Marlins' Bleday earns Fall Stars MVP honors

November 14th, 2021

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The baseball resume just keeps on improving.

The fourth overall pick from the 2019 Draft and the No. 71 overall prospect has accomplished a lot already, but now he’s got one more accolade to add to the list: Fall Stars Game MVP.

Bleday took the honors at Saturday's Arizona Fall League showcase after going 2-for-3 with a homer and a trio of RBIs at Salt River Fields.

“It’s huge,” he said after the East’s 6-5 win over the West. “Hitting a home run in an All-Star Game is special, and to have it happen first inning and to make it tied 2-2, it’s great.”

Bleday has been one of the AFL’s best performers and wasted little time starring on the league’s brightest stage, hammering a 2-2 pitch over the center-field wall in the first inning.

The Marlins No. 5 prospect knew he hit the ball well -- it had an exit velocity of 102.7 mph -- but wasn’t sure initially if it’d leave the yard.

“I honestly don’t hit many home runs choked up like that, but I knew I barreled it,” Bleday said. “As you can see, this wall is pretty tall, so you never know.”

As it turned out, the blast left the yard without a problem, traveling 417 feet out to center.

The 24-year-old outfielder was robbed of a single in his second trip to the plate when Yankees No. 24 prospect Elijah Dunham dove and caught his liner to left field, and he then finished his night with a run-scoring single to right in the fifth.

“I was really just trying to stay on his heater,” Bleday said of the single, which came off a curveball by Cardinals No. 8 prospect Zack Thompson. “I know he likes his curveball a lot, so I was trying to stay on his heater and react to his offspeed.”

Bleday got off to a slow start this year in his first professional season, but he caught fire late and has continued to rake in Arizona. After hitting .199 through the first four months of the season, the 24-year-old hit .311 over 13 games in September.

Through 21 games in Arizona, he’s been even better. Bleday is slashing .329/.447/.600 with five homers and 24 RBIs. He’s also working on a four-game hitting streak and has hits in 10 of his past 12 contests, not including the Fall Stars Game.

“I didn’t get to play with JJ much, and obviously, the Fall League is my first experience with him, but we have known each other through baseball for a while,” Giants No. 6 prospect Hunter Bishop said. “I love the guy as a dude, and as a hitter he’s unreal. He’s super compact with his swing, and he’s really, really good.”

Bleday credits some mechanical adjustments for the turnaround and also mentioned he’s started to be a bit more aggressive at the plate.

“I feel like I’m able to feel the swing a little better with the positions I’m in now, and from there, it’s just approach,” he said. “That’s when baseball is fun. When you can take the mechanics out of it and just go play.”

Bleday has been simply playing for a couple months now, and the results are evident. He was considered an advanced prospect as he entered pro ball, and if he continues his rapid growth, it won’t be long before he’s playing in Miami.