FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.—Low Class A Greensboro made it to the South Atlantic League finals for a second straight season, and a big reason for their success was the work of catchers Austin Barnes and Wilfredo Gimenez.
Barnes split time behind the plate (16 games) and at second base (104) and served as one of the organization's biggest surprises. A ninth-round pick out of Arizona State in 2011, Barnes hit .318/.401/.481 with 12 homers in 478 at-bats. The 22-year-old led the SAL with 152 hits and ranked seventh in on-base percentage.
The Marlins have to decide whether Barnes should continue playing multiple positions—and at what ratio— or have him concentrate on one spot. Minor league catching coordinator Tim Cossins said he could envision Barnes and Gimenez playing under the same arrangement next season.
"The important thing was to get Barnesy at-bats without drowning him behind the plate," Cossins said. "(Manager Dave Berg) did a great job of getting them both behind the plate, and it helps because Barnes can really catch and throw."
Cossins characterized Barnes as low maintenance defensively, enabling him to bounce between the two positions with minimal hiccups.
"His strength is the intangible stuff he brings," Cossins said. "He knows the game. He's always in the right spot. He makes good decisions. He really does a good job with the pitchers. He's one of those guys who's going to make clubs because managers love those kinds of players."
The Marlins have a lot to love about Gimenez as well. A product of Maracay, Venezuela, he signed as an international amateur in 2007. He repeated the SAL and improved his batting line to .266/.311/.331 in 323 at-bats.
Though Gimenez is nowhere near as accomplished offensively as Barnes, Cossins thinks he can look forward to a lengthy big league career.
"He had periods before where he would go good for a while and then struggle almost out of the blue," Cossins said. "He didn't really have letdowns this year. He did a great job defensively, is a tremendous teammate, fully bilingual. He's at a point now where I don't feel like he's going to have those big ups and downs."
• The Marlins extended their player-development contracts with Greensboro, Double-A Jacksonville and Triple-A New Orleans through the 2014 season.
• Before losing Games Four and Five of the Florida State League finals to Lakeland, high Class A Jupiter had not dropped consecutive games since Aug. 7-9 at Fort Myers.