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Marlins prospects to get their feet wet

01/26/09 10:38 AM EST

Marlins prospects to get their feet wet

Dominguez, Stanton, Skipworth will be in first big league camp

Marlins prospect Matt Dominguez hit 18 homers at Class A last season. (Tony Farlow/MLB.com)
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MIAMI -- Several of the Marlins' potential stars of tomorrow will be getting a taste of big league life when Spring Training opens on Feb. 14 in Jupiter, Fla.

Because of their limited economic resources, the Marlins rely heavily on obtaining and developing young talent. In recent years, the organization has done a terrific job stockpiling some of the top prospects in the game.

A few of them will be headed to Spring Training at the Roger Dean Stadium complex in a couple of weeks, fully aware they have virtually zero chance of making the club.

Actually, the Marlins aren't expecting or planning on some of their top prospects to be with the team at the start of the season. But the team also doesn't shy away from challenging these players and showing them what to expect at the game's highest level.

Among the players who will be in their first big league camp are third baseman Matt Dominguez, outfielder Michael Stanton and catcher Kyle Skipworth.

Dominguez and Stanton were the team's first- and second-round picks, respectively, in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. Skipworth, meanwhile, was picked in the first round out of high school in 2008.

"We just want to give them exposure to everything big leagues," Marlins general manager Michael Hill said. "These are some of your top prospects, and you want them to be comfortable with what [the Major Leagues] represent. They are extremely talented young men with bright futures.

"They'll be there to see what it is all about. Really, they are not as far away as they might think they are in their minds."

Dominguez and Stanton are a pair of 19 year olds from California. Both posted strong numbers at low Class A Greensboro a year ago. If they progress as expected, they project to begin the regular season at Class A Jupiter.

Hot Stove

When drafted, Dominguez was compared to Washington's Ryan Zimmerman. Others feel he can develop into a Mike Lowell-caliber player. Either way, he is being mentioned in some elite company.

In an injury-plagued 2008, Dominguez hit .286 and managed 18 home runs and 70 RBIs in 88 games.

Stanton blossomed into a promising slugger, hitting .293 with 39 home runs and 97 RBIs in 125 games.

In the eyes of some scouts, Stanton is regarded as one of the top 10 prospects in all of baseball. A three-sport athlete in high school, he turned down a scholarship to play football at Southern California to sign with the Marlins.

Now, he is emerging fast as a corner outfielder who is projected to become a right fielder when he is big league ready.

Skipworth, who turns 19 on March 1, is considered the catcher of the future. A 6-foot-3 standout from Riverside, Calif., he's a left-handed hitter cut out of the Joe Mauer mold.

For the Gulf Coast League Marlins last year, he appeared in 43 games and hit .208 with five home runs and 21 RBIs.

The Spring Training experience for Dominguez, Stanton and Skipworth also gives Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez and the coaching staff the chance to familiarize themselves with these three prospects.

So even if none of them see time in the big leagues in 2009, they won't be far behind in 2010.

"We've always said, 'The way we'll win in baseball's economic system, the way that the Marlins will continue to be competitive, is by having players who outperform their contracts,'" Marlins president David Samson said. "The best way to do that is to have young players, and by the time they make the Major Leagues, they are ready to contribute to a winning team, not a losing team."

The Marlins typically consider players ready to make the leap to the big leagues when they've shown they can compete at the Double-A level.

In 2003, Miguel Cabrera was brought up from Double-A in June at the age of 20. Dontrelle Willis was 21 when he broke in the same season.

Cameron Maybin, 21, heads into Spring Training as the front-runner to be Florida's everyday center fielder.

"We're very proud, very proud, of what we've been able to accomplish," Samson said. "You'll see the Draft and player development are very important parts of our business."

With inexperience, however, comes uncertainty. And there is a fine line to avoid rushing players.

"We don't just put players on the Major League team who aren't ready," Samson said. "But we do have higher expectations of players who we think are ready."

Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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