There was no Marlins player who had a more exciting start to the 2021 season than Jazz Chisholm Jr. Acquired in the Zac Gallen trade in 2019, Chisholm was lauded for his speed, fielding, and power. In April ‘21, the then-23-year-old flaunted all those tools in posting a .969 OPS, 4 home runs, and 9 stolen bases.
For a Marlins organization that perennially churns out exciting pitchers, Chisholm represented the first young Major League bat that the Fish could be excited about since Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich. Bearing chains and dyed-blue hair, he marketed himself exceptionally well, too.
Chisholm missed more than two weeks after injuring his hamstring April 27. Upon returning, he fell back down to earth, and put up average to below-average numbers. He finished 2021 in the bottom ten percent in K% and xOBA, and went through struggles in the field with a .959 fielding percentage at second base.
Certainly, the flashy second baseman will have to live up to the high expectations placed on him by fans, the organization, and even himself. ZiPS is currently projecting 1.1 WAR and for Chisholm to again flirt with a 20-20 season (he had 18 HR and 23 SB as a rookie).
The most pressing needs for Chisholm to address are his strikeout issues (28.6 K% in 2021 was third-worst of any qualified season in Marlins history) and fielding struggles. It would be wise for Marlins manager Don Mattingly to keep him at second base instead of experimenting with him at shortstop. In 37 games at shortstop last year, Chisholm recorded minus-10 outs above average, compared to plus-6 in 91 games at second base. If he can make his routine throws and stop rushing ill-advised throws, he can be one of the top defenders on this team, as his range is already exceptional.
This isn’t a make-or-break season for Chisholm. The most talented infield prospects in the Marlins system—Kahlil Watson, José Salas and Ian Lewis—are still multiple years away from contending for major league jobs. Chisholm will earn a $700,000 salary at age 24 and he’s arbitration eligible in 2024.
But Chisholm tells Fish Stripes that he’s striving for more “consistency” in every element of his game. He will share the infield with Rojas and Brian Anderson at shortstop and third base, respectively, and will have utility infielder Joey Wendle breathing down his neck if there is an injury or major slump.
Early in spring training, Chisholm crashed one of Mattingly’s morning pressers, posing as a reporter. Mattingly jokes that Chisholm “doesn’t need any more attention.”
“He needs to produce on the field,” Mattingly said. “I don’t want to hear about his hair, his shoes, his chains, his earrings, his glasses. I want to hear about his focus and his work.”
Mattingly was laughing while saying it. But there’s truth behind every joke, right?