#FishFriday – Halloween 2014

The Tennessee baseball team held a scrimmage wearing Halloween costumes yesterday. Photo Courtesy: University of Tennessee Athletics.

By Roger Hoover / Jacksonville Suns

Happy Halloween!

Hope all of you enjoy trick or treating tonight and break out some good costumes. In fact, if you wear a Suns costume make sure you send it to us on Twitter @SunsBaseball, and we’ll retweet some of the best ones or post them on #MarlinsMonday.

Speaking of costumes, my alma mater the University of Tennessee baseball team did a scrimmage yesterday wearing Halloween costumes, and the results were hilarious as you can see above and in this video.

Like most major league clubs this week, news was quiet out of Miami while the World Series came to a close. There were some more award nominations for Giancarlo Stanton, as well as plenty of 2015 roster speculation as you’ll see in the links below. There was also this roster news:

The 2014 World Series may not go down as one of the classics, but it will go down in history for one of the greatest pitching performances of all-time by Madison Bumgarner. In addition to his two outstanding starts, Bumgarner shut down the Royals out of the bullpen with five scoreless innings in Game 7 to earn the save as the Giants won 3-2 for their third title in the last five years.

You’ll be glad to say you saw Bumgarner this October and over his previous World Series as well, now having the lowest career ERA of 0.25 in his three Fall Classics.

Many members of the Suns front office had a good week traveling to Mississippi for the Southern League Fall Meetings, and Director of Group Sales January Putt will have a guest blog post about their experience soon here on Tales From Bragan Field.

As for me? I had a great week in Tennessee and got to see my favorite band the Drive-By Truckers perform last night at the historic Ryman Auditorium in Nashville. Great experience and my ears are still ringing!

Here are today’s #FishFriday links, enjoy Halloween weekend and the Florida/Georgia fun!

Marlins.com: Stanton picks up three of Marlins’ eight GIBBY nominations
Marlins.com: Marlins expected to exercise option on Mathis
Marlins.com: Inbox: Will Cishek be back to close in 2015?
Fish Stripes: 2014 Marlins Season Review: Steve Cishek
ESPN: On the market: Sandoval among free agents
Sports on Earth: Predicting the ’15 World Series Champ
The New Yorker: The Best
The New York Times: ‘OMG. You’re So Much More Than Awesome.’
The Wildwood Ramble: As Giant as it Gets

 

 

#MarlinsMonday – October 27, 2014

By Roger Hoover / Jacksonville Suns

A positive weekend of baseball news was largely overshadowed by Sunday night’s stunning story that St. Louis Cardinals top prospect and promising major league outfielder Oscar Taveras and his girlfriend Edilia Arvelo were in a car accident in the Dominican Republic.

Taveras, who turned 22 just last August, played in 80 games this season for the Cardinals and also hit a dramatic game-tying home run in Game Five of the 2014 National League Championship Series against the Giants.

While Taveras played in Double-A in the Texas League, everyone in Minor League Baseball knew of his supreme talent as he consistently was among the top prospects in the game according to various media outlets. It’s a tragedy any time someone this young dies in a horrific tragedy, and baseball will dearly miss Taveras.

2011-2014 Jacksonville Suns manager Andy Barkett is working in the Dominican Republic this winter as the manager of the Águilas Cibaeñas baseball club, where Tavaeras played before. Shown below is Aguilas players mourning the passing of the young Dominican star.

The news of his death came during Game Five of the World Series, where the Giants beat the Royals 5-0 behind yet another brilliant postseason start by Madison Bumgarner.

He threw the first complete game shutout in a World Series game since Josh Beckett did so for the Marlins in 2003 against the Yankees, and at the age of 25 he has a 0.29 World Series ERA. Already legendary.

The Giants now lead the series 3-2, setting up a grand stage for Game Six on Tuesday night at Kauffman Stadium.

The Marlins Man made another appearance at the World Series games in San Francisco, even running into Matt Leland who was on our staff in 2013! In my last two years in Jacksonville I’ve enjoyed working with Matt and another Giants fan in Jason Patterson, happy these guys are enjoying watching the Giants chase another championship!

In Marlins news, Giancarlo Stanton was honored as the National League Hank Aaron Award winner, given to the most outstanding offensive performance in the game this season. Mike Trout won the American League Hank Aaron Award, and Stanton received the trophy at the World Series in San Francisco over the weekend.

In additional awards news, Stanton along with fellow outfielder Christian Yelich and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria were announced as finalists for Gold Glove awards. The 2014 Gold Glove winners will be announced on Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. ET live on ESPN2.

Also there was surprising news out of Tampa Bay on Friday when Rays manager Joe Maddon became a free agent, as he opted out of his deal with the ball club. Speculation is running rampant on where Maddon may end up, and if I had a guess it would be with the Chicago Cubs. I believe he would fit in well with Theo Epstein’s vision for the Cubs, and would work well with the young talent we’ve seen come through the Southern League with Tennessee and now on their way to Chicago.

As for me? I had a busy weekend of football, first filling in for a radio broadcast of a Alabama 7A high school football game in Birmingham on Friday, then covered #4 Alabama’s 34-20 win over Tennessee in Knoxville for AP Broadcasting on Saturday night. Lane Kiffin’s Tennessee return was largely uneventful, although I walked in behind him to the Alabama tunnel and there were some water bottles and plenty of curse words screamed to him. All in all I thought the Alabama offensive coordinator handled himself well, and glad this narrative of him coming back to Knoxville won’t pop up again.

Here are today’s #MarlinsMonday links, check back Wednesday for a report from the Arizona Fall League!

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: Cards’ Taveras killed in car accident
Marlins.com: Hechavarria, Stanton, Yelich first-time Gold Glove finalists
Marlins.com: Giancarlo Stanton the first Miami Marlins player to win Hank Aaron Award
Palm Beach Post: Marlins’ Stanton expects to have normal offseason
CSN Chicago: Decision time coming for the Cubs and Joe Maddon
Ballpark Digest: The Week That Was: October 26
Sports on Earth: Leitch: Taveras’ Death Breaks Your HeartUSA Today: MadBum Redefining ‘Mr. October’
ESPN Boston: Schilling Not Hiding Behind Mistakes

#FishFriday – October 24, 2014

“Marlins Man” is causing quite a stir at the World Series. Photo Courtesy: TAMMY LJUNGBLAD/The Kansas City Star

By Roger Hoover / Jacksonville Suns

The World Series is in full swing, with the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals splitting the first two games at Kauffman Stadium. After a postseason with a historically high number of one-run games, the first two games were rather lopsided, with the Giants taking Game One 7-1 behind the brilliance of Madison Bumgarner, and the Royals winning Wednesday 7-2.

The series resumes tonight in San Francisco, with veteran Tim Hudson on the mound for the Giants against KC right-hander Jeremy Guthrie.

The Marlins, like most clubs are encouraged to do during the World Series, have largely stayed out of the news this week aside from Casey McGehee being named National League Comeback Player of the Year by The Sporting News.  In fact the Marlin making the most news is shown above, “Marlins Man.” Die-hard Marlins fan Laurence Levy has stayed strong in his orange for the first two games in Kansas City, even refusing to leave his premium seat after offered a suite with goodies by Royals management.

While some fans around baseball are getting annoyed by the red-orange, folks with the Marlins have to love someone getting the word out about the good things happening in Miami!

Some Southern League news, the Tennessee Smokies went through a logo and uniform transformation, announced by the ball club Wednesday:

newsmokies

Overall I like the new look for my former club the Smokies. The colors are now closer to their major league parent club the Chicago Cubs and it will be fun to see this new look in 2015.

Here are today’s #FishFriday links, hope everyone has a great weekend and we’ll see you Monday with #MarlinsMonday!

Marlins.com: Hechavarria, Stanton, Yelich first-time Gold Glove finalists
MLB.com: Marlins likely to seek talent with playoff experience
Miami Herald: ‘Marlins Man’ puts Miami front and center at World Series
Tennessee Smokies: Smokies Unveil New Logos, Colors, Uniforms
Fish Stripes: Evaluating Miami’s Front Office: October
Braves.com: Hart named Braves’ president of baseball operations
Yahoo! Big League Stew: In NL park, Royals slugger Billy Butler prepares for role as a pinch hitter
Yahoo! Big League Stew: Players in AFL struggling to adjust to ‘pace of game’ procedures
Sports on Earth: The 10 unlikeliest World Series heroes

Reflections from the Booth – 2014 Champions

Suns manager Andy Barkett with Roger Hoover following the presentation of the Billy Hitchcock Trophy. Photo Courtesy: Roger C. Hoover.

By Roger Hoover / Jacksonville Suns

Southern League Champions. I can’t believe it.

Southern League Champions. I can’t believe it.

Southern League Champions. I can’t believe it.

In the hours after the Jacksonville Suns completed their sweep of the Chattanooga Lookouts in the 2014 Southern League Championship Series, those two phrases kept echoing in my mind.

Southern League Champions. I can’t believe it.

Now here we are over a month removed from the last out of Game Three, and it’s starting to sink in that the Suns completed their goal of bringing a championship back to Jacksonville.

This was a year that going into the season I thought the Suns had an excellent chance to win a Southern League title. There were also high hopes with the 2013 ball club, however despite the wealth of prospects the Suns came up a game shy of making it to the postseason.

2014 looked to be different, especially with a pitching staff that I told a crowd at the Jacksonville Landing at the preseason party would be the “best in Minor League Baseball.” On paper that was accurate, with all five starting pitchers ranked among the top 16 prospects in the Marlins organization according to Baseball America, and a bullpen that featured talent plus previous Southern League experience.

However as it turned out, the young pitching staff had its ups and downs during April and May. Anthony DeSclafani and Andrew Heaney shined on the mound for the Suns, ultimately earning call-ups and spending the rest of the season in New Orleans or Miami.

Angel Sanchez had a very rough go of it into June before he was claimed off waivers by the Rays, and the Suns were left with only Jose Urena and Justin Nicolino as the remaining Opening Day rotation members to still be with the Suns going into the second half.

It was a blessing those two stayed in Jacksonville for the rest of the year. While Nicolino’s 14-4 year with a 2.64 ERA earned him Southern League Most Outstanding Pitcher honors, Urena likely was the second-best pitcher in the league, going 13-8 with a 3.33 ERA. Add in contributions from starters Chipper Smith, Jay Rogers, the Suns continued competing for a Second Half South Division title into August.

The Suns were on fire heading into their only series of the Second Half between Jacksonville and Mississippi. The Suns entered the five-game set at Bragan Field up two games on the Braves, only to see Mississippi take four of five games to have the standings all even on August 10. The Braves series was gut wrenching, including the last game where the Suns lost a late lead to fall 4-3.

The Suns then lost a series on the road to Chattanooga, before taking care of the Blue Wahoos one last time at Bragan Field, taking three out of five games. After the last game against the Blue Wahoos, the Suns bused through the night north to Kodak, Tennessee where the Tennessee Smokies were waiting for a crucial five game series. The Smokies were also in a pennant race with the surging Chattanooga Lookouts for the Second Half North Division crown, yet from night one in Tennessee it was clear the Suns were on their way to greatness.

The Suns won the first contest 18-1 and had a 7-0 lead on Tennessee in the bottom of the first when the first out was recorded. Jacksonville also led 16-0 in the middle of the fourth, and that game on August 22 is the one I’ll always come back to when I think about Jacksonville’s postseason push. That night a tired Suns team went to a unfriendly territory and carried the fight right to the Smokies and in turn, the rest of the Southern League South Division.

The positive momentum carried into the next night, where the Suns came from behind in the seventh inning, not necisarrily due to hits, but walks from Tennessee pitching paved the way for a seven-run seventh inning as the Suns won 15-7. The next day? Another comeback that featured a six-run fourth inning to get a 9-7 win. Contributions for the Suns offense came all across the lineup, from homers by Joe Benson to key RBI singles and doubles for the likes of Terrence Dayleg and Issac Galloway. After the Suns won a pitchers duel 2-1 behind the brilliance of Nicolino on August 25, the Smokies looked like they had avoided a sweep on the final night of the series. Tennessee led 5-3 going into the top of the ninth, yet Tennessee closer Frank Batista blew a save as Dayleg hit a two-run double to tie the game, and with two outs Danny Black’s RBI single was the difference as the Suns won 6-5.

Despite the wins in Tennessee, that series also saw a good deal of frustration around the Suns since Jacksonville was not gaining ground on Mississippi, as the Braves swept their series against the Birmingham Barons, keeping Mississippi in front by a game.

That set up the final series of the year, playing five games in four days against Mobile thanks to Saturday’s doubleheader. The Suns continued taking care of business, seeing the pitching staff shut down a potent BayBears offense, and the winning ways continued for Jacksonville through the fourth game of the series. The Suns had won nine games in a row and thanks to a pair of Braves losses against Huntsville, the Labor Day game against Mobile presented the Suns with the same scenario as the year before – win and you’re in the playoffs. However there was no margin for error, since the Braves owned the tiebreaker a Suns loss and a Braves win meant that Mississippi, who ended up with the league’s best record, would be postseason bound.

The Suns built an early lead before Brady Shoemaker’s three-run homer in the fifth inning gave Jacksonville a 5-2 lead. In the seventh inning Viosergy Rosa smashed a solo homer that looked to be an exclamation point to a clinching win, as the Suns went ahead 6-3. However things got interesting in the top of the ninth, as the BayBears scored two runs on Brandon Drury double that came just a few feet shy of a grand slam home run that would’ve given Mobile the lead. Yet Nick Wittgren forced Dustin Martin to ground out to short to secure Jacksonville’s 2014 Second Half South Division Championship.

The Suns had a great champagne celebration on the field and in the clubhouse, and long after fans left Bragan Field on that perfect Monday, the ball club, led by ace Justin Nicolino, took a victory lap around the bases. Baseball is a game that brings the little kid out in everyone, and as I watched from the radio booth at these guys running around the field, I knew that this group was special and that the playoffs wouldn’t faze the Suns.

As the South Division Championship Series started in Mobile even adversity and a late deficit didn’t faze them. In Game One, trailing 4-3 with Mobile’s closer on the mound in the top of the ninth inning, a pinch-hit single by Ryan Rieger put a man on base and then with two outs, Austin Barnes continued his home run tear from the regular season as he clobbered a two-run dinger over the left field wall at Hank Aaron Stadium to put the Suns up 5-4, which would be the final score. The Suns blew a late lead the next night in Game Two, and missed several opportunities to win in extra innings as the BayBears ended the Jacksonville winning streak with a 4-3 win in extra innings.

After a long bus ride through the night to Jacksonville, the Suns bats came alive in Game Three’s second inning, with the Suns hitting back-to-back-to-back homers by Viosergy Rosa, Brady Shoemaker, and Joe Benson to give Justin Nicolino all the run support he needed as the Suns won 7-5. The Suns looked poise to clinch the next night in Game Four, yet despite having a 4-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning, Mother Nature had other ideas. A huge rainstorm at Bragan Field forced the Suns and BayBears to wait over two hours before the game was suspended and picked up the next Monday at noon. The layoff didn’t hurt the Suns, who scored five runs in the Monday portion to clinch the South Division title with a 9-1 win. The weary Suns didn’t have a champagne celebration after this series, with manager Andy Barkett saying the time to do that would be a few nights later.

The Suns travelled to Chattanooga to face the Lookouts in the Southern League Championship Series. While the Suns under the Marlins had already won two titles in 2009 and 2010 and had five Southern League crowns overall, the Lookouts had not won a league championship since 1988 and were in the championship series for the first time since they lost to the Suns in 1996.

Jacksonville took the first contest 5-3 behind five runs in the first two innings of the game combined with brilliant pitching from Urena. The Chattanooga portion of the series came to a close in Game Two with the Suns winning a blowout 12-3. The series shifted back to Jacksonville on Friday September 12, and Viosergy Rosa continued his terrific postseason with a first inning three-run homer that proved to be plenty of run support for Justin Nicolino.

The ace didn’t allow any runs during his time on the mound, and when he was taken out of the game in the seventh inning he received a lengthy standing ovation from the loud Bragan Field crowd and he tipped his cap to them as well. Of all the moments that night and in the incredible run the Suns had, that’s the moment I’ll always have as my favorite. Nicolino, who loved pitching in Jacksonville and close to his home of Orlando, was recognized by the fans for the greatness that he displayed all year long; and it’s a moment that will live in Jacksonville baseball history forever.

Despite the Lookouts grabbing a run in the top of the ninth, Matt Ramsey forced Darnell Sweeney to ground out to second base to end the season as the Suns swept the Lookouts to claim their sixth Southern League title, and their third as a Miami Marlins affiliate.

I hustled down to the field for the Billy Hitchcock Trophy presentation along with Rosa being named the SLCS Most Valuable Player, and we did interviews in the clubhouse during the celebration and what a party it was. Everyone got a champagne or beer shower by the players, and Andy Barkett gave a great speech where he informed J.T. Realmuto that the Suns catcher was heading back to the big leagues with the Marlins.

After we said our goodbyes on the Suns Baseball Network and the celebration continued through the next several days, I kept going back to those two phrases over and over again.

Southern League Champions. I can’t believe it.

Broadcasting in the Southern League previously with the Tennessee Smokies I saw Tennessee come up just short in the championship series, twice to the Suns and once to Mobile, and all of those losses were heartbreaking. The 2013 Suns will always be one of my favorite teams, and the heartbreak was just as tough when the season ended on the final day of the year, one game short of the playoffs.

So I was skeptical during the season whether or not this would be the team that collects a title, but my thoughts changed once I saw the Suns stomp the Smokies in that first inning the first night in Tennessee. Little did I know that would be the beginning of a stretch that saw the Suns win 11 games in a row and finish the year on a 16-1 run, but everything changed with that game.

I was still trying to wrap my head around the fact the Suns were Second Half champs when we were right in the thick of the SDCS, then the Suns won that, and the SLCS went by very quickly in the sweep, so it was a mind-blowing experience.

Now more than a month removed from the title it’s finally sunk in that the Suns are the champs, and I know when I see that championship ring it will really sink in. Broadcasting baseball on the radio is my love and getting to broadcast winning baseball and the thrills of a pennant race and postseason was a blast for me along with Suns Baseball Network colleagues Michael West and Jason Patterson.

Now that I’ve shared a lot of my memories from Jacksonville’s run to a championship, we’ll be hearing from players and coaches about what they recall from this 2014 season, and we look forward to bringing you their stories here.

Thanks for taking a look at this long read, and yes:

Southern League Champions. Alright, I believe it!

#MarlinsMonday – October 20, 2014

Has it really been over a month since the Suns won the 2014 Southern League title? Photo Courtesy: Roger C. Hoover / Jacksonville Suns

By Roger Hoover / Jacksonville Suns

Hello Suns fans! I hope the offseason is treating all of you well, it seems like just yesterday we were all at Bragan Field on September 12 celebrating Jacksonville’s 2014 Southern League championship!

As the major league season comes to a close this week with the start of the World Series, it’s time to begin our true offseason coverage of Suns baseball. Here on Tales From Bragan Field and jaxsuns.com you will find one of a kind content that focuses on the Miami Marlins organization and the Jacksonville Suns.

Each Monday on the blog will be a #MarlinsMonday where we will take a look at Marlins news from the weekend and set the agenda for the week as the Marlins heat up baseball’s “Hot Stove.”

On Friday we will also take a look around the organization with #FishFriday where we view the news from the week and preview any possible moves or news coming up for the weekend. Similar to previous news links posts, we will explore Marlins stories along with a few stories from MiLB and MLB that are relevant to that day’s baseball conversation.

Wednesdays will be feature day on both here and jaxsuns.com. We will revive last year’s popular “My Season as a Sun” series, speaking with 2014 Suns players and coaches in a Q&A format about what made this past year so special. There will also be special looks at what’s going on behind-the-scenes in Jacksonville as the Suns staff gears up for the 2015 season.

There will be other features and stories as news breaks in the offseason, but this is the coverage you can expect from here until the start of Spring Training next February! Thanks for your continued support of the Suns, we’re getting closer to Opening Day 2015!

Here’s today’s first round of #MarlinsMonday links:

Marlins.com: Miami’s next challenge: Finding 10 more wins
Marlins.com: Inbox: When will Stanton talks begin?
Miami Herald: Miami Marlins get dumber, lose Ed Lucas on waiver claim to Rangers
Sun Sentinel: Broward well represented in World Series with Morse, Hosmer
Fish Stripes: Nicolino and the concern over prospect strikeouts
MiLB.com: Dodgers’ Schebler clubs first Fall League homer
Yahoo! Big League Stew: World Series preview: Royals and Giants put postseason streaks on line in battle for crown
Fox Sports: Listen to Russ Hodges call Ishikawa’s home run for Giant
SportsonEarth: The Odd Couple

2014 Former Suns MLB Postseason Guide

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By Roger Hoover / Jacksonville Suns

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Suns have a rich tradition of sending talented players to the major leagues. This season several former Suns will continue to play beyond the regular season, as the MLB postseason begins in earnest tonight, with the American League Divisional Series starting followed by the National League Divisional Series on Friday. After the National and American League Championship Series, the World Series will begin on Tues., Oct. 21.

Below is a guide to watching former Suns in the postseason, and be sure to check Jacksonville’s Facebook and Twitter pages to keep up with how these former Suns do as baseball moves along in October.

American League

Kansas City Royals

Jason Frasor (2003). Originally drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 33rd round of the 1999 draft, he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2002. In his first year in the organization in 2003, Frasor pitched for the Suns in the first year at the Baseball Grounds. It was Frasor’s first year as a relief pitcher, and with the Suns he pitched in 35 games getting 17 saves while going 1-0 with a 2.95 ERA. He was traded the next season to the Blue Jays organization, and made his major league debut in Toronto during the 2006 season.

After pitching with the Blue Jays from 2006-2011, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox in 2011, then traded back to the Blue Jays in 2012. Last season he signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers, then this year in July he was traded by the Rangers to the Royals. To finish the year with the Royals, Frasor was 3-0 with a 1.53 ERA in 23 appearances, helping Kansas City to its first postseason berth since 1985. The Royals face the Los Angeles Angels in the American League Division Series.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

No former Jacksonville Suns are on the Angels’ postseason roster.

Detroit Tigers

Anibal Sanchez (2009) Sanchez began his career in the Boston Red Sox system before being traded to the Marlins in a deal that sent big pieces Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Fenway Park in the post-2005 offeseason. Sanchez made pitched in the Southern League in 2006 with the Carolina Mudcats while they were a Marlins affiliate, going 3-6 with a 3.15 ERA in 15 starts. Sanchez joined the big league Marlins later that season, tossing a no-hitter on September 6, 2006 against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Sanchez would see time in a Suns uniform in 2009, making two rehab starts with Jacksonville during the first year of the Suns/Marlins affiliation.

Sanchez was traded to the Tigers on July 23, 2012 and finished the year as a member of the Detroit rotation. Sanchez pitched through the postseason for Detroit, going 1-2 with a 1.77 ERA and his most notable performance was a seven-inning three hit shutout performance against the New York Yankees in Game Two of the 2012 ALCS. In 2013 year Sanchez has set a career-high in victories going 14-8 with a career-best 2.57 ERA in 29 starts.

This season Sanchez has battled injuries, going 8-5 with a 3.43 ERA in 21 starts. The Tigers will face the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Division Series.

Evan Reed

Baltimore Orioles

Andrew Miller (2009-10). Drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the first round of the 2006 draft out of the University of North Carolina, Miller was involved in one of the biggest trades in Marlins history. After brief major league time in 2006 and 2007, prior to the 2008 season the Marlins acquired him along with Dallas Trahern, Burke Badenhop, Frankie De La Cruz, Cameron Maybin and Mike Rabelo for established stars Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera.

Miller first made it to Jacksonville in 2009, pitching in one game in May, but the majority of the 2010 season saw the prospect in a Suns uniform. In 2010 he went 1-8 with a 6.01 ERA in 18 starts. Despite his Southern League struggles, Miller made finished the season with the Marlins, going 1-5 with a 8.54 ERA.

The Marlins traded Miller to the Boston Red Sox for Dustin Richardson prior to the 2011 season, and remained at Fenway Park until the 2014 trade deadline when he was sent to the Orioles. Miller pitched well with Baltimore to close the season, going 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA with a save in 23 apperances. The Orioles will face the Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series.

National League

San Francisco Giants

No former Jacksonville Suns are on the Giants’ postseason roster.

St. Louis Cardinals

No former Jacksonville Suns are on the Cardinals’ postseason roster.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Clayton Kershaw (2007-08) A first round selection (sixth overall) by the Dodgers in 2006, Kershaw rose quickly throughout the L.A. system reaching Double-A Jacksonville just a year later in 2007. That season Kershaw made five starts for the Suns, going 1-2 with a 3.65 ERA. In 2008 Kershaw began the season as the Suns’ ace, going 2-3 with a 1.91 ERA in 13 games and 11 starts in a Jacksonville uniform. Kershaw earned his first call-up to the big leagues on May 28 before being sent back Jacksonville, then he joined the Dodgers for good on July 22, 2008.

Since that point, Kershaw has been a four-time National League All-Star (2011-14), the 2011 and 2013 N.L. Cy Young Award Winner, a two-time N.L. strikeout champion (2011, 2013), and three-time N.L. ERA champion (2011-13). This season may have Been Kershaw’s best, going 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA, and is likely going to win his third Cy Young Award, and there is also consideration he will be the National League Most Valuable Player. Kershaw led the National League in ERA, ERA+, winning percentage, WHIP, strikeouts per nine innings, complete games, and wins above replacement for both pitchers and all players in the N.L.

The Dodgers will face the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series.

A.J. Ellis (2006-07): Kershaw’s catcher in the big leagues also saw time in Jacksonville during the mid-2000s in Ellis. He was selected by L.A. in the 18th round of the 2003 draft out of Austin Peay. The first action for Ellis in a Suns uniform came in 2006, playing in 82 games and hitting .250 with 21 RBI and no homers. A year later he was back in Jacksonville, spending the entire year with the Suns. That season saw Ellis raise his batting average to .269 with eight homers and 57 RBI.

Ellis made it to the big leagues first in 2008 with the Dodgers, but developed into the role of regular L.A. catcher in 2012. Ellis was behind the plate in 93 games this year for L.A., hitting .191 with three homers and 25 RBI, but continued to be the heart and soul of the club as the defensive catcher.

Matt Kemp (2006) A sixth round selection by the Dodgers in 2004, Matt Kemp made the jump to Double-A in 2006 with the Suns. Beginning the year with Jacksonville, Kemp put up solid numbers, hitting .327 with seven homers and 34 RBI in 48 games before his first call-up to Los Angels on May 28, 2006. That would be Kemp’s only time with the Suns, and he became a major league regular in 2008.

Kemp has been a two-time National League All-Star, led the National League in home runs and RBI in 2011 and has also won a pair of Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards.

This season “The Bison” has battled injuries in spring training, yet went on to play 150 games for the Dodgers this year. He hit .287 with 25 homer and 89 RBI, and was the National League Player of the Month for September after hitting .322 with nine homers and 25 RBI as the Dodgers clinched the N.L. Western Division title.

Washington Nationals

No former Jacksonville Suns are on the Nationals’ postseason roster.

For the latest Suns news this offseason, fans are encouraged to visit www.jaxsuns.com and can keep up with the Jacksonville Suns on the club’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram social media platforms, as well as the “Tales from Bragan Field” blog: www.sunsradio.com.

-SUNS-

Realmuto and Nicolino 2014 Marlins Minor League Award Winners

Realmuto and Nicolino were part of the celebration on Saturday as the Suns won the 2014 Southern League title. Photo Courtesy: Jay Metz

Realmuto and Nicolino were part of the celebration on Saturday as the Suns won the 2014 Southern League title. Photo Courtesy: Jay Metz

By Roger Hoover / Jacksonville Suns

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Suns catcher J.T. Realmuto and left-handed pitcher Justin Nicolino were named the 2014 Miami Marlins Minor League Player and Pitcher of the Year respectively, announced by Marlins’ Vice President of Player Development Marty Scott on Monday.

The batterymates were key contributors to Jacksonville’s run to a Southern League Championship this season. The Suns won their final 10 games of the regular season to claim the South Division second-half title and qualify for the playoffs, where they went 6-1. It was the third Southern League Championship for Jacksonville since becoming a Marlins’ affiliate in 2009 (also, 2009 & 2010).

Realmuto, also a 2014 Southern League Postseason All-Star, played in 97 games this season with the Suns and hit .299 with eight home runs and 62 RBI. Realmuto also hit .346 (9-for-26) in the postseason with three RBI and drew eight walks in seven games to help a robust .500 on-base percentage. After the Suns clinched the Southern League title on Saturday, Realmuto was informed in the clubhouse that he had earned his third promotion of the season to the major leagues with the Marlins.

Realmuto spent the entire 2013 season in Jacksonville, where he earned Southern League Midseason All-Star honors and played in the 2013 Southern League All-Star Game in Jacksonville. In 2012 Realmuto earned Florida State League Midseason All-Star honors with the Jupiter Hammerheads. Realmuto was selected by the Marlins in the third round of the 2010 draft out of Carl Albert High School in Midwest City, Oklahoma. Coming into this season Realmuto was listed by Baseball America as the Marlins No. 10 prospect, as well as the “best defensive catcher” in the Miami organization.

In 27 starts this season for the Suns, Nicolino went 14-4 with a 2.85 ERA in 170 and a third innings pitched. Nicolino led the Southern League in wins with 14, and his ERA of 2.85 gave him the league ERA title. Nicolino was dominant in the postseason, going 2-0 with a 1.98 ERA (3 ER in 13.2 IP) in his two starts, and earned the victory in the clinching game of the 2014 Southern League Championship Series with six and two-thirds scoreless innings of work against Chattanooga last Saturday.

The award adds to the list of accolades for Baseball America’s No. 4 Marlins prospect Nicolino, who earlier this season was named a Southern League Midseason All-Star, and the league also announced him the “Most Outstanding Pitcher” in the Southern League this season. The postseason Southern League All-Star honor is the fourth time in his four-year career. Nicolino was also twice named a Southern League pitcher of the Week on June 23 and August 4.

In 2013 Nicolino was a Florida State League Midseason and Postseason All-Star, as well as the Florida State League Pitcher of the Year. In 2012 Nicolino was a Midwest League Midseason and Postseason All-Star, as well as the TOPPS Midwest League Pitcher of the Year. In his first full professional season in 2011 Nicolino was a Northwest League Postseason All-Star, as well as a Baseball America Short Season All-Star.

Nicolino was originally selected by the Toronto Blue Jays in the second round of the 2010 draft out of University High School in Orlando, Florida. He was acquired by the Marlins organization following the 2012 season in a 12-player trade with the Blue Jays.