After a rough MLB debut in 2020, Chisholm is making a strong case to be the regular second baseman for the Marlins in ‘21.
SS/2B Jazz Chisholm Jr.
Opening Day age: 23 | Bats: left | Throws: right | Listed at 5-11, 184 lbs.
Acquired by Marlins via trade from Diamondbacks in exchange for RHP Zac Gallen (July 31, 2019)
At least until he proves to be an asset, Chisholm will be the guy that the Marlins acquired in the infamous Zac Gallen trade, back in July 2019.
The Bahamian infielder showed his offensive potential in 2018, still as part of the Diamondbacks. That year, across 112 games and 501 plate appearances between Single-A and Double-A, Chisholm made the most out of his speed and his power. He registered 23 doubles, six triples, 25 home runs, and 17 stolen bases, along with 70 RBIs and 79 scored runs (.272/.329/.513). Those numbers helped him become one of the most exciting prospects of the Arizona organization.
But then in 2019, his numbers declined and he posted a 33.8 strikeout percentage in 364 PAs before in AA before the trade, the worst rate of his MiLB career. The Marlins were unfazed, convinced that he still had a star-caliber ceiling.
Without even playing above AA, the Marlins kind of rushed Chisholm in 2020. Due to the shortened season and the non-existence of organized minor league competition, he made his MLB debut at the age of 22.
It didn’t work well for the Marlins and Chisholm. Even though he quickly won over the fans’ support with his infectious enthusiasm for the game and there were some good signs on the field, he slashed .161/.242/.321 and was a strikeout victim 19 times in 21 games (62 PA). Besides, he didn’t hit the ball hard on average (87.1 MPH exit velocity) and didn’t make good contact.
During that brief stint with the Marlins, he strangely struggled when facing righties, who became his major weakness:
Chisholm finished the 2020 season with a clear statement: there’s still work to do!
2021 ZiPS projection: .197/.278/.377, 74 wRC+, 0.2 fWAR
2021 PECOTA projection (50th percentile): .207/.277/.366, 75 DRC+, 0.2 WARP
Chisholm, a natural shortstop, entered Spring Training battling with Isan Díaz for the everyday job as the Marlins’ second baseman in 2021. And even though it’s still unofficial, Jazz is likely to win the spot.
Although Chisholm began slowly in the Grapefruit League (.111/.111/.278 in his first nine games), he’s red-hot right now and could easily beat Díaz if he maintains his good rhythm. In his last seven games (before Thursday), he’s 6-for-14 with two home runs, three ribbies, and four scored runs.
His overall slash line is at .250/.294/.531 and best of all, he’s generating the kind of elite exit velocity that scouts had been expecting from him all along. According to Baseball Savant and the Spring Training games they’ve tracked, Chisholm owns a 94.4 MPH average exit velocity, including the two hardest-hit balls by any Marlins player so far.
Chisholm’s platoon splits have normalized during the preseason. He’s hitless in eight at-bats against left-handers with three strikeouts so far, but is 8-for-24 (.333) off right-handed pitchers.
The Marlins and manager Don Mattingly are days away from announcing who their second baseman will be. Health permitting, Chisholm should get the first shot at filling that role in regular season contests. Keep in mind, though, that he does have minor league options remaining.