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Tougher AFL ahead for struggling Víctor Víctor Mesa

Prized offseason signing Víctor Víctor Mesa has struggled to adapt to the standard of Minor League Baseball. Things are only going to get harder as the Cuban outfielder prepares for the Arizona Fall League.

Miami Marlins first full-squad spring training workout 2/18/2019 David Santiago/Miami Herald/TNS via Getty Images

Back in October, the arrival of international free agent Víctor Víctor Mesa for $5.25 million was heralded as a landmark moment in franchise history. The Marlins were finally valuing international bonus pool money and tapping into a goldmine that could reinvigorate their minor league system and expedite the rebuilding process. Adding a Cuban star from a famous family was also sure to excite the fanbase once Mesa arrived in Little Havana. Some scouts were saying that he would only need a few short months of minor league conditioning before being ready to make a splash at the highest level.

What a difference 10 months makes.

A consensus Top 100 prospect before the season began after excelling against much older competition in Cuba before defecting, Mesa has found it extremely tough adapting to the level of minor league play, posting a .237 batting average over 115 games. That includes a recent promotion to Double-A Jacksonville, where he has looked particularly over-matched (.184/.208/.204 in 109 PA). While Mesa does not have a problem putting the ball in play—sporting an impressively low 12.2% strikeout rate on the season—he is a free swinger who barely walks (22 free passes in 499 plate appearances) and has little to no pop, as evident by his .265 slugging percentage.

The 23-year-old outfielder does bring value with his excellent speed and defense. He has not committed a single error in 852 innings and has 11 assists.

That being said, his production at the plate has been so poor that a productive major league career is now far from certain.

On the heels of this disappointing 2019 regular season, Mesa is being sent to the Arizona Fall League along with six other Marlins prospects to gain further experience. Like every year, the AFL will be teeming with top prospects, and the skill level will be a step up from what he has seen—and struggled against—thus far. As with all prospects, time will tell whether or not Víctor Víctor Mesa will have an impact in the majors for the Marlins, but things are not looking bright at this moment in time for the most expensive amateur signing in team history.

Committing over $5 million to an older prospect who has performed much worse than advertised seems to have been a mistake by the Marlins front office then, right?

Not necessarily, because it allowed them to sign his brother Victor Mesa Jr. for $1 million in a “package deal” of sorts. At just 17, Mesa Jr. slashed .284/.366/.398 in 47 games for the GCL Marlins this season as the team won their division. While his potential debut in Miami is years away, he has flashed far more offensive potential than his older brother in 2019 and has even crept into the team's MLB Pipeline Top 30 prospect lists (currently #28).

As was the case with Monte Harrison last season, the bigger stage of the Arizona Fall League has the ability to propel prospects to the next level of their development. The Marlins will be hoping that Víctor Víctor Mesa can find that next gear after a season full of growing pains.

Regardless, last year's international signing period should not yet be forced out of memory, as the Marlins may be able to salvage long-term value from that investment thanks to Víctor Jr.