Chisholm wins Marlins' second-base job

March 28th, 2021

JUPITER, Fla. -- "See you down in Miami."

Those are the words heard from Marlins manager Don Mattingly shortly before the club's Grapefruit League finale Sunday at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. MLB Pipeline's No. 66 overall prospect will be Miami's Opening Day second baseman when it hosts Tampa Bay at 4:10 p.m. ET on Thursday at Marlins Park. He's expected to start on a daily basis.

"The emotions ran wild," Chisholm said during a Zoom call. "It was just like getting another callup, but this time winning an Opening Day job, which I feel like it's a big accomplishment to have the Opening Day job. I feel like it's another day of getting a callup, you know what I mean? It's the same butterflies going through your stomach as soon as they tell you. ...

"I can't thank them enough for the opportunity they gave me to go out there and show up this spring, but, you know, I'm ready."

Marlins general manager Kim Ng, who was there when Mattingly told Chisholm, announced the decision on the Miami Marlins Radio Network during the seventh inning of a 10-2 Spring Training win over the Mets. Chisholm went 1-for-3 batting seventh in a lineup that featured what projects as the rest of the Marlins' starters (sans designated hitter). He beat out former Top 100 prospect for the job.

Chisholm said he wasn't thinking of the competition when Spring Training began. He belted a leadoff homer in Miami's spring opener, then went 1-for-17 with seven strikeouts. But the 23-year-old made a strong push down the stretch, going 9-for-23 with seven runs, two homers, four RBIs, four walks, six strikeouts and four stolen bases over his last 11 games. The 24-year-old Díaz finished just 2-for-34 with seven walks during Spring Training.

"It was hard-fought, it really was," Ng said. "I think we just saw Jazz in the last couple of weeks step out a bit. He's a player that plays both sides of the ball. I'm excited for Marlins fans to see him again this year. You know his defense is great. He has great speed -- the other night we saw him steal two bases after he walked. He's a really exciting player, and I think he adds a lot to our lineup. So [we're] really excited about that."

After breaking out at Triple-A in 2019 and making his Major League debut that summer, Díaz was named the starting second baseman in '20. He elected to opt out after the Marlins' COVID-19 outbreak, then returned and sustained an injury. In a small 56-game MLB sample, Díaz has struggled with a .174/.251/.294 slash line.

"Isan is still a very good player," Ng said. "He'll go down to Triple-A and just get ready for when that call comes. What I can tell you guys is that Opening Day, it's one day out of the season, and the team that we throw out there on Opening Day probably is not necessarily going to be the one that you might see in June, July, August. We look forward to seeing Isan back at some point this year."

Chisholm, acquired in the Zac Gallen trade with the D-backs in 2019 and considered the shortstop of the future, had appeared at second base for just one inning in the Minors before starting there 11 times after his callup last season. Bypassing the Triple-A level, he slashed .161/.242/.321 with one double, one triple, two homers and two stolen bases in 21 contests. The Marlins started him in Game 3 of the National League Division Series, when he doubled and walked in a loss to the Braves.

According to MLB Pipeline's scouting report, the left-handed hitter is a potential 20-20 player if he can polish his offensive game. Chisholm's actions, range, hands and arm are all solid or better at shortstop, and he looked smooth at second base. While he still has a long way to go to reach his lofty ceiling, his tools and start of his professional career are similar to those of Cubs All-Star Javier Báez's.

Earlier this week, published a story that showed eye-catching statistics for Chisholm. He had a 71.4 percent hard-hit rate on 14 tracked batted balls -- third-highest on the Spring Training leaderboard at the time. Chisholm also reached a borderline-elite max sprint speed of 29.8 feet per second, with three tracked runs at 29 feet per second or faster.

"Jazz just needs to get better every day, I think that's the way we look at it," Mattingly said during a Zoom call. "He's not the player that he's going to be, and he just needs to work, continue to get better, listen to his teammates -- those guys will help him in there. The coaches will be helping him continue to develop in little areas. So it's really about, 'This is the start of it. Now we have to go play, and we've got to continue to get better.' If you look at it simply like that as a player, you're not concerned so much about what happened yesterday or the day before or if you're the guy or you're not. It's really, 'I just have to keep [getting] better.'"

Like the 17 other Marlins who debuted in 2020, Chisholm's friends and family didn't get to watch him in person. That won't be the case come Thursday for the Bahamian-born infielder. Though his Grandma Pat can't make it, his other grandmother will be among those in attendance cheering him on.

"It's going to be exciting," Chisholm said. "The butterflies are going to be there, but I've got to go out and play my game like I do, stay smooth and chilling."