The annual tradition has returned. Leading up to Opening Day, Fish Stripes will be previewing the 2020 Marlins season, one player at a time. Find every article of the series here.
Where Did He Come From? The Marlins selected right fielder JJ Bleday in the first round (4th overall) of the 2019 MLB June Amateur Draft from Vanderbilt University (Nashville, TN).
151 PA | .257/.311/.379 | 11 XBH | 107 wRC+ | .322 wOBA | 38 games (High-A Jupiter)
When you want to speak about Marlins’ best prospects, you must bring Bleday into the conversation. After breaking out as an NCAA superstar his junior year at Vandy, he signed for $6.67 million and made his professional debut at high Class A.
He made a quick, great impression. In his first three games, Bleday recorded four hits in 13 at-bats, including one home run and two runs batted in. After going through a rough patch from mid-July to early-August, the young right fielder found his rhythm and made a statement with his bat. In his last 20 games for the Jupiter Hammerheads, he went 24-for-74, good for a .324/.398/.473 slash line. He hit five doubles, two bombs while collecting eight ribbies and nine runs scored. At the same time, JJ registered nine walks and 15 strikeouts.
During his first minor league action, Bleday struggled against lefties, though it was a small sample size:
- Bleday vs. RHP: .272/.314/.404, 22 K in 121 PA
- Bleday vs. LHP: .192/.300/.269, 7 K in 30 PA
MLB Pipeline and Baseball America both consider Bleday the best hitting prospect in the Marlins organization. How soon he’ll get the chance to test himself in the majors is anybody’s guess now that the 2020 Minor League Baseball season is expected to be canceled.
The 22-year-old outfielder was a participant in the early portion of Marlins major league spring camp. He showed enough potential and maturity to earn a spot in the club’s 60-man player pool for this upcoming season. That being said, his assignment to the “alternate training site” in Jupiter hints that he is not being strongly considered for the Opening Day roster.
Based on his collegiate track record, it’s logical to expect Bleday to have a much better offensive year than the one he had in 2019. He is also a great defender who already features an above-average arm (graded 60 on the scouting 20-80 scale) and focused on improving his agility over the winter, too.
JJ Bleday says the focus of his 2019-20 offseason training was adding speed and agility to improve his defense.— Fish Stripes (@fishstripes) April 28, 2020
It was interesting to see him in CF for a few innings this spring after being limited to the corners the year before... pic.twitter.com/UFKUciB4xm
One year removed from adding him to their organization, the Marlins should have no regrets.