James Marvel Enters the Top 50 Prospects List

When we released our 2018 Mid-Season Prospect Guide two weeks ago, we planned ahead for some changes to the list. We knew at the time that the Pittsburgh Pirates had two players to be named later in trades made at the July 31st deadline. We also planned on Jordan Luplow losing his prospect status because he was close at the time. Then we added a fourth extra one just in case something else came up with a prospect, giving us a total of 54 reports. Only the top 50 were included in the book, but we have been releasing the others when necessary.

The unexpected part came first when Christopher Bostick was designated for assignment and then got traded to the Miami Marlins. He was 36th on our list. That put Conner Uselton in our top 50. Shane Baz was then named as the player to be named later in the deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. We had him ranked sixth overall. That led to Rodolfo Castro being added to our top 50 list. Jordan Luplow is still eight at-bats away from losing his prospect status, so we could be replacing him soon on the list. In the meantime, another player has been added today.

The Pirates sent third baseman Sherten Apostel to the Texas Rangers on Friday night to complete the Keone Kela trade. He was ranked 28th in the system at the time of the deal, up one spot from the book. His departure opens a spot for 24-year-old right-handed pitcher James Marvel, who was recently promoted to Altoona.

This now means that all of the prospects after Bostick on the original list have moved up three spots, and now the bottom three are Uselton (#48), Castro (49) and Marvel (50). The players originally ranked #30 to #35 have all moved up two spots and the guys originally ranked #7 to #28 have all moved up one spot. The top 30 was updated in our Prospect Watch on Saturday night.

Here’s the report we wrote up for James Marvel, with an update at the end of the first paragraph:

When the Pirates drafted Marvel in the 36th round out of Duke in 2015 and gave him a slightly over-slot bonus, they were getting a pitcher who was in the middle of his recovery from Tommy John surgery. He didn’t play his first game with the Pirates until a year after he was drafted, debuting with Morgantown. Marvel put up decent overall stats, including a .235 BAA and a 2.33 GO/AO ratio. He began 2017 with West Virginia, pitching much the same as the previous year. That earned him a late promotion to Bradenton, which is where he began the 2018 season. Shortly after we posted our mid-season guide, he was promoted to Altoona. He has made two starts there, allowing three runs over 13.2 innings.

Marvel is a sinkerball pitcher, who relies on throwing strikes and pitching to contact for early outs. That style has led to mixed results overall, with high ground ball rates, mediocre strikeout rates and the ability to be an innings eater in the rotation. Through early August, he led the entire farm system in innings pitched. Marvel started throwing a four-seam fastball more often last year and he has improved velocity now, hitting 93-94 consistently when he was more of a low-90s pitcher who would occasionally hit those numbers. He changed his grip on his changeup last year to help against left-handed batters. He also has an average curveball as his breaking ball. He doesn’t have a true strikeout pitch, but he has shown the ability to be very effective as a pitch-to-contact guy, which could lead to him being a ground ball specialist as a middle reliever in the majors. He would need to find a strikeout pitch to exceed that current ceiling.

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