When the Miami Marlins presented their end-of-the-year minor-league awards on Sunday at loanDepot park, three of the 11 players being honored — catcher Will Banfield, left-handed pitcher Patrick Monteverde and outfidler Jake Thompson — weren’t at the ballpark.
The trio of Double A standouts, along with their manager Kevin Randel — who was named the club’s staff member of the year — were still in Pensacola with the Blue Wahoos trying to win a second consecutive Southern League championship and become the second Marlins affiliate to win a title this year. The Jupiter Hammerheads in Single A won the Florida State League title a week earlier.
That mission ultimately fell short, with the Blue Wahoos being swept in a best-of-3 series by the Tennessee Smokies (the Chicago Cubs’ Double A affiliate), but them making it back to the postseason further cemented one of the Marlins’ overarching goals for their prospects this year.
“We wanted to put an emphasis on winning,” Marlins director of minor-league operations Hector Crespo said. “That starts with [general manager] Kim [Ng] and that starts with [Marlins manager] Skip [Schumaker] as far as what that looks like. Knowing how to win from early in the system [is important because] it gets rid of this expectation. It’s not good enough just to be in the big leagues for us. It’s ‘we want to win games,’ which we’re doing right now. We really wanted to make that a point this year, and it’s been cool to see the fruits of that labor kind of come to fruition.”
That winning is happening at all levels. The Marlins in Year 1 under Schumaker are one victory from securing the club’s first winning campaign in a non-shortened season since 2009 and entered Wednesday a half game behind the Chicago Cubs for a playoff spot with six games to play.
The Marlins’ four full-season minor-league affiliates — Triple A Jacksonville, Double A Pensacola, High A Beloit and Single A Jupiter — went a combined 275-273, with Pensacola (79-57) and Jupiter (70-62) finishing with winning records en route to their playoff berths.
Miami’s rookie-level Florida Complex League affiliate also had a winning record, going 27-25.
“It’s the mentality and the messaging,” Crespo said. “I think if it’s important to us, it’s important to the players so we — from myself to our staff members — really wanted to push that focus and that emphasis on winning and then it was cool to see the guys take the initiative and take the accountability of doing so.”
Added Schumaker: “It’s important to win at every level and to understand what winning feels like and looks like. We talked to all their coaches throughout the year. We congratulated both of them down there. Exciting time for the organization and where they’re at. You play the game to win. I know there’s development down there and I’ve never stops, even when you’re at the major league level. That’s how I grew up. We won a Double A championship. A lot of those guys played in the World Series in ‘11. It means something because that’s what we’re trying to build here up and down the organization. You’re trying to build winners so when you get up here, you know what to expect and it’s not some shocking environment because it’s gonna be the same thing all the way up and down the system.”
Marlins minor-league award winners
▪ MVP — First baseman Troy Johnston: Miami’s No. 23 overall prospect split time between Double A and Triple A and led all of minor-league baseball with 116 RBI while also hitting .307 with 26 home runs, 36 doubles, 102 runs scored and 24 stolen bases.
▪ Pitcher of the Year — Left-handed pitcher Patrick Monteverde: The Marlins’ No. 16 prospect one of two Marlins to participate in the MLB Futures Game, went 10-5 with a 3.32 ERA and 114 strikeouts in 114 innings in 21 starts with Double A Pensacola.
▪ Triple A Player of the Year — Utility player Xavier Edwards: Miami’s fourth-ranked prospect, acquired this offseason in a trade with the Rays, hit .351 — the second-best mark in the minors — with 14 doubles, seven home runs, 47 RBI and 32 stolen bases.
▪ Double A Player of the Year — Catcher Will Banfield: The Marlins’ No. 29 prospect set career highs in batting average (.258), slugging (.472), OPS (.774), doubles (25), home runs (23), RBI (76) and runs scored (70) while continuing to be solid defensively.
▪ High A Player of the Year — Outfielder Jake Thompson: A minor-league free agent signing in 2022, Thompson split time between High A and Double A. He hit .278 with an .886 OPS, 18 home runs, 15 doubles, 53 RBI and 63 runs scored in 103 games (89 in Beloit, 14 in Pensacola).
▪ Single A Player of the Year — Infielder Javier Sanoja: Miami’s No. 19 prospect hit .298 with 67 RBI, 61 runs scored and 37 stolen bases over 132 games, the first 102 of which were played in Jupiter before being promoted to High A Beloit.
▪ Florida Complex League Player of the Year — Infielder Jesus Hernandez: The 19-year-old hit .262 with nine doubles, three home runs, 26 RBI and 36 runs scored in 50 games for the rookie-level affiliate.
▪ Dominican Summer League Players of the Year — Infielder Erick Lara and outfielder Andres Valor: Lara hit .305 with a .861 OPS and 32 RBI in the Dominican Summer League while Valor, Miami’s No. 25 prospect, hit .294 with a .826 OPS, five home runs, 21 stolen bases and 39 runs scored. Both are 17 years old.
▪ Service Member of the Year — Infielder Jordan McCants
▪ Student of the Year — Left-handed pitcher Julio Mendez
▪ Staff Member of the Year — Double A manager Kevin Randel