Jazz Chisholm Nearing Victory in Second Base Battle
The last time we got you caught up with the top stories coming out of spring training two weeks ago, Isan Diaz was putting together quality ABs, hitting the ball hard and showing improvement on the defensive side while Jazz Chisholm wasn’t even seeing a handful of pitches per AB. At the time, he was 1 for first 16 with seven Ks and no walks. We mentioned at the time he would need to blow up in the second half of spring training to claim the spot from Diaz.
Ladies and gentleman, Jazz has gone boom.
Since March 15th, Jazz is 8 for his last 16 with two homers, four RBIs, four walks and four strikeouts. The difference for Chisholm? The removal of tepidness and just letting his ability eat.
“The last two games, me and a couple of the hitting coaches were just like, ‘All right, time to let it loose,” Chisholm said. “”The season’s almost around the corner. Let’s get it going and take some hacks, you know?'””
While Jazz has been thriving, Isan Diaz has been struggling. On Friday, Diaz went 0-2 with two strikeouts and a walk. Since Jazz’s hot streak started, Diaz hasn’t recorded a hit, his contact consistency is down and he’s seeing less pitches per at bat. Since March 15th, he is 1-22 with eight Ks.
While Mattingly is not yet ready to confirm the winner of this battle just yet, he did recently state the spot will be earned, not given.
“We are trying to take the best club out of here that we can take out. Guys that give u the best chance to win,” Mattingly said on Zoom this past Thursday. “There’s been years where we know we are developing, we’re going to give some guys some opportunities. I think we are past that point.”
Through the entirety of spring training, while the baseball world viewed this is a fierce competition, Jazz has shown the ability to be an ultimate team player, supporting a guy he has known since a young age and pushing him to improve. According to Jazz, as focused as he has been on his own game, he’s been supportive of Isan’s.
Inasmuch as nothing is official yet, with three games left in spring training and the overall message from the organization being what it is, it’s hard to imagine Jazz Chisholm, whose shown both the tangible and the things you just cannot teach, not being in the Marlins’ Opening Day lineup. If he is at shortstop on April 1st, he and the team can take comfort in knowing that he earned that opportunity in every way.
Sixto Sanchez’s Preparation
Top prospect Sixto Sanchez has had quite the spring. After being delayed arriving to camp due to visa issues in the Dominican Republic, the 24-year-old fireballer had a COVID-19 test falsely come back positive, requiring him to spend another week away from the team.
Sanchez successfully passed through COVID protocols and was back in camp on March 6th. He finally got on the mound for his first spring training appearance on March 15th. Through three outings, he’s thrown eight innings, allowed five hits, one run, struck out three and walked two. With one outing left before Opening Day rosters are due in, he’s up to 61 pitches. After that outing in which Sixto coincidentally threw 45 strikes, the same number he will wear on his back starting this year, Sanchez said he feels good but that the outing he will get this Tuesday will be advantageous for him.
“I think I need a little more time,” Sanchez said through a translator following his last start. “I’m going to have another outing. Hopefully that will get me ready for the season.”
With rosters not due in until Wednesday night, the Marlins will have some time to break down Sixto’s last outing before making the call. Although Sixto looks good and looks like he will have just enough time to show he’s ready, the Marlins, not needing a fifth starter until the second week of the season and with both Nick Neidert and Trevor Rogers pitching like they are deserving of a spot, have every reason to play it safe with their top prospect.
“We just have to keep building,” Mattingly said recently on Zoom on what he needs to see from Sixto. “We have to get him to the point where he can compete in a major league game and not be stopped at a certain point.”
As entertaining as it is to watch Sixto pump it up to triple digits, the most encouraging sign he’s shown this spring has been the fact that he doesn’t need to do so every pitch or every start to he affective. In his third spring outing on March 20th, Sixto wasn’t showing all of his velocity. He only topped 98 a handful of times, his sinker was all the way down to 94 and his breaking pitches were in the mid 80s. According to Sanchez, that was something he had been working on in his bullpens and bringing it to that game was by design.
“During this outing, I was more focused on throwing strikes than actual velocity,” Sixto said after that outing. “I was more concentrated on finding weak contact so I can use that more often”
What does this show? It shows that Sixto knows he has the velocity but that he doesn’t always need to use it and it shows that he understands that three pitch ABs that end in groundouts are just as, if not more valuable than eight pitch ABs that end in Ks. This is a big step in the right direction in terms of Sanchez’s mental maturation, a step that should allow him to pitch deep into games more often and promote better health in his arm.
All in all, whenever we see Sixto this year, whether it be when he takes the field during Opening Day intros or a week or two after that date, we will be seeing the best, most well rounded version of him yet. As he prepares to graduate from prospect status within his first few starts this season, this camp, despite being abbreviated, has Sixto Sanchez all the more ready to live up to his ace potential.
Trevor Rogers Continues Dominance
After showing flashes of his ceiling during the 2020 season, lefty Trevor Rogers came to Marlins camp this year determined to take the next step and prove he belongs at the major league level. He started making that impression before he even got on a mound. At the beginning of camp, Don Mattingly mentioned he was “taken aback” by Rogers’ physical maturation. By “crushing calories”, Trevor put on a good 20 pounds. Then he started throwing. Through five spring outings, armed with three miles per hour of added velo to his heater and a vastly improved changeup, he did this:
According to Mattingly, Rogers, who has the most strikeouts in all of baseball in spring training, couldn’t be showing out much better this spring.
“He had a mindset that he knew what he wanted to accomplish,” Mattingly said. “He came with a purpose to spring. To this point, there really is not a whole lot not to like.”
While sticking to that blueprint, Rogers has also learned from previous mistakes. That as much as anything else is proving to be a catalyst for the impression he has made.
From Tommy John to a rough start to his minor league career to the pandemic wiping out nearly a full year of production, Rogers has stayed the course, kept his head up and his eyes forward. It is exceptionally refreshing to see the former first round pick thriving. If this kind of production continues into the regular season, there is potential for Rogers to compete with the league’s best rookies.