MIAMI -- At the beginning of Spring Training, Marlins chief executive officer Derek Jeter delivered a message to the players at every level of the organization. It was direct and to the point -- performance would be rewarded.
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Outfielder Austin Dean and right-hander Nick Neidert took it to heart, and subsequently were rewarded by MLB Pipeline as the Marlin's Minor League Hitting and Pitching Prospects of the Year.
"Derek talked about it in the spring, 'If you perform, you're going to have a chance to get here,'" Marlins manager Don Mattingly said.
Each team's Hitting and Pitching Prospects of the Year were chosen by the MLB Pipeline staff. To receive consideration, players must have spent at least half the year in the Minors and appeared on the team's Top 30 Prospects list.
Dean, who turns 25 on Oct. 14, played in 649 Minor League games before making it to the Major Leagues in mid-August. Ranked by MLB Pipeline as Miami's No. 27 prospect, he caught the attention of the club by dominating at Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans, combining to hit .345/.410/.511 with 12 home runs and 68 RBIs.
Neidert, 21, is the organization's No. 3 prospect, and the right-hander impressed all season at Jacksonville, evident by his 12-7 record with a 3.24 ERA and 154 strikeouts in 152 2/3 innings.
Acquired from the Mariners as part of the Dee Gordon trade, Neidert projects to open next year at Triple-A. He will be added to the 40-man roster this offseason and could be in the big leagues as early as next year.
"They're just going to stick by my side, no matter what happens," Neidert said. "This whole thing is about a process of just getting better each and every day, even if the results don't show. If you fail or have success, it's a long season, a long process, and they're just there along each step of the way encouraging us."
From Spring, Texas, the home of former Marlins' World Series hero, Josh Beckett, Dean has shown that perseverance can be rewarded.
A fourth-round pick in 2012, the right-handed hitting outfielder has battled to get to the big leagues, where he hit .221/.279/.363 with four home runs and 14 RBIs in 34 big league games.
"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 he's finishing hot. He's done a tremendous job offensively. He's improved defensively. We want well-rounded players, and he's improved in every area of his game. So we're very proud of him."
Dean will go into Spring Training with a shot at earning either a starting corner outfield spot, or a bench role.
"I think the organization itself is doing a good job of promoting the young guys who are doing well that deserve to show that they can play competitive baseball," Dean said.
Neidert is being groomed more carefully, even though he made a case for a promotion to Triple-A this year.
But because of his age, the organization saw no reason to rush the process. Neidert also understands the challenge gets tougher at each step.
Neidert will spend the offseason at his home in Georgia, and he will get ready to come back in 2019 with the hope of reaching the big leagues at some point.
"Just be a better pitcher than I was this year," Neidert said. "I know I have stuff I need to work on. Stuff I need to do to keep taking steps in the right direction."