This season’s Marlins Minor League award winners, led by Player of the Year Austin Dean and Pitcher of the Year Nick Neidert, include 11 individuals who thrived within the organization, both on and off the field. The team announced the full class on Wednesday and will hold a presentation for them at Marlins Park prior to Friday’s game against the Reds.
Entering 2018, Dean’s career had been stagnant due to injuries and unspectacular production. However, everything clicked for him at the plate when opening the season at Double-A Jacksonville. The former fourth-round draft pick earned Southern League Player of the Month honors in April. He forced a promotion all the way to The Show as minor leaguers were simply unable to cool him off (.345/.410/.511, 12 HR in 109 G at AA/AAA).
Likewise, you could see Neidert coming as an eventual award winner from miles away.
SPOILER ALERT: Nick Neidert will be named Marlins Minor League Pitcher of the Year for 2018 when they announce the award a couple months from now.— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) August 5, 2018
Acquired in the Dee Gordon trade.
The 21-year-old right-hander started more games on the mound than any other Marlins prospect. According to Baseball-Reference, 97.2 percent of batters that Neidert faced were older than him, but you wouldn’t be able to tell from the stellar results (152.2 IP, 3.24 ERA, 154 K in 26 GS at AA). Health permitting, he’s very likely to break through to the big leagues during the first half of the 2019 season.
New ownership put its fingerprints all over this announcement by recognizing a Student of the Year: Dominican infielder Walner Espinal. “He logged the most hours of any player in his Burlington English software in the computer lab, helping him advance and achieve success with his teachers, coaches, and teammates,” the press release reads.
The Marlins have preached how a professional baseball career is the culmination of work at the ballpark and in the classroom. The decision to include Espinal among these award winners—he wasn’t a slouch in the Gulf Coast League, either (.252/.308/.377, 3 HR in 45 G)—further incentivizes farmhands to hone their communication and leadership skills.
Pitching coach Bruce Walton gets Staff Member of the Year for his contributions to the High-A Jupiter Hammerheads. They were the only Marlins full-season affiliate to post a winning record in 2018. The press release notes that this was Walton’s first year in that role.
In addition to these organizational honorees, each affiliate selected a Most Valuable Player:
Triple-A New Orleans MVP—RHP Jeff Brigham (95.1 IP, 2.36 ERA, 94 K in 17 GS at Rk/AA/AAA)
Double-A Jacksonville MVP—IF Isan Diaz (.232/.340/.399, 13 HR in 119 G at AA/AAA)
High-A Jupiter MVP: RHP Parker Bugg (67.1 IP, 3.07 IP, 81 K in 37 G/1 GS at A+)
Low-A Greensboro MVP—IF Jose Devers (.272/.313/.330, 13 SB in 87 G at A/A+)
Short Season A Batavia MVP—LHP Manuel Rodriguez (76.0 IP, 2.13 ERA, 65 K in 30 G/4 GS at A-/A)
Gulf Coast League Marlins MVP—OF Davis Bradshaw (.345/.418/.427, 20 SB in 46 G at Rk/A-)
Dominican Summer League Marlins MVP—LHP Luis Palacios (63.2 IP, 0.85 ERA, 62 K in 15 G/4 GS at FRk)