Austin Dean Could Win the N.L. Rookie of the Year Award

WEST PALM BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 28: Austin Dean #44 of the Miami Marlins doubles in the fifth inning against the Houston Astros at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on February 28, 2019 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
WEST PALM BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 28: Austin Dean #44 of the Miami Marlins doubles in the fifth inning against the Houston Astros at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on February 28, 2019 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /
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Austin Dean opens this Spring Training as the heir apparent to left field for Opening Day, 2019.

Austin Dean has started this spring with four hits in nine at bats, along with three RBI and two stolen bases. I know it’s a small sample size, but Dean could be in for a huge season.

I know it’s a long year, and nobody is ever going to remember that Dean started Spring Training hot in 2019. After all, once he finally joined the Miami Marlins last season after seven seasons in the minor leagues, he only hit .221 with four homers and 14 RBI in 122 plate appearances.

Dean was a fourth round selection of the Miami Marlins in 2012, taken 137th overall off the board. Six+ years is a longer gestational period than we’ve come to expect from players that eventually become “stars.” For Dean’s part, he was only a highly-touted Marlins prospect in 2016 (number six) and in 2017 (number 14), according to MLB Pipeline.

Austin Dean
WEST PALM BEACH, FL – FEBRUARY 28: Austin Dean #44 of the Miami Marlins scores in the fifth inning against the Houston Astros at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches on February 28, 2019 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

As to his history, Dean has always been solid at the plate, hitting .282 in 2017 for the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, in the double-A Southern League. There were likely some that thought he was ready for the “big time” as early as Opening Day of last season, but the Marlins started him in Jacksonville.

Dean demolished SL pitching through his first 22 contests of the year, hitting .420/.466/.654 in 88 plate appearances. Perhaps most impressively, he struck out under eight percent of the time. The Miami Marlins minor league management team had no choice but to promote him to the triple-A New Orleans Baby Cakes, in the Pacific Coast League at the end of April. He likely wouldn’t be able to maintain the same level of production at the higher level.

Austin Dean
MIAMI, FL – SEPTEMBER 03: Austin Dean #44 of the Miami Marlins slides home safely after scoring a run in the second inning against the Philadelphia Phillies at Marlins Park on September 3, 2018 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

And that was true, technically, but he didn’t really fall off very much either. In a decent-sized sample of 87 contests, he hit .326/.397/.475 with nine homers and 54 RBI, along with a solid 13.7 percent whiff-rate.

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We were only privy to Dean’s performance at the major league level starting on August 15th, when he made his major league debut in a 5-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves by going 0-for-3. Soon after, he went seven-for-17 over a four-game hit-streak to raise his average as high as .286 before falling off.

Dean has the talent to not only stick at baseball’s top level in 2019, but to excel. He’s still a rookie, due to his not having exceeded 130 at bats through his career thus far. Nobody is talking about him in wider circles, but this guy could be the dark-horse candidate for National League Rookie of the Year. Let’s see what he can do.

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