Making progress remains bigger key for Jazz than making Opening Day roster
Marlins infield prospect Jazz Chisholm is competing for the starting second base spot, but the bigger picture is his overall development.
By Joe Frisaro @ManOn2nd
JUPITER, Fla. — Jazz Chisholm is competing to make the Marlins’ Opening Day roster as the starting second baseman. About three weeks to Opening Day, he probably is a bit behind Isan Diaz in the race.
My message to Marlins’ fans is this: Don’t get caught up entirely on the Opening Day roster. In the case of Chisholm, the bigger issue is making sure he is developing into what the organization hopes is an impactful everyday middle infielder.
It’s natural to get fixated on Opening Day, because it’s what all players participating in Spring Training want to be part of, the celebration of the start of the season.
In reality, Opening Day is simply the start of the regular season. It doesn’t guarantee a player will stay there all year. Bubble players who win Day 1 roster spots often have very short leashes to stay there. Over the course of 162 games, depth will be needed.
Whether Chisholm breaks camp with the big league club, or starts off at Triple-A, it will only be a matter of time before he gets his next MLB opportunity.
The Jazz-Isan battle is not your typical “second base” competition, because Chisholm isn’t being used exclusively at second base.
The Marlins have been working the 23-year-old at his natural position, which is shortstop.
Miami is giving Chisholm plenty of work at shortstop and second base, even though Miguel Rojas is the starting shortstop.
General manager Kim Ng made that clear on Wednesday during a Zoom conference call. Man On Second Baseball asked her about Chisholm, and the fact he is seeing time at two positions. Diaz is exclusively a second baseman.
“It is important,” Ng said. “Obviously, he’s a shortstop by nature. That’s what he’s been pretty much his whole life. But, obviously, we have this position open at second base, so, we just need for him to get prepared there.”
In the early stages of Spring Training, Chisholm has had his struggles at the plate. He did open Spring Training with a leadoff home run in the first game.
MO2 (Man On Second) doesn’t put much weight in Spring Training numbers, especially early in Grapefruit League games. A better indicator is how players perform in the final 10 or so games, as they start locking in for the regular season. So, I’m not even going to bother posting the spring stats of Jazz or Isan. They’re easily enough to look up on MLB.com.
What we’re focused on is how Jazz is looking in his at-bats, and in the field. How comfortable he appears at second base. Clearly, he can handle the position, which is noticeable by his footwork, hands, quickness and arm strength.
“In terms of what he’s shown us there [second base], it doesn’t look like it’s been a hard transition for him,” Ng said. “He just has tremendous tools. Great agility. Great feet. Very quick-twitch muscles. It doesn’t look like him moving to the other side is giving him any problems.”
On Wednesday, Chisholm got the start at second. Diaz was in the lineup on Thursday.
Chisholm had one particular at-bat that MO2 highlighted, and has posted the video below. It’s of the still touted prospect against veteran reliever Steve Cishek, the former Marlins’ closer, who is now with the Astros. Cishek has that unconventional sidearm delivery, where he appears to be all arms and legs flinging at a hitter.
Cishek struck out Chisholm on four pitches. It was a case of the veteran playing off the aggressiveness of a young hitter.
Pitch 1 was a 76.9 mph sinker, per Statcast, that was taken for a strike at the bottom of the zone. The second pitch was a 91 mph sinker, a bit up, and in. It was the best pitch for Chisholm to hit, and he fouled it off. Pitch three changed Jazz’s eye levels, because it was up in the zone, an 88.7 mph sinker. Again, it was fouled back. Chishek went back to his first pitch, the slider, with was down in the zone, and Chisholm swung over the 76.9 mph pitch for strike three.
It’s one of those at-bats that could be a good learning experience for Chisholm at this point in Spring Training. He’s going to have to adjust to different looks, and unorthodox deliveries.
The end result was a strikeout on a swing that Chisholm was trying to do major damage. He had a big pull swing upon seeing such a slow pitch.
Perhaps in that situation again, especially down two strikes in the count, he will attempt to shorten his swing, instead of going for the fences.
These scenarios are what Spring Training is for, not necessarily to hit a mistake pitch very far. Pretty much all good hitters will do damage on a mistake.
We’re getting to the point of Spring Training, where players will start planning what they want to accomplish during their at-bats. Or pitchers will start putting their plans together on how to get hitters out.
The Marlins understand what they have in Chisholm. He’s an exciting player with a ton of natural ability. He’s ranked by MLB Pipeline as the 66th overall prospect.
Chisholm also is their No. 2 shortstop, in terms of being next in line, should Rojas not be available.
“I also think his versatility is pretty intriguing, as well,” Ng said. “If Miguel went down for a bit, obviously, we could just switch Jazz over to shortstop.”