Leroux is definitely someone to keep an eye on in 2009 and could make an impact on the big league roster late in the season.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

25. Jacob Marceaux

25. Jacob Marceaux -RHP - 6'1 - 195lbs
(last year: 20)

In 2005, the Marlins took 5 pitchers in the first 44 overall picks. The only college pitcher of the five, Jacob Marceaux, is the one who has shown the least. He had a terrible pro debut between Jamestown and Greensboro where he went 3-8 with a 7.56era and a 1.77whip in 66.2 innings. Still with a four pitch arsenal, he was rated pretty high by scouts and Baseball America alike.

All of his numbers improved from Greensboro to Jupiter in 2006, including dropping his whip from 2.49 to 1.40 and improving his k/9 from 5.49 to 6.14. His fastball sits at the 88-92 range, but his problem early on was overthrowing. The Marlins blame themselves for his early struggles because they made an adjustment to his delivery, which made him close his front side. After months of struggles, they told him to go back to his old form and his numbers showed much improvement in his second year.

The 2007 season was yet another filled with struggles for Marceaux. He suffered an arm injury and only was able to record 40 innings of work. Of note was the fact he was used only as a reliever that season as that is what many believe best suits him. His numbers declined from 2006 to 2007 because of his lack of command. He was walking nearly 6 per 9. He didn't give up a homerun, and opposing batters hit just .238 off of him. So he was still missing bats and making hitters pound the ball into the dirt. Jacob had a stint in the Arizona Fall League to end the year and while is era was down to 4.38, his walks and hits allowed were still up in his 17.1 innings of work.

This season in Carolina was much of the same for Jacob. He was unhittable again but he walked just about as many as he struck out.All four of his pitches have been graded out as + pitches at some point. To go along with his fastball, he has a mid 80s slider, a mid 70s spike curveball and a changeup. Marceaux will join many of his former Mudcats teammates in New Orleans. His prospect status hinges directly on his control of the four pitches.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

26. Thomas Hickman

26. Thomas Hickman - Outfield - 6'1 - 180lbs - Throws: Left - Bats: Left
(last year: 27)

With the 63rd overall pick in the 2006 draft, the Marlins selected outfielder Thomas Hickman. A two way player in high school, the Marlins decided he was more projectable as a hitter, so pitching was quickly scrapped from his resume. Like many left handed hitters, he has a smooth stroke and allows ball to travel deep before centering them. His first 175 professional at bats with the Gulf Coast League Marlins were promising as he hit .263/.377/.411. After that season, some in the Marlins organization began calling him "Baby Hermida” because of his swing and good eye at the plate.

Signing for $575,000 out of Pepperell HS in Georgia, Hickman hit .183/.278/.256 in 164 at bats while in short season Jamestown. On the one hand, he again showed a strong walk rate; on the other hand, he also struck out at an astronomical pace. Making any kind of contact was an issue for Thomas, and when he did get a hit, rarely did he provide any power. Not blessed with blazing speed, he’ll be relegated to one of the corner outfield spots, although he has good instincts. Because of his strong arm, to go along with promising power, he could develop into a real good right fielder. These things were also said about the Marlins current right fielder, Jeremy Hermida. Of note in his season in Greensboro this year, his OPS improved every month, culminating in a .872 August. He also managed to have a .250 increase in OPS (.897) with runners on base as opposed to the bases empty in just about the same amount of at bats.

Because of his youth and his walk rate, there is still a bit of promise for Hickman as scouts believe as he matures and gains more muscle, he will show significant gap and homerun power. He has a good confidence about him and the Marlins love his makeup. Many believe he will be a prototype 2 hole hitter in the majors, but he needs to make better contact. Just 21 years old, Thomas should spend the season in high-A Jupiter in 2009.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

27. Chris Mobley

27. Chris Mobley -RHP - 5'11 - 170lbs
(last year: 45)

After a fantastic 2005 season in Greensboro, the Marlins brass had Chris skip over high-A Jupiter, and put him right into the fire at Double-A Carolina. Mobley had a solid, albeit not stellar 2006 campaign for the Mudcats. The former 22nd round pick out of Middle Tennessee State struggled with his whip all season, finally ending up with a 1.50. He spent the majority of his 2007 season in Carolina, but did see some time in both Jupiter and Carolina. Mobley's second stint in Carolina was definitely a step down from his first season there as his era, hits/9 and whip went up, while his k/9 went down.

One thing he did improve on is that his walks went down, and that is something he had planned on working on in 2007. In 2006, lefties absolutely abused him to a tune of .288/.394/.500 off him in 20 innings of work. In 2007 in Carolina, lefties hit .333/.385/.500. Lefties continued to punish him in 2008 to a tune of .322. Maybe he’s just a ROOGY. Even with his struggles against left-handed hitters, Mobley was dominant all season long in the Southern League. Opposing batters hit just .224 off him and his 1.10whip was a big improvement from his 1.55whip of 2007 in Carolina.

His bread and butter pitch is his slider, but if he has no control of it, opposing hitters will punish is average fastball. most relievers, they need to have two good pitches to get hitters out. At this point, Mobley's slider is considered a plus pitch but his fastball is still quite hittable. It will be his changeup that will be the difference maker if he is to be a quality arm in a major league bullpen. He will now be pitching with an even bigger chip on his shoulder after not being added to the 40 man roster, and then being passed over by every team in the Rule 5 draft. Chris should open the season as New Orleans’ closer.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

28. Kyle Kaminska

28. Kyle Kaminska -RHP - 6'4 - 185lbs
(last year: NR)

The Marlins drafted Kyle Kaminska out of Naperville Central High School in Illinois in the 25th round of the 2007 draft. He fell so far in the draft because most believed he would be tough to lure away from his commitment to Michigan State. The Marlins got him to sign for $120,000. In his first action as a pro, Kaminska was dominant for the Gulf Coast League Marlins. He threw 19 innings of work, allowing 18 hits, walking 4 and striking out 14 in limited duty.

Kyle has a projectable body at 6’4, 185lbs and his clean arm actions allows him the ability to throw his three pitches for strikes. Some have said he throws too many strikes. He’s comfortable throwing his fastball in the 88-91mph range, while keeping his slider in the low 80s. He could never quite get into a groove all season long and because of how much throwing he was doing; his fastball was in the 86-87mph range to end the season. In his last 45.1 innings to end the year, he gave up 70 hits.

Because of his age and struggles, there is a great chance Kaminska returns to Greensboro and pitches there before seeing Jupiter late in the year if warranted. He needs to learn to throw inside more and also needs to learn its ok to go outside of the strikezone as well. As he gets older and matures this should come naturally to him. He’s got a lot of upside to him, he just needs to throw the ball in the dirt now and again.