We may know who’s on second for Marlins, focus now is on what’s next
Naming Jazz Chisholm their everyday second baseman settles the Marlins’ most important Spring Training battle. Now the attention turns to what’s next for both Chisholm and Isan Diaz for both to develop into big league regulars.
By Joe Frisaro @ManOn2nd
Answering who will start the season at second base is the first step. Now, the focus flips to what it will take for both Jazz Chisholm Jr. and Isan Diaz to become big league regulars.
This actually is more important than the competition the Miami Marlins had to decide the top Spring Training position battle.
Chisholm will be breaking camp with the Marlins, and on Thursday will be making his first Opening Day starter as a big leaguer.
Man On Second Baseball tracked the competition throughout camp, and this decision was fairly obvious for a while, if you stacked the two players up side by side. Statistically, Chisholm stood out — hitting .268 in Grapefruit League play, with three homers, six RBIs, four stolen bases and a .821 OPS. Diaz labored at .059 with two RBIs and a .385 OPS.
That’s what the spring numbers tell you.
Followers of MO2 know that we don’t put too much stock in any spring statistics — overly good or bad. Still, they are some sort of measure to how a player looks, and can show something in a players approach or the quality of at-bats.
Digging deeper, Chisholm is the more versatile and athletic player.
He plays shortstop, and is a better defensive backup at that spot than utility player Jon Berti. Berti is the super sub, who plays all over the infield. By carrying Chisholm, if for some reason regular shortstop Miguel Rojas needs a breather or leaves a game early, Chisholm is an upgrade at short over Berti. It’s not even really close.
Versatility alone was a significant edge for Chisholm or Diaz, who exclusively plays second base. We’ll get to how to best maximize Diaz’s value more in a bit.
Chisholm also is a speed threat, capable of stealing a base, and scoring from first on an extra base hit. Both of these also factor heavily in Jazz’s favor.
Power? Both Chisholm and Diaz can knock the ball out of the park. So that’s a wash.
Before Sunday’s officially announcement about the second base, MO2 was monitoring another, not really mentioned anywhere except this platform — what if neither is ready? Then what? MO2 is not alone feeling this is true, that both Diaz and Chisholm could use more development.
If that had been the case, then the Marlins could have sent both players down, gone with Berti regularly at second base, and looked to bring in another utility player.
That now is off the table.
Again, the organization had said from the start that second base was a competition, and at the end of the day, they kept it as a two-horse race.
With the verdict revealed, MO2 is curious to see how both players handle the decision.
Chisholm has a dynamic personality, is extremely confident and talented. So, look for him to stay upbeat, and roll with the opportunity to be in the big leaguers.
His comments about how he handled Spring Training were interesting.
“I used this Spring Training like how the veterans use Spring Training,” Chisholm said. “I talked to the veterans every day.”
His focus was on himself, getting better. He wasn’t caught up with feeling pressure that he had to win a job.
“I wasn’t really thinking about the job, essentially,” he said. “I’m going to go out there, and I’m a competitor every time I go on the field. I’m going to go out there and I’m going to try to help my team win. But at the same time, I was really thinking about how I could make myself better so I could help my team win.”
Jazz is an exciting player to watch, and he clearly enjoys being on the field. Jazz has fun playing baseball, which is actually refreshing to see.
“He’s going to have fun on the field, no matter what,” Jazz said about himself on a Zoom call. “He could be having a bad game. He could be having the best game of his life, he’s still going to be out there, laughing, smiling and having fun. It’s never going to change Jazz Chisholm Jr. And he’s a very approachable guy, on and off the field. So if you see him off the field, you can say hi. I’m not intimidating at all. I love everybody.”
Diaz has a more quiet personality.
As Jazz readies for Opening Day, Diaz now has to regroup and give himself every opportunity to be ready, in case he’s needed.
So he will go to the alternate training site at Triple-A Jacksonville. For one, if the 24-year-old can make himself more versatile, that would help him in the long run.
This probably should have been done more seriously a few years ago, but Diaz has primarily been groomed as the second baseman of the future. He came in highly touted after a big 2019 season at Triple-A New Orleans, where he hit .305/.395/.578 with 26 homers and 89 RBIs.
Diaz certainly had a standout Minor League season that year, but that was a year the baseballs were flying out of the parks, in the big leagues and at Double-A and Triple-A. Across the board, offensive numbers were inflated.
Manager Don Mattingly on Monday said Diaz will work primarily at second base at the alternate site, but also would take grounders at third base. He did so last year at the alternate site. And in the past, at various points, Diaz played some third base. But he hasn’t played anywhere but second base in the big leagues, and that’s been his only position since being acquired by the Marlins from the Brewers in the Christian Yelich trade prior to the 2018 season.
Versatility is huge for players. Not just Diaz. All of them. Chisholm moved from shortstop to second base. Rojas played everywhere in the infield before he became the Marlins fulltime shortstop.
MO2 sent out a Tweet on Monday noting that Royals’ 20-year-old, Bobby Witt Jr., perhaps the top prospect in all of baseball, is a shortstop who played second in Spring Training and is also playing outfield in the Minor Leagues. If Witt can move around, anyone can.
Third base, and maybe even some left field would probably help Diaz in the long run.
Bottom line for Chisholm and Diaz and the Marlins is making sure each of these players develops to the fullest. That’s what counts, even more than who won the job. Because each has talent, but also questions as to their long-term MLB success.
MO2 encourages all to pay attention to both players strikeout rates. They’re pretty telling.
Diaz struck out at a 31-percent rate in Spring Training, and Chisholm wasn’t far behind at 28.9 percent.
Both have history of high strikeout numbers.
In 49 big league games in 2019, Diaz fanned at a 29.4 percent clip in 201 plate appearances. At Double-A in 2018, his rate was 26.7 percent in Double-A and 29 percent in Triple-A.
That figure dropped to 22.1 percent at Triple-A during his big 2019 Minor League season.
Chisholm struck out 30.6 percent of the time in 62 plate appearances in the big leagues last year. At Double-A in 2019, the K rate was 33.8 percent before he was dealt to the Marlins for Zac Gallen. He was able to reduce that to 25.5 percent at Double-A in Miami’s system, post trade.
High strikeout rates are common throughout baseball, and with young players and prospects. Still, these figures are high enough to raise concerns that they will not make enough contact to be everyday players.
Sometime to watch, because the goal is to give each of these players ample opportunity to become big league players.