After a nine-year agreement with the Jamestown Jammers that ended last year, the Batavia Muckdogs became the low Class A affiliate for the Miami Marlins. They performed moderately well in their first season associating with the Marlins, finishing in third place with a 39-36 record.
As a member of the short-season New York-Penn League, the club's roster is mostly occupied by recently graduated college players and high school graduates in their second year of professional baseball. The Marlins saw mixed production from this year's draftees, with many of the hitters drafted in the lower rounds struggling.
The strongest hitter for the Muckdogs this season was Carlos Lopez, whom the Marlins drafted in the 10th round this year. He bat .318/.385/.417. Without context, this looks like a more than respectable performance. The truth is that Lopez showed almost no power, and he's 24 years old.
The best hitter on the team that also rates well as a prospect was Avery Romero. The 20-year-old infielder improved after a bumpy start in Rookie ball, putting up a .297/.357/.411 line in 235 plate appearances for Batavia. Romero didn't improve his stock much, but he's well positioned to fly up the prospect rankings if he performs well in full-season ball next year.
The Marlins' top drafted pitcher this year, Trevor Williams, pitched 29 of 34 total innings in Batavia. He posted a 2.38 ERA, despite an uninspiring 24 strikeouts. Williams was never a strikeout pitcher in college, instead relying on plus control and an advanced feel of his four pitches.
Looking at an even smaller sample, Colby Suggs pitched just eight innings in Batavia. He looked great though, allowing a single earned run, walking two batters, and striking out 11. The Marlins quickly promoted him to high Class A Jupiter, where he pitched 18 and one-third innings before the end of the year.
Not every player looked ready for prime time, however. I wrote favorable comments about Ryan Aper after the draft, praising the pick as a potential steal in the sixth round. Aper boasts strong all-around tools, and he dominated Division II junior college baseball. Yet he looked ill-prepared for professional competition, batting .122/.259/.245 in 59 plate appearances for the Muckdogs. As horrid as those numbers were, he hit even worse following his demotion to Rookie ball.
Fifth-round pick Chad Wallach also looked uninspiring in his professional debut, hitting .226/.294/.267 in 163 plate appearances. I am not a huge fan of Wallach, but I expected better from him after his .309/.395/.444 line for Cal State Fullerton this year.
Because of the relatively small sample sizes in short-season ball, there is no sense in making any strong judgments based on how players do. All but one of the players discussed here made their first entrance into the minors in 2013. The new year brings full-season ball and a much more demanding level of competition. By this time in 2014, we will have a much fuller understanding of whether these players have a chance at becoming successful major league players.