MIAMI -- A message the Marlins gave to their Minor Leaguers early in Spring Training was, if players performed, they would be rewarded. A prime example is outfielder Austin Dean, who put up big numbers at Double-A and Triple-A, and now is getting substantial time in left field with Miami.Dean
MIAMI -- A message the Marlins gave to their Minor Leaguers early in Spring Training was, if players performed, they would be rewarded. A prime example is outfielder Austin Dean, who put up big numbers at Double-A and Triple-A, and now is getting substantial time in left field with Miami.
Dean was recognized by the organization on Friday night and received his award as the Marlins' Minor League Player of the Year. Along with Dean, right-hander Nick Neidert was named the Pitcher of the Year Award winner, while Walner Espinal was awarded the Student of the Year and Bruce Walton awarded the Staff Member of the Year.
"We're very proud of Austin Dean, and the progress that he made," Marlins vice president of player development and scouting Gary Denbo said. "He started out hot, and is finishing hot. He has done a tremendous job offensively. He's improved on his defense. We want well-rounded players and he's improved in every area of his game. We're very proud of his game. But it's not just him."
Dean, ranked by MLB Pipeline as Miami's No. 27 prospect, combined to hit .345 with 12 home runs and 68 RBIs at Double-A and Triple-A New Orleans.
Neidert, the organization's No. 3 prospect, was 12-7 with a 3.24 ERA at Double-A Jacksonville. Neidert was acquired from the Mariners in the Dee Gordon trade, and he played at Double-A at age 21.
Denbo noted the organization didn't hesitate in promoting young players to higher levels.
"That's a goal of ours," Denbo said. "It's to get our players at a younger age competing against tougher competition. Even sometimes when they struggle, we think it's the right thing to do, to put them in a position to learn, to make adjustments. We feel a lot of our guys did that."
A player who didn't move all season was outfielder Monte Harrison, Miami's top prospect, who spent the season at Jacksonville.
Harrison had a slash line of .240/.316/.399 with 19 home runs and 48 RBIs. The concern was strikeouts, as he fanned 215 times, and he had a strikeout percentage of 36.9 percent on the season.
"Monte Harrison, a tremendous athlete in Double-A this year," Denbo said. "We didn't move him because he was striking out way too often. But what he did over the course of the season was go from a very high strikeout total, an almost unacceptable strikeout total, to down near 25-26 percent over the last six weeks of the season."
If Harrison can make consistent contact, he has the ability to be impactful. According to Marlins advanced data, 20 percent of the balls he put in play were at 105 mph or higher. That was the seventh-highest rate of more than 400 hitters in Double-A.
Also on Friday, the Marlins invited their entire instructional league team to Marlins Park. Among the 40 players on the team, first-round pick Connor Scott, second-rounder Osiris Johnson and Competitive Balance Round B pick Will Banfield were on hand.
The Marlins are changing one of their Minor League affiliations in 2019. It was announced Friday that the new Class A affiliate will be the Clinton (Iowa) LumberKings in the Midwest League. Miami is leaving Class A Greensboro in the South Atlantic League.
"We're moving into the Midwest League," Denbo said. "I had an opportunity to play and coach in the Midwest League in my career. It's a good league. It's a good developmental league. We feel like it's on par with the other lower-level A leagues. We feel like it's an opportunity to put some of our younger players there."
Scott, Banfield and Johnson are projected to open next year at Clinton.
The Marlins also have hired Marti Wolever, longtime scouting director with the Phillies, who will be working on the amateur side.
Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.