Dean stars in AFL tilt with inside-the-park HR
Marlins' No. 6 prospect takes one of year's quickest trips around the bases in Fall Stars Game
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It wasn't much of an opening, but enough for Austin Dean to run through it ... and keep running.
The door swung just a bit ajar in the second inning of a scoreless AFL Fall Stars Game as West right fielder Derek Fisher sized up the fading liner by Dean and decided it was within diving reach. When the ball bounced in front of and past him into the corner, Dean turned on the jets.
"When he laid out, I was just thinking two," Dean said. "Then the ball kept going, so I just went three and I was looking over at my coach, and he kept waving me on, so I was trying just as hard as I could just to get home and get an inside-the-parker."
Dean toured the bases for a two-run inside-the-park homer -- scoring behind Rowdy Tellez, who had doubled -- for an early lead in the East's eventual 8-3 loss.
Dean, the Marlins' No. 6 prospect, toured the bases at a pace even potential future teammate Dee Gordon could appreciate. Statcast™ clocked the 360-foot sprint at 15.30 seconds -- only nine tours around the bases during the 2015 Major League season were faster, a list topped by Gordon's 14.24.
Dean showed off his baserunning style more than sheer speed. He maxed out at 18 mph, not exceptional, but he cut down on the distance to travel with sharp turns around the bases.
"I felt like I was flying over there, so it's kind of all still a blur right now," Dean said. "I never know how fast I'm running, I'm just trying to get on base and get in scoring position."
All that, and it almost wasn't enough. Fisher retrieved the ball and pegged it to second baseman Ramon Torres on the cutoff fast enough for Torres' relay to beat Dean to catcher Gary Sanchez.
However, the ball trickled away from Sanchez in the dust of Dean's slide.
"It was just a bang-bang play. I think I might have kicked it out of his glove," Dean said.
Dean is not a classic speed merchant, with a total of 24 steals in 42 attempts in four Minor League seasons since being Miami's fourth-round choice in the 2012 Draft. However, 18 of those steals came last season with Class A Advanced Jupiter.
"I got the green light this year," Dean said, "and the first-base coach helped me out a lot just getting good jumps and reading the pitcher and just seeing what they're doing, and just kind of tipping pitches and stuff like that, so I think that really helped, just kind of being on the basepaths and just kind of being a better baserunner."
Dean is one of the few privileged with AFL participation without any experience above the Class A level.
"I was just happy to get to play more baseball," Dean said of getting the AFL bid. "It was a big goal of mine to make it here, and I'm glad my hard work played off so I could show people, and the Marlins, what my game is like."