When the season began, expectations were high for Justin Nicolino's introduction to the Florida State League with Class A Advanced Jupiter. The same can't necessarily be said for Dustin Lawley in St. Lucie. Now with the season mostly behind them, both are taking home some well-earned hardware.
The Florida State League named Lawley its Player of the Year on Wednesday while Nicolino received Pitcher of the Year honors. Both were also placed on the circuit's postseason All-Star squad, which includes big-time prospects Javier Baez (Daytona) and Gary Sanchez (Tampa).
Nicolino -- Miami's No. 4 prospect -- went 5-2 with a 2.23 ERA, a 1.11 WHIP and 64 strikeouts in 18 starts (96 2/3 innings) for the Hammerheads this season. His ERA would have been lowest and his WHIP second-lowest in the FSL had he enough innings to qualify. The 21-year-old left-hander's chance to hit that mark was taken away when he was promoted to Double-A Jacksonville in late July.
Lawley, meanwhile, has been the best power hitter in a circuit that notoriously favors those on the mound. His 25 homers lead all sluggers and put him seven ahead of his closest competition -- a three-way race for second between K.C. Hobson (Dunedin), Nick Ramirez (Brevard County) and Kennys Vargas (Fort Myers), each with 18.
The 24-year-old left-fielder, whose previous career high was just 14 homers last year for Class A Savannah, also ranks first with 90 RBIs, second with a .514 slugging percentage, tied for third with 31 doubles and sixth with an .826 OPS. He spotted a .257/.311/.514 line over 117 games with the Mets.
Fort Myers first-year skipper Doug Mientkiewicz was named Manager of the Year after leading Fort Myers to a South Division first-half title and the circuit's best overall record at 71-52, as of Wednesday.
Sanchez -- the Yankees' top prospect -- was one of two catchers named to the postseason All-Star team after accruing a .254/.313/.420 line with 13 homers and 61 RBIs in 94 games for Tampa before his call-up to Double-A Trenton. Cubs top prospect Baez, who is now with Double-A Tennessee, was the lone shortstop honored after putting up .274/.338/.535/17/57 numbers in 76 games for Daytona.
Jupiter's Brent Keys claimed the center field spot, thanks to his FSL-leading .351 average and no one within 30 points of that number. Hammerheads closer Nick Wittgren (23 saves, 0.86 ERA) was paired with Palm Beach's Ronnie Shaban (16, 1.76) as the circuit's best closers.
In all, Jupiter, St. Lucie and Fort Myers each led the way with three representatives apiece on this year's All-Star team.
Here is a complete list of selections:
2013 Florida State League Postseason All-Stars
|Matt Koch||C||Fort Myers||MIN|
|Jonathan Rodriguez||1B||Palm Beach||STL|
|T.J. Rivera||UT||St. Lucie||NYM|
|Dustin Lawley*||LF||St. Lucie||NYM|
|David Popkins||RF||Palm Beach||STL|
|Kennys Vargas||DH||Fort Myers||MIN|
|Taylor Rogers||LHP||Fort Myers||MIN|
|Matt Bowman||RHP||St. Lucie||NYM|
|Ronnie Shaban||RHP||Palm Beach||STL|
|Doug Mientkiewicz||Manager||Fort Myers||MIN|
|Ryan Ellis||Coach||St. Lucie||NYM|
* Player of the Year
** Pitcher of the Year