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Miami Marlins prospect profile of the week: Austin Dean

Miami Marlin's #9 prospect Austin Dean is proving to be a serious threat to crack the big league scene earlier than expected. His Southern League (Double-A) leading 27 RBI have immensely impressed early in the 2016 season. Unfortunately for Dean, the Marlins outfield is the team's greatest strength, making it difficult for Dean to wiggle his way onto the roster.

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Last week's prospect profile update: J.T. Riddle stayed hot this past week, going 9-for-25 and recording at least one hit in each game. He continues to tandem nicely with Austin Dean as a dominant three-four punch in the Jacksonville lineup.

This week's prospect profile is devoted to left fielder Austin Dean. Dean has impressed this season at Double-A Jacksonville. In 30 games, he has hit .282 with two home runs and 27 RBI. Dean's 27 RBI co-lead the Southern League with teammate J.T. Riddle. Dean has also walked 16 times this year, contributing to a .379 OBP.

Austin Dean has progressed through the minor leagues in a timely and efficient manner since being drafted in 2012. The 22-year-old has yet to repeat a level, and is currently playing the best baseball of his professional career at the highest level he has reached. Dean has exhibited the qualities an organization likes to see in a young prospect. He has proven to be a good gap-to-gap hitter, his eight doubles are tied for fourth most in the Southern League. He has also shown the ability to to drive baserunners home. 20 of his 27 RBI have come with runners in scoring position. Dean has also seen a rise in his BA and SLG % within those opportunistic situations.

One area which the Marlins would like to see Dean improve upon is his ability to drive the ball over the fence. Certainly a big ask by the Marlins, gaining power is not done through the flip of a switch. But Dean has responded nicely to the proposal/demand. He hit nine homers in 2014, five in '15, and already has three in the young 2016 season. Consistency and enhanced power will build the ever so long bridge to the major leagues for Dean.

Speaking of the major leagues... the scene doesn't look too inviting for Dean right now or in the future. His competition consists of 24-year-old Christian Yelich who is currently ninth in the national league in hitting, 25-year-old Marcell Ozuna who already has six long balls this season, and 26-year-old Giancarlo Stanton who takes a back seat to no one in the entire MLB. All three players in their low-to-mid 20's, Yelich just signed a seven-year contract extension last season and Stanton is signed basically til the end of time. Ozuna will be arbitration eligible in 2017, but he has proven himself worthy to return to Miami based off his current numbers. Even in a scenario that exits Ozuna, Austin Dean does not have the speed to play center field, he is pinned as a corner outfielder.

Dean has yet to reach Triple-A. A big league debut for him would be next season at the earliest, but there just does not seem to be any daylight for Dean considering how young and good the Marlins outfield is. Dean is the Marlin's #9 prospect. It may not be out of question to trade him. His value continues to go up and there are a number of teams who could use some prospect depth. Unfortunately the Marlins are in that gray area of needing more prospects, yet being two or three players away from contending in the NL East.

I'll continue to preach the "no rush" approach which the Marlins need to abide by. Dean is only 22. Miami needs to let him progress through the minors for the next two seasons and determine how to handle him at that period's end. Perhaps at that time Miami's objectives will be more clear and they can use Dean as a trade chip for a crucial piece.