Neither Braxton Lee nor Peter Mooney would have guessed a year ago that they'd be finishing the 2017 season representing the Miami Marlins in the Arizona Fall League.At that time, Lee, a 12th-round pick of the Rays in 2014, was coming off of an underwhelming Double-A campaign during which he
Neither Braxton Lee nor Peter Mooney would have guessed a year ago that they'd be finishing the 2017 season representing the Miami Marlins in the Arizona Fall League.
At that time, Lee, a 12th-round pick of the Rays in 2014, was coming off of an underwhelming Double-A campaign during which he batted .209/.269/.256 over 110 games with Montgomery. He fared considerably better this season back in Southern League, showing improved hitting ability and on-base skills to go along with his plus speed and plus-plus defense in center.
That progress caught the attention of the Marlins, who acquired Lee and right-hander Ethan Clarke from the Rays for Adeiny Hechavarria in late June.
"I never even thought about anything like this," Lee said, reflecting on his season-to-date. "So whenever [the Marlins] asked me it was like, 'Hey, nice to meet you. You're going to go to the Fall League.' So I get traded and now get to come to the Fall League -- I couldn't ask for anything else."
Lee, 24, set career highs in most offensive categories in his second Double-A season, batting .309/.395/.384 with 27 extra-base hits and 20 stolen bases in 127 games between Montgomery and Jacksonville.
"Repeating the level helped me learn how pitchers pitch and how the game is played at a higher level," said Lee, who's opened his Fall League campaign by hitting safely in back-to-back games for Salt River. "But mainly it was coming in with a good attitude, just saying every day I'm not going to get mad no matter what happens, that it's over with and just go on to the next pitch or the next at-bat."
Mooney, at age 27, is the oldest position player and the fourth-oldest player in this year's Fall League. Originally selected by Toronto in the 21st round of the 2011 Draft, the South Carolina product was plagued by injuries early in his career before ultimately being released after the 2014 season.
Fully healthy but unsigned heading into 2015, Mooney resuscitated his career in the Indy ball ranks with a strong showing for the New Jersey Jackals in the Canadian-American Association. He signed with the Marlins that December, reached Triple-A for the first time in his career the next season and then spent all of 2017 back in the Pacific Coast League (after signing another Minor League deal) as New Orleans' everyday shortstop.
As a left-handed hitting shortstop who has the necessary defensive chops to possibly profile as a utility infielder in the Major Leagues, Mooney understands the significance of his selection to participate in this year's Fall League.
"I saw it as another opportunity. Yes, I'm older than the average age here, but I was in a weird situation," Mooney said.
"I'm past that now; I'm healthy, and being that I'm in this position now where [the Marlins] think highly of me, I'm just ready to show my worth here."
Marlins hitters in the Fall League
Rodrigo Vigil, C -- Vigil saw time at shortstop as well as second and third base during his first three seasons before converting to catcher in 2013. The Marlins have since eased him into the role, and he missed a chunk of '15 with a fractured right hand. The 24-year-old backstop reached Double-A for the first time in June and proceeded to slash .306/.352/.341 in 26 games. Defensively, he threw out 30 percent of attempted basestealers in 2017.
Marlins pitchers in the Fall League
Miguel Del Pozo, LHP -- Tommy John surgery cost Del Pozo part of 2015 and all of '16, but the 25-year-old left-hander returned this season to post a 0.70 ERA with 27 strikeouts and 10 walks in 25 2/3 innings across four levels while reaching Double-A for the first time in his seven-year career. Del Pozo operates at 92-95 mph with his fastball and mixes in both a curveball and a slider.
Ben Meyer, RHP -- Meyer, 24, was a bullpen force for Class A Greensboro before moving up to the Class A Florida State League and posting a 1.98 ERA in 82 innings while splitting time between the 'pen and starting rotation. A 6-foot-5 right-hander who relies mostly on a low-90s fastball and a good slider in the upper 70s, he finished the season with 134 strikeouts and 23 walks in 111 1/3 innings (32 games/12 starts).
James Needy, RHP -- A sixth-round pick by the Padres in 2009, Needy signed with Miami as a Minor League free agent in June, only to land on the disabled list the following month with a sprained right finger. The 26-year-old right-hander pitched well when healthy, posting a 2.33 ERA with 43 strikeouts and a .202 batting average against in 46 1/3 innings (nine starts) between Class A Advanced Jupiter and Jacksonville.
Scott Squier, LHP -- Squier continued his slow-but-steady climb through Miami's system in 2017, his first season as a full-time starter. Making 26 starts (28 appearances) in the Florida State League, the 6-foot-5 southpaw compiled a 3.82 ERA with 102 strikeouts and 26 walks over a career-high 132 innings. Armed with a four-pitch mix that includes a low-90s fastball and two effective breaking balls, Squier held same-sided hitters to a .252/.286/.338 line in 147 plate appearances.
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero.