First-rounders Heaney, Moran among Marlins' cuts

Lefty, third baseman, Brantly headline list of players sent to Minor League camp

First-rounders Heaney, Moran among Marlins' cuts

JUPITER, Fla. -- Andrew Heaney and Colin Moran, the Marlins' first-round picks in each of the last two Drafts, got a taste of big league camp over the past month.

Now, they both head to the Minor Leagues with a better understanding of what it takes to reach the next level.

Heaney and Moran were two of 17 roster moves the Marlins made on Monday morning, as they trimmed their roster to 39. Heaney, ranked by MLB.com as the top lefty prospect in the game, is expected to open at Double-A Jacksonville. Moran, a third baseman ranked No. 2 on the Marlins' Top 20 Prospects list, is lined up to start off at Class A Jupiter.

"What we told both of them was, 'You are no longer the first-round picks for the Marlins. You are now Marlins Minor League players,'" general manager Dan Jennings said. "'There are no monikers of being a first-round guy and all the pressure that goes along with it. Go down, learn your craft and work on the things you know you need to in order to get better.'"

Another message that was delivered was to prepare for the long haul.

"When you do get here, you're here to stay," Jennings said. "Arriving is not the goal. Staying and producing is the goal."

Heaney, the ninth overall pick in 2012, showed it is only a matter of time before he reaches the big leagues. The call could come this year, perhaps in a couple of months. In 7 2/3 innings this spring, he gave up just two runs. In his last outing, last Thursday at Lakeland, Fla., the lefty threw three shutout innings against the Tigers.

Moran, picked sixth overall in 2013, went hitless in six Grapefruit League at-bats, but drew three walks and scored each time.

"They know now what it takes and that they can compete at this level," Jennings said. "They got their feet wet against guys who have been very successful in the big leagues."

Along with their top two prospects, the Marlins also sent down Rob Brantly, their 2013 Opening Day catcher. Brantly, Brian Flynn and Sam Dyson were optioned to Triple-A New Orleans. Edgar Olmos was optioned to Double-A.

Thirteen others were reassigned to Minor League camp. The list includes Moran, Heaney, Adam Conley, James Leverton, Greg Nappo, Josh Spence, Bryan Evans, Rett Varner, Nick Wittgren, Austin Barnes, Danny Black, Mark Canha and Joe Benson.

The Marlins now have 17 pitchers in camp, and the club is expected to carry 12 pitchers and 13 position players.

Heaney showed great promise, and he's put himself in position to get brought up in a couple of months, if necessary.

"In Heaney's case, he probably sees how close he truly really is," Jennings said. "He needs refinement on a couple of things, like a little better pickoff move and holding runners."

Moran is a little further along offensively, and this past month gave him a chance to work with one of the better infield coaches in the game, Perry Hill.

"In Moran's case, he had a chance to face some pretty good pitchers and see how his swing works," Jennings said. "The biggest thing for him was he got to spend quality, one-on-one time with Perry Hill. Certainly, his bat is ahead of his defense. In just a short time, he saw what Perry meant to him and how much it helped him."

Brantly was optioned because he is blocked by Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jeff Mathis at catcher.

The 24-year-old left-handed-hitting backstop has enjoyed a strong spring, going 7-for-20 with a home run. Defensively, he's made great strides after a rough 2013.

"Quite honestly, he certainly has been the most improved person in this camp," Jennings said. "Just the strides he's made defensively, catching, blocking.

"He's always hit. Last year was kind of an aberration that he did not hit. When you look at the way this kid came in, totally relaxed and much more confident."

By being sent down now, Brantly can play regularly and get familiar with the New Orleans pitching staff.

"He needs to continue to work on the things it takes, earning the pitchers' trust and honing his defensive skills," Jennings said. "He's going to hit. He's always hit. He made great strides behind the plate, receiving the ball."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. He writes a blog, called The Fish Pond. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.