MIAMI -- In Monday night's 12-2 loss to the Braves at loanDepot park, the Marlins got a look at what they once envisioned for their future middle infield. Miami had its season-high-tying four-game win streak snapped.
With veteran Miguel Rojas receiving a breather, rookie Jazz Chisholm Jr. moved to short and Isan Díaz took over at second base. Chisholm won the starting job at second out of Spring Training.
“It's cool,” said Díaz, who notched his fourth homer of 2021. “We haven't really gotten that much playing time out there. But when we do, we obviously try to feed off each other as much as we can, just try to get something going. We do what we can out there. We continue to fight, continue to push forward and we just continue to grind.”
Chisholm didn't waste any time going deep for the second time in as many games, knocking the third leadoff home run of his career and his 13th homer this season. He sent a first-pitch 91.8 mph sinker from Touki Toussaint to the upper deck in right-center. Díaz gave the Marlins the lead in the second with a solo shot to right off a 94 mph sinker on a 2-2 pitch.
“I think you see two young guys playing together,” manager Don Mattingly said. “You see a difference when Miggy's out there, you get a different feel -- feel for the clock, the timing of it, all that -- but obviously those guys swung the bat good today, and you like seeing them working together. It is a combination that you know could be a possibility moving forward at some point.”
Miami's early advantage wouldn’t hold, as Atlanta put together a seven-run fourth against prospects Braxton Garrett and Paul Campbell en route to snapping the Marlins' season-high-tying four-game winning streak.
Both Chisholm and Díaz are former Top 100 prospects who have experienced ups and downs since debuting in The Show. The final 43 games of the season will be an evaluation period for the Marlins, in particular where their young players stand for 2022 and beyond.
Rojas has a vesting option for ‘22. The 32-year-old continues to improve each season, with Gold Glove-caliber defense and production at the plate. The club’s unofficial captain is a leader both by example and vocally.
Chisholm slashed .161/.242/.321 (.563 OPS) in 21 games in 2020 while learning a new position on the fly. The 23-year-old then began '21 hot, posting a .290/.375/.551 slash line (.926 OPS) before landing on the injured list with a left hamstring strain. That halted some of his momentum, as he entered Monday’s series opener slashing .244/.294/.393 (.687 OPS) in 60 games since. During that stretch, he went on the IL three times -- once with a left shoulder contusion and twice with flu-like symptoms. Chisholm also missed a week with a mild left ankle sprain.
His defense has been spotty, with 19 combined errors between second and short. On Monday, he was unable to convert a pair of plays that went for infield hits.
During his time away from the club, Chisholm’s stepdad threw him batting practice and hit him grounders -- just like in his Little League days. It kept Chisholm's body in game shape.
“It hasn't been really tough,” Chisholm said on Sunday. “My stepdad had me working out on the side when I was really feeling sick. My stepdad took care of me when I started to feel better right off the IL. I worked out with him. I've been able to keep swinging and doing my thing, so I feel pretty good and confident.”
Díaz homered off two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom for his first career hit on Aug. 5, 2019, but he finished that season slashing .173/.259/.307 (.566 OPS) in 49 games. In ‘20, he elected to opt out following the COVID-19 outbreak, then returned in early September, only to strain his left groin and end his season after just seven games. Díaz has split time between Triple-A Jacksonville and the Majors in ‘21, getting more consistent big league reps in August (eight starts).
The 25-year-old is a natural second baseman, though he has added versatility by manning the hot corner on 23 occasions. In Monday’s series opener, Díaz made a nifty play to rob Travis d’Arnaud of a hit in the ninth.
“Just kind of trying to find myself up here,” Díaz said. “Obviously, been going up and down throughout the whole year, so it's trying to get that second wind out here and just finish the year out strong.”