Marlins Find Hidden Gems In Villanueva, Koehler





Best Player: Mike Stanton's last game with Double-A Jacksonville was June 5. He still finished tied for second among Southern League hitters with 21 homers, two behind West Tenn's Carlos Peguero.

It's frightening to think what the 20-year-old Stanton might have accomplished with the Suns had the Marlins not promoted him to the majors. He was averaging almost an RBI a game and at the time of his promotion had a 1.171 OPS over 53 games (192 at-bats).

Stanton lowered his strikeout rate from 30.1 percent in 2009 to 27.6 percent this season. He also was 15 walks shy of matching his total from a year ago (59) despite playing in 76 fewer minor league games.

In the majors, Stanton had his highs and lows. He hit safely in seven straight games in August and batted .556 (15-for-27) with nine extra-base hits (four homers) to win National League player of the week honors. Right after that, however, he fell into a 4-for-55 skid with 20 strikeouts that included a 0-for-31 streak.

Best Pitcher: Elih Villanueva not only was the best pitcher in the Marlins system; he also was the best pitcher in the Southern League. A 27th-round pick out of Florida State in 2008, Villanueva led the league with a 2.26 ERA, 179 innings, a 0.96 WHIP, four complete games and three shutouts.

One of those was a rain-shortened, five-inning no-hitter against Carolina. Villanueva did not post an ERA over 2.79 in any full month and did not lose a game after June 22.

Keep An Eye On: Had Villanueva pitched elsewhere this season, the distinction of the Southern League's best starter would have gone to Tom Koehler, who finished with a Double-A-best 16 wins and just two losses. Over his final 23 starts, Koehler went 13-2, 2.31 ERA with a 3.8-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 133 innings. While Koehler finished second to Villanueva in several categories league-wide, he struck out 30 more batters in 20 fewer innings than his Suns teammate. Montgomery's Alexander Torres (150) was the only Southern League pitcher with more strikeouts than Koehler (145), who finished with a 2.61 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 28 starts (159 innings).

Like Villanueva, Koehler was selected in the 2008 draft, nine rounds earlier out of Stony Brook.

FISH BITES

• Seven minor leaguers will represent the Marlins in the Arizona Fall League. Pitchers Pete Andrelczyk, Jay Buente, Steve Cishek, and Brad Stone; catcher Kyle Skipworth; and infielders Ryan Curry and Osvaldo Martinez will play for the Phoenix Desert Dogs.

• Down to their fourth (Brad Davis) and fifth (Chris Hatcher) catchers on the organizational depth chart, the Marlins signed minor league free agent Mike Rivera and briefly assigned him to Triple-A New Orleans before promoting him to the majors.