Jazz Chisholm Jr. swaggers around in front of a group of media as he gets ready to take a round of batting practice. He holds a glistening silver bat to his shoulder, and his blue hair catches your eye as the lights of loanDepot Park shine down on the field.
This is no other day of pre-game warm ups. This is the first time the media has been allowed on the field since before the coronavirus pandemic broke out, and the first time in Chisholm Jr.’s young career he’s been face-to-face with them.
That’s no problem for the Marlins’ phenom shortstop, you can tell the opportunity to face the media excites him, almost as if he’s been waiting for this. He can hardly stand still, always looking for somebody to talk to. He told us in Spring Training that if you don’t see him moving around and smiling, something may be wrong and we should check on him.
Nothing seems wrong here, he’s waltzed over and is talking to us about his approach at the plate. He’s telling us that if he shortens up his swing and doesn’t get loopy, he would stop swinging and missing so much and get to pitches in all parts of the zone. It’s the type of approach that allowed him to take Jacob deGrom deep on a 100 MPH fastball up and out of the zone. He says he’d be having an even better year if he stuck to this approach all the time.
“I’d have 20 [home runs] by now,” said Chisholm Jr.
Jazz proceeded to put on a show in batting practice, the highlight of which was when he launched a ball three-quarters of the way up the home run porch in right field at loanDepot Park.
Jazz would show off that new approach on Thursday by blasting a slider down-and-in 431 off the face of the upper deck in right center field, the longest home run at loanDepot Park this season. With his 2-for-4 night that included the homer and a walk, Chisholm Jr. raised his OPS to .841 and his wRC+ to 135 (100 is league average), good for 2nd and 1st among rookies with at least 150 plate appearances, respectively.
While his numbers remain sparkling, Chisholm Jr. did hit a bit of a wall earlier this year, slashing just .241/.259/.367 over 80 plate appearances from April 21 (first game in the leadoff spot) to June 4 (first game he was moved back down to the six spot). He also did not draw a walk for his first 60 plate appearances after making the move to the leadoff spot.
The big question became: could a young player like Jazz make the adjustments necessary to work his way out of a slump and get back to his best form?
The answer so far has been a resounding yes.
Since he took that first walk in the leadoff spot, and after his great performance Thursday, Jazz is slashing .289/.356/.533 with three home runs.
The fact that Jazz found himself in a slump and was still finding a hit or two a game was a positive sign for Marlins Manager Don Mattingly.
“That’s how you put a year together—you don’t feel like you got your swing right but you’re still getting your hits,” said Mattingly.
As impressive as that is, being capable of making the adjustments and finding a groove again is even more impressive.
“It shows he’s got a chance to be really, really good,” said Mattingly. “He’s not even touching what he can be.”
Mattingly mentioned on Tuesday that even though he was getting his hits, he still thinks Chisholm Jr. was not quite locked all the way in and there could be even more to come. Chisholm Jr. echoed that sentiment after Thursday’s game.
“I can be better,” said Chisholm Jr. “I wouldn’t say I’m 100% at that level [I was at] to start the season.”
Mattingly said that consistency is what makes the best so great, using Starling Marte as an example. Chisholm Jr. said Marte is trying to set that example for him, because he sees the potential Jazz possesses.
“He’s taken me under his wing,” said Chisholm Jr. “He’s told me that I can be a special player.”
He and Marte went back-to-back in a six-run second inning that propelled the Marlins to an 11-4 win Thursday.
BACK-TO-BACK JACKS!— Bally Sports Florida: Marlins (@BallyMarlins) June 10, 2021
Starling Marte hits the 3rd HR of the inning for Miami to give the Marlins a 6-0 lead‼️
Bally Sports Florida
Download the new Bally Sports app!#COLvsMIA #MLB #JuntosMiami pic.twitter.com/z8IUgOSC75
It’s fair to say that if Jazz’s slumps are the type that never get out of hand, he will become that special player Marte sees in him. He will have to continue to make adjustments throughout his career, but the ability to recognize what needs to be done and do it quickly makes his success seem that much more sustainable.
I’ve said it since the first time I spoke with Jazz over Zoom: there is something special about him that can’t be overstated. That was only furthered by seeing him go about his business in person.
When Starling Marte and Don Mattingly say that you can be a special player, that’s one thing; validating it with your actions on the field is another. It’s the reason why I have never felt more confident that Jazz Chisholm Jr. is a special baseball player.