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Pérez, Fulton flash potent stuff for Marlins

Premier crop of hurlers, shortstops headline Miami’s future
Top-ranked Marlins prospect Eury Pérez enjoyed a standout season at Double-A to lead the club's young pitching wave (Mike Krebs/
November 18, 2022

Each offseason, goes position by position across each organization and honors the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in each farm system. Next up in our 2022 Organization All-Stars series are the Miami Marlins.

Each offseason, goes position by position across each organization and honors the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in each farm system. Next up in our 2022 Organization All-Stars series are the Miami Marlins.

2022 Organization Summary

Triple-A Jacksonville: 80-69
Double-A Pensacola: 68-63 (first-half division winner)
High-A Beloit: 62-67
Single-A Jupiter: 63-66
FCL Marlins: 31-24
DSL Marlins: 31-26
DSL Miami: 20-39
Overall record: 355-354 (.501 winning percentage, 16th among MLB organizations)

Marlins Organization All-Stars

Catcher: Paul McIntosh

A strong showing during the MLB Draft League in 2021 earned McIntosh a deal with the Marlins as an undrafted free agent. Since then, he has done nothing but mash, excelling in an aggressive promotion straight to Double-A this year.

“You talk about the hardest worker in the organization, it’s this guy right here,” said Hector Crespo, the Marlins’ director of Minor League operations. “He comes in every single day with a purpose and a routine that he sticks to and he’s a catcher.

“He’s just hard-nosed, he knows how to manage a game, has a great relationship with his pitchers and he’s the guy back there that you trust and just want to throw to.”

The 24-year-old produced an .844 OPS across 90 games, with 47.6 percent of his hits going for extra bases. Known as a power bat, the well-built 220-pound backstop also drew his fair share of walks (55) and added 10 stolen bases, a rarity after notching just three steals in three collegiate campaigns at West Virginia.

First base: Zach Zubia

Exhibiting a tremendously gifted eye at the dish during his first full pro season, Zubia compiled a .403 on-base percentage between Jupiter and Beloit largely because he finished tied for 10th in the Minors with 96 walks drawn. The 25-year-old posted nearly identical numbers (134 wRC+ at Single-A, 131 wRC+ at High-A) across his stops, compiling a total 17 doubles, 12 homers and 49 RBIs. A 20th-round selection in the 2021 Draft out of the University of Texas, the 6-foot-4 righty batter slugged some impressive long balls, including a 465-foot wallop on Aug. 7.

Second base: Cody Morissette

Nabbed in the second round of the 2021 Draft out of Boston College, Morissette spent his first full season in the organization with Beloit. His compact left-handed stroke ran into 13 homers, more than he compiled across three collegiate seasons combined. He enjoyed one historic night in particular, swatting three roundtrippers during the Sky Carp’s win at Lake County on June 17. A foot injury sidetracked the Marlins' No. 21 prospect per MLB Pipeline during the summer, yet he still impressed the club with his all-around baseball instincts.

Third base: Willians Astudillo

Affectionately dubbed “La Tortuga,” the 31-year-old utility man had arguably the best season of his pro career in 2022 with the Jumbo Shrimp. In just 75 games at Triple-A, Astudillo swatted a career-high 16 homers while maintaining an aversion to striking out with a miniscule 5.1 percent K rate.

Even as his line-drive rate dipped, Astudillo compiled a 140 wRC+ and .396 wOBA. The .912 OPS he compiled ranks as his second-highest over a semi-full season in his extensive pro ball travels. While he played all over the diamond, the 30 starts he made at the hot corner were his most in the field.

Shortstop: Nasim Nuñez

“There’s not many guys you pay for admission to watch play defense,” Crespo said of Nuñez, “... and this is the guy to do it.”

Nuñez is regarded as an upper-echelon defender at short. Named to MLB Pipeline’s All-Defensive second team entering the season, the second-round pick from the 2019 Draft played over 1,000 innings at the premium position this year, showcasing an advanced feel for the spot as he continued to climb the organizational rungs.

“He makes an impact play each game,” Crespo said of Miami's No. 23 prospect. “He’s one of the guys you watch play shortstop and he’s just doing something you’ve never seen before. He’s got natural, fluid actions with a cannon of an arm.”

If stolen bases are a lost art, that fact has been lost on Nuñez, who swiped 70 bags between Beloit and Pensacola this past year, tying him for the third most across the Minors. Like Zubia, Nuñez, who was cited by Crespo as being the organization’s most improved position player, showcased a disciplined approach that enabled him to stack up bases on balls in droves. His 95 free passes helped him compile a .384 on-base percentage.

Shortstop was a packed position across the Miami system, with Jose Salas (MIA 5), Yiddi Cappe (MIA 6) and Kahlil Watson (MIA 7) all jockeying for reps up the middle.

Outfield: Jerar Encarnacion

Added to the club’s 40-man roster in 2020, Encarnacion broke through this past year, hitting his way into a 23-game stint with Miami. The 25-year-old came out mashing, graduating from Pensacola in mid-May after he compiled a slash line of .358/.427/.583 with eight homers over 31 games. In total, the Dominican Republic native collected a career-high 22 homers between Pensacola and Jacksonville.

Griffin Conine

The son of Marlins legend, Jeff Conine, Griffin has proven an adept slugger since joining the organization via trade in September 2020. While he was unable to follow up on the prodigious 36-homer campaign he enjoyed in ‘21, the younger Conine swatted 24 roundtrippers this season with Pensacola, setting a franchise record. While strikeouts remain a persistent bugaboo (36.9 percent rate), the Marlins' No. 24 prospect possesses solid strength and bat speed, which aided in a .220 ISO, ranking him seventh in the Southern League among batters with at least 400 plate appearances at the level.

Brian Miller

A Competitive Balance Round A selection in 2017 out of the University of North Carolina, Miller’s upward trajectory was stunted after an Arizona Fall League appearance in ‘18. He got a brief taste of the big leagues in 2021, but Miller enjoyed his best pro campaign this year with Jacksonville. He logged career highs in batting average (.292), on-base percentage (.349), slugging percentage (.434), RBIs (45), home runs (seven) and triples (nine), all while adding 26 stolen bases across 108 games with the Jumbo Shrimp.

Right-handed pitcher: Eury Pérez

Just days ago fellow Dominican right-hander Sandy Alcantara was named the 2022 National League Cy Young Award winner. While Pérez is still working his way , it’s still enormously impressive that a 19-year-old – who boasts a brotherly relationship with Alcantara – has not only soared as high as MLB Pipeline’s second-highest ranked pitching prospect, but that Pérez was something of a strikeout maestro despite being more than five years younger than his Double-A competition.

“He’s just a different cat,” Crespo said of Miami's No. 1 prospect. “I remember watching his first start at Pensacola this year. … it was Opening Day, he had never pitched in front of that many people before and he was locked in.

“The moment wasn’t too big for him.”

Pérez struck out five in his first Pensacola start, going on to compile 106 punchouts over 75 frames for the Blue Wahoos. His heater operates in the mid-90s, but has risen near triple digits when necessary. Two quality offspeed offerings – a curveball and changeup – give polish to his repertoire with room for growth. Opposing batters amassed just a .671 OPS against the 6-foot-8 righty despite hitting .320 on balls in play.

Left-handed pitcher: Dax Fulton

Previously regarded as the top southpaw prep arm in the 2020 Draft class, Fulton showcased that top-tier ability in his first full campaign split between Beloit and Pensacola. After getting a taste of High-A at just 19 years old last season, the club's No. 8 prospect racked up 11.1 K/9 at the level over 20 starts this year.

“I think he’s probably our most improved player in the entire organization,” Crespo said.

Fulton continued to stack up strikeouts and strong performances upon a promotion to Double-A to close the year, notching a 2.55 xFIP and 37.5 percent K rate over four starts. His 150 total strikeouts paced all Marlins Minor Leaguers, yet he still managed to keep the ball in the yard with just eight homers allowed over 118 1/3 frames.

“He had one of the most impressive starts that I’ve seen in my time in professional baseball in our playoff game in Pensacola where he was pure dominance,” Crespo said of Fulton’s season-capping 13-strikeout, one-hit performance on Sept. 23. “The sky is the limit for him.”

Reliever: Josh Simpson

Simpson has been something of a strikeout artist since turning pro after Miami nabbed him in the 32nd round of the 2019 MLB Draft out of Columbia University. But he turned it up an extra gear in 2022, with his 40.7 percent K rate leading the Minors for all pitchers who accrued at least 60 innings.

While Simpson did not primarily serve as the closer at either Pensacola or Jacksonville (that honor went to Eli Villalobos, who pushed Simpson for this honor), his 14.8 K/9 were too overpowering to ignore. Opposing batters had a nightmarish campaign against the 25-year-old, hitting a combined .177 with a .588 OPS.

Jesse Borek is a reporter/coordinator of prospect content at MLB Pipeline and MiLB. Follow him on Twitter @JesseABorek.