Tagged: Austin Dean

Prospect Of The Month, April 2018: Austin Dean

Prior to struggling with injuries that kept him out of action for much of 2014 and all of 2017, Austin James Dean is turning in a tour-de-force performance for the Marlins organization as he heads toward making his mark upon the professional ranks.

Dean was born on October 14, 1993 in Spring, Texas where he attended Klein Collins High School. Following in the footsteps of David Murphy and Josh Barfeild, Dean earned underclass honors in both 2010 and 2011. In his senior year, Dean hit .379 with 10 doubles, 12 homers and 44 RBI on his way to a 2nd team All American selection where he joined the likes of Oakland A’s #9 prospect James Kaprielian and St Louis Cardinals and Tate Matheny, a Red Sox prospect who was a .408/.338/.408 hitter at the A level last year and who is off to a .304/.411/.342 start in AA this season.

Following his breakout 2015 season, Dean signed with the Marlins who selected him in the fourth round, a spot which earned the 18-year-old a $379,000 paycheck. Upon putting pen to paper on his first professional contract, it started Dean down a path of stark maturation both as a player and as a man, quite the set of tasks for a newly anointed adult. Though he admits that the first year was tough as he adjusted to the shock of both living independently and the level of competition, by keeping his family as close as possible and by feeding off the advice of his elders, Dean has been able to conquer both challenges, turning a wide-eyed kid with a dream into a focused man with a plan.

“Being a high schooler in pro ball was a big wake-up call. You go from being the best player on your high school team, to going and playing with everyone who is just as good or even better then you. My first year in pro ball was definitely life changing. Being away from home, and being away from your family is tough. But ever since then it’s been a growing up thing,” Dean explains. “You learn how to take care of yourself and be an adult while your playing. I’ve definitely matured a lot since 2012 when I got drafted. On the baseball side, I’ve come across many of different coaches and players, and you tend to pick things as you go and learn different things from them. I’ve learned a lot of thing over the past 6 years, and I have think that’s helped me as a player.”

According to Dean, there have been many supporters and proponents that are responsible for getting him to where he is today. However, one person’s encouragement and advice has catalytically stood above all the rest.

“My dad. He’s always been supportive of my baseball career and he will always be my number 1 fan,” Dean said. “His biggest thing he loves telling me is, “You don’t want to be doing my job, sitting behind a desk and dealing with people all day.” I always laughed at it, but he was right. I love baseball and I am very blessed to be playing this game, continuing to chase my dreams of making it up to the big leagues.”

Dean’s path to the realization of that dream hasn’t come without some bumps in the road.

After getting his feet wet in the GCL at the end of his draft year, Dean began his pro career by hitting .268/.328/.418 for the 2013 Muckdogs, totals which included the second best SLG on the team and 15th in the New York Penn League. The numbers which were paved by his 12 doubles and seven triples which were the most in the NYPL earned Dean a look in Greensboro to end that season.

In 2014, Dean began the year in Greensboro and was tasked with the most extensive action of his young baseball career. Though Dean’s body would falter under the pressure, his drive, grind, resolve and fantastic baseball skill set remained strong. Dean began that season by hitting .288/.343/.403, earning a nod in the 2014 South Atlantic League All-Star Game. 

However, just before the break, Dean hit the DL for the first time with a right hand injury he suffered during a slide. After spending more than two weeks off the field completely, things went from bad to worse for Dean during his rehab stint in extended spring training when he suffered a nasal fracture after being hit by a pitch. But none of that hindered Dean. Showing the poise of a veteran well beyond his years let alone a 20-year-old playing in his first full season, Dean returned in early July. That month, he had one of the better months by a Greensboro player in recent memory, hitting .377/.459/.500 before he went down with injury again in early August due to a groin strain. As frustrating as this may seem, Dean once again returned undeterred, swatting six more XBHs in his final 14 games and rounding out a fantastic .308/.371/.444, 33 XBH, 72/38, 128 wRC+ season. His SLG stood at 15th best as did his wRC+, his BA was 9th best and his 24.7% line drive percentage was third best in his league. Quite the breakout season from a kid nearly a year and a half younger than the league average competition grinding through the most extensive single season action of his career.

After Dean was promoted to Jupiter and the Florida State League in 2015 where he was equally as advertised as he showed a season previous when not playing in the extremely pitcher-friendly Roger Dean Stadium (.289/.337/.410 on the road versus .244/.298/.317 at home) and after Dean tore up the Arizona Fall League by hitting .323/.364/.452 against some of the top young talent in baseball that offseason, he began 2016 in AA Jacksonville marking a third straight season he’d received a promotion. That year, Dean had a solid first half hitting .261/.345/.426 with a 53/32 K/BB over his first 68 games but seemed to be pressing a bit at the plate in the second half when he hit just .212/.262/.320 with a 57/16 K/BB. Overall, Dean hit .238/.307/.375, setting him up to repeat a level for the first time in his career in 2017.

At this very untimely moment, when Dean was working on adjusting to hitting consistently at the upper levels where scouting reports and number crunching are utilized much more, Dean would once again be bitten by the injury bug. Just seven games into the season, he broke his right hand in an outfield collision with Yefri Perez. The injury would cost Dean nearly three full months.

 

However, Dean once again refused to succumb to the ailment. After a short stint in the GCL in which he went 7-13 in three games, Dean returned to the Jumbo Shrimp on July 3. He lived out the rest of the 2017 season by hitting .283/.325/.415, more than impressive numbers given the timing of his injury and the amount of time missed at such a disadvantageous time in his development.

So how was Dean once again able to overcome the damage to both his body and psyche during this difficult time? Despite the distance between them, Dean says the biggest impetus during the entire process was the same one that has been throughout his baseball career: his family.

“My parents last year were a big help. We’d talk every day or try to and obviously this was something new to me not being able to play,” Dean said. “They kept me motivated, and they were very supportive as well, and I probably couldn’t have done it with out them.”

This season in Jacksonville, a 100% Dean is paying homage to his support system by being  the best hitter in the entire Marlins’ organization. Through his first 22 games this season facing the same level of competition that gave him fits in the second half of 2016, Dean has been on fire. In fact, Dean’s bat has been so hot it’s made history. In his first 81 ABs, Dean has hit a ludicrous .420/.466/.654 with three homers, eight doubles, a triple and 14 RBI. His slash line marks the best offensive April in the Southern League since 2005 when Matt Murton hit .437/.505/.621. To put it another way, Dean just had the league’s best offensive month of April in over a decade. By way of a ridiculous 92% contact rate, Dean hit in 16 of 22 games and reached base in 18 of 22 including 17 of 18 to begin the season. His monthly success has been met with a promotion to AAA New Orleans to begin May.

 

 

After simplifying his stance and approach in his rookie season, Dean, a 6’1”, 190 pounder, has learned how to fill some holes in his swing and come by power with ease. This month with the Shrimp, Dean has also shown much improved patience, a greater ability to take close pitches, foul off tough pitches (proven by his 0.86 BB/K) and wait for his inside pitch in order to feed off his pull-happy instincts. He’s also shown a better feel for getting his hands extended to pitches on the outer half, either taking them to his pull side via his great raw strength or in the very least, making contact, limiting his K rate. The catalyst for this has been a shortened approach and heightened bat speed. Older and wiser, Dean has learned how to settle for what is given to him. He isn’t pressing and simply allowing his raw skill to drive his game. Smooth, fluid and effortless at the plate, the numbers are coming naturally to Dean, a fantastic sign. The only thing that was consistently missing from Dean’s game in April was the ability to lean in to pitches and go the other way (24% opposite field hit percentage). But so far in AAA (small sample aside), Dean has rectified that issue and for the first time in his career, is actually favoring his opposite field (47.6% opposite field hit percentage). If Dean continues to show these same contact rates and plate coverage ability at the highest level of minor league ball, there isn’t going to be much left for him to prove below the Major League level and if the stats persist, the organization isn’t going to be able to hold him back much longer.

After all of his trials and tribulations, Dean, who holds the ceiling of a familiar friend of ours Jeff Conine (career .285/.347/.443, 17 HR 162 game average), is on the verge of his Major League call.

His parents probably already have their plane tickets.

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2018 Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp (Rest Of) Season Preview

According to crustacean experts, baby shrimp growth is dependent on sunlight. After absorbing the Jacksonville Suns last season, the newborn Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, led by Monte Harrison, Kyle Barrett, Colby Lusignan, Jeff Brigham and Max Duval are ready to make their mark on the Southern League.

2017 Stats

.242/.321/.360, 86 HR, 313 XBH
1185.1 IP, 3.69 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 2.64 K/BB

In their second season, the Shrimp will once again be lead by manager Randy Ready. A graduate of Cal State East Bay, Ready was selected by the Brewers in the sixth round in 1980. After jumping a level with each passing year from 1980-83, Ready made his MLB debut with the Brewers 1983 and went on to slash .259/.359/.387 over an 11 year MLB career. His best season occurred in 1987 when he hit .309/.423/.520 in 124 games for the San Diego Padres. Needless to say, Ready knows what it takes to proceed up the developmental ladder and make it at the highest level as a professional. According to Kyle Barrett who began playing for Ready last season and rejoins him again this year, Ready, by way of his many years of experience and a solid all-around skillset especially in the minor league circuit, makes a well-rounded minor league skip.

“Ready is laid back and a cool dude for sure. He had a long career in the bigs and knows his stuff,” Barrett said. “He’s really helped me with the smaller portions of the game such as bunting and baserunning.”

Rejoining Ready is his pitching coach Storm Davis. A Jacksonville native, Davis was a high school draft pick in round seven by the Baltimore Orioles out of University Christian High School in 1979. After flying through the minors jumping a level with each passing season despite still being in his teenage years in three of four of those seasons (including a stop in Fort Lauderdale with the Miami Orioles), Davis, by way of a collective 3.56 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, cracked the majors as a 20-year-old in 1982. Despite being over eight years younger than the average major leaguer, Davis, who made the Orioles out of camp, stormed out of the gate (pun intended) and collected a win in his first MLB start on July 3, 1982 against the Detroit Tigers. He would go on to post an overall 3.49 ERA, 1.232 WHIP and 2.39 K/BB over 100 innings in his rookie year.

Davis spent the next 12 years in a similar capacity pitching both as a starter and out of the pen, collecting a 113-96 career record and holding down a 4.02 ERA and 3.80 WHIP by way of a 1.392 WHIP and 1.53 K/BB (including over 1,000 strikeouts) over 1780.2 IP. In 1983, his sophomore season, Davis contributed a 13-7 record via a 3.59 ERA, 1.218 WHIP and 1.95 K/BB to the World Champion Orioles. He collected a second World Series ring in 1989 when he ran up a career high 19 wins (19-7) and was huge down the stretch for the Oakland A’s. In the second half, he held down a 3.61 ERA and went 12-3 in 17 starts. This year, Davis is bringing his expertise back to a level which he went 14-10 with a 3.47 ERA and 1.83 K/BB at despite being four years the minor to the average competition. A guy who grew up extremely fast, enjoyed a fantastic minor league career and borderline Hall Of Fame +17 WAR major league career, Davis simply knows what it takes to get the job done on the hill, no matter the level.

Marcus Crescentini who joins Davis’ staff this year has already begun to see the positive impacts of Davis’ much apprised but quite relaxed tutelage.

“I’ve only been with Storm a couple of weeks but what I’ve noticed with him is that his knowledge is endless and he is very approachable,” Crescentini said. “He also treats all of his pitchers like men; he doesn’t micro manage and he let’s us be who we are.”

Completing Ready’s staff is hitting coach Kevin Witt. Another Duval county native and graduate of Bishop Kenny High which is a short three mile drive from his current place of employment at the Baseball Grounds, Witt hit .481 as a senior before he became a first round pick by the Blue Jays in 1994. His #28 overall draft slot placed him ahead of fellow draftees Troy Glaus and AJ Pierzynski and just behind Jason Varitek and Nomar Garciaparra. After hitting .252 over his first three seasons including a .271/.335/.426 in A+ in 1996, Witt rose to AA in the Southern League, the same league he now holds managerial status in. There, Witt hit .289/.349/.539, tied for the league lead in homers and made the All-Star team as a utility infielder. In 1998, Witt began his AAA career and enjoyed immediate success leading the Syracuse SkyChiefs in homers with 23 while hitting .273/.354/.481. He made his MLB debut in September that season and recorded his first major league hit. Witt had a similar season in ‘99, once again leading the SkyChiefs in homers (24) and placing second in OPS (.896) before hitting .206 and recording his first MLB homer late in the season with Toronto. Following a 26 homer season in AAA in 2000, the Blue Jays cut ties with Witt a year later.

After a short stint in the Padres, Witt joined the Tigers in 2003. After a .316/.391/.594 performance in AAA, Witt got a mid season call to the majors. In his most extended look at that level, Witt hit a very respectable .263/.301/.407 with ten homers over 27 ABs. Witt was signed by the Cardinals where he enjoyed his best season as a pro hitting .306/.353/.600 and earning him the Pacific Coast League’s MVP trophy. However, on a stacked St Louis team, he never got a chance with the big league squad.

From there, Witt attempted to prove his worth in Japan, a very brief experiment, before rounding his playing career out with the Rays. After a .291/.360/.577 and whopping 36 homer performance with the Durham Bulls, a total which stands as Durham’s franchise record and the Rays’ organizational record and which earned him the International League’s MVP award. Witt got called up to the pros late in the season where he hit .148 in his final 19 MLB games. Witt rounded out his playing career back in Japan where he hit .174 in his last 40 games.

A fantastic .274/.336/.502 269 HR career minor league hitter with a plus plus power tool, Witt was unfortunately a victim of circumstance who never got his full shot in the majors in his prime. Regardless, Witt is a guy who knows how to adjust and get the job done at the plate no matter the level. He is a welcome contributor as hitting coach at a level he once dominated.

According to Austin Dean, Witt has good individual relationships with each hitter on the squad and is attentive and accommodating to each of their needs and routines. Describing his relationship with Witt, Dean says it’s one of mutual respect built on Witt’s trust in his players’ judgment and his overseer approach that lets them be themselves that stands out most. All in all, Dean says that on top of great expertise, Witt brings great reverence and leadership to the locker room, creating a more positive environment to play in.

“Being with Witt has been great. He’s very knowledgeable about the game and obviously he’s had great success as well,” Dean said. “Him and I’s relationship is a little bit different then everyone else. From spring training, he and I talked about routines and things I like to do in the season. And for me I don’t like hitting a lot. I like to take a couple rounds of five off the machine and then I go and hit BP on the field that day, and that’s it for me. And he’s respected that. He’s never tried to get me to do more then I wanted or that I needed. There’s times where I might be on my first round on the machine and I absolutely demolish five balls in row and he tells me to get and go back in the clubhouse. It’s things like that, he’s very encouraging and he knows what he talking about with us, and he’s been helping, you know, not just me but everyone else on team.”

Projected Lineup

DH Kyle Barrett
2B Isan Diaz
LF Austin Dean
RF John Norwood
CF Monte Harrison
1B Colby Lusignan
3B Brian Schales
C Rodrigo Vigil
SS Chris Diaz

Kyle Barrett
2017 – A+-AA – .276/.333/.324, 17 XBH, 65% SB%, 2.38 K/BB

Barrett is a Marlins 15th round draft pick from 2015 out of the University Of Kentucky, a pick which has been part of a shopping spree of the UK system from 2013 to present. Over the last five years, Stan Meek, Mike Hill and the Marlins have selected Wolfpack members in four separate drafts: J.T. Riddle in 2013, Barrett in 2015, Dustin Beggs in 2016 and Riley Mahan last year. Its been a “stick with what’s working” type approach from the scouting department to continue to return to Lexington on the regular year after year to scout and eventually select and sign players. Each of the four players selected has successfully parlayed a great collegiate career into at least some sort of positive progression since they’ve begun wearing a Marlins affiliated uniform.

While Riddle hit .275/.318/.364 over a four year minor league career, while Mahan has gotten off to a .289/.333/.458 over his first 20 pro games and while Beggs has posted a 3.61 K/BB in his first three seasons, Barrett has been one of the most consistent players in the entire organization. Barrett garnered the Marlins’ attention after a .324/.386/.391 collegiate career at UK which included a fantastic .354/.394/443 senior season. His BA that year ranked seventh in the SEC ahead of competition such as Dansby Swanson and just behind Red Sox top prospect and () overall prospect according to Baseball America, Andrew Benintendi. His average was made possible by his 46 hits, a total which ranked third in the conference, one shy of Benintendi. Barrett’s OBP ranked 17th in the SEC, just .23 points off of Swanson’s .417 mark. Barrett showed off his prowess on the bases as well scoring 29 runs and recording three triples, both of which were good for fourth most in SEC play and collected its 13th most total bases, 62. He accomplished all of this in the conference’s ninth most ABs, 124. Upon being drafted by the Marlins, Barrett headed to short season Batavia but just four games into his pro career, he broke his right hand and missed the rest of the campaign.

Despite the injury, Barrett joined the Greensboro Grasshoppers in 2016. Despite getting off to a slow 12-72 7/16 K/BB start due to the fact that he was still not pain free in his injured hand, Barrett, ever the grinder and with a staunch refusal to quit, turned it on in late May and wound up reaching base in 55 his final 79 games. Despite the slow start, Barrett hit .282/.333/.345. Among players who appeared in over 60 games, his BA and OBP were both team highs. He also stole 17 bags in 22 attempts.

The biggest hole in Barrett’s game headed into his sophomore season was his inability to read and time professional quality pitches as well as having a tendency to get a bit over-aggressive. This was proven by his heightened 17.05 K rate and 2.68 K/BB in Greensboro.

However, the Marlins didn’t let that small hitch hold Barrett back and gave him the promotion to A+. That year, Barrett, back at 100% to start the season, rewarded the Marlins’ confidence in his projection by slashing .297/.355/.342 over his first 66 games with the Hammerheads. His BA, made largely possible by a 12 game hit streak in which he went 19-49 in late May and early June, led the team and ranked 18th in the Florida State League. He reached base via a hit in 57 of his 66 appearances. All the while, Barrett’s walk rate rose to 7.77%, his K rate fell to 14.53% and his K/BB rested at 1.87. Originally snubbed from the FSL’s All-Star Game, he rightfully made it as an injury replacement. For the second half, Barrett received the promotion to AA Jacksonville. In his first 126 ABs as a Shrimp, he hit .230/.285/.286.

“I’m a firm believer that you can’t have success until you have failed. Failure is a teaching point,” Kyle says.

Barrett has had a few of those educational experiences so far in his pro career including being bitten by the sophomore slump in college (.253/.354/.312) and the aforementioned injury stricken 2016 season in Greensboro. However, each time, Barrett, by way of putting in all the necessary work and then some, has been able to adjust and come back the next season a much better player. Following a subpar audition in AA last season, Barrett faces a similar test in 2018 but if his track record is any indication, he will use stored knowledge, his fantastic work ethic and his ability to acclimate accordingly no matter the situation or level of competition to rise to the occasion.

According to Kyle, in addition to the bump in competition level, the biggest rectification for him to make mentally during his transition from A to AA last year was being prepared to hear his number called upon at any time in any situation on any given day and not losing his preparedness just because he didn’t see his name on the lineup card.

“The transition from high A to AA is definitely an adjustment,” Barrett said. “I learned that the days I’m not starting doesn’t mean I won’t play, there’s always a pinch hit or a double switch.“

5’11”, 185, Barrett packs a ton of talent into his stout but athletic frame. Formerly a high strikeout guy, Barrett has found a nice balance between aggression and patience. He’s also improved the lateral level of his swing, allowing him to get at least some part of the bat on pitches he engages on, prolonging his ABs and forcing his opposition to beat him with a quality pitch. That said, Barrett will also often attack early in the count if he sees a juicy morsel he likes. Simply put, he’s a very tough and pesky out to get and a guy who can give opposing teams fits. Barrett owns an extremely quick snap swing made possible by even quicker hands. Approaching from the back of the box, his speedy upper half and stationary head expand his field of vision and allow him to read pitches nearly all the way to the front black of the plate. While he probably won’t put many out of the park or even over outfielders’ heads, he has a great knack for finding holes and gaps. With plus speed, the ability to read the ball off the bat and good base running instincts, he turns singles into extra bases with relative ease. He holds plus speed and makes equally good reads off the bat and flashes a strong arm in the field. He can cover all three outfield spots but he projects best as a future center fielder.

Though the Marlins’ organization suddenly finds itself with a ton of young outfield depth especially after the acquisitions of Magnerius Sierra, Braxton Lee and Monte Harrison, with success at the AA level this year, Barrett is a rounding out a unique catalytic skillset. With success via another positive adjustment this season, he could receive a look in the bigs in September and he would definitely be a candidate to make his first 40-man roster next season. As good as his long range vision is on the field though, Barrett isn’t looking that far into the future. For now, he is putting all of his focus on what is directly in front of him and nothing more.

“I can’t think about it or stress about it. All I can do is control the controllable and play my game,” Barrett said. “If I stay within myself, be confident and have fun, everything else will fall into place.”

An extremely easy guy to get into games whether it be at the top of the lineup as a fire starter, at the bottom of it as a restarter or as a lefty bat off the bench as a rally starter, the 25-year-old’s modest ceiling should be placed somewhere around Roger Cedeno, a career .273/.340/.371 hitter and 77% successful steals threat.

Austin Dean
2017 – .291/.328/.446, 25 XBH, 3.43 K/BB

A fourth round pick out of high school from the year 2012, Dean is a name that has been around the Marlins organization for a while. Entering his sixth year as a pro, Dean’s career so far has been a proverbial roller coaster ride full of ups and downs.

Dean hails from Klein Collins High School in his hometown of Spring, Texas. Coming into the draft, Dean was heralded for his great raw power via a solid 6’1”, 185 pound build, a great ability to get extended and a quick stroke with loft. Paired with good speed (clocked at a 6.74 first to home) and a good baseball IQ as well as classroom aptitude, Dean had a verbal commitment to Texas before he chose to sign with the Marlins after being selected in the 4th round of the Draft by the Marlins, a slot which garnered him a $379,000 signing bonus.

After starting out in the Gulf Coast League post draft where he posted a .223/.337/.338 line in his first 47 pro games, Dean joined short season Batavia in 2013. There in 56 games, Dean hit a respectable .268/.325/418. His slugging percentage that came via 21 XBHs ranked 15th in the New York Penn League. At the end of the season, Dean received a cup of coffee in Greensboro where he hit .200/.346/.400 over 20 ABs.

Regarding what life was like for him as a kid who suddenly saw an after school activity engulf his entire life and asked how he was able to maintain focus under those circumstances, Dean responds that it was a stark maturation process making his way as a teenager in professional baseball but with the help of a great supportive cast of teammates and coaches, he was able to keep his focus and nurture his skillset advantageously.

“My first year in pro ball was definitely life changing. Being away from home, and being away from your family is tough. But ever since then it’s been a growing up thing. You learn how to take care of yourself and be an adult while you’re playing. I’ve definitely matured a lot since 2012 when I got drafted. On the baseball side, I’ve come across many of different coaches and players, and you tend to pick things as you go and learn different things from them. I’ve learned a lot of thing over the past six years, and I think that’s help me as a baseball player.”

In 2014, Dean appeared on the Marlins’ top 20 prospect list slotting in at #15. At the beginning of the year, stared down the first full professional season of his career in Greensboro. Thanks to three separate injuries, a left hand injury he suffered during a slide, a nasal fracture that occurred while he has rehabbing and a right groin strain that occurred while running, Dean’s season would wind up being limited to 99 games. However, the missed time and gaps between in game action did not appear to affect Dean at all. When he was on the field, he was consistently effective. After beginning the year by hitting .288/.343/.403, accolades which earned him an All-Star selection, Dean missed 22 games and the All-Star Game. Undeterred, Dean returned in early July hitting .377/.459/.500 before hitting the shelf again in early August. He returned again on August 15 and closed out a fantastic .308/.371/.444, 33 XBH, 72/38 K/BB, 128 wrC+ breakout campaign, incredible numbers especially considering his youth (1.2 years younger than the league average player) and his health woes.

In 2015, Dean received a promotion for a fourth straight season, joining A+ Jupiter. While the power hitter’s overall .268/.318/.366 slash line didn’t pop off the page, the underlying reason for it was due to his being stymied by the extremely pitcher friendly confines of Roger Dean Stadium. While he only hit .244/.298/.317 in 195 ABs at home, Dean was a .289/.337/.410 hitter in 208 ABs throughout the rest of the Florida State League. All five of his homers came on the road. Dean also successfully tempered his K rate down to 13.1%, a career low, proving he was at par in terms of making contact with A+ competition.

That offseason, Dean took part in the Arizona Fall League. In 16 games and 62 ABs against some of the top young talent in professional ball, the 20-year-old turned in a .323/.364/.452 performance, marks which ranked 12th, 24th and 27th. His .815 OPS ranked 26th. 18 of the 25 players who ranked ahead of Dean on that list are current major leaguers such as Lewis Brinson, Gary Sanchez, Aledmys Diaz and Wilson Contreras.

By leaving that impression coupled with his solid situational year in Jupiter, Dean was given yet another promotion this time to AA Jacksonville, just a step away from realizing his dream. Just seven games into his AA career, Dean suffered a demoralizing injury on a collision with a fellow outfielder. The ailment would cost Dean nearly three full months. After suffering the injury on April 12, Dean did not return to the field until June 28. Following a four game rehab stint in the GCL, he finally returned to Jacksonville on July 3.

“When I got hurt last year, it was very unfortunate but you know injury’s happen; it’s a part of the game. While I was rehabbing in Jupiter it was very slow process, and it was hard not being up in Jax and playing and being around my teammates,” Dean said. “But I worked my butt off while I was down there, I was still able to lift weights, to a certain extent. I kept my body in shape so I would be ready for when I got back. It was very tough not playing baseball for long. But it’s one of things you have to deal with sometimes and I felt like I handled everything pretty well last year.”

The ever-so modest Dean handled his situation a lot better than “well”. Upon his return, he enjoyed a .205/.347/.311 month of July. He hit in 39 of his final 55 game and reached reached base safely in 13 straight from July 28 to August 18. Overall, he was a .282/.323/.427, 4 HR, 22 XBH performer as he once again proved to hold an incredible ability to overcome adversity.

Asked how he was able to rise to the occasion of meeting and exceeding expectations in the upper minors despite missing nearly the entire first half, Dean responded this way:

“My parents last year, was you know a big help. We’d talk every day or try too, and obviously this was something new to me not being able to play. They kept me motivated, and they were very supportive as well, and I probably couldn’t have done it with out them.

Despite having far from a sunshine and butterflies Sunday drive through the minor leagues, Dean has met every challenge he’s faced and conquered it all while keeping his development proceeding in the right direction. In 540 career games, Dean has been able to close some holes in his swing that were present when he got drafted, simplify his mechanics, improve his contact rates and learn how to take what he’s given, leading to good averages and a solid doubles-first power threat. While the Marlins would like to see more over-the-fence power from Dean, there’s still plenty of time for the 24-year-old to find that as he fills out the rest of the way.

One area of concern for Dean lies in his limited ability to get extended. A naturally pull-happy hitter, Dean could use to garner a better knack to cover the outside of the plate via more advantageous barrel extension, leading to the ability to go to his opposite field. It’s one of the few things holding Dean back but it could be a major catalyst for his success as a major leaguer as pro pitchers and coaches could negate his strengths by way of quality stuff on the outer half and possibly an infield overshift.

Should Dean, who has come out victorious in every battle he’s faced so far on his way up, be able to fill that small hole in his game, he’s a quality corner outfielder with a ceiling around our old buddy Jeff Conine a career .285/.347/.443 bat. With further success in AA this year, he’s a candidate to receive his MLB debut sometime in 2018. At the very least, he is a shoe in for a 40-man roster spot next year and a favorite for at least a bench spot in 2019.

Monte Harrison
2017 (A-A+) – .272/.350/.481, 21 HR, 51 XBH, 139/43 K/BB, 27 SB

The main accompanying piece in the Christian Yelich trade with the Brewers, Harrison is a power hitting threat who is a bit immature in his approach but who holds extreme upside. Between A and A+ last year, Harrison hit .272/.350/.481 and topped he 20 homer mark for the first time in his career. As impressive as his .209 ISO and 133 wRC+ were, those figures came at the expense of a 143/39 K/BB. His 27% K rate last season equaled his 27% career K rate. That said, if Harrison, still 22, can find more discipline, there isn’t much more he needs to do to be both a top prospect and major league ready.

With elite bat speed by way of flashy wrists and a line drive swing which, coupled together, create plus launch angle and plus plus exit velocities, the 6’3”, 220 pounder is also a ridiculous 4.12 runner first to home, quite surprising for a guy his size and a testament to his athleticism. He rounds out his skillset with a throwing arm that receives an 80 grade on the 20-80 scale.

Undoubtedly, there’s massive upside here and after the acquisition of Brinson turns the Yelich return from good to gold. If Harrison is going to realize his full potential, there’s still work to be done both mentally and mechanically but considering he was able to turn in a great 2017 regular season followed by a .283/.333/.604, five homer performance in the Arizona Fall League after he missed much of 2016 due to injury, there’s reason to be very excited about his future. With no pressure on him whatsoever, I wouldn’t expect any sort of Major League action before next season at least as Harrison works on his few hitches. However, a complete Monte Harrison will be well worth the wait and a franchise cornerstone type piece. Pay close attention here. There’s special five tool type talent being kindled.

Colby Lusignan
2017 – A-A+ – .259/.326/.429, 15 HR, 49 XBH, 3.83 K/BB

A 28th round pick from 2016 after a .328/.425/.528 collegiate career between community college in Gainesville, FL and Division 2 Lander University in South Carolina, Lusignan is a piece who has come almost literally out of nowhere and proven to be quite the power hitting commodity.

After a .325/.429/.591 singular season at Lander with an OBP that ranked 10th in the conference and with its seventh best SLG and ninth best OPS (1.020), Lusignan hit .319/.422/.469 in the Gulf Coast League and got a look at short season Batavia to finish his 2016 season. The next year, Lusignan began the year in Greensboro. After hitting nine homers but slashing just .243/.315/.414 with a 34.72 K rate, the 23-year-old was nevertheless fast tracked to A+ Jupiter.

Just 113 ABs into his pro career and sporting a .251 BA and 33% K rate, the challenge seemed a bit over Lusignan’s head. However, the 6’4”, 230 pounder was somehow able to respond to the task by completely tearing the pitcher friendly Florida State League apart. In 46 games and 201 PAs, he hit .285/.348/.453 with six homers, 18 XBH, a .168 ISO and a 134 wRC+. He also showed improved patience as his K rate even fell more than 10 points to 23.9 and his walk rate rose to 8.5.

This season, just two years removed from playing ball at a Division 2 school, Lusignan faces his next challenge: playing against competition just shy of the major league level.

A lefty hitter, Lusignan has successfully gained a better knowledge for the zone as he’s flown through the Marlins’ minor league system. Looking at spray charts, Lusignan has mastered the art of opposite field hitting, relying on his ability to get extended and making the most out of his lefty’s advantage. He’s also always shown a good knack for going straight up the middle. Recently, Lusignan is also using his strength advantageously to go pull side on pitches on the inner half, showing a good ability to stay inside the ball, cutting down on his swing and miss totals. When he times pitches right, gets his feet down and barrels up on his classic uppercut swing, the ball flies.

If Lusignan can continue to show that kind of aptitude and bat control, he will close his only plate coverage gap, become a complete power first threat vs righties and make a huge improvement vs fellow lefties who love to take his eyes and arms away by jamming him inside. Though the K will probably always be part of the power hitter’s game, Lusignan has improved so much is such a short amount of time. One of if not the biggest rags to riches story in the entire organization, Lusignan, who saw time with the big league club in spring training, is a one more good showing in the upper levels away from a Major League call.

While that’s easier said than done and while he probably isn’t going to push Justin Bour for playing time anytime soon if ever, for a guy who has responded well to every challenge put to him, making it to the upper minors in just two short seasons, an unprecedented feat, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility for this offensive minded 25-year-old first baseman who has improved his balance and timing with each jump he’s made to acquire a roster spot and be used as a lefty power threat off the bench. Lusignan who came from modest beginnings in a small town in central Florida and never played above D2 before being drafted, deserves a hat tip for what he’s been able to accomplish so far and considering his level of focus and drive to succeed, likely isn’t done yet. Remember the name. You’ll could be seeing it in a Marlins lineup soon.

Projected Rotation

Nick Neidert
Jeff Brigham
Cody Poteet
Max Duval
Pablo Lopez

Jeff Brigham
2017 – A+ – 59 IP, 2.90 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 53/20 K/BB

Brigham is a 6’, 200 pound righty out of the University Of Wisconsin. In a three year career there, he posted a collective 3.71 ERA, a 1.24 WHIP and 1.65 K/BB over 174.2 IP. His standout season occurred in his junior year when he went 7-4 with a 2.90 ERA, 11th best in the PAC12 via a 1.13 WHIP and 1.96 K/BB. That year pushed Brigham up into the top five rounds on draft boards. Ultimately the Dodgers selected him in round 4. He signed for $396K.

After finishing out his draft year season cutting his teeth in pro ball with the short A Ogden Raptors (32.2 IP, 3.58 ERA, 1.47 WHIP), Brigham skipped single A and joined the A+ Rancho Cucamonga Quakes. After 17 games and 69 innings, the assignment proved to be too difficult for the 23-year-old’s developing to-contact arsenal and he was demoted to single A Great Lakes. He appeared in just two games there, tossing seven innings before the Marlins came calling at that year’s trade deadline.

On July 30, 2015, Brigham along with Victor Araujo and Kevin Guzman were traded to the Marlins for Mat Latos and Michael Morse. Upon his change of scenery, the Marlins gave Brigham a shot at redemption at the A+ level assigning him to the Jupiter Hammerheads. Brigham responded well, tossing 33.2 innings for Jupiter and recording three straight quality outings from August 16-28, a string of outings where he allowed just one total earned run.

In 2016, Brigham once again began the season in A+. After just two starts though, he landed on the DL with a back strain. Though he was able to return a week later, Brigham wasn’t back to pitching pain free until mid June. This fact shown true in his numbers: from April 22 through May 31, Brigham went 32.1 IP with a 6.73 ERA and 1.56 WHIP.

Though he was able to avoid making another trip to the DL, Brigham didn’t make another start until June 12. Over that two week span, he appeared in just one game throwing a single inning out of the bullpen. The time off was exactly the medicine Brigham needed. Over his last 15 appearances of the season, Brigham threw 82.2 innings and held down a 2.41 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. This included a fantastic month of July in which Brigham managed a 0.33 ERA and 0.90 WHIP in five outings and 27.2 IP as well as a 3.13 ERA and 1.09 WHIP string of starts from August 13-29.

Last season, Brigham began a third season with the Hammerheads. He was performing masterfully, tossing to the tune of a 2.68 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in his first 10 starts, six of which were quality starts and all of which lasted at least five innings and contained four earned runs or less. During a 5 IP, 6 H, 1 ER outing on June 30, Brigham struck out a career high nine. Rolling along and undoubtedly making sure to keep his phone charged and close, Brogham was derailed on July 25 when during a start, he suffered an oblique strain in his throwing arm. The injury would cost him the rest of the season. These unfortunately weren’t untested waters for Brigham. In 2012, he missed nearly his entire freshman year of college after undergoing Tommy John.

After resuming throwing mid-offseason, despite another injury to an already surgically repaired arm, Brigham showed up at camp this season and was a mirror image of the pitcher he was eight months ago, maintaining his 94-96 mph velo and his outpitch slider while continuing to rebuild his changeup. Despite the missed time, coaches saw enough to start Brigham off in AA this season.

From his rocker step delivery and high 3/4 slot, Brigham has consistently flashed a good moving two-seamer with good sinking life down in the zone and an even better hard and snappy 86-88 mph slider with lateral run to his glove side that can get downright nasty when he’s ahead in the count and hitting his release point. Alternatively, the immaturity of Brigham’s changeup is what has held him back as a prospect. Last season though, the pitch looked to take a huge leap forward as he gained a better feel for the grip and gained the ability to let the pitch float off the tips of his fingers, adding spin and depth. Mixing it in much more rather than just using it as a waste pitch, it complimented his inside-out fastball/slider combo perfectly. While he still doesn’t have the consistency to pitch off the changeup, he’s using it with much more confidence and shows the ability to hit spots all around the plate. If he shows more dependable control of the change this season and manages to stay healthy, the 26-year-old Brigham could become a Major League ready starter, something I commonly found within the Marlins very young organization this season.

Max Duval
2017 – A – 38.2 IP, 2.09 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 7.60 K/BB

Duval is a massively built righty that had quite the whirlwind start to his baseball career, playing all over the country and making the shift from an offensive first to defensive first player. After attending community college in San Luis Obispo, California, Duval played Division 1 ball at the University Of Hawaii. In 2012, the infielder hit .186/.255/.271. For Duval, the subpar season was disheartening considering how much work he would put in and how much of an infatuation he had with swinging the bat.

“I loved hitting. And when I say “loved”, I mean that in college, there was nobody that would spend more time in the batting cage than me,” Duval said. “It was therapeutic for me. But no matter how hard I worked, I struggled in games.”

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Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp 2017 Season Preview

The Fish get fishier in 2017 as the Jumbo Shrimp and Crustacean Nation are born in Jacksonville. There, Brian Anderson, Austin Dean, Dillon Peters and Jarlin Garcia will make up a young colony of shellfish hoping to become sailfish in the near future.

Leading the Shrimp into their inaugural campaign will be Randy Ready who gets the promotion from A+ Jupiter where last season he led the Hammerheads to a 68-69 record. After a very decent .259/.359/.387, 10.9 WAR 13-year playing career, Ready began his managing career as skip of the short season Oneonta Tigers where he led a 47-27 division title team and thus immediately became one of MiLB’s best managers. After earning the New York Penn League’s title of Manager of the Year, Ready began his full season ball managerial career, coaching the Padres’ single A affilliate the Fort Wayne Wizards for two seasons before making his AA debut in 2007. That season, for the inaugural year San Antonio Missions, Ready coached the likes of Chase Headley, Will Venable, Nick Hundley and Wade LeBlanc to a Texas League championship. Ready then briefly managed in AAA, coached hitting in the majors, got in the conversation for a MLB head coaching job and returned to AAA first as a hitting instructor then again as a manager before spending fourt years out of baseball. Last January, he was hired by the Marlins.

Ready’s resume speaks for itself: 34 years total experience in the game, persoanl knowledge playing at five different defensive positions, knowledge to hit as high as .309/.423/.520, two titles as manager, experience managing at each level of the minors and coaching in the majors and an overall fantastic positive attitude. With Randy at the helm, it’s safe to say the Shrimp will be Ready for success each time they take the field this season.

Lineup

Yefri Perez, CF
Austin Dean, LF
Brian Anderson, RF
David Vidal, 2B
Taylor Ard, 1B
John Norwood, RF
Austin Nola, C
Alex Yarbrough, SS

Following a 2016 campaign which saw him hitting .265/.348/.389 between A+ and AA, a season which allotted him the title Marlins’ Minor League Player of the Year, Brian Anderson opened some eyes. This offseason and spring training, he has made those eyes pop. First, Anderson took his talents to the Arizona Fall League where, against some of baseball’s best young talent, he was the runner up for the offseason league’s MVP award by hitting .273/.360/.506 and pacing it with six homers for the league champion Mesa Solar Sox. From there, upon a spring training invite, he joined the Marlins in Jupiter and proceeded to post a .349/.391/.605 slash line with six doubles, a homer, seven RBI and a hit in 12 of 23 games.

Because the Marlins want to take it easy with their best positional prospect who has only played 86 games above A ball, he will return to AA to start 2017 but should his offseason success that translated to spring training success follow him to Jacksonville, he should be a fast mover to New Orleans. As for his future as a big leaguer, he has great instincts and range at third base but his throwing arm is very inaccurate. Compounded by the fact that he is blocked there by Martin Prado for the next three years, he is a great candidate to begin his big league career on the right side of the infield. He has experience there in his minors career and shows the same great reads off the bat and footwork to his left as he does to his right. Should Justin Bour continue to struggle vs lefties, Anderson, who hit .350/.444/.517 against southpaws as a Sun last year, could get his major league debut serving in that capacity.

With a balanced overall offensive game and the knowledge to not do too much at the plate, smarts which he acquired this past season when he turned a 0.37 BB/K from 2015 into a 0.60 BB/K and gap to gap power from fantastic mechanics including the ability to stay back and transfer power vertically through his 6’3″ 185 pound frame most advantageously, Anderson has the potential to become an all-around three-five spot hitter. That potential on top of his above average glove work and lateral movement on defense make him not-so-arguably the most intriguing positional player in the Marlins’ system. After his recent accomplishments, Anderson has to know he has a ton of eyes on him, not just within this organization but around baseball and even on a national stage (LINK). Staying within himself and not buckling under that pressure will be his biggest challenge this year. Should Anderson just continue to be himself and favorable circumstances prevail, he will pull on a Marlins’ jersey this season.

Austin Dean is the Marlins’ fourth round pick from 2012, pulled straight from his high school in central Texas. Dean’s life in the professional ranks to this point an understandably rocky adjustment process and learning experience, one which wasn’t helped along at all by a 2014 season which saw him missing considerable time with three different injuries.

Following that disappointing season though, Dean stayed hard at work, putting in the necessary man hours in the Arizona Fall League to make up for lost time. He impressed while doing so, hitting .323/.364/.452 in 16 games, allowing him to crack high A to begin the 2015 regular season. For the 2015 Hammerheads, Dean slashed .268/.318/.366 with 52 RBI, second on the team and five homers, third on the team. The most impressive part of Dean’s game that year was how much he improved his plate discipline and cut down on strikeouts in the extremely pitcher friendly Florida State League. His 13.1 K% that year was a career best and a marked improvement over his 16% rate from 2014 and 20% rate from 2013. Hitting at or around the top of the order most of the season, Dean’s plus speed was put on full display as he stole 18 bags. However, he was also caught ten times proving his jumps and reads need a bit of work.

Dean’s solid comeback year allowed him to make the jump to AA last year. There, he hit mostly at the bottom part of the lineup. Though the tough jump and level and demotion in the order resulted in a more free swinging version of Dean proven by his career high 20.5% K rate, he was also able to do enough to at least foul pitches off and work deep counts, as proven by his 77% contact rate. Thus high high K% was evened out by a 9.0% walk rate, his best since his days in rookie ball. Dean also added some loft to his swing and managed to slug out a career high 11 homers, tops on the 2016 Suns and inside the top 15 in the Southern League. He did have a mediocre .238 BA but that can be blamed in part on a lowly .283 BABIP and he did only steal one bag but that is a product of him being sent only three times. All things considered, Dean had a solid building block type first season in AA ball.

This year, Dean returns to the AA ranks as many B and C type prospects do but he does so with the knowledge to hit anywhere in the lineup and with a good balance between patience, swinging to get on and swinging for the fences. This plus the familiarity he gained when it comes to hitting in the upper minors last year makes him a prime candidate to have a breakout 2017 campaign and show the world exactly what scouts see in him and what led them to rank as one of the organization’s top 15 prospects for three years running. An already 30-40 power bat with potential for more production in that department as he fully matures into what scouts see as a possible 15-20 homer threat, Dean also possesses above average speed and the ability to turn base hits into an XBHs as well as the potential for a ceiling of 15 steals yearly. On top of that, despite being pretty positionally limited, his outfield arm ranks as high as 50 on the 20/80 scale.

If Dean can bring his K rate back down to his career norms (around 13%) and maintain the ability to walk that he had last season as well as continue to grow into his fantastic raw power and get more chances to show what he can do on the bases by hitting higher in the lineup, Dean is a guy who could have a huge 2017 and find his way into a Marlins uniform as part of September call ups and into spring training to start 2018. At an intriguing point in his career, we will keep a close eye on the 23-year-old this season.

Pitching Rotation

1. Dillon Peters
2. Matt Tomshaw
3. Omar Bencomo
4. Mike Kickham

Still building on a 17-7 2.26 ERA, 2.43 K/BB, 1.14 WHIP three year college career in Division I baseball at Texas, Dillon Peters was setting himself up to have his name called early in the 2014 Draft. However, in May of that season Peters suffered an elbow injury, which caused him to miss the Longhorns’ regional and College World Series run. Ultimately, Peters underwent Tommy John surgery, which resulted in his draft stock to plundering. The Marlins drafted Peters, who still hadn’t resumed any sort of baseball activities, with their 10th round pick. Slated to make at least $504,000 just via his slot recommendation and not including a signing bonus a few months prior, Miami signed him for $141,800 plus a $175,000 signing bonus. Then, it appeared they were taking a big swing at a 21-year-old who just tore a ligament in his throwing elbow. Today, Peters is the fifth best prospect in their organization and they look like geniuses.

After spending the 2015 season rebuilding his arm strength, Peters earned that reputation last season tossing to the tune of a 2.46 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in his first 106 innings with the Hammerheads, totals which ranked fifth eighth in the Florida State League. Those numbers came by way of a minuscule walk total of 16 and 89 Ks, spelling out a 5.56 K/BB, best in the FSL. Before being rewarded with organizational All-Star honors as well as postseason All-Star accolades, Peters was rewarded with the call up to AA to end the year. Making the difficult jump in level, he didn’t appear to lose a step, holding down a 1.99 ERA by way of a 0.93 WHIP and 16/4 K/BB in his first four Jacksonville starts.

Even though he shed some poundage from his draft year, the still stout 5’9″, 195 Peters doesn’t do much pre-pitch to deceive hitters, throwing from a fairly basic and routine slidestep windup and 3/4 delivery. Alternatively, Peters’ success stems from his innate ability to pinpoint his locations with some of if not the best present command and control within the organization. He sets batters up with his 92-94 MPH fastball that shows good downward tilt, throws off their timing with a deceptive changeup which he throws from the same arm angle as the heat and which shows good late life down in the zone and punches them out with his best pitch curveball, a pitch that can get downright nasty bending in under 80 MPH, a 14-15 MPH drop off from his fastball, on either side of the black. For most of his career, Peters has been a to-contact lefty that has relied on groundball outs but with a slight uptick in velo in recent years and the invention of adding a cutter to his arsenal, a pitch that he gets in under the hands of opposing hitters inducing either whiffs or weak emergency hack foul balls by guys who can’t shorten up in time, the Ks have started to materialize. His ability to pound the zone and hit the catcher’s glove wherever it is set up keep his ABs and innings short, allowing him to work deep into games. In 2016, he worked into at least the 5th inning in all but three of his starts and got through five full in all but six of his 25 outings.

With the makeup of a Justin Nicolino type only with more velo, better mound presence and more confidence in all four of his pitches, Peters is the closest thing the Marlins have to a rotational ready prospect. That said, with similar continued success in AA this year and continued good health and after impressing Don Matitngly and the front office in spring training, he could get a shot later this year.

Jarlin Garcia, the Marlins’ fourth ranked prospect headed into 2017, will spend his season trying to make up for lost time last season. After posting an ERA under 3, a WHIP under 1.3 and a K/9 of at least 7 in his four of his first five seasons in the organization, Garcia began his first full year in AA, the level which he got a taste of to end the previous season and with more success there, looked primed to possibly make his Major League debut late that season. That possibility looked like it was going to become a reality when after a 3.82 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, .236 BAA start to his year in Jacksonville, Garcia got the call to aid the injury-hampered Marlins bullpen after Miami had been forced to move members of their pen such as David Phelps and Jose Urena into the rotation. However, despite the excitement of getting his first MLB call up and the prospect of taking his first MLB mound, Garcia never appeared in a game. Instead, he sat in the bullpen, on the bench. For eight days. During that time, he missed a scheduled throw day, taking no part in any official baseball activities.

On May 28, Garcia was returned to Jacksonville where management tried to ease him slowly back into action, limiting his first start back to just two innings. But the scrupulousness of David Berg and company proved to no avail. In his second start back with the Suns, Garcia left the game in the second inning. He would not return to the mound for nearly three months, the victim (with emphasis on the word victim) of left triceps tendinitis. He was able to return at the very end of the the year and participate in the Arizona Fall League, beginning the comeback process, one which he will continue this year and one that is sure to be gradual as the Marlins ease one of their best prospective arms back into form. Rather than putting 50-80 pitch strain on his arm once every four-five days, he will likely serve as one of the Shrimp’s primary relief options this season.

While there is still time for Garcia, who is still just 25, to make it back to the rotation, pitching out of the pen is probably a more realistic glimpse at his future as a big leaguer. Garcia has the ability to throw four pitches, a fastball, changeup, slider and curveball. The fastball is of the 92-95 MPH variety and he pumps it in with easy velo, from a downwhill plane stemming from his 6’3″ stature. It also flashes good late life and is easily Garcia’s best pitch. The heat sets up two quality offspeed pitches, a changeup and a slider. Garcia’s delivery which features a slow and deliberate windup only to see him power through his releae allows him to mask the arm speed on both pitches, the change dropping off nearly 10 MPH from the fastball and the slider usually sitting in the 80-82 MPH range with good sweeping action. He controls both pitches well, keeping them down in the zone from the same aforementioned downhill stride. However, the same downhill power delivery has led to his feel for and arm speed on the curveball being very inconsistent. He showed improvement by not overthrowing the pitch in 2015 only to struggle with it again before his injury last year. Though both his slider and changeup are quality major league ready pitches, the slider has been the offering that has generated more whiffs and is beginning to emerge as the best he has to offer to compliment his heat. Additionally, even though he threw in just 39.2 innings last year, his K rate hit a career low 6.13. With all of that, the questionability and uncertainty surrounding his health and his need to develop more command of the strike zone, Garcia’s future as a starter is very much in doubt. However, he could still make a very good career as a change-of-pace lefty who is affective against both sides out of the pen and spot starter.

Projected Stats

75-66
.262/.328/.370
82 HR/375 XBH
1,210 IP, 3.72 ERA, 1.30 WHIP

Jacksonville Suns 2016 (Rest Of) Season Preview

Jacksonville Suns (Rest Of) Season Preview

Up until this point, previews for teams have been my projections. With lineups released and the season a month old, this preview will be based upon factual evidence. Players I have already covered in previous previews who happened to make it to a higher level will be marked with a * and my writing on them may be a bit brief. For more info on those players, visit my previous team previews.

2015 Team Stats

57-81
.247/.320/.355
71 HR/304 XBH
1204.2 IP, 4.07 ERA, 1.362 WHIP

Lineup

CF Yefri Perez*
RF Jeremias Pineda
LF Austin Dean
1B Brady Shoemaker*
DH Moises Sierra
SS J.T. Riddle
3B Matt Juengel
C Francisco Arcia
2B Avery Romero*

Making it rain baseballs. Something that is frowned upon and disallowed at every bar and club in North America. That is until this year. Because that is exactly how the Jacksonville Suns will be hoping Austin Dean, Brady Shoemaker, Avery Romero and the rest of their 2016 squad will christen their brand new left field gazebo bar and will make into a tradition all season long.

Yefri PerezNo matter if you have the ridiculous raw speed needed to label you the fastest man the organization has ever seen and to steal an absurd 71 bases, most in your A+ league in over five years, if you only are able to muster a sub-300 OBP, you likely aren’t ready to crack the upper levels of the minors. Accordingly, I predicted to be the case for Yefri Perez after he slashed just .240/.286/.269 and struck out 95 times for the Hammerheads last season. Long story short on Yefri (pun intended), is that his swing was entirely too aggressive and long in 2015 and he used it far too often. With over half of his success reaching base coming off of bunts and slow-rolling grounders, Perez was far too aggressive early in the count and remained so when down two strikes, chasing pitches off the outer half and pulling the trigger on anything close. Still, stealing upwards of 70 bags and setting a franchise record despite only being on base 20% of the time in garnered Perez some worthy recognition as he was selected as an FSL All-Star and at seasons end, invited to attend Marlins’ spring training. It was evidently at the latter of those in which Perez proved he made the necessary adjustments needed to move to AA Jacksonville. Perez stuck around the big league team for nearly all of spring, reaping the benefits of his fellow players and coaches. Early on in the Suns’ season, it appears as though that experience is paying dividends for Yefri. Appearing to have put on a little bit of weight, Perez is using it to his advantage by executing a much better timed swing but not before he maintains the looseness in his hands much longer, taking away his previous tendency to commit early and get out in front. Because of this, would-be swings and misses, something Perez did far too frequently last year, are turning into at the very least foul balls, prolonging his ABs. Furthermore, he is also waiting longer to commit to bunts which is giving him an extra step towards first base upon a later infield reaction (not that he needs it) and what should equate to a higher success rate as it will allow him to square up the break of pitches more advantageously. While the sample size is indeed tiny and while Perez’s 2015 got off to a very similar start through his first week of play before he began showing his true colors, this new, improved, stronger, more patient, and more technically sound version of the 25-year-old has allowed him to show initial success at a higher level of competition that I did not think he was even remotely ready for. While it remains to be seen if Perez can keep this up over the course of a full year or even longer than a seven day span, the early product of Perez’s game with the Suns is indeed encouraging and it has all come while he has maintained his blazing speed as he as already stolen 5 bases in 5 attempts. Perez’s speed also serves him well in the field, giving him the ability to play virtually anywhere. His ability to cover all the ground needed for any position makes him playable at all three outfield spots and both middle infield spots. He makes good reads off the bat and runs good routes to the ball. On the infield, he exhibits good footwork, quick soft hands and great gap coverage. Because his outfield throwing arm is average at best (just 28 outfield assists in nearly 3,000 innings), he lines up more advantageously as a second baseman but, either way, he isn’t a hard guy to get in to games. Although he is 25 and first getting a taste of AA, if his early season plate presence and improved swing continue to show themselves, Yefri will become a fantastic spark plug bat off the bench and late inning defensive replacement. He has the makeup to be the type of utility player every team seeks.

Even on the occasion that pitchers manage to get around Perez this year, there will be little time to breathe in the way of harnessing speed as they will be forced to stare down Jeremias Pineda. Signed near the very end of the offseason, Pineda is a 25-year-old formerly of the Twins organization who spent last season playing in the Mexican leagues. Despite baseball south of the border being known as being very hitter friendly, Pineda still posted an impressive catalyst type slash line in 2015, going .285/.362/.339. It is the hope that Pineda’s success in Mexico translates back to the majors and his Marlins’ career. For that to happen, Pineda will need to improve upon a raw offensive approach, something he hasn’t been able to do in five years, which already ended his American majors career once, and despite the good numbers on the surface of his Mexican league season last year, still caused him to strike out a ridiculous 168 times to 71 walks in a league not known at all for pitching prowess. So much about Pineda reminds me of Yefri. He’s 25, he’s a switch hitter, he’s extremely fast (though not quite as fast as Perez), most of his offensive success comes from beating out infield hits and he is entirely too aggressive at the plate, especially when behind in the count. Hope is that these players, who will be hitting behind one another, can feed off each other and help each other succeed and turn them in to the extremely valuable utility players they have the capability of being. Pineda may be a step slower that Perez speed-wise but his outfield throwing arm is that step then a few more ahead of Yefri’s. For that reason, many of his starts should come in the outfield this season though, again like Perez, his versatility will allow the Suns get him into the lineup in many if not all games.

Austin DeanAs he proved in the Arizona Fall League after a very good year considering it was in the pitcher’s haven of Jupiter last full season, the Marlins may really have something in Austin Dean. Following a .268/.318/.366 year with the Hammerheads which led his team and placed 18th in the Florida State League and earned him a FSL All Star Game invite as well as an invite to the Arizona Fall League where he hit .323/.364/.452 and made his second All-Star game of the year, Dean comes to the Suns riding high. What he has to thank for his success is a balanced approach, including the ability to wait pitches out until they are finished breaking and a short quick line drive stroke, backed by a solid lower half. His solid and still improving plate vision makes him a pesky out to get. He gets in the mind of pitchers, frustrating them by trying not to do too much with pitches out of his reach but rather just foul them off, forcing pitchers to make mistakes. Dean’s swing isn’t one that’s going to warrant him a ton of long balls but rather a prototypical short line drive stroke (as proven by a career 18.66 LD% coming into this year) that has the ability to reach all fields. As proven by a 77/148 BB/K over the course of his first two full seasons in the minors, Dean also isn’t afraid to take a walk if he doesn’t get what he likes. His patience, swing and plus speed which includes a good first step out of the box and warranted him 18 steals last year make him a fantastic future leadoff or two slot candidate. Dean will be and, by way of a .306/.416/.472 through his first 20 games in AA which includes an OBP that is currently fifth in the Southern League and a SLG and BA which rank 15th making him one of if not the best all-around bat thus far, already has been a fun project to watch fill out.

Brady ShoemakerIn Brady Shoemaker, we have a guy who must have done something drastic to someone within the organization to warrant the treatment he has received in his Marlins career because as of late, the organization has done everything possible to hold him back. It all started innocently enough for Shoemaker with a bout of bad luck. After being claimed off waivers by the Marlins in 2013 after he spent that entire season out of baseball, Shoemaker returned to the minors with a vengeance in 2014, hitting .274/.374/.433 in AA Jacksonville. That year, he either led or was a close second in nearly every major offensive category amongst full time Suns including HR (12), OBP (.374), OPS (.808), walks (67), BB/K (.74) and RBI (71). Amongst qualifiers who appeared in at least 100 Southern League games, Shoemaker’s .374 OBP ranked 10th and his .808 OPS ranked 12th. His accomplishments warranted him a well-deserved call-up to AAA in 2015. At the highest level he’s ever played at, a 27-year-old Shoemaker quickly became one of the Zephyrs top players. Heading into a game on May 24th, Shoemaker was hitting a robust .310/.393/.509 and looked to be the next man in line for a call-up and probably would have been when Giancarlo Stanton hit the season ending DL with a hand injury on June 27th, leaving the Marlins scrambling for outfielders. Moreoever, Shoemaker, who also plays first, would have been the best choice considering first baseman Justin Bour’s struggles against lefties beginning to come to fruition and the fact that Shoemaker’s mashing versus them which amounted to the tune of a .302/.402/.573 that year was also beginning to rear it’s beautiful head. However, May 24th is when Shoemaker’s run of rough luck began. In the Zephyrs’ game that night against El Paso, Shoemaker broke a pinkie finger, putting him on the shelf for the rest of May, the entire month of June and the beginning of July, causing him to miss his window and an opportunity to make his major league debut. Being the consummate professional that he is and being no stranger to missing time only to come back even better, Shoemaker returned on July 7th and although his second half was, quite understandably after breaking a finger in his dominant hand, wasn’t as good as his first half as he struggled to find gaps as regularly as he did before the injury, Shoemaker remained one of the Zephyrs’ key contributors. By season’s end, he was arguably their full-season MVP, ending 2015 with a .284/.359/.417 line. His .776 OPS ranked third on the team as did his .417 SLG, once again not just making him a candidate but rather the prime candidate to become Justin Bour’s platoon partner at first base in 2016 after Bour ended the year with a .221/.293/.279 against southpaws. Even after the signing of career reclamation project Chris Johnson to a major league contract, Shoemaker at the very least still seemed lined up to make the roster as the fifth outfielder, especially after he began his spring by hitting (), one of the best bats in camp. However, that didn’t stop the Marlins from inexplicably making Shoemaker part of the first round of spring cuts. He watched as Cole Gillespie earned the nod as the fifth outfielder and planned to make the trip back to New Orleans. But the hits didn’t stop coming there. At the end of spring training, Shoemaker wasn’t assigned to New Orleans. He was, once again for reasons lost on everyone who has followed his career of late, assigned all the way down to AA Jacksonville. It would seem as though frustration has understandably so finally gotten the best of the now 28-year-old who could be playing in the majors and definitely should be playing above AA as his season with the Suns has gotten off to just a .212 start. While there is no doubt that the power hitting, balanced approach hitter that Shoemaker is and as his OBP (.356) and SLG (.353) are already proving, he will (continue to) improve upon that line as the season progresses but whether he makes the majors with the Marlins or not seems to be very much up in the air. Simply put, the guy can’t catch a break and the organization doesn’t seem to be willing to help him along.

In addition to a best-selling jersey waiting to happen, the Marlins have potential five-tool talent in J.T. Riddle, who will man the infield for the Suns this year. After hitting .286/.322/.405 and receiving All-Star honors in Jupiter last year, Riddle, a 13th round draft pick, comes to the Suns as a .274/.316/.373 lifetime MiLB hitter. Swinging with a light balanced load, the 6’1″ 180 pounder is a mostly singles bat but he packs a bit of hidden power and will surprise with his ability to hit gaps. Add to the fact that he still has time to add power by way of growing physically and it’s easy to see why Riddle was named the Marlins’ top hitting prospect in 2015 and remains a top 10 organizational prospect this year. Despite owning a short stroke, Riddle is a bit too aggressive at the plate, making him susceptible to the K and the reason why he hasn’t posted an OBP over the .325 mark at any level and something the Marlins would like to see temper as he makes his way through the upper minors. Riddle made quite the impression with the Suns in the second half of 2015 when he hit .289/.323/.422 for them and has continued to set fire to Southern League pitching on fire in his first 23 games in Jacksonville this year, hitting .279/.330/.395 with 7 XBH and 18 RBI. Though he is a natural second baseman, the Marlins have been giving Riddle playing time at other infield spots in hopes that he can become a quality utility player and lefty off the bench, ala Derek Dietrich and, although his speed is average, he has the arm strength and the quickness needed to cover all the ground and do so. However, if he continues to show improved pop as he grows into his body along with the raw talent that he owns behind his approach and maintains similar success against righties and lefties, Riddle has the opportunity to turn into an every day starter. He is a piece very much worth watching as he progresses this season.

Avery Romero mans the other up-the-middle spot for the Suns this season despite an average at best year in Jupiter last year in which he hit just .259/.315/.314, all career lows for the 22-year-old. While some of that dumbing down of his slash line can be blamed on the pitcher’s paradise that is Roger Dean Stadium, especially considering he came in to 2015 having never failed to hit at least .276/.341/.391 over the course of a full season and was coming off of a .320/.367/.423 year in between Greensboro and his first 26 games as a Hammerhead, Romero did exhibit some worrisome setbacks last year, including a career worst 71/38 K/BB and a 1.29 GO/AO, his worst since his days in rookie ball. Despite exhibiting a good short line drive swing that generates a lot of contact and puts his 1/100 rating in that category at 81 and his career line drive percentage at 21%, Romero has always been more of a free swinger rather than a count worker and has been known to press when frustrated. The Marlins are hoping that immaturity is the reason for his struggles last yar and that with a change of scenery to the much more neutral Southern League as well as a year’s worth more of experience under his belt, those tensions will ease. Defensively, Romero made the switch from shortstop to second base after high school. Thanks to Romero’s athletic frame as well as his quick hands and swift footwork following him from the plate into the field, he has made the move rather well overall, attributing to a 4.49 career range factor at the number 4 position. Last year, he contributed to a career high 79 double plays. However, Romero also proved he still has some growing to do, arm accuracy and decision wise as he rushed a lot of erratic throws at 2B and also committed a career high 20 errors but that is a flaw that should work itself out with more innings and more age. Whether Romero makes his ETA next season or not will depend upon his ability to improve upon his plate presence and patience and this season is his make it or break it moment. So far in 2016, it hasn’t happened as Romero is hitting just .170/.286/.283 but there is still plenty of baseball left to play. We will be monitoring him closely throughout the course of the year.

Pitching Rotation

1. Austin Brice
2. Jake Esch
3. Jarlin Garcia
4. Tim Berry

Austin BriceAustin Brice is a huge 6’4″ 240 pound 9th round draft pick from 2010 who is impressive at times and has made strides improving his arsenal in recent years but who just can’t seem to put it all together. The physical specimen is an intimidating force for opposing hitters to stare down on the mound and he ramps up the kind of velo to match, occasionally throwing his pitch-off primary fastball in the mid-90s but usually sitting in the 90-92 MPH range. His best secondary pitch is a slider which he just recently got a feel for in the last two seasons. Sitting in the 82-86 MPH range, Brice will throw the pitch in any count and has the ability to hit corners with it when it is on. His curve has similar velo and when he is throwing it well, has good 11-4 break with some late bite. Notice, however, that in describing all of those pitches, “when it is on” is mentioned. That is Brice’s biggest crux and the reason why he owns an unimpressive 4.26 ERA over 560 minor league innings. The trend with Brice’s game is that there is no trend at all. From start to start or even inning to inning, he can either be the hero on the goat. When he is off, like many pitchers of his size the problem lies in his ability to repeat his delivery and most importantly maintain his release point, suggesting he is likely destined for a mid-late relief role rather than a rotation job. With two plus pitches already and two more, the aforementioned curve and a mid-80s changeup and still improving, the fact that he is good at subduing power, and held righty hitters to a .171 BA last year, he could make quite the living in that role at the major league level. All of that said, Brice has begun 2016 as consistent as he ever has been, not allowing more than 3 runs in any of his first five starts with half of them being of the quality variety. He also owns a 23/6 K/BB and he is pounding the zone with 246 of his 367 pitches (72%) of his pitches going for strikes. While it may be a last gasp effort (pun intended) for the gargantuan but somewhat unathletic Brice to save his future as a rotation starter, his start is encouraging.

Jake EschJake Esch is the Marlins’ current number nine prospect and an 11th round draft pick from 2011. He stands at an athletic 6’3″, 205 and owns a four pitch arsenal consisting of a 93-96 fastball which he can spot corner to corner. He can also pitch off of the other end of his velo range, a mid 80s slider that has 10-3 movement with late bite. His ability to lead hitters off with both ends of the spectrum allows him to keep hitters off balance despite what they may see from the on-deck circle. He mixes in a still improving mid-80s change which also flashes above average and which plays off his fastball well, especially against opposing righties which he last year with the Suns held to just a .200 BAA. The Esch curveball is the least progressed of his pitches but although the spin needs to be improved, it has good 11-5 shape and can make hitters look silly when he places it correctly. After getting off to a great start in AA last year in which he held down a 3.48 ERA through 85 innings with a 68/33 K/BB, Esch received the call to AAA. However, being just 400 innings into his career as a pitcher (he came up through high school and college primarily as an infielder which allows him to field his position extremely well), he understandably proved he needs more seasoning in AA. While he is a bit old to begin a repeat season at the sub-AAA level, Esch has made great strides in a short amount of time. Should he continue to build upon a second great start that he has gotten off to in Jacksonville this year (2.93 ERA, 21/8 K/BB, 1.05 WHIP through is first 27.2 IP), he should get a better timed call to AAA and, with similar success there, could make an impact with the Marlins as early as next season.

Jarlin Garcia is a bit of an oddity in the way that he owns a 6’3″ 220 pound power pitcher’s frame but will rarely reach the mid-90s. That said, by not overthrowing and relying more on good control over all four of his pitches, Garcia has become the Marlins’ third ranked prospect. His arsenal consists of a fastball that can touch 95 on the rare occasion that he ramps it up that high but usually lives in the 90-91 MPH range. Garcia has great feel for the pitch can paint corners with it, letting it run either in or out and consistently keeping it down in the zone making it a pitch he will throw in any count. He pitches off of the heat with a changeup that he developed better feel for last year and dips down to 82 MPH. Garcia’s bulldog approach gives him the fearlessness needed to come right after hitters with the pitch and, with good late fade, generates plenty of swings and misses. The Garcia slider is of the 78-81 MPH variety and, while it is the least developed of all of his pitches, it flashes plus when Garcia is on, showing 10-4 movement and the ability to saw hitters off by putting it in on their hands due to late sweep. While Garcia can look dominant when he is throwing well, he isn’t without fault. First, mechanics-wise he doesn’t engage his huge lower half, nearly enough but rather relies more on raw arm strength on his way to the plate. The windup starts out slow with Garcia dropping his arm all the way down behind his plant leg before he comes toward the plate with a long stride, his arm trailing behind him. Even though Garcia rarely throws the ball as hard as he can, the delivery is not repeatable whatsoever if he hopes to use it 100 times per game and stay healthy. Furthermore, by releasing the ball from the point he does, Garcia doesn’t advantageously shorten the distance to the plate for a guy his size. Long story short, Garcia not only just doesn’t do nearly enough with his god-given physical characteristics to be considered much more than a 4-5 starter, concerns about him remaining healthy in his current state may regulate him to a bullpen role. Psychologically, Garcia is also a bit green as nearly every big time scout has been critical of his command, citing the fact that he tends to overthrow in high leverage situations which translated to an awful start to his AA career last season. Going in Garcia’s favor here is the fact that he is still just 23 with room to grow and not become so easily rattled. Much more concerning are the aforementioned mechanical problems. If Garcia hopes to have a future as a starter, they need to beging being ironed out now but after doing something the same way for six years, bad habits can be hard to break. Hopefully his stone isn’t already cast. We will follow him carefully this year.

Projected Team Stats

72-68
.264/.332/.360
77 HR/347 XBH
1201 IP, 4.02 ERA, 1.27 WHIP

Austin Dean Looks To Build Off Two 2015 All-Star Selections

Austin Dean

For fans, it’s the only form of professional baseball to tie them over through the grueling offseason. For players, it’s a chance for them to showcase their talents to their respective clubs and get a jump-start on the upcoming campaign. In the valley of the sun, Marlins’ outfield prospect Austin Dean shone bright, becoming one of the Arizona Fall League’s best players and earning All-Star honors for the second time in the matter of only a few months.

After leading the Hammerheads and placing 18th in the entire league in BA (.268) and placing third on his squad in slugging (.366) in his second professional full season in 2015 in the extremely pitcher friendly Florida State League, Dean took his talents to Mesa. There, in the much more neutral Arizona Fall League, the 22-year-old showed off his potential by becoming the league’s ninth-best for average hitter by way of a .323 BA. By rounding out his slash line with a .364 OBP and .452 SLG, he kept pace with the likes of Giants’ top prospect Christian Arroyo (MLB.com’s #82 prospect) and outperformed guys like Indians’ stud Clint Frazier (MLB.com’s #27 prospect) all while hitting against guys like Cardinals’ top arm Alex Reyes (MLB.com’s #13 prospect) and Brewers lefty Josh Hader, MLB’s #61 prospect who is on the verge of cracking the majors. Dean had a hit in 12 of his 16 games, including six multi-hit efforts.

One of the most impressive moments of the entire AFL season came when Dean participated in the league’s hitting challenge during the league’s opening week. In the event, a player from each organization swings for homers as well as for targets placed around the field which can earn them points. Prior to that, each player attempts four bunts trying to place the ball inside of a target on the infield. Before showing off his line drive power by hitting several balls to the wall, Dean was the only player in the competition to place a bunt inside one of the circular target areas, proving he is honing a vast variety of hitting tools. Dean made it to a tiebreaker playoff final in the competition by tying Dodgers prospect Jacob Scavuzzo.

Austin DeanAt season’s end, Dean’s accomplishments won him an invite to the league’s All-Star game (appropriately called the Fall Stars Game). Once again, much like he did the entire AFL season, he didn’t disappoint. He provided the most exciting play of the night when he hit a ball down the line in right, perfectly placed past a diving outfielder. He then rounded the bases in a flash and scored an inside-the-park home run standing up, which provided two of the East’s three runs. And that is exactly the type of hitter Dean is: not a guy who is going to hit a lot of balls over the fence but rather a tactically sound bat with great vision who frustrates pitchers by waiting them out and forcing them to come in to the zone. He keeps his head down all the way through his swing and, as is evidenced by his hit chart from last season with the Hammerheads, hit the ball to all fields. After his prototypical line drive swing which has attributed to a career 18.66 line drive percentage, Dean has a good first step out of the box and plus speed that garnered him a 6.74 60 yard dash time coming out of high school and 18 stolen bases last season.

Asked about what he thinks of his former teammate at the plate, Tyler Bremer who spent most of last year playing with Dean, echoed these sentiments and further explained why Dean is already such a tough out to get.

“His approach is what makes him tough to pitch to,” Bremer says. “He drives the ball to right field very well but has quick enough hands to get to the inside pitch as well. He also has enough pop to really hurt if a pitcher makes a mistake. I think if he keeps making improvements to his game like he has been the past off seasons I think he has the chance to be an every day outfielder in the big leagues.”

The improvements Bremer speaks of come in part by the way in which Dean has tempered his strikeout total with each passing year. Since 2013, he has seen his K% fall from 20% to 13%. In addition to his fine plate work with the Hammerheads, Dean also navigated the cavernous outfield of Roger Dean Stadium very well, compiling a 1.82 range factor and 15 outfield assists between two positions, rounding out his game nicely.

So what does all of this mean? Of course Dean’s exports in Arizona this year, great as they were, need to be taken for what they were: a small sample size worth of two months’ ABs. However, when included in total with what Dean has been able to accomplish thus far in his young career, his winter in Mesa further highlighted his full-season accomplishments in Jupiter and undoubtedly earned him at least a very good chance at being promoted to AA Jacksonville this season, even if he begins his season with the Hammerheads. Dean is nurturing and building a skill set that is becoming of an every day starting outfielder.  He has already been a fun product to watch and will continue to be this coming year.