Top prospects Naylor, Lilek, Seymour participating along with young righty
By Mike Rosenbaum
While some clubs in recent years have used their top Draft picks on close-to-the-Majors players, the Miami Marlins have remained focused on the long-term picture, targeting young, high-ceiling talent in the early rounds.
That was the case in each of the past two Drafts, as the club selected hard-throwing right-hander Tyler Kolek second overall in 2014 and first baseman Josh Naylor 12th overall in '15. However, the Marlins also drafted a slew of promising athletes both years, some of whom have already made a lasting impression on the organization.
Kolek making strides in instructs
Kolek's full-season debut highlighted his room for improvement, in terms of strike-throwing ability and overall pitch execution. The Marlins' No. 1 prospect (No. 53 overall) had a healthy campaign, logging 108 2/3 innings over 25 starts for Class A Greensboro, but he allowed 108 hits and 61 walks in that span (1.56 WHIP), resulting in a 4.56 ERA. The 6-foot-5, 260-pound right-hander still showed he could miss bats (81 strikeouts), thanks to his combination of physicality and plus-fastball velocity, but his overall consistency was lacking.
Being more consistent is what the 19-year-old has worked on this fall during instructs, and the Marlins organization is pleased with the early results.
"Kolek has had an impressive stint in instructional league thus far," said Marlins farm director Brian Chattin. "He is repeating his delivery more consistently and showing improved depth and power to his slider."
Naylor more than just a slugger
After going all-in on Kolek in the 2014 Draft, Miami took a similar approach this past June with its selection of Naylor, whom it targeted for his prodigious left-handed power and promising offensive ceiling.
Miami's No. 3 prospect hit just one home run this summer during his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League, but his overall feel for hitting (.327/.352/.418 in 25 games) and management of the zone stood out.
"What impressed me the most about his professional debut was his ability to hit," said Chattin. "He hit for high average with limited strikeouts in his stint in the GCL. Combine that with the power, and you've got a chance to have an impact offensive player."
Given his successful professional debut, it wouldn't be a surprise if Naylor received a full-season assignment in 2016.
Lilek won't pitch in instructs
Selected by the Marlins in the second round of the 2015 Draft, Brett Lilek, the Marlins' No. 6 prospect, had his workload managed carefully after signing, completing 35 innings (11 appearances, including 10 starts) for Class A short-season Batavia after a lengthy campaign at Arizona State. The 22-year-old impressed during his professional debut despite the limitations, posting a 3.34 ERA and 1.06 WHIP with 43 strikeouts against seven walks.
Unfortunately, the 6-foot-4, 194-pound southpaw missed his last couple of starts during the regular season due to "general arm fatigue," according to Chattin. Lilek will not see any game action this fall despite his inclusion in Miami's instructional league, although Chattin doesn't expect the lefty's arm issue to affect his 2016 campaign.
"Based on his performance this year, he is someone we will look to challenge next year and who can hopefully be advanced aggressively," noted Chattin.
Shortstop of the future?
No. 24 prospect Anfernee Seymour is another recent Draft pick who opened eyes this past summer. Known for his top-flight speed and athleticism, the 20-year-old switch-hitter made noticeable strides at the plate, batting .273/.338/.349 with 65 hits, 14 extra-base hits and 29 stolen bases in 64 games for Batavia.
"The game provided him many lessons in his first full season of pro ball that will only benefit him as he matures," said Chattin.
Perhaps more significantly, after seeing time at both shortstop and center field during his professional debut, the 2014 seventh-rounder spent the entire season at shortstop for the Muckdogs, committing 29 errors in 61 games.
"Much of his instructional league has been focused on refining his basestealing technique and improving his overall defensive game," said Chattin.
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.