Woods, Perez break out as Miami All-Stars

Marlins youngsters among bright spots in down year for organization

By Josh Jackson / MiLB.com | October 27, 2015 10:00 AM

This offseason, MiLB.com is honoring the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. Starting today with the Arizona Diamondbacks, we're taking a look at each team to determine the outstanding seasons in Minor League Baseball.

As 2014 came to a close, the Marlins made an optimistic move, dealing their top prospect Andrew Heaney along with well-rounded catching prospect Austin Barnes and two more proven but less promising players in a deal with the Dodgers for, amongst others, Dee Gordon, who was sensational for Miami. Without Heaney and Barnes, though, and as Justin Nicolino, Christian Yellich, Marcell Ozuna and Justin Bour all graduated to the Majors to offer hope of an NL East title in the not-too-distant future, the Minor League system didn't have the same wattage as in past years.

Nonetheless -- and even as the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Marlins (33-27) were the only affiliate to have a winning season -- a collection of veterans and youngsters, farmhands and newcomers showed there was a lot to be excited about at each rung of the organization.

Marlins Organization All-Stars

Catcher -- Arturo Rodriguez, Greensboro (125 games): Signed out of the non-affiliated Mexican League in January, Rodriguez led Marlins Minor Leaguers and tied for the Class A South Atlantic League lead with 19 homers, batting .275 with a .326 on-base percentage and a .433 slugging percentage while catching 45 games.

"Arturo, we were fortunate enough to keep him all year. He was a little older for the league, and he showed it," Grasshoppers manager Kevin Randel said. "By the end of the year, he was pretty good [behind the plate], and I had him at first base and DH a bit too. Coming out of Spring Training, he was already pretty good at receiving and blocking, but he had some arm issues. The arm got better over the course of the year, and he calls a really good game too."

First baseman -- K.J. Woods, Greensboro (104 games): Drafted out of a South Carolina high school in the fourth round of 2013, Woods broke out in his first season of over 44 games. He moved from the outfield to first base, and his bat really began to shine.

"I thought he was terrific for us," said Randel, who didn't see much from Woods in Spring Training because of a hamstring issue. "His approach was outstanding. He had such a presence in the box for a 19-year-old kid. He looks like he's going to hit the ball hard every at-bat, and he has a very good awareness of the strike zone."

Woods had just one fewer homer with Rodriguez while slashing .277/.364/.496.

Second baseman -- David Adams, Jacksonville (116 games): Adams worked his way through the Yankees system from 2008 to 2013, when he played 43 Major League games, and he split last year between the Orioles' top two affiliates. After signing a Minor League deal with Miami in February, he got his career moving in the the direction again with a fantastic season.

Adams led Double-A Jacksonville and was third in the Southern League with a .399 on-base percentage while batting .29, plating 50 runs and tallying 21 extra-base hits. He went 5-for-5 in the Rickwood Classic, which was one of seven games he had with three hits or more. In 53 games at second base, he had a .979 fielding percentage, and he also saw time at first and second.

Honorable mention: Avery Romero played 123 games for Class A Advanced Jupiter, 109 of them at second base, where he had a .961 fielding percentage. The 2012 third-rounder's offensive numbers took a dip, but he finished with a .315 on-base percentage.

Third baseman -- Zack Cox, Jacksonville (103 games), New Orleans (16 games): Traded from the Cardinals to the Marlins in a 2012 deadline deal for Edward Mujica, the 2010 first-rounder had easily his best year since coming over. In fact, he led all Miami Minor Leaguers with a .304 average and whacked 24 doubles while logging 90 games at the hot corner. Like fellow veteran Adams, he was named an end-of-season All-Star by the Southern League.

Shortstop -- J.T. Riddle, Jupiter (45 games), Jacksonville (44 games), New Orleans (one game): Riddle slashed .283/.323/.368 with 19 extra-base hits and seven steals in 10 attempts this season. There was some question about how long this former University of Kentucky second baseman would stay at shortstop in the pro game, but after spending last year mostly between short and third base, with a half dozen games at second, that question is fading away.

Through 90 2015 games across three levels, he played shortstop in 85 of them, DH'd in six and pinch-hit in one. He missed some time on the disabled list, including the second half of August with a tooth infection, but he's making up for it in the Arizona Fall League. Through his first five games there, he's exclusively played short.


Yefri Perez, Jupiter (135 games): A switch-hitting center fielder, Perez stole 71 bases. That's more than any other player in affiliated pro ball except the Yankees' Jorge Mateo, who swiped 82. Perez's previous high mark was 30, which he set last season over 118 games for Greensboro. The jump in thefts is all the more impressive considering his other offensive numbers dipped (with his on-base percentage going from .335 to .286).

He struck out a fair amount this year -- 95 times in 135 games compared to 54 times last year -- and if he can get that under control, it's hard to imagine what he might be capable of. With a .240 average, the 24-year-old out of the Dominican Republic still was second in the Florida State League with 74 runs scored.

Stone Garrett, Batavia (58 games): After hitting .236 and going homerless in his pro debut in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League last season, Garrett broke out this year to lead the Class A Short Season New York-Penn League in home runs (11), RBIs (46), slugging percentage (.581), extra-base hits (35) and total bases (129). He also tied for eighth in the circuit with a .297 average, which qualified for third in the Miami system. 

No wonder, then, he earned Marlins Minor League Player of the Year honors.

Kenny Wilson, Jacksonville (130 games): At 25, Wilson is already something of a Minor League journeyman. He was drafted by the Blue Jays out of a Florida high school in the second round of the 2008 Draft, and he's played 737 pro games in the regular season while suiting up with four different organizations.

This season, though, was his best yet, as he set career highs in games (130), doubles (24) and homers (eight) while matching career highs in triples (seven) and average (.270), all the while recording 77 runs, 37 steals and a .348 on-base percentage. His thefts total was second in the system only to Perez.

Wilson is also a strong defensive outfielder, and the Suns used him in center for 125 games and played him once in left. He recorded nine outfield assists, four of them for double plays.

Utility player -- John Norwood, Greensboro (120 games): A versatile fourth outfielder rather than a true utilityman, Norwood flashed plenty of power and speed in his first full season. He went yard 16 times, clubbed 19 doubles and stole 34 bases. Although he walked 42 times to end up with a .304 on-base percentage, he also struck out 113 times and batted just .233.

"He was good to have on the club. He has a lot of power. A little approach change would do him some good. He's one of the ones who made me scratch my head a lot," Randel said of the low base-hit percentage. "He has all tools."

The 23-year-old native of New Jersey hasn't had as much baseball experience as others his age -- although he was the hero in Vanderbilt's 2014 College World Series title, he started just 19 games over his first two years with the Commodores. Randel believes he'll begin to put the bat on the ball more consistently as he logs more pro at-bats and has the opportunity to spend time with more senior players.

"I think when he gets around older players and they talk to him about approach and this and that, he'll learn to develop a better overall approach and get a better understanding of how to play the game," Randel said. "We were so young offensively, a bunch of 19-year-old kids. I think moving up to Jupiter, getting around some older players, will be good for him."

Right-handed starter -- Kendry Flores, Jupiter (two games, two starts), Jacksonville (nine games, nine starts), New Orleans (10 games, 10 starts), Miami (seven games, one start): When the Marlins got Flores and Luis Castillo from the Giants for Casey McGehee last December, they couldn't have known the 23-year-old Dominican Republic native would lead their Minor League system with a 2.29 ERA while climbing three levels to the Majors, but that's just what he did.

While in just about every measurable category this was Flores' best year since he signed with San Francisco in 2009, his strikeouts and strikeouts-per-nine-innings dropped considerably. Last year, he whiffed 112 over 105 2/3 innings, and this year he fanned just 85 over 118 innings. Whatever the cause, missing fewer bats didn't seem to affect him negatively, as he held Minor League opponents to a .198 average.

Left-handed starter -- Adam Conley, New Orleans (19 games, 18 starts), Miami (15 games, 11 starts): Conley not only debuted in the Majors this year, he stuck in the rotation from Aug. 12 through the end of the season, working 67 innings. Before that, though, he dominated the Triple-A Pacific Coast League, where last year he was bitten for a 6.00 ERA over 12 games -- 11 starts.

The 2015 campaign was a different story. Conley went 9-3 with a 2.52 ERA and a complete-game shutout over 19 appearances, 18 of which were starts. PCL hitters managed just a .219 average against him, and he allowed just four homers in the dinger-friendly circuit.

More Organization All-Stars

Reliever -- Tyler Bremer, Jupiter (32 games), Jacksonville (four games), New Orleans (five games): Bremer came to the Marlins from the Cubs along with Jose Arias for Jacob Turner last Aug. 18, and his new club couldn't have asked more of him in his first full season in the system. He was the picture of consistency out of the Hammerheads bullpen, where he worked most of the year, never allowing more than one earned run or two total runs in any of his 32 appearances to earn a 1.84 ERA. Bremer was also 4-for-5 in save opportunities there.

Josh Jackson is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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