After not even making the Southern League playoffs in 2021, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos were league champions this year. They became the first Marlins affiliate in nearly a decade to win their league title.
There were a lot of integral pieces on the team that made this accomplishment possible. It was a combination of top-rated prospects and other lesser-known players who stepped up and exceeded expectations.
Pensacola Blue Wahoos (68-63)
The top prospect in the Miami Marlins organization had himself a season to remember. He showed dominance with the high K/9 (12.58) and the low BB/9 (2.58) while being so much younger than the hitters he was facing.
In the case of Eury’s 4.08 ERA, that shouldn’t worry you as his FIP was at a nice 3.52. His groundball rate went up from the previous season (41.4%). He returned just in time from an arm fatigue issue to build upon his 2021 innings total, though there will likely still be a limit on his workload next season.
It is fair to assume that Eury will be earning a promotion to AAA and possibly getting a chance at the big leagues very early in 2023. The rotation for the Marlins will get scarier than ever once he arrives.
Zach McCambley began opening eyes during 2022 Spring Training. There were moments in 2022 where he looked like an improved pitcher, but McCambley was very streaky overall.
A big issue for McCambley was his walk rate (4.98 BB/9) and 12 hit by pitches. He struck out about a batter per inning and he was helped by a 46.4% groundball rate this season. His ERA (5.65) and FIP (5.14) were both too high to feel fully confident about him as a starting pitching option.
After striking out nearly half the time in his first taste of the AA level, Griffin Conine truly improved to a 37 K%. The home run leader of the Marlins organization in 2021 changed his approach at the plate to hit for a lot more contact while sacrificing some homers. He had more games played than any of his Pensacola teammates (118).
He wasn’t so productive late in the season, but Conine should still be a clear candidate for a promotion to the AAA level in 2023. It’s his top priority to continue getting that K rate lower and also important to show that he’s a valuable defender to better suit the responsibilities of a 4th outfielder.
Paul McIntosh hit for a lot of power in Pensacola—only Conine had more extra-base hits than him. He’s more athletic than the typical catcher, occasionally turning routine singles into doubles and stealing 10 bases.
McIntosh should already be at the AAA level due to his production, age, and the Marlins’ need to have productive hitters at the big league level.
One of the most entertaining players in the system was all around the field and Marlins organization this season. J.D. Orr had stints at the A+, AA, and AAA levels. He plays a very old-school brand of baseball that includes bunting, stealing 3rd, and hitting for contact.
At the AA level, Orr produced a high amount of walks, hits, and stolen bases. He is a younger version of Jon Berti, in my eyes.
It was a rough year for José Devers, the final member of the infamous Giancarlo Stanton trade who’s still in Miami’s system. Devers had more than three times as many strikeouts as walks and hit just .210. Even his defense disappointed—he barely played any innings at shortstop.
Devers has interesting potential when healthy. Unfortunately, he’s been slowed down by injuries numerous times.
Victor Victor Mesa
Victor Victor into the bay! pic.twitter.com/PZcGoLqtrU— Pensacola Blue Wahoos (@BlueWahoosBBall) July 17, 2022
When Miami signed Victor Victor Mesa, expectations were sky high for the young Cuban phenom. Mesa signed for $5.25 million. Unfortunately, he has not lived up to the hype during his Marlins tenure.
Mesa had an amazing month of July and was promoted to AAA Jacksonville where he is no longer considered a true prospect but a placeholder in this organization. His 2022 season ended a bit early due to injury.
One of my personal favorites in the org, Troy Johnston began the season a little bit slow but began to pick it up enough to the point where he was hitting over .300 and was the best hitter in Minor League Baseball as a whole for a two-week period.
Johnston’s 2022 AA Stats: .292 BA, .360 OBP, .450 SLG, .850 OPS, 10 HR, 49 RBI
Johnston is definitely a player who is on the cusp of the major leagues. Although his defense at first base isn’t as elite as Lewin Díaz, it is still playable to the point where the Marlins should be motivated to give him a shot to prove himself as a much-needed lefty bat in their lineup.
Josh Simpson began the season with a long streak of not allowing any earned runs. There were a few midseason issues, but he was dominant after earning the promotion to AAA, too. Simpson ranked third on the Blue Wahoos with 89 strikeouts despite being used only as a reliever.
Miami will need to protect him for the upcoming Rule 5 draft.
Successful players from A+ Beloit provided the boost that Pensacola really needed when they were promoted toward the end of the season. Let's look at a few of them.
By far the most improved minor leaguer in the organization has been Nasim Nunez and his hit tool. He went from barely hitting the baseball and playing the best defense in the organization to being one of the better hitters that you can rely on and still playing the best defense in the org. Nasim Nunez this year reached 60 stolen bases, the first player in the Marlins organization to do so since 2015. Nasim will stick at the AA level with the hopeful promotion to the AAA level. He is projected to debut in 2024 as the best case.
A Vanderbilt product, Zach King had his struggles after joining the Blue Wahoos. The tall lefty will hopefully make the needed adjustments during the offseason and begin at the AA level and show that his High-A stuff (2.77 ERA and 3.38 FIP) was legitimate.
DOMINANT DAX.— Pensacola Blue Wahoos (@BlueWahoosBBall) September 24, 2022
6.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 13 K pic.twitter.com/P3T03jdHOr
Fulton was extremely strikeout dominant for the Blue Wahoos with 12.86 K/9 against a 3.00 BB/9, and that doesn’t even include his start in the playoffs. Don’t be fooled by his high ERA early in the season with Beloit: he is developing exactly as the Marlins hoped he would.
Fulton will continue at the AA level in 2023 (his age-21 season) with the possibility of seeing him in AAA towards the end of the season or even sooner if he shows enough.
As fun as the Blue Wahoos were in 2022, expect more of the same next season. Nunez and Fulton are among the impact prospects who should be back in Pensacola to lead the team. Some players who can join them for Opening Day include M.D. Johnson and Victor Mesa Jr.