Keep an eye on Austin Dean. The 20-year-old outfielder just finished a season in Greensboro in which he hit .308/.371/.444.The last player under 21 to dominate the South Atlantic League in a Greensboro jersey was Jose Fernandez. A former high draft pick out of high school, Dean appears to have figured things out in his third year of professional baseball.
Austin Dean stands 6'1'' and weighs 190 pounds. He's a right-handed power hitter that has moved from first base to the outfield since being drafted. Reports of his defense in left field have been encouraging, but Dean still has a ways to go before he is average defensively. Dean was drafted with the lure of his immense raw power, but that power has still not quite transferred into his at bats yet. Still, his strong physique and quick hands make his future as a power bat promising. Dean is a pretty good athlete with average speed and solid plate discipline (As backed up by his 2014 OBP% of .371, which was 7th in the SAL among qualified hitters).
The Marlins drafted Austin Dean in the 2012 MLB Amateur draft's fourth round out of high school in Texas. Dean turned down an offer to play ball at Texas to join the Marlins organization after they gave him just over the slot value for his signing bonus. Dean spent his 2012 season in the GCL, where his numbers didn't particularly stand out. The next year, Dean took on the NY-Penn League, playing 56 games for Batavia. In 213 at bat's, the 19-year-old hit .268/.325/.418 with only two home runs. Heading into the 2014 season in Greensboro, nobody could have predicted that the ballclub's youngest everyday player would become one of their most valuable assets.
Maybe calling Austin Dean's 2014 year dominant is a stretch, but when you factor in his age, experience, and expectations, it's hard not to acknowledge his amazing season. In 403 plate appearances, all with Greensboro, Dean hit .308/.371/.444 with an .815 OPS, nine home runs, four stolen bases, and a 128 wRC+. Dean was a midseason SAL All-Star despite missing three weeks in June due to a broken finger and a broken nose. Dean showed the consistency and talent that will take him a long ways in this game.
If there was any doubt that Austin Dean is a top 20 prospect in the Marlins farm system, his season should have it quelled. I can't wait to see how Dean will perform in Jupiter next year, but I expect him to excel. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Dean's 2015 season will be whether or not he can turn his raw power into home runs. Austin Dean has a few years before he'll be ready for the Majors, but it's not too early to get excited for this breakout prospect.