Marlins' Mesa Jr. puts adjustments to test in AFL

October 8th, 2022

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Victor Mesa Jr. has one of the sweetest left-handed swings and some of the best bat-to-ball skills in the Marlins system. But to become a starting outfielder in the big leagues, he'll need to drive the ball more consistently and produce more power.

In the Arizona Fall League, Mesa Jr. is working on keeping his front shoulder more closed and focusing on making hard contact from gap to gap. That approach has proved successful during the first week of the AFL season, as he has homered twice in three games after going deep just five times in 121 games at High-A.

Mesa Jr.'s second Fall League homer came Friday night as his Mesa Solar Sox defeated the Salt River Rafters 6-3 in seven innings. The Marlins' No. 13 prospect hammered a changeup from left-hander Matt Walker (Tigers) 386 feet with an exit velocity of 100 mph, plating the first two runs of the game in the top of the second inning.

"I've made adjustments and changed my approach in the regular season to here," said Mesa Jr., who batted .244/.323/.346 at High-A at age 20. "It wasn't a really good year for me. That's why I came here and tried to show what I can do. Those two bombs that I already hit, I was trying to hit a hard line drive to help my team. I made good contact and got out in front, and that was it."

Mesa grew up in Cuba, where he led the island's 18-and-under league in hitting (.440), on-base percentage (.560) and slugging (.667) in his final season before defecting in May 2018. He signed with the Marlins five months later for $1 million on the same day his older brother Victor Victor Mesa turned pro with Miami for $5.25 million. The older Mesa is a gifted defender who has made little offensive impact in the Minors.

They're the sons of legendary center fielder Victor Mesa, who was known as "El Loco" while winning 19 gold medals with the Cuban national team, including one at the 1992 Olympics. He was Cuba's equivalent of Rickey Henderson, a daring baserunner with plenty of power, and later became a manager.

Mesa Jr. says he considers himself lucky to have been able to learn from his dad and to be able to lean on his brother for advice as well. He was born after Victor Sr. retired as a player, but has seen highlights of his father's career on YouTube.

"When I was a kid, I used to say that I wanted to be better than my dad. I know I've got a big goal in front of me but I know if I give 100 percent, he's going to have to watch out, " Mesa Jr. said before breaking into a big smile. "I'm going to be close to him.

"When I was growing up, he was already a manager and I learned a lot from him. I would go to the games all day with him. I learned almost everything that I know from. I think he's the best teacher alive. I feel like God blessed me with a dad close to me who could teach me all that I really know about baseball."

Mesa scored three runs in the top of the seventh to break a 3-3 tie, going ahead on a balk by Ryan Loutos (Cardinals) and adding some insurance on a two-run single by first baseman T.J. Rumsfield (Yankees). Tyler Hardman (Yankees) delivered two hits and a walk for the Solar Sox and also made two nice plays at third base. Zac Leigh (Cubs) earned the victory with two scoreless innings, permitting only a walk while striking out three and running his deceptive fastball up to 96 mph.