Bleday quietly goes about his business, but Marlins prospect is making a lot of noise

Bleday quietly goes about his business, but Marlins prospect is making a lot of noise


Outfield prospect JJ Bleday is making the most of his big league Spring Training invitation, and the 23-year-old is on the fast track to reach the big leagues, perhaps even this season.

By Joe Frisaro @ManOn2nd

JUPITER, Fla. — The more you see of JJ Bleday, the more you want to see the 23-year-old outfielder in the lineup.

Among a fleet of promising Marlins’ prospects, Bleday is atop Miami’s next wave of young talent on the verge of reaching the big leagues.

It’s just a matter of when.

Right now, the left-handed hitting outfielder is enjoying the ride. Of all the Marlins’ top 30 prospects who were non-roster invitees to Spring Training, Bleday is the last one remaining in camp.

JJ Bleday (photo by Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium)

It’s inevitable he will be sent down to the Minor Leagues, where he will continue his development.

But Marlins fans have gotten a glimpse of what Bleday can become, and there is plenty to be excited about. The fourth overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, Bleday already carries himself as a big leaguer. He impresses in all areas — his work habits, the way he handles himself and goes about his business.

“It’s being accountable,” Bleday said via a Zoom call. “I think it’s showing up to the ballpark, being on time, and finding your routine. Finding what works best for you, and watch how those other guys go about their business as well. What would be their routine, and how they get ready. What really matters is, how are you are going to be and what are you going to be doing when you see that first pitch when you step in the box, or when you cross onto that diamond.”

Bleday is all business, and for such a young age, he knows how to go about his business. It’s not surprising since he’s been groomed at a college baseball powerhouse — Vanderbilt University, where he won a national championship and was regarded as one of the top college players in the country.

Refinement and game reps are the only things holding him back from being a big league regular. It’s only a matter of time.

In the meantime, the Marlins are seeing flashes of what’s to come.

On Saturday night, in the Marlins’ 6-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, Bleday went 2-for-3 with a triple, home run and a strikeout. What’s more impressive is, all three at-bats were against big league pitchers.

In the first inning, he struck out against Jack Flaherty. After that, he faced two MLB lefties, and delivered a triple and a home run, off Kwang Hyun Kim and Genesis Cabrera, respectively.

Asked by Man On Second Baseball on Zoom what it means to perform against big leaguers, Bleday said: “It’s huge. It’s a big confidence boost. You’ve got to take that into wherever you’re headed this spring, and wherever you’re going to be at throughout the season. You can kind of go back, draw on those experiences and be like, ‘Hey, I’ve competed against the best,’ and you’re able to keep growing off that, keep improving and keep trying to top that to where you’re continuing to try and find success and just not over-pushing it. You want to let the game come to you, but again it’s just a big confidence booster when you’re facing some of the best arms in the world.”

On the night, Bleday saw 18 total pitches, the most of any Marlins’ batter in the lineup. Corey Dickerson, the leadoff batter, saw 17 pitches.

All this matters. It reaffirms Bleday has an approach, and is soaking up as much experience as he can.

To Marlins manager Don Mattingly, Bleday basically needs to keep playing.

“It’s hard to say that he needs to do this, this or this,” Mattingly said during his postgame Zoom call. “I think it’s just a matter of getting at-bats and putting the rest of that together.”

Bleday has had 32 plate appearances in 18 Grapefruit League games. The Marlins are clearly giving him as many looks as possible before he opens in the Minor League season.

The lefty on left success is probably the biggest takeaway for Bleday on Saturday night, especially being able to show power to left-center field.

“The lefty on left, I’ve been working on that a lot lately,” Bleday said. “I’ve been trying to keep my front shoulder open, and keep that inside lane open, because that way. If they do manage to come inside, I’m ready and able to hit.

“Mark Teixeira would kind of do it. It’s like he’s got two eyes on the pitcher. It really allows you to open that inside lane up, so you’re not cutting yourself off. You’re able to get to all pitches — middle in, middle and away.”

Bleday has shown power against lefty pitchers in the past, but he’s not driven the ball to left-center often with the authority he showed on Saturday.

“Honestly, off lefties, usually not,” he said when asked if his power vs. southpaws as been to the gap in left-center. “I think it’s been emphasized in Spring Training. I’ve had oppo home runs in the past, mainly off righties, but usually never off lefties. Usually, it’s to the pull side, right center or just straight to right field. So, it’s definitely an improvement.”

Improvement is what the Marlins have seen plenty of from Bleday in Spring Training.


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