Minor League Report: Florida Marlins
Trio of young position players opening eyes this spring
JUPITER, Fla. -- So much attention is paid to the Marlins' desire to draft and develop pitching, but some young position players are getting noticed right now in Major League camp.
First baseman Gaby Sanchez, second baseman Chris Coghlan and third baseman Lee Mitchell all are swinging the bat effectively in their first invitations to compete with the big leaguers.
"There are some guys here -- Gaby, Coghlan and Mitchell -- who had a terrific year last year in Double-A with over 20 home runs," Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "It's a good thing to see those kids, because we always talk about the pitching. But it's good to see some young guys who can swing the bat."
Mitchell, for instance, homered in Florida's 7-2 win over the University of Miami on Tuesday at Roger Dean Stadium.
All three are not expected to make the club out of Spring Training. Conceivably, they may form three-fourths of the Double-A Carolina Mudcats infield. It's still premature to determine exactly where they will be slotted before the season starts.
Mitchell, also a slick fielder, belted 20 homers and drove in 73 runs at Double-A last year. While Coghlan, a sandwich first-round choice in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, projects to open either at Class A Jupiter or Carolina. The same holds for Sanchez, who drove in 70 runs a year ago in Jupiter.
"I'm just trying to get out there and enjoy my time, get experience and try to show off my skills and what I can offer to the team, and just go from there," said Coghlan, in his second full year playing second base after he was drafted as a third baseman. "I feel 10 times better about playing there. It's something you get accustomed to playing there. I just needed experience playing there."
Sanchez got a taste of big league camp in the past, but only as a late-inning replacement brought over from the Minor League workouts.
"I'd come up and play one game, and maybe I'd get in there and maybe I wouldn't," Sanchez said. "It's good to go over out there and get an opportunity to play. I'm not here to win a position, because first base is pretty much set. You want to show them what skills you possess, because who knows what can happen later on."
Actually, these three may be a year or so away from being in the big leagues. After '08, second baseman Dan Uggla and first baseman Mike Jacobs are headed to arbitration, where they will get hefty pay raises.
The progress of players like Coghlan and Sanchez may help determine which direction the team goes at first and second base after this year.
Sanchez was drafted as a catcher, but he now is mostly at first base, although he will work in at third base as well.
On the move: Outfielder Jai Miller, a terrific three-sport athlete coming out of high school in Selma, Ala., in 2003, is getting a good look in his first big league camp. The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder is competing for an outfield spot. He hit 14 homers in 129 at-bats last year at Double-A Carolina, and he is regarded as a late bloomer who may get his first big league shot this season. Miller was a fourth-round Draft pick in '03.
On the pine: Thus far, there are no significant injuries.
Names in the game: Minor League hitting coordinator John Mallee enters his seventh season in the Marlins organization. From 1996-2000, he was a hitting coach in the Brewers organization. Drafted as a shortstop in the 12th round by the Phillies in 1991, he spent two seasons in their farm system. He's worked closely in the past with Marlins right fielder Jeremy Hermida, and he is constantly helping refine the swings of all the organization's hitting prospects.
They're No. 1: Three of the five first-round picks from the 2005 Draft are in camp: Chris Volstad, Aaron Thompson and Ryan Tucker. All three pitchers are getting closer to being big league-ready. Brett Sinkbeil, of the '06 class, also has a shot to impress as either a starter or reliever. Sean West, another first-rounder in '05, is rebounding from shoulder surgery that kept him out all of last year. The 6-foot-8 left-hander is in Minor League camp. And Jacob Marceaux, a right-hander also from '05, is striving to regain his command in Minor League camp. Marceaux was in big league Spring Training last year. Thompson had an impressive first Grapefruit League outing against the Nationals.
Class of '07: First-round pick Matt Dominguez, the 18-year-old sensation from California, is showing the makings of a rising star. Word among talent evaluators throughout the league is Dominguez's defense at third compares to a young Ryan Zimmerman, the Nationals standout. Dominguez's bat also shows promise. And outfielder Mike Stanton, taken in the second round, is an imposing player with a great deal of raw ability.
What they're saying: "There is a lot less pressure on myself, because it doesn't matter how I hit because Jacobs is going to be the first baseman. He's good at what he does. I just have to go out there and do the best I can. I'll play, and whatever happens, happens." -- Sanchez
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.