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Notes: Bleday, prospects eye big leagues in '20

@JoeFrisaro
July 7, 2020

MIAMI -- Without a Minor League season in 2020, Marlins’ No. 2 prospect JJ Bleday is treating his Summer Camp opportunity like a Triple-A team. The 22-year-old, who is part of Miami’s 60-man player pool, has been working out mostly with other prospects at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex

MIAMI -- Without a Minor League season in 2020, Marlins’ No. 2 prospect JJ Bleday is treating his Summer Camp opportunity like a Triple-A team.

The 22-year-old, who is part of Miami’s 60-man player pool, has been working out mostly with other prospects at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla. -- the Marlins’ alternate training site. Even though Bleday is not on the 40-man roster and has not played above Class A Advanced Jupiter, he is preparing for a big league call.

“Right now, I’m looking at it as that’s my goal,” he said Tuesday on a Zoom call. “It’s to get to the big leagues, whichever way possible. I’ve got to be mentally ready and physically ready to go when that opportunity does come into play.”

Bleday echoes what the rest of the prospects are saying in Jupiter. Right-hander Max Meyer, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, also didn’t rule out the chance he could pitch in the big leagues this year.

“You don’t want to rush your process to the big leagues, although you’ve got to look at this opportunity as, ‘Hey, you’re basically in Triple-A,’” Bleday said. “If something happens, you’re getting called up. You’ve got to make sure you’re ready to go.”

Ranked as the No. 28 overall prospect on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100 list, Bleday was initially expected to open this season either at Jupiter or Double-A Jacksonville. The coronavirus pandemic changed those plans.

Bleday is now continuing his development with about 20 highly touted prospects in Jupiter, while players projected to be on Miami’s Opening Day roster are training at Marlins Park.

The No. 4 pick in the 2019 Draft, Bleday appeared in 38 games with the Jupiter Hammerheads last season, hitting .257/.311/.379 with three home runs and 19 RBIs.

The left-handed-hitting outfielder showed promise in Spring Training, appearing in nine Grapefruit League games and going 3-for-13.

“You’ve got to take this opportunity to get better and be better wherever the organization needs you because of the circumstances,” Bleday said.

Guzman open to any role
Jorge Guzman, Miami’s No. 19 prospect, made 24 starts and one relief appearance in 2019 for Double-A Jacksonville. In his entire Minor League career, the hard-throwing right-hander has started 78 games out of 89 appearances.

When it comes to what role he could have in 2020, Guzman is open for anything. The Marlins have been developing the 24-year-old as a starter. But if he is called to the big leagues during this shortened season, the organization may want his services in relief.

“In every workout, I’ve been as a starter,” Guzman said through an interpreter. “But I’m good, and I’m available.”

Guzman, who is also working out in Jupiter, has a 100-mph fastball, but to profile as a starter, he will need command of at least three pitches. As a reliever, he could rely on just a fastball and changeup.

“If they want me to close a game, or they want me to be a reliever, I can do it,” Guzman said. “I’m here to serve. That’s the mentality we have right now.”

Guzman could become more of a factor for the Marlins than some of the other prospects at the alternate training site, because he already is on the 40-man roster.

Jerar’s future in the field
The Marlins are loaded in outfield prospect depth. So much so that six outfielders on the Marlins’ Top 30 prospects list rank ahead of Jerar Encarnacion, who arguably has more raw power than anyone in the system.

Encarnacion is ranked 15th by MLB Pipeline. Ahead of him in the Marlins’ system are: Bleday (No. 2), Jesús Sánchez (No. 4), Monte Harrison (No. 9), Kameron Misner (12th), Connor Scott (13th) and Peyton Burdick (14th).

Encarnacion profiles as a middle-of-the-order threat who is athletic enough to play right and left field. He also has a strong throwing arm.

The National League will have the designated hitter in 2020 -- and perhaps in the future as well -- which could create more of an opportunity for Encarnacion, though he makes it clear that he considers himself an outfielder.

“I don’t think [the DH] will affect anything in my career,” Encarnacion said through an interpreter. “If God wants me to be a DH, I’ll be a DH; but for now, that’s not part of the plan.”

Joe Frisaro has covered the Marlins for MLB.com since 2002. Follow him on Twitter @JoeFrisaro and listen to his podcast.