When elevated a year ago, former Blue Wahoos first baseman Troy Johnston struggled during the final month of the season with the Triple-A Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.
He spent the offseason working to ensure the next chance became successful.
It led him to become the 2023 Marlins Minor League Player of the Year, following a season where he helped lead the Blue Wahoos to their first half Southern League division. He then played his final 51 games for Jacksonville and raised his season batting average to its highest full-season level in three seasons as a pro.
“I’m just thankful that (Marlins) saw to give me another opportunity in Triple-A,” said Johnston, speaking to media members who cover the Marlins, following the presentation. He finished his season with a combined .307 batting average across two levels and 134 games, highlighted by 116 RBI.
“Of course, I had a rough stint last year, but they gave me another opportunity this year and I’m really happy with the way that it went and I think I did the best I could,” Johnston said.
The prestigious award was formally presented to Johnston on Sept. 24 before the Marlins final regular-season home game at loanDepot Park. He was part of a significant Blue Wahoos connection to the organizational awards.
Patrick Monteverde was named the Marlins Minor League Pitcher of the Year after being the Blue Wahoos top pitcher with an 10-5 record and 3.32 earned run average in 21 starts. He also led the team to its division-clinching playoff win against Montgomery.
Blue Wahoos catcher Will Banfield was named the Marlins’ Double-A player of the year. Outfielder Jake Thompson, who joined the team in September, was the High-A player of the year following his season with the Beloit Sky Carp.
And Pensacola’s Jordan McCants was a repeat winner as the Marlins’ Serviceman of the Year winner. McCants, a Pensacola Catholic High graduate, completed his first full professional season helping the Jupiter Hammerheads – the Marlins’ Low-A affiliate – win their first Florida State League title in the 25-year history of the ballclub.
“I just thank God for the blessing and guiding me to be able to do these things,” said McCants, who also met with Miami area media members on Sept. 24 following the awards presentations “And I want to just keep on going and keep on moving forward.”
“We knew from the beginning of the season, our goal was to win a championship,” said McCants, speaking with Miami media, following the presentation. “We knew we had a fair chance. People moved up or moved down -- a lot of people left the roster -- but we kept everything together and we did it.”
Johnston and McCants, along with other minor league players able to attend, were joined on the field that day by Marlins’ majority owner Bruce Sherman, general manager Kim Ng, director of minor league operations Hector Crespo and Colleen Mitchll, the Marlins manager of player care and service.
McCants also made school visits and participated in other community service projects.
“This year with Colleen, every time she had an event with kids, I tried to be there and treat them like they’re from Pensacola,” McCants said. “Give them the same love I give to the kids back at home.
“It’s important, especially being from being from a small place (Pensacola), You don’t have the resources and stuff for people to see. When professional baseball players come back, going to youth league baseball game, showing them love, being that face, showing that you support them, it means everything.
“It is bigger than baseball and I always want to help them.”
McCants, 21, attended the Blue Wahoos’ playoff game Tuesday against the Tennessee Smokies in the Southern League championship series. His plan will be to stay in the Pensacola area until the Marlins decide any special off-season program before spring training begins in 2024.
He finished his first full pro season with a .225 batting average in 111 games with 35 RBI and 36 stolen bases. He has said the rigors of a pro season – the long day to day business of playing games – is an adjustment from a high school season.
The hope for McCants is that he is elevated in 2024 to the Beloit Sky Carp, the Marlins’ High-A affiliate in Beloit, Wisconsin. That would put him one step away from fulfilling a dream to play for the Blue Wahoos in Double-A against players who can be promoted straight to the big leagues.
Johnston, meanwhile, had a sensational season across to levels that included 26 homers and 24 stolen bases.
“It is long season, it’s been great,” Johnston said. “I am very honored that the Marlins thought of me this way, I worked really hard to try and improve baserunning and even changing my swing to try and be an overall better player.
“I am really glad they saw that and valued that and I ended up with this award. I am very happy with it.”
Johnston has described himself as a streak-hitter. This season, he boosted his production with the Blue Wahoos beginning in May and it carried straight through to when he joined the Jumbo Shrimp in late June for the second half of the season.
“I was streaky, but the streaks lasted longer. So, I had a pretty good June through August. I had a slow April and slow September, but between those June to August months I was scorching hot and that streak lasted longer than I could imagined.”
MIAMI MARLINS MINOR LEAGUE AWARDS
Player of the Year – 1B Troy Johnston (Blue Wahoos, Jumbo Shrimp)
Pitcher of the Year – Patrick Monteverde (Blue Wahoos)
Triple-A Player of Year – SS Xavider Edwards (Jumbo Shrimp)
Double-A Player of Year – C Will Banfield (Blue Wahoos)
High-A Player of the Year – LF Jake Thompson (Beloit Sky Carp, Blue Wahoos)
Low-A Player of the Year – SS Javier Sanoja (Jupiter Hammerheads)
FCL Player of the Year – OF Jesus Hernandez (FCL Marlins)
Serviceman of the Year – Jordan McCants (Jupiter Hammerheads).