The game of baseball is a family affair for Jose Salas and company. Miami’s No. 5 prospect brings his extensive lineage to the Arizona Fall League, the latest member of the Salas clan to make a living with spikes on. His grandfather, father and uncle all played professionally in Venezuela, where Jose signed out of in July 2019.
“My dad [took] me everywhere he played when I was younger. Just having that background was so much fun and going places I’ve never been,” Salas said. “It’s a blessing.”
The Salas pipeline also boasts the top-ranked international prospect in the Class of 2023. Ethan, a catcher from Caracas, Venezuela, is Jose’s younger brother. Whether he commands the $2.8 million bonus that Jose signed with Miami remains to be seen, but the elder brother has soared up the Marlins’ prospect rankings list after his first full pro season. And he's expanding on that with the Mesa Solar Sox in the Arizona Fall League.
Salas began the year with a solid 61-game showing for Single-A Jupiter, where he compiled a 123 wRC+ and 21 extra-base hits with 15 steals. A promotion to High-A Beloit impeded his statistical progress, as he posted just a .660 OPS in 48 contests. Despite the hiccups, he had just one plate appearance against a younger hurler all season.
“Getting the callup this year was pretty extraordinary for me,” Salas said. “I’ve been waiting on it, just playing hard every day. All that they ask for is for us to play hard and I just give my 100 [percent] out there.
“I felt that the pitching was a little bit different than the lower levels. Pitchers knew what they were doing, so I had to adjust to that. But either way, just go out there and play the game the way I know how to play it.”
The Florida native's off-the-field experience of being bilingual and growing up in clubhouses has him pegged as a potential fast-riser through the Miami system. The club boasts extensive up-the-middle talent in the form of Kahlil Watson (No. 7 prospect, 2021 first-round pick) and Yiddi Cappe (No. 6 prospect, ‘21 international signee from Cuba), giving the organization the welcome problem of a surplus of talented shortstops.
With all three players having been born within a year of one another, their ascension through the Marlins’ farm ranks stands to coincide. While the triumvirate didn't inhabit the same lineup during the 2022 regular season (all did spend the majority of their year at Jupiter), the fact that Watson has begun to get reps at second base and Cappe at third is indicative of how talented the group is on both sides of the ball.
“We always try to push each other,” Salas said. “We always try to get the best out of each other, that’s the only way we know how to [be]. Those guys [Watson and Cappe] are great guys, great teammates, great guys on the field, off the field.”
Marlins hitters in the Fall League
Joe Mack, C (No. 9): A first-round pick by Miami in the 2021 Draft out of a New York high school, Mack’s first taste of affiliate ball in ‘22 was sidetracked by a hamstring strain. Having appeared in just 44 games during the regular season, the highly regarded backstop will be looking to accrue additional at-bats on the fall circuit. The left-handed hitter, who is one of just six 19-year-olds playing in Arizona, posted a 19.1 percent walk rate in his first taste of Single-A.
Victor Mesa Jr., OF (No. 14): The younger brother of heralded Marlins international signee Victor Victor Mesa, Mesa Jr. has showcased significant upside in his own right. Playing nearly all of 2022 as a 20-year-old at High-A, he collected 34 extra-base hits and stole 10 bags for Beloit. The Cuba native, whose field tool ties for his highest-rated mark per MLB Pipeline, played sparkling defense in center field, committing just two errors over 894 1/3 innings this year.
Cameron Barstad, C: The Solar Sox have another Hammerheads backstop on the Solar Sox roster. Named to the club’s taxi squad, the 21-year-old posted a .705 OPS across 55 games at Single-A Jupiter. A sixth-round selection in the 2018 Draft, the lefty-batting Barstad struck out in 39.6 percent of his plate appearances over the past two seasons.
Marlins pitchers in the Fall League
Holt Jones, RHP: Tied for the second-tallest hurler (6-foot-8) on the fall circuit, Jones is looking to build up his workload after logging just 34 1/3 frames during the regular season between the Rookie-level Florida Complex League and Jupiter. His fastball sits at 93-96 mph, a pitch that aided him in collecting at least six strikeouts in four of his eight outings for the Hammerheads.
Jorge Mercedes, RHP: The Marlins were aggressive in promoting the 22-year-old as high as Double-A Pensacola in his first professional season stateside this year. While 15 of his 21 appearances came in the Florida Complex League, Mercedes flashed eye-popping stuff with a fastball that sits in the upper 90s and can touch triple digits, helping him to compile 55 strikeouts across 31 frames.
Justin Fall, LHP: Fall is heading back to the desert, where he pitched for two seasons with Arizona State. Miami nabbed the 6-foot-6 southpaw in the 17th round of the 2021 Draft and he got his first taste of affiliated ball this season when he compiled a 3.71 ERA over 18 appearances (14 starts) at Jupiter. The southpaw sits at 92-95 mph with his heater, with a slider that grades out as his best complementary pitch.
Chandler Jozwiak, LHP: Another member of the Marlins’ 2021 Draft crop in the Solar Sox ranks, Jozwiak is getting a taste of his fourth club in his first full pro year. Between 57 1/3 frames with Jupiter, Beloit and Pensacola, the southpaw featured a low-90s fastball and finished 7-0 with a 2.35 ERA and 67 strikeouts while allowing just one homer.