FSL Playoff Preview: Meet the Hammerheads

The St. Luce Mets begin a best-of-three series Northern Division Championship series tonight against the Jupiter Hammerheads, SAL affiliate of the Miami Marlins.

These are two of the better offenses in the FSL, Jupiter is second in runs scored (623) and St. Lucie is third (613). St. Lucie was second in OPS (.733) while Jupiter is fifth (.713) and both teams have offenses with .336 on-base percentages. Given the fact that the two offenses got on base at the same rate, and St. Lucie hit for more power, it’s a little odd that Jupiter has scored more runs. St. Lucie lead the FSL in homeruns (106) and was second in doubles (251) and stolen bases (167). Jupiter is tied for sixth in homers and was third in doubles, while occupying one of the bottom steps on the ladder (ninth) in stolen bases (99).

St. Lucie and Jupiter had the top two ERAs in the FSL as St. Lucie was first at 3.34 and Jupiter was second at 3.51. St. Lucie was third in strikeouts (1027) while Jupiter was fourth (1013) while St. Lucie walked the second-fewest batters (378) while Jupiter was fifth (415).

The Hammerheads are led by two of the Marlins’ best prospects: RHP Jose Fernandez and CF Christian Yelich

Fernandez began his season with Greensboro in the South Atlantic League, but was promoted to the FSL in early July three and a half weeks before his 20th birthday. He’s simply the best pitching prospect I saw in the SAL this year (I missed Dylan Bundy due to some unfortunate scheduling). He’s big – listed at 6’3″ and a strong 230 pounds with mid-upper 90s heat (93-97) and a slider with sharp two-plane break. In the SAL, there were times when the slider got away from him, but it certainly has plus potential. Oh, and he’s been dominant in the FSL as well with a 1.96 ERA in 11 games and 59 strikeouts against 17 walks in 55 innings with just 38 hits allowed.

The joy of short series is that if he can deliver the Hammerheads a win in game one in his matchup with RHP Logan Verrett, the ‘Heads need to win just one of the final two in St. Lucie Wednesday and Thursday.

The 20-year old Yelich, is just a really good outfield prospect with a lean body – 6’4″ and listed at 190 pounds. He is the kind of prospect that the Mets hope Brandon Nimmo can become. Yelich led the FSL in OPS (.922) as part of a .330/.404/.519 line with 29 doubles, five triples and 12 homers in 106 games. He steals bases (20-for-26) but his real calling card is his smooth swing from the left side. Yelich got really hot in the second half of 2011 and then helped lead the Greensboro Grasshoppers over the Savannah Sand Gnats in the SAL Championship Series. This year, he hit a bonkers .362/.435/.517 with 30 walks against 40 strikeouts in 62 games in the second half. St. Lucie manager Ryan Ellis, who skippered Savannah a year ago, has seen this movie before.

Yelich’s bash brother is RF Marcell Ozuna, who led the FSL with 24 homers, one more than St. Lucie’s Cory Vaughn. Ozuna finished with a scorching August as well: .365/.421/.673 with eight double and eight homers in 27 games.

The Hammerheads are a little more top-heavy, but the St. Lucie Mets are deeper.

The series will hinge on game one; the Hammerheads must win behind Fernandez in game one to have a chance. St. Lucie with two at home Wednesday and Thursday can deal with a game one loss.

MiLB.com has more here.