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.