Every Spring Training, prospects get a chance to show what they can do as they prepare for the season ahead. Some are competing for jobs in big league camps, others are prepping for the season as they vie for spots at Minor League affiliates up and down a team's system. MLBPipeline.com is visiting all 30 camps this spring. Today, we check in on the Miami Marlins.
JUPITER, Fla. -- A lack of impactful pitching depth in the upper Minors has led the Miami Marlins to attempt to bolster their rotation through trades in the past year, and they've been forced to part with several top prospects as a result.
But that trend could change in 2017 with the potential arrival of left-hander Dillon Peters, who, after a breakout Minor League season in which he reached Double-A, is opening eyes throughout the organization this spring with his performance in big league camp.
"Dillon has been very impressive so far," Marlins vice president of player development Marc DelPiano said about the club's No. 5 prospect. "He's mature, both physically and emotionally, with three pitches that are intact, and he has the ability to repeat and is ultra-competitive. He's a guy that's going to come quick."
Peters was a candidate to be selected in the first three rounds of the 2014 Draft before Tommy John surgery derailed his junior season at the University of Texas. The Marlins ended up taking a flier on him in the 10th round, signed him for all of $175,000 and then managed his workload carefully in his first pro season. Fully healthy and unrestricted in 2016, Peters thrived in the Class A Advanced Florida State League, posting a 2.46 ERA with a strong ground-ball rate and an 89-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 106 innings (20 starts). The Marlins promoted him to Double-A Jacksonville in early August, and the 24-year-old lefty responded to the challenge by winning three of his four starts in the Southern League.
Meanwhile, Peters' performance in big league camp this spring has been an extension of his highly successful full-season debut, as he's allowed just two earned runs on four hits in eight innings across four appearances. He was particularly good in his only spring start, tossing three hitless innings against the Nationals on March 9.
"He has a combination of things working in his favor, and we think he's shown up very well in big league camp," said DelPiano. "He's gotten [Don Mattingly's] attention."
Peters likely will begin the season back in Jacksonville's rotation, though his performance this spring suggests he may not have much more to prove in the Minors.
"He's going to put himself to pitching in the big leagues this season, and I really believe that he won't just pitch there, but also contribute," added DelPiano.
Kolek, Garrett back on track
The Marlins selected Tyler Kolek with the second-overall pick in the 2014 Draft, targeting the big prep right-hander for his elite velocity and front-of-the-rotation potential, and signed him for a franchise-record $6 million. He had an inconsistent but encouraging full-season debut the following year in the Class A South Atlantic League, and then showed up to Spring Training in 2016 in better shape only to require Tommy John surgery in early April.
Now nearly a year removed from the injury, Kolek, Miami's No. 2 prospect, is making strides with his rehab in Minor League camp.
"He's progressing well -- everything from the throwing program and the ability to repeat his fastball and his delivery," said DelPiano. "He's looked sound mechanically here and hasn't had any setbacks. Right now it's all about continuing the rehab and staying on course, and then we'll see where he's at towards the end of May or early June. We still view him as a potential top-of-the-rotation starter."
The Marlins also are excited about what the upcoming season could bring for outfielder Stone Garrett, the organization's eighth-round pick in 2014. After pacing the New York-Penn League in home runs (11), RBIs (46) and OPS (.933) in his second professional season, Garrett was limited to just 35 games in 2016 due to surgery for a right thumb laceration suffered during an ill-advised "prank" by then-teammate Josh Naylor.
"He's one of the guys that have come here in tremendous shape, and the bat speed is coming back," DelPiano said.
Though Garrett did return to action in August, it wasn't until his turn in the Australian Baseball League that the Marlins' No. 8 prospect finally looked like his old self, as he finished in a tie for the league lead with seven home runs while batting .258/.301/.445 in 39 games. That progress has carried over into Minor League camp for the 21-year-old outfielder, where he's been an early standout on the back fields.
"Stone's done a better job of recognizing pitches and barreling the ball hard when I've seen him in intrasquad games out here," DelPiano said. "He's carried everything from instructional league and the Australian Baseball League over into camp, and we really like where he's at."
Marlins No. 21 prospect Roy Morales put himself on the Marlins' radar last season with a strong, albeit abbreviated, campaign in the South Atlantic League, where he batted .288/.374/.341 with nearly as many walks (22) as strikeouts (23) in 60 games for Greensboro. But a right wrist sprain sidelined the 21-year-old backstop for the season's final month and then kept him from participating in fall instructional league.
Scouts view Morales as a strong defender and laud his agility, athleticism and overall tools behind the plate, and he's impressed Marlins club officials with his natural hitting ability and approach early in his career.
And now that he's fully recovered from last year's season-ending injury, they view him as a candidate to take a considerable step forward in 2017 as the likely everyday catcher at Class A Advanced Jupiter.
"Morales is already making progress here in camp defensively, which is encouraging," DelPiano said. "He's smart and loves the position, and he's a guy who comes to the ballpark with motivation and energy every day. We think he has a chance to do things on both sides of the ball that will make him productive in that role."
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.