The Miami Marlins entered Tuesday with eight of their top-30 prospects eligible to be selected in next month’s Rule 5 Draft.
They protected two of them.
The Marlins selected the contracts of outfielder Victor Mesa Jr. and right-handed pitcher Anthony Maldonado, adding them to the 40-man roster.
Mesa, Miami’s No. 6 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, has moved up a level in the minors each of his pro seasons. He spent all of 2023 with Double A Pensacola, hitting .242 with a .720 OPS, 18 home runs, 24 doubles, 76 RBI, 73 runs scored and 16 stolen bases in 19 attempts over 123 games played. His .412 slugging mark this season was a career-best as were the 18 home runs after hitting just 11 total over his first three seasons combined.
Miami’s No. 25 prospect, Maldonado was dominant for Triple A Jacksonville, pitching to a 1.76 ERA with 71 strikeouts against 21 walks and a .148 batting average against over 46 innings. He converted nine of 13 save opportunities. His slider is his go-to pitch for swings and misses and his sinker is used to induce groundouts. He also pitched for Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic.
In a bit of a surprise, the Marlins did not select the contract of first baseman Troy Johnston, their No. 22 overall prospect who led all of minor league baseball with 116 RBI while also hitting .307 with a .948 OPS, 26 home runs, 102 runs scored and 24 stolen bases over 134 games split between Double A Pensacola (83 games) and Triple A Jacksonville (51 games). He safely reached base in 46 of his 51 games played with Jacksonville.
The other five Miami did not protect, in order of their ranking by MLB Pipeline:
▪ Shortstop Nasim Nunez: Miami’s No. 17 prospect and second-round pick in 2019, Nunez is known for his slick defense and speed. He has 183 stolen bases over four minor-league seasons, 122 of which have come over the past two seasons. In 2023, he only hit .224 over 125 games with Double A Pensacola but had a .341 on-base percentage thanks to his 87 walks and hit five home runs. He stole 52 bases while being caught just seven times.
▪ Shortstop Javier Sanoja: Miami’s No. 18 prospect, Sanoja signed for $90,000 out of Venezuela in July 2019 but didn’t make his pro debut until 2021 due to the pandemic. In three seasons of pro ball, 21-year-old Sanoja has hit .273 with a .700 OPS, 13 home runs, 137 RBI, 168 runs scored and 66 stolen bases. He reached High A late last season.
▪ Right-handed pitcher Evan Fitterer: Miami’s No. 26 prospect, Fitterer had mixed results once being promoted to Double A Pensacola. He had a 4.46 ERA over 107 innings in 23 starts for the Blue Wahoos, striking out 100 while walking 72 and giving up home runs on 15 of the 95 hits he allowed.
▪ Catcher Will Banfield: Miami’s No. 28 prospect, Banfield had a breakout offensive season in 2023. The 69th overall pick in the 2018 draft set single-season career-highs in average (.258), slugging (.472), OPS (.774), home runs (23), doubles (25), RBI (76) and runs scored (70) in 115 games with Double A Pensacola while throwing out 28.3 percent of potential basestealers (34 of 120).
▪ Infielder Ian Lewis: Miami’s No. 29 prospect, Lewis has yet to play above Single A. In 2023, he hit .225 with a .637 OPS, five home runs, 44 RBI, 70 runs scored and 33 stolen bases in 43 attempts.
The Rule 5 Draft will take place Dec. 6 during MLB’s Winter Meetings in Nashville.