The Roundup returns this week, with an interesting balance of prospects. Two journey men, organizational arms put up great starts and pitched deep into games. On the other hand, two of the highest ceiling prospects in the system had big weeks and are deserving of a feature. Finally, MD Johnson puts up yet another start worthy of recognition.
LHP Josh Rogers, AAA
This Week’s Stats: 7.0 IP, 1 R, 6 H, 7/0 K/BB
In a fairly under the radar move, the Marlins signed Josh Rogers to a minor league contract a few weeks ago. Miami has seen Rogers a bit recently, as he has thrown sixty-one innings over the past two seasons with the Washington Nationals. Rogers has struggled in the big leagues, but the Marlins pitching development system must have seen something in the left hander to make it worth taking a flier on him. The twenty-eight year old was drafted in 2015 by the New York Yankees, and had immediate success at the lower levels of the minor leagues.
Rogers came out of Louisville, a program that the Marlins have drafted several players from. While pitching in High-A for the Yankees in 2016, he registered a 2.53 ERA over 113 innings pitched. Rogers continued to pitch well in the Yankees system, although he did not gain much traction as a prospect. Rogers has long posted low walk rates, but without the high strikeout rates to match it. Instead, New York used him as trade bait; Rogers was included in the deal that brought Zach Britton from Baltimore to New York. Rogers did not pitch well in the Orioles system though, with an elbow injury complicating the matter. He eventually caught on with the Nationals, and has now thrown his fair share of big league innings.
Rogers has mainly pitched in a relief/swing role in the big leagues, but his background is as a starting pitcher. Rogers throws a bit of a kitchen sink at hitters, with a fastball, two-seamer, slider, and changeup. None of them get many swings and misses, but Rogers mixes it up well. He commands his fastball well, which makes it his most consistently effective pitch. In his dominant start against Nashville last week, he was locating it particularly well. However, Rogers also got his share of strikeouts, with his slider being particularly effective. Added pitching depth is never a bad thing, and Josh Rogers is showing that he could be a worthwhile addition.
RHP MD Johnson, A+
This Week’s Stats: 6.0 IP, 1 R, 2 H, 8/1 K/BB
MD Johnson has definitively put up one of the best pitching performances in the entirety of the Marlins organization this season. He averages nearly six innings per start, a decent figure at any level of baseball nowadays. His 112 strikeouts far outpace the 71 hits and 23 walks surrendered over 97 innings. Since last season, when Johnson showed how effective he could be at Beloit, Johnson has only managed to increase his strikeout rate by over four percent and decrease his walk rate by five percent. His ERA even slipped below 3.00 this past week with a dominant performance at South Bend.
Johnson has led a Beloit team that has crept up the standings after a slow start to the season. When looking at the entirety of the season, they are now a game below .500 (due to a five game losing streak this past week). Still, Johnson and a promising starting rotation have led Beloit back to respectability. They currently place second in the Midwest League’s Southern Division.
When watching Johnson pitch, I continue to expect him to produce more groundballs. He has a high release point, and most right handers his size are naturally moving at a very downward angle. However, Johnson has a bit of a twitch in his delivery that results in a lower release than expected. The result is a high spin fastball that works well in the zone, and leads to a plethora of strikeouts. Johnson’s breaking pitches also get swings and misses, but the fastball seems to be the pitch he has the most comfort with. It remains a bit surprising that Johnson has not yet been promoted to Pensacola, but the Marlins seem to be content leaving him pitching dominantly at Beloit. A new challenge is probably needed soon.
3B Jacob Berry, A
This Week’s Stats: 6-21, 1 HR, 2 2B, 6/4 K/BB
Marlins fans have seemed to be justifiably anxious about the progress of Jacob Berry. Taken in the first round of last month’s amateur draft, Berry faces high expectations immediately as a college bat playing in the lower levels of the minor leagues. The nature of this season, with the major league team struggling to live up to expectations, has only compounded the pressure on the young third baseman to perform immediately. Moreover, the relatively quiet trade deadline put additional pressure on Kim Ng’s front office to deliver immediately. All of this has put an unfair strain on Jacob Berry to be a positive in the ledger of Ng.
Berry does not grade well as a defender, which furthers the need for his bat to play in a big way. There is a general belief that the Marlins could try the LSU product at multiple positions, including first base and the corner outfield, but so far Berry has just played at the hot corner for the Hammerheads. Clubs have their own internal information about minor league defensive performances and there is a lack of data available to the public right now. With the limited information that is available, it is known that Berry has three errors in eleven games, which seems to be less than promising.
Berry got off to a particularly slow start at Jupiter; he was 7-39 (.179) until a 3-4 performance last Sunday. Since then, however, there have been some far more positive signs. Berry has shown a bit more patience at the plate, after displaying an overly aggressive approach in his first few professional weeks. This could probably be explained away by Berry simply pressing, although he did not post insanely high walk rates in college. Berry has continued his trend from last season at LSU of posting elite contact rates, striking out only 13% of the time at Jupiter. Scouts did express concerns about Berry’s lack of elite exit velocities in college, which did concern me when evaluating him as a draft prospect. Considering Berry’s advanced age, he needs to start displaying better contact quality consistently. This past week, Berry hit his first amateur home run and added a few extra base hits as well. That is a good sign and should be monitored going forward; Berry’s status as a potentially top-tier prospect depends on him showing an elite ability to hit at the lower levels quickly.
SS Jordan Groshans, AAA
This Week’s Stats: 9-19, 1 HR, 1 2B, 2/4 K/BB
We will use this week as an exciting opportunity to showcase the newest top prospect in the Marlins system. Most prospect rankings seem to have Groshans ranked around tenth in his new team’s organization. Drafted 12th overall in the 2018 draft, Groshans was regarded as one of the players with the highest potential in that draft. He came out of high school, in Texas, but scouts thought he had a potentially plus hit tool and glove. The results in the minor leagues have been a bit rocky, but keep in mind that Groshans is still just twenty-two years old.
I was more fond of the trade made at the deadline that brought Groshans to Miami than most seemed to be. Anthony Bass was having an excellent season, while Zach Pop had pitched surprisingly well. However, relief pitching is notably volatile. Pop is under control for a long time, but does not get many swings and misses. Bass has a club option for next season, but also is nearly thirty-five years old. Ultimately, to get a prospect with the ceiling of Groshans is well worth that price.
Since joining the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, Groshans has walked more than he has struck out. His minor league strikeout rates have stayed fairly low, showing that he still should be projected for a plus hit tool. The question remains whether Groshans can hit for enough power to carry an average big league bat. Hitting his first home run in the Marlins organization last week, Groshans showed a quick bat that can get to balls up in the zone. He will need to try and lift the ball off the ground more, but a line drive approach should result in some homers. Groshans is slugging .500 in sixty two appearances since the trade; continuing that extra base power into the future will determine if Groshans is a future utility player or a high level starter.
RHP AJ Ladwig, AA
This Week’s Stats: 7.0 IP, 1 R, 7 H, 4/0 K/BB
AJ Ladwig has had the sort of chaotic year that everyone should sympathize with. He started the season in the Detroit Tigers organization. He had been with the team since being drafted in 2014 out of Wichita State. The twenty-nine year old was released shortly after the start of the season. The right hander served as useful organizational depth, but had struggled when pitching above the Double-A level.
The Marlins signed Ladwig in May, and he has been brilliant at Pensacola since then. Ladwig has always had elite control, but he has been at another level with the Blue Wahoos this year. Over 72 innings pitched, Ladwig has walked just four batters; that has translated to a miniscule 1.3% walk rate. The Marlins saw that, and called him up to pitch as relief depth last week. Against Atlanta, he showed that nerves would not impact him in his big league debut. While Ladwig gave up four runs over 3.1 innings, he was consistently around the strike zone and did not walk anyone.
Unfortunately, Ladwig was rewarded for eating innings by being designed for assignment. Back with Pensacola this week, Ladwig showed that he has not missed a beat. Over seven innings against Mississippi, Ladwig did not walk any hitters, struck out four, and allowed just one run. The right hander has a fastball that sits in the low-nineties, and has the classic groundball pitcher approach. He rotates between fastball-slider-changeup well, which is a repertoire straight out of the 90s. Ladwig has done a great job this season of limiting walks and getting ground balls. While that profile probably translates to just organizational depth, Ladwig can at least be depended on to eat innings because he does not beat himself.
Next Up (8/23-8/28)
- AAA Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp vs Norfolk
- AA Pensacola Blue Wahoos vs Montgomery
- A+ Beloit Sky Carp vs Peoria
- A Jupiter Hammerheads vs Daytona