Glimpse into the future: Meyer faces Bleday

March 6th, 2021

JUPITER, Fla. -- While the Marlins geared up for a Grapefruit League matchup against the Nationals on Saturday at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium, two of MLB Pipeline's top 100 prospects squared off on a back field.

In a battle of Miami's last two first-round Draft selections, right-hander Max Meyer faced outfielder JJ Bleday four times during Meyer’s first live batting practice. The 21-year-old Meyer also pitched to fellow prospects Jesús Sánchez and Jerar Encarnación as manager Don Mattingly, vice president of player development and scouting Gary Denbo and others looked on.

Meyer threw 60 pitches, with his fastball velocity sitting in the mid-90s.

During the first at-bat, Bleday sent a grounder to the right side on Meyer's first offering. In the next matchup, Bleday hit a line drive to the warning track in left on Meyer's third pitch. Meyer fell behind in the count, 2-1, but Bleday popped up to shallow center the third time up. In the final round, Bleday chopped a grounder to the left side of the infield on the third pitch.

Mattingly announced on Friday that Meyer, MLB Pipeline's No. 28 overall prospect, will not appear in a Grapefruit League game this spring. He made four starts spanning 27 2/3 innings for the Minnesota Golden Gophers before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down collegiate sports last March. Three months later, the Marlins chose Meyer third overall in the 2020 MLB Draft. Miami added him to its 60-man player pool that summer, and he also participated in the instructional league that fall.

"I'm over there talking with JJ a little bit as he comes back about [Meyer's] stuff and what it looks like," Mattingly said during a Zoom call. "Obviously, said his stuff is good. I think what you see with that is, you know, Max getting comfortable. All of these guys, you want them to be comfortable, but the better competition they face, the more they learn.

"'Certain things I got to get a little better at this, and a little better at that. I'm not going to get away with one thing or the other.' I think that's what's good for both sides. You see the stuff, the stuff's there, probably coming right out of college. But the refinement and understanding of exactly what you want to do with stuff, your pitches, is really what it's kind of good for these guys right now to see that."

Bleday, selected fourth overall by the Marlins in the 2019 MLB Draft and MLB Pipeline's No. 20 prospect, is at his second big league camp. In two games this spring, he has a homer in four at-bats. Despite just 38 games at the Class A Advanced level, MLB Pipeline projects the 23-year-old could make his MLB debut sometime in 2021 because of his advanced bat.

"With JJ, you feel like you get an experienced mature guy, has good work habits," Mattingly said earlier in spring. "His routines are good. So you just get a solid, solid player with him. And then you just allow him to develop. If he shows up in Miami this year -- you know I can't answer that -- he kind of answers that question with his performance. So, you know, we'll see. But it wouldn't be outside of the realm of possibility, I would say."