Former Suns Lead 2014 Marlins Top Prospects

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Adam Conley checks in at no. 8 on Baseball America’s List of 2014 Miami Marlins Top 10 Prospects. Photo Courtesy: Roger C. Hoover / Jacksonville Suns.

By Roger Hoover / Jacksonville Suns

JACKSONVILLE – Seven players who saw time with the Jacksonville Suns during the 2013 season were listed among the “2014 Miami Marlins Top 10 Prospects” announced by Baseball America on Thursday.

Prospects LHP Andrew Heaney (1), OF Jake Marisnick (3), LHP Justin Nicolino (4), RHP Anthony DeSclafani (5), LHP Brian Flynn (6), LHP Adam Conley (8), and catcher J.T. Realmuto (10) all suited up for Jacksonville in 2013, a team that posted a winning season of 73-63.

“Very proud of those guys, they are very talented young players,” said Suns manager Andy Barkett about the seven former Suns on the list. “All of them are gamers and warriors on the field that I would lock arms with anytime! The best part about that group is that not only are they all great players and very talented but they are all first class people. It has been and will be with some of them, a privilege to be their manager.”

Baseball America also selected players with the “Best Tools” in the Marlins organization, with the majority of them playing for the Suns in 2013. Brent Keys was named the “Best Hitter for Average” and took home the “Best Strike-Zone Discipline” superlatives, while Kyle Jensen earned the nod as the “Best Power Hitter.” Realmuto was named the organization’s “Best Athlete and Best Defensive Catcher,” with Marisnick earning “Best Defensive Outfielder and Best Outfield Arm” selections. The “Best Fastball” tag belongs to Arquimedes Caminero, with Heaney having the “Best Slider,” and Nicolino having the “Best Changeup and Best Control.”

Heaney takes the top spot on the Top 10 list after seeing his first Double-A action with Jacksonville in 2013. Slowed early in the year by injury, Heaney went 5-2 with a 0.88 ERA in 12 starts for High-A Jupiter before finishing the year with Jacksonville. In six starts with the Suns he posted a 4-1 record with a 2.94 ERA.

Marisnick is the only position player on the list who saw major league time in 2013 with the Marlins, but the bulk of his season was in Jacksonville, where he was a Southern League All-Star hitting .294 with 12 homers and 46 RBI. He played with the Marlins the final two months of the season with a homer and five RBI.

Nicolino, the 2013 Florida State League Pitcher of the Year, continued his winning ways from Jupiter to Jacksonville. After going 5-2 with a 2.33 ERA in 18 starts for the Hammerheads, Nicolino went 3-2 with a 4.96 ERA for the Suns. His strongest start with Jacksonville came on August 16 when he struck out 13 Birmingham Barons in only six innings on the mound.

In only his first year in the Marlins organization, DeSclafani rose up through the system and showed that Miami got a hidden gem in the 12-player swap with the Blue Jays with his strong pitching. The former Florida Gator was a Florida State League Midseason All-Star with Jupiter before shining for the Suns in the second half. He made 13 starts with Jacksonville, going 5-4 with a 3.36 ERA and posted a strong strikeout-to-walk numbers with his 62 punch-outs compared to 14 walks in 75 innings on the mound.

Opening Night at Bragan Field on April 4 proved to be one of the best nights all season for a Suns pitcher thanks to Brian Flynn. In his six scoreless innings against the Jackson Generals he struck out nine batters and surrendered only two hits without a walk. Flynn only made three more starts with Jacksonville, as he was 1-1 with a 1.57 ERA in his 23 innings before a promotion to Triple-A New Orleans. There he was a Pacific Coast League All-Star with his 2.83 ERA, and would see his first time in the majors making four starts for the Marlins to close out the season.

Conley was the only member of the Suns starting rotation to stay the entire season in Jacksonville, developing into one of the most reliable pitchers in the Southern League. A 2013 Southern League All-Star, Conley went 11-7 with a 3.25 ERA in his 25 starts with 129 strikeouts in 138 and two-thirds innings on the mound. He had two four-start winning streaks in May and late July, and posted a complete game shutout against the Mobile BayBears on July 14, striking out eight batters in seven scoreless innings while only giving up three hits.

Catcher J.T. Realmuto also stayed with the Suns from April to September in his first season at the Double-A level. He was a 2013 Southern League All-Star behind the plate handling one of the league’s best pitching staffs, and caught 106 of Jacksonville’s 136 games.

The full report on the 2014 Miami Marlins Top 10 Prospects can be found on the Baseball America website here:

For the latest Suns news this offseason, fans are encouraged to visit 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:

My Season as a Sun: Christian Yelich

My Season as a Sun

Christian Yelich with the Suns in 2013. Photo Courtesy: Roger C. Hoover

By Roger Hoover / Jacksonville Suns

JACKSONVILLE,Fla. – Each week during the offseason Suns radio and television broadcaster Roger Hoover will catch up with a member of the 2013 Jacksonville Suns to get their memories of baseball at Bragan Field this past summer.

The first guest is a player that made more headlines than anyone else in a Suns uniform this past year, outfielder Christian Yelich. Yelich, who entered this season as the Marlins no. 2 prospect according to Baseball America, played in 49 games during two stints with the Suns from April to July. He hit .280 with seven home runs and 29 runs batted in. Among the highlights for Yelich as a Sun were his 15-game hitting streak that was part of a 19-game on-base streak from late April to early May, as well as six breathtaking triples and a go-ahead home run against Pensacola in the bottom of the eighth on May 8 at the Bragan Field.

Yelich left the Suns on July 22 and made his major league debut with the Marlins the next night in Colorado, getting a hit in his first two at-bats. Yelich went on to play in 62 games with Miami, hitting .288 with four homers and 16 RBI.

Here is this week’s “My Season as a Sun” with Christian Yelich:

Hoover: Christian you had a very busy 2013 going through the transition of High-A to Double-A then some time on the disabled list before you got your call-up to play with the Marlins and remained in the big leagues until the end of September, is it safe to say this was one of the most grueling seasons you’ve had?

Yelich: Yeah it was an interesting year but after getting hurt the second time it went pretty smoothly. I was able to finish strong and play the rest of the year.

Hoover: During spring training did you have any expectations about what your 2013 season would look like?

Yelich: I had no idea really. I knew there was probably a chance to end up in the big leagues by the end of the year. But so much of that stuff is always out of your control so I didn’t know what to expect. So I knew there was a chance but you never really know when it will happen.

Hoover: At the end of spring training you got hurt so that delayed your getting to Jacksonville but your first few weeks were the Suns starting on April 20 were pretty special and set the tone for the year. How enjoyable was it for you to get back on the field, get in a Suns uniform, and have some memorable wins?

Yelich: It was nice getting back out there after missing a few weeks to start the year, it was really nice to get the season started.

Hoover: What was it like getting to know and working with your manager Andy Barkett and hitting coach Kevin Randel?

Yelich: This was my second year with Smoke (Randel) so we kind of had that familiarity there with him and he’s a great hitting coach and a great guy. He’s also someone I really trusted. Barky’s a great manager and I really enjoyed the time I got to play for him. I know it wasn’t a whole lot, I was hurt a couple times and wasn’t there the whole year but the time I got to play for him I really enjoyed it and he’s a great guy to play for.

Hoover: The 2013 Suns were a lot of guys you had played with before in Greensboro in 2011 and last year in Jupiter, seems like you there was great clubhouse chemistry.

Yelich: Yeah it was the same clubhouse and the same feel we had for the first three years playing together. I knew how it was going to be, we like playing together as a group and we’ve had success as a group. I know it kind of came up short this year for them but the two years prior were really good years and they’re just a great group of guys to play with.

Hoover: Bragan Field is one of the more unique ballparks in Minor League Baseball, what did you like about playing at home in Jacksonville?

Yelich: Yeah I liked it, it was an interesting place. We had good crowds, good turnouts and that’s always fun when you go out there and have the support. In some minor league cities you don’t always get that.

Hoover: You weren’t the only Sun to have some early success in Jacksonville, Marcell Ozuna got off to a hot start and then Jake Marisnick, how fun was it to see them perform so well?

Yelich: Well at the beginning of the year we were all looking forward to playing with each other out there in the outfield. We never even got to play a single game like that the entire year with all three of us out there, so that was unfortunate. Marcell played 10 games and then he was gone (to Miami). Big Fudge (Marisnick) managed to stay healthy for the most part so it was basically me and him out there. Those guys are awesome and it’s going to be cool being able to play with those guys in the future.

Hoover: You had a stint on the disabled list in June and July then made it back after the All-Star break and only played a few games at Tennessee before you and then Marisnick were pulled out of the July 22 game early at Smokies Park, talk me through that night for you.

Yelich: It was pretty cool. You kind of know what’s going on at that point when you get taken out of the game and nothing’s wrong with you. For Jake to do that on the next pitch and then he gets to come out too was cool. Everyone knows we’re pretty good friends so being able to go to the big leagues together at the same time was a pretty cool experience.

Hoover: What was it like that night after you were taken out then had to wait the rest of the game in the clubhouse to get the confirmation that you were getting called up?

Yelich: It sucked man, haha. It was a long five or six innings before we were able to find out even though you had an idea, but finding out for sure that was a long time.

Hoover: How was your first day in the big leagues traveling from Tennessee to Colorado and making your Marlins debut against the Rockies and getting hits in your first two at-bats?

Yelich: I was running on pure adrenaline. Both of us were on about an hour and a half of sleep going into that game. But that’s something I’ll definitely remember.

Hoover: You got your first hit in your first at-bat in Coors Field, but it took you from July 23 to August 8 to get your first major league home run off Gerritt Cole in Pittsburgh, were any of your teammates giving you a hard time about that and what was it like when you hit the first one out?

Yelich: It’s nice to get that first one out of the way. Don’t have to worry about it or have that monkey on your back for too much longer. Whenever you hit your first homer everyone gives you a hard time and they did with Fudge too. It’s just a cool feeling to hit a home run in the big leagues.

Hoover: What was it like to finish the year with the Marlins and play with a lot of players that Miami is counting on to have in the big leagues next year too?

Yelich: Yeah we have a lot of good players there. We were able to get experience this year and find out what it was like to play in the big leagues everyday. Hope to carry that into the offseason and come back in Spring Training and hopefully have a solid year for us in 2014.

Hoover: What are you up to in the offseason?

Yelich: Not a whole lot right now, just resting up a little bit. I’m going to start working out again here in a couple weeks and get ready to do it all again in Spring Training and get ready for the season.

For the latest Suns news this offseason, fans are encouraged to visit 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:

Barkett Featured in Sun Sentinel

Breaking News

Suns manager Andy Barkett in 2013. Photo Courtesy: Roger C. Hoover / Jacksonville Suns.

By Roger Hoover / Jacksonville Suns

Jacksonville Suns manager Andy Barkett was featured in Thursday’s edition of the Sun Sentinel as a possible candidate for the vacant hitting coach position in the big leagues with the Miami Marlins.

Barkett was mentioned as part of a two-part story that also detailed his trip to the Dominican Republic with newly-named Marlins general manager Dan Jennings, international operations director Albert Gonzalez, and pro scout Dave Roberts.

Here is the section of the story that mentions that Barkett could be a Marlins hitting coach possibility, and the entire article can be found here.

Double-A to majors?

The Marlins likely were the only organization to take their Double-A manager to the Abreu showcase. Barkett’s inclusion was curious. One scenario is the Marlins are considering him for Mike Redmond’s big league staff as the full-time hitting coach.

After the Tino Martinez fiasco, the Marlins brought up minor league field coordinator John Pierson to fill in on an interim basis. A source said at the time the Marlins thought about Barkett, but they opted to leave him in Jacksonville overseeing some of the organization’s top prospects.

Perhaps Jennings wanted to see how the bilingual, South Florida-raised Barkett would evaluate and interact with Abreu. The Marlins already know their young, marquee position players – Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, Jake Marisnick and Derek Dietrich – all loved playing for him. 

Considering the Marlins’ youth, the club might be well served bringing aboard an accomplished player development guy. That is, unless the John Mallee experience soured Loria on that notion. Mallee was the Marlins’ minor league hitting coordinator before his promotion to Edwin Rodriguez’s staff. His June 2011 firing did not sit well with several players, particularly Logan Morrison.

The Marlins might also be kicking around the idea of Barkett as part of a two-hitting coach arrangement like several teams have adopted. or @JCRMarlinsbeat on Twitter.