Prospect Mesa's big year: Citizenship, Messi ... debut?

March 12th, 2024

JUPITER, Fla. -- If the first three months of 2024 are any indication, it’ll be a year to remember for Marlins No. 4 prospect Victor Mesa Jr.

In February, Mesa became a U.S. citizen. Shortly after, he watched his idol Lionel Messi play for Inter Miami in person. And although the 22-year-old was part of the second round of camp cuts on Monday, he left quite an impression on the organization.

Mesa will get a chance to showcase his potential in Friday’s inaugural Spring Breakout, which will pit prospects from the Marlins and Cardinals against each other at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 2:05 p.m. ET, and the game can be watched live on MLB Network.

“He can be as good as he wants to be,” manager Skip Schumaker said. “I think he was one of the most impressive of the young guys that came to camp, if not the most impressive, with the work he put in. Not only [in the] weight room, but his defense was as good as anybody's, and I think there's real upside in the swing. Him being a hit collector and not worrying about the power was really the message. The power is going to come. He's young. He's strong, and he's going to walk into 15 or 20 home runs. He doesn't have to think about that.

“So him being a Gold Glove type of defender with a left-handed bat with a real hit tool, he can play in the Major Leagues a long time and really help on a winning team -- not just play in the Major Leagues. So that was really the message. It's fun when you kind of have to pull back guys, not push guys, and he was definitely one of those guys.”

The son of legendary Cuban outfielder Victor Mesa, Victor Jr. topped Cuba's 18-and-under league in all three slash stats (.440/.560/.667) before defecting with his older brother Victor Victor in May 2018. Both signed with the Marlins five months later, with Victor Victor ($5.25 million) getting the much larger bonus. But Victor Jr. ($1 million) emerged as the better prospect.

According to MLB Pipeline’s scouting report, Mesa has a 60-grade field tool on the 20-80 scale, followed by arm (55), hit (50), power (50) and run (50). At Double-A Pensacola in 2023, he tapped into his power potential with 18 homers, more than his combined total from '19-22 (11). He also set career highs for games (123), RBIs (76) and steals (16).

This past November, Miami added Mesa to the 40-man roster, protecting him from the Rule 5 Draft and automatically giving him a big league camp invitation. It kicked off a memorable offseason.

Around that time, Mesa began the naturalization process, something he had wanted to do since arriving in the United States. He studied the 100 possible questions -- everything from the 13 original colonies to Susan B. Anthony. He went on to pass the test, and later to attend the ceremony with other new citizens.

“I know all of that,” Mesa said. “I think I'm going to remember that for a long time. [I’m] so proud to be a citizen. I'm very proud for the opportunity, for me and my whole family. I'm the first one in the family. So I'm very proud for this country giving me the opportunity -- [it] opens the doors to me and my family.”

Mesa then watched soccer star Messi, of whom he has several tattoos, play in a Major League Soccer game. There are two other milestones Mesa hopes are on the horizon: his Major League debut and meeting Messi.

“Obviously, that's something that I know that is around the corner,” Mesa said. “I know that it's getting closer and closer. But I'm trying to do my job. I prefer to think about day by day. If it's about to come, I prefer that it surprises me, you know what I mean? But I'm now focused on getting better every day. Get here, do my routine, work out. That's the only way to get better, and if I go on, I hope that it's this year. Me and my family, we've been waiting for it, and obviously, if it happens, it's going to be one of the best days of my life.

“Hopefully to meet [Messi], too. But it looks like the year 2024 is going to be a good one. I hope so. It's starting, but it looks good. We work to try to look better. But I'm pretty happy with what's happening with me in my life, my career right now. Grateful with God, with the team, and with everyone for getting me here.”