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Hood leads next wave of near-ready Marlins
Along with slugger, strong pitching strengthens system in upper levels
10/25/2016 10:00 AM ET
Destin Hood belted a career-best 15 homers in the Minors before adding another in Miami. (Jim Redman/MiLB.com)

This offseason, MiLB.com will be honoring the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organizations. We're taking a look at each team to determine the outstanding seasons in Minor League baseball.

Three years ago, Miami had the worst record in the National League, but with Draft picks and key offseason moves, the organization is building itself back into a contender.

Six Marlins prospects made their Major League debuts this season, while a few recently acquired players earned their first callups to Miami as the parent club notched its best record in six seasons.

"I felt like at the end of the year, we got a chance to really turn the corner -- as far as moving into 2017 -- because of the work with the staff and our coordinators," said vice president of player development Marc DelPiano, following his first season with the Marlins. "I thought [they] really meshed well throughout the year."



Marlins Organization All-Stars

Catcher -- Tomas Telis, New Orleans (91 games), Miami (10 games): After being dealt from the Rangers for hurler Sam Dyson at the deadline last year, Telis has worked his way into a reliable callup option for the Marlins.

Though the 25-year-old bounced between Triple-A and the Majors three times this season, he managed above-.300 averages for both clubs. With a career-high 27 walks for the Zephyrs, Telis posted his best on-base percentage (.362) since his rookie campaign with the DSL Rangers in 2008.

"Very hardworking kid who really swung the bat well all year," New Orleans manager Arnie Beyeler said. "He was really consistent and hit from both sides of the plate, probably our most consistent hitter all season. He did a really nice job."

First baseman -- Xavier Scruggs, New Orleans (93 games), Miami (24 games): Like Telis, Scruggs joined the Marlins last year and it wasn't long before he was helping out in South Beach. The 29-year-old topped the system with 21 homers while notching a career-best slash line of .290/.408/.565 in the Minors.

"He's a kind of guy you want in the middle of that lineup, especially at the Triple-A level," Beyeler said. "A good guy to have down there if something happens to a guy in the big leagues, for him to go up and help out. And he really had a nice season."

On Oct. 18, Scruggs elected free agency, but with his bat and versatility (he played 32 games in the outfield), the California native will likely get picked up before the spring.

Second baseman -- Austin Nola, New Orleans (113 games): The Baton Rouge native and Louisiana State product was right at home in New Orleans, and it showed at the plate. Nola tallied a career-high .261 average and six homers, which is especially impressive given he had never left the yard more than once in his first four seasons.

"He's shown a lot more power this year than he's ever shown in the past, so he's starting to mature a little bit. The power's usually the last thing to come in young guys," Beyeler said. "So he did a nice job with our hitting coach, Paul Phillips, this year and really turned the corner from a bat standpoint from what he's done in the past."

Nola is continuing his work with Phillips in the Arizona Fall League, where he is also trying his hand at catching for possibly the first time since high school.

Third baseman -- Brian Anderson, Jupiter (49 games), Jacksonville (86 games): The Marlins' No. 4 prospect and Minor League Player of the Year came into his own this season, tying one career high with 11 long balls while setting others with 65 RBIs and 58 walks across the two levels.

"For me, he showed a real patience in his approach offensively and someone who was driving balls with authority to the outfield," DelPiano said. "He dominated that speed of the game."

Honorable Mention: After the Marlins selected him in the 19th round last June, James Nelson went on to lead the system at third base with a .284 average in 43 games with the GCL Marlins.

Shortstop -- J.T. Riddle, Jacksonville (101 games), New Orleans (15 games): Seeing the most playing time of his career thus far, the University of Kentucky product was able to get comfortable as the starting shortstop for the Double-A Suns before getting promoted.

Across the two levels, Riddle collected a career-high 34 walks with a .276/.318/.366 slash line. The Marlins' No. 9 prospect also added some defensive versatility, spending time at second base, first and in the outfield.

"I think the reason why his approach was consistent, I just thought we tried to simplify his mental approach, just trying to get him in a better position to be in hitters' counts more frequently," DelPiano said. "And I thought he did a good job of that."

Outfielders

Destin Hood, New Orleans (126 games), Miami (13 games): Similar to Scruggs, Hood was signed by the Marlins in the offseason and ended the year in Miami. Named the club's Position Prospect of the Year by MLB Pipeline, Hood bested his new organization with 80 RBIs while slugging a career-best 15 jacks.

"He was a guy that had a knack for driving runs in this year and that's tough to find; guys that even though he didn't hit for high average, he drove in a lot of runs," Beyeler said. "So a very impressive season for him and just an extremely hardworking guy that really stuck to his plan and really got after it all year, was fun to be around."

Austin Dean, Jacksonville (130 games): While Dean's career got off to a slow start (not making it above Class A in three seasons), he has caught up over the past two years. The Marlins' No. 6 prospect turned up the power with the Suns, tallying career highs of 11 homers and 67 RBIs, tying a personal best with 39 extra-base hits and walking more times (48) than he had in previous seasons.

"For me, Dean's a very good fastball hitter, and I think when he gets confident in laying off breaking stuff late in the count, you're going to see his career continue to grow," DelPiano said. "He's a good fastball hitter, works really hard defensively. I expect to see some more growth out of him going into 2017."

Dexter Kjerstad, Jupiter (124 games): In his third season since the Marlins signed him as a non-drafted free agent, Kjerstad found his power swing. The 24-year-old posted career highs with 15 roundtrippers (his previous best was six) and 55 RBIs in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League. Kjerstad patrolled all parts of the outfield and committed just four errors.

"Dexter's a strong guy, he's committed to nutrition and weight training and I think that's what showed dividends," DelPiano said. "Joe Dillon, our hitting coordinator, has really provided these guys with one voice, one type of approach, and [hitting coach] Frankie Moore, who was also with him all year in Jupiter, the two of them just preach the approach that Joe wanted and Dexter followed it.

"He had some streaks where he was exceptional, but overall, I thought his body of work was more consistent than it's been in his past."

Honorable Mention: Yefri Perez led the organization with 39 stolen bases en route to making his big league debut.

Utility player -- Matt Juengel, Jacksonville (21 games), New Orleans (110 games): While Juengel found himself in the Southern League for the second straight season in April, it wasn't long before he was making waves in the Pacific Coast League.

Typically an outfielder, Juengel moved to the infield for most of the season and spent the majority of his games at third base.

"Another dangerous guy in the middle of the lineup that had some power. He's a big kid and he's got some power and drove in some runs," Beyeler said. "A lot of times when you work at [defense], your offense kind of gets lost, but he did a nice job of separating the two."

Right-handed starter -- Luis Castillo, Jupiter (23 games), Jacksonville (three games): Castillo posted a 2.07 ERA in 21 starts with the Class A Advanced Hammerheads before finishing the season with the Suns. DelPiano noted how well the 23-year-old was able to repeat his delivery while notching a career-high 103 strikeouts en route to being named the Marlins' Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

"I thought his ability to throw changeups and fastballs -- and the changeup is coming out of change slot with the same delivery -- was especially effective and he did well with that," DelPiano said. "We still have to refine the breaking ball some, but I thought those two pitches played well all year."

Honorale Mention: Patrick Johnson topped the organization with 113 punchouts in 31 games, including 21 starts, for Jacksonville.

More Organization All-Stars

Left-handed starter -- Dillon Peters, Jupiter (20 games), Jacksonville (four games): The start of Peters' career was delayed by Tommy John surgery in 2014, but he's made up for it by climbing five levels over the past two years.

The University of Texas product posted a 2.38 ERA with 105 strikeouts and a system-leading 14 wins.

"He's a guy who's ultra-competitive, a guy who can repeat his delivery in three pitchers and this guy's got a knack to maintain his stuff whether he's in the wind-up or the stretch," DelPiano said. "But I think his overall ability to pitch and locate three pitches, I think that put him on the map this year."

Relief pitcher -- Drew Steckenrider, Jupiter (six games), Jacksonville (24 games), New Orleans (10 games): After tossing 10 scoreless innings, Steckenrider was off to Double-A, where he continued to pitch well before earning another promotion. Overall, the right-hander converted 14 of 15 save opportunities with a composite 2.08 ERA in 52 innings.

"Big kid. Drew is really hardworking and you look at him and just say, 'That's what they look like,'" Beyeler said of the 6-foot-5 hurler. "He has a big fastball and likes to throw it. He has a couple other pitches, but he really likes his fastball and just keeps coming at you with his fastball and commands it very well. [I] was really impressed with his ability to just throw strikes and the job he did."

Kelsie Heneghan is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kelsie_Heneghan. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.
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