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'The future is here' at Marlins hitters' camp

@JoeFrisaro
January 14, 2020

JUPITER, Fla. -- Spring Training may be a month away, but it isn’t too early for Marlins prospects to start building relationships. About a dozen prospects are participating this week in the organization’s hitters' camp at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex, which is the Spring Training home of the

JUPITER, Fla. -- Spring Training may be a month away, but it isn’t too early for Marlins prospects to start building relationships.

About a dozen prospects are participating this week in the organization’s hitters' camp at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex, which is the Spring Training home of the Marlins. On Tuesday, the players hit in the cages.

As an organization, the Marlins are in the process of building a foundation from the Minor Leagues on up. Many of the players who project to be part of the franchise’s future are attending the hitters’ camp. Gathering them in an informal setting is part of developing a strong bond between the players and the staff.

“Right now, it’s all about mechanics and building relationships,” Marlins director of player development Dick Scott said.

Taking part in the camp are 10 of the Marlins’ Top 30 prospects, according to MLB Pipeline.

This list includes JJ Bleday (No. 2), Kameron Misner (9), Jose Devers (10), Víctor Víctor Mesa (13), Nasim Nunez (15), Jerar Encarnacion (17), Will Banfield (19), Osiris Johnson (23), Víctor Mesa Jr. (28) and Peyton Burdick (29). Other prospects like Jazz Chisholm (4) and Monte Harrison (5) were working out but not part of the program.

“It’s unbelievably important for us, because the whole thing about teaching, and that’s what we are as coaches, we’re teachers, is to get the trust built up with the players,” Scott said. “To have times like this, where we’re not rushing to try to make a team, is important. Guys aren’t panicking and wondering, ‘Am I going to go to Double-A, or am I going to go back to Jupiter?’ Those types of things.”

Bleday, the No. 29 overall prospect n the Minors, was the Marlins’ top Draft pick in 2019. The left-handed-hitting outfielder comes off winning a national championship at Vanderbilt.

This will be Bleday's first Spring Training as a professional, and Tuesday was a day for him to get a head start in preparing for the upcoming season.

“Getting down here early, it’s good to get familiar with what you’re about to face, in terms of Spring Training,” Bleday said. “It’s great to see familiar faces and finally get prepared, because once Spring Training gets here, it’s just going from there.”

Before Spring Training begins, the Marlins will hold their annual Captain’s Camp, which will also include pitching prospects. It’s all part of an organizational initiative to acclimate and prepare players for all aspects of what it takes to be in the big leagues.

Marlins vice president of player development and scouting Gary Denbo introduced Captain’s Camp to the organization when the new ownership group, headed by Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter, took over after the 2017 season.

“Derek Jeter and Gary Denbo have done a great job in building those values, those core values within an organization, and creating that foundation,” Bleday said. “It’s huge for the Minor League and Major League systems.”

One of the promising young power hitters in the organization is Encarnacion, who belted 16 home runs and drove in 71 runs in 135 games for Class A Clinton and Class A Advanced Jupiter in 2019. Encarnacion followed up a breakthrough Minor League season with a strong Arizona Fall League, where he hit a grand slam in the championship game for the eventual champion Salt River Rafters.

“This guy has a chance to be an impact player at the Major Leagues,” Scott said. “We’re really excited about him.

“He even runs well for a big guy. He has a plus arm, plus power. He went to the Fall League and held his own, and he’s probably a couple of years under the average age there.”

Scott says Encarnacion could be a 25-30 home run player in the big leagues.

“I just think he’s going to get better and better,” Scott said. “His confidence is really growing. When you talk to him now, instead of being quiet and shy, he’s much more approachable and confident in what he’s saying.”

Víctor Mesa Jr. is the youngest player at hitters’ camp. The 18-year-old outfielder batted .284 in 47 games in the Gulf Coast League last season, and he has the makings of being a future big league regular.

“The future is here,” Mesa Jr. said.

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