Two talented position player prospects move one step closer to the big leagues.
The Marlins kept us in suspense, waiting more than half an hour past the Friday 6 p.m. ET deadline to make it official. But their decisions were as expected: infielder José Devers and outfielder Jerar Encarnación have been selected to the 40-man roster. This protects them from the upcoming Rule 5 Draft (held annually at the end of the MLB winter meetings).
Devers, who turns 21 on Dec. 7, was acquired from the Yankees in the Giancarlo Stanton blockbuster. He has progressed nicely since then…when healthy. Due to the combination of various injuries and the cancellation of the 2020 Minor League Baseball season, he has only 187 career MiLB games under his belt.
Most evaluators consider Devers the second-best shortstop prospect in the Marlins organization, behind only Jazz Chisholm (I have him neck-and-neck with José Salas for that distinction).
Devers will probably begin the 2021 season as the everyday shortstop at Double-A, though that depends on how much progress he made during his summer at the Marlins’ alternate training site. If he impressed, another option would be to elevate him to Triple-A and shift him to second base (assuming Jazz is the SS there).
Encarnación, 23, is among the dwindling number of holdovers from old Marlins ownership. During a breakout 2019 campaign, he led all Marlins minor leaguers in games played (135), plate appearances (553), runs batted in (71) and outfield assists (18).
The 6-foot-5 outfielder makes hard contact. Aside from Griffin Conine, the only other Marlins prospects who registered a higher average exit velocity in ‘19 than Jerar already have since gotten big league experience.
Despite a dramatically different skill set than Devers, he’s on roughly the same developmental track. Encarnación is projected to report to Double-A for the 2021 season opener, maybe Triple-A if he has continued to improve behind the scenes.
How soon could we be seeing this duo in The Show? Consider that on this date last year, the Marlins added Edward Cabrera, Jazz Chisholm, Lewin Díaz, Humberto Mejía, Nick Neidert and Sixto Sánchez to the 40-man; five of the six debuted in 2020, and Cabrera very well could’ve joined them if not for a minor arm injury.
All players that the Marlins signed as part of their 2016 MLB Draft class and most of them from the 2017 class are currently Rule 5 eligible. It is a harsh indictment of the previous amateur scouting staff—which has since been overhauled under new franchise ownership—that so few of them were even worth protecting.
Earlier today, the Marlins assigned 19 eligibles including outfielder Brian Miller and infielder Joe Dunand to the Wichita Wind Surge roster. That only protects them from the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5. The Fish are reluctant to “give away” any of those individuals, but that’s a low bar.
By adding Devers and Encarnación, the Marlins 40-man roster is now full. Fun fact: they have 12 players on the 40-man who were born in the Dominican Republic, the highest total of any MLB team.