MO2’s spotlight Marlins
Man On Second Baseball takes a look at several spotlight Miami Marlins in Spring Training. These players either are ready to take the next step in the big leagues, or are on the brink of making their presence felt, or will start off in the Minors and be rising quickly
By Joe Frisaro @ManOn2nd
JUPITER, Fla. — What you see in Spring Training isn’t necessarily what you’re going to get in the regular season.
Man On Second Baseball can’t stress that enough, and we reported that from Day 1 of when the web site was launched about a month ago.
Don’t focus so much on Spring Training statistics or wins/losses, and yes, even ties. They are meaningless when the regular season gets underway.
But what MO2 (Man On Second) did tell you a few weeks ago, when evaluating Spring Training, organizations tend to weigh how players are looking and performing at the end of camp, more so than at the beginning.
Now that we’re getting to crunch time, MO2 has focused its attention on several Marlins’ players who are in our spotlight.
They are, and why:
INF Jazz Chisholm: Who plays second naturally piques Man On Second’s interest. In the case of the Marlins, it happens to be a coincidence that second base has been the real story of Marlins’ camp. The organization has made it a competition between Chisholm and Isan Diaz.
Frankly, neither one has clearly seized the job, if you look solely at Grapefruit League statistics. MO2 does not.
Whoever gets the nod, patience will be needed, because both players are young and have relatively little big league experience.
Our focus is on Chisholm, the 23-year-old who plays with so much passion and energy. He is dynamic and can change a game with his speed, defense and power. He sent a loud reminder on Wednesday in Miami’s 3-2 win over the New York Mets at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. Chisholm unloaded on a home run off established big leaguer Robert Gsellman.
Chisholm is still getting acquainted to second base. Remember, he’s a natural shortstop, and may wind up there are as regular, perhaps this season.
Home runs are exciting, and Chisholm can provide plenty of those. But to be a more consistent hitter, he’s going to have to, at times, not be so eager to swing for the fences. He has a good eye, and can use the entire field. What he needs is to play without worrying about if each at-bat will determine if he makes the team or stays up with the big league club.
Defensively, he will be fine. But there is an adjustment to taking regular grounders at second, and working around the bag, as well as playing shortstop. Diaz, remember, plays only second base.
With a 26-man roster, versatility is going to be important. Chisholm also is a threat to steal bases.
RHP Anthony Bender: Who is this guy?
Bender is one of the surprise players in camp. A non-roster invitee, Bender is a hard-throwing reliever, who possesses the rare combination of having high velocity, coupled with movement, on his fastball. His sinker has been clocked at 98 mph this spring.
In four Grapefruit League games, Bender has eight strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings, with no walks.
A 20th round pick of the Royals in 2016, Bender has logged 239 2/3 innings, with 198 strikeouts and 73 walks. He reached as high as Double-A in 2019, and played Independent League ball in 2020.
Why MO2 is watching? Bender may be an eventual closer. Regardless if Anthony Bass or Yimi Garcia, or any combination of relievers, starts off the season at closer, over the course of the season, roles change. Ideally, you’re looking for high velocity and the ability to miss bats.
Bender may fit the mold.
Little background. In 2019, the right-hander’s fastball was sitting at 96 mph. He showed velocity, and his pitches had run and sink to them, which caught the Marlins’ attention.
Miami’s evaluators saw Bender as having big league-caliber stuff in 2019, and he became a prime Minor League free agent target.
The way Bender has looked in camp. Not just in games. He may be even more than they thought. Future closer good? Maybe.
OF JJ Bleday: The fourth overall pick in 2019, Bleday projects to open the season in the Minor Leagues. While you never want to rush a prospect, it would be ideal if Bleday fast-tracked to the big leagues. Right field will be a position to watch for Miami at the big league level. Whether it is Adam Duvall or Garrett Cooper or whoever, the position projects to belong to Bleday for years to come. It’s a matter of when he arrives.
Some more Minor League seasoning is needed, but playing in the big leagues at some point in 2021 is realistic.
RHP Sandy Alcantara: Once Alcantara puts it all together, he had the makings of being an All-Star. Yes, he technically was an All-Star in 2019, but that had more to do with each of the 30 MLB clubs is represented. Alcantara is legitimately showing he can be an elite right-hander. Wednesday he struck out nine with no walks in five innings. The strikeouts, of course, are impressive. The way we see it, not walking anyone was key. Remember, he issued five free passes in his previous start.
Is this the season Alcantara takes the step from solid starter to one of the best in the business? It should be fun to find out.
1B Lewin Diaz: The left-handed hitting first baseman hasn’t garnered much talk in Spring Training, but we’re paying attention. First base projects to be Jesus Aguilar, with Garrett Cooper as another option. Cooper, of course, could see time in right field.
Diaz, meanwhile, is the best defensive option of the three. The 24-year-old has a promising future. He’s a lefty hitter with power. Diaz helped his development by playing Winter Ball, and he’s adjusted his hand placement at the plate. They are now higher, which should help him handle pitches up in the zone.
If Diaz performs at the Minor League level early in the season, he could force his way up to the big leagues, where he is more a of long-term option at first than either Aguilar or Cooper.
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