Best Player: Low Class A Greensboro owes much of its first-half success to righthander Jose Fernandez, who helped lead the Grasshoppers to a first-place finish in the South Atlantic League's Northern Division. In his first full season, the 19-year-old dominated the circuit, going 7-0, 1.59 in 14 starts and striking out 99 batters while walking 18 in 79 innings. That performance prompted a promotion to high Class A Jupiter.
The 14th overall pick last year out of Tampa's Alonso High, Fernandez in the first half paced the SAL in ERA, strikeouts and WHIP (0.87). The righty already is physically imposing at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds with a powerful lower half. His personal ordeal as a Cuban defector also gives him an added degree of maturity and mental toughness.
Biggest Leap Forward: Spearheading the offensive component of Greensboro's first-half success was center fielder Brent Keys, whom the Marlins selected in the 17th round in 2009 out of Simi Valley (Calif.) High. He was batting .362/.430/.479 with 15 doubles and 16 stolen bases in 19 attempts.
Keys' power numbers were a bit inflated from playing half his games at hitter-friendly NewBridge Bank Park, where he had slugged .581 (with three of four homers) compared with .372 on the road. The 21-year-old's strengths in the batter's box are seeing pitches and working counts, and through 69 games he had walked 10 more times (32) than he struck out.
Biggest Disappointment: Outfielder Kyle Jensen, the MVP of last season's Florida State League, had seen his production plummet in the Double-A Southern League. The power-hitting 24-year-old had batted just .209/.317/.386 with 10 homers in 249 at-bats for Jacksonville. A lack of contact was a contributing factor. Jensen's percentage of strikeouts climbed from 26 percent of plate appearances in last year's FSL to 31 percent this year.
• In addition to Fernandez, the Marlins promoted lefty Adam Conley from Greensboro to Jupiter. He ranked among the SAL leaders in ERA (2.78), WHIP (1.10) and strikeout rate (10.2 per nine innings).
• Miami activated top prospect Christian Yelich from the Jupiter disabled list (concussion) on June 19 after a three-week stint. He and Fernandez will represent the Marlins in the Futures Game.