Bleday, Marlins' top Draft pick, signs deal

Outfielder Misner and pitcher Mokma also in the fold before deadline

July 13th, 2019

MIAMI -- Freshly clean-shaven, JJ Bleday spent his first day of professional baseball officially signing with the Marlins and then going through batting practice with the Major League club. The No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, Bleday showed a glimpse of his huge upside as a power hitter, launching a few balls high and deep to right field before the Marlins’ 8-4 win over the Mets on Friday night.

Bleday and the Marlins anticipate plenty more where that came from when the prospect eventually reaches the big leagues.

“It was awesome,” Bleday said. “There’s no better sound than hitting with a wooden bat in a big league stadium. This is one of my first times ever doing it. It’s great. It was a cool experience.”

For Bleday, Friday represented a new beginning after he recently was a key part of Vanderbilt University’s College World Series championship team. The left-handed-hitting outfielder led the nation with 27 home runs, to go along with a slash line of .347/.465/.701.

The Marlins have a facial hair policy and Bleday complied, shaving the mustache he groomed during his college season.

Bleday will report to the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium complex in Jupiter, Fla., and initially join the Gulf Coast League Marlins. From there, he could be moved as high as Class A Advanced Jupiter.

“I’m just trying to get better on a day-to-day basis,” Bleday said. “Go with the flow, and see where it takes me.”

Friday was a hectic and rewarding day for the organization. The Marlins faced a 5 p.m. ET deadline to bring their remaining unsigned picks into the fold. Getting Bleday done was never in question. The formalities of completing his physical and finalizing his $6.67 million contract went as expected.

A more complicated situation for the Marlins was locking up their Competitive Balance Round A pick, Missouri outfielder Kameron Misner, taken 35th overall. Misner hit .286/.440/.481 with 10 home runs and 32 RBIs.

Capping the day, Miami locked up its 12th rounder, right-hander Chris Mokma.

Misner signed for $2.115 million, above his slot value of $2.095,800. And Mokma got done at $557,000, with $432,000 counting against the Marlins’ overall bonus pool.

“It’s an exciting day for us as an organization,” said Marlins chief executive officer Derek Jeter. “We want to use our organization to select as much talent as we possibly can. JJ arguably had the best season in college baseball. You’re talking about a guy who hits for power, and hits for average. He played in some games there where there's a lot of pressure, and he performed.”

The Marlins showed a major commitment to their Draft. So much so, they spent $13,695,200, going 4.98 percent over their allotment. But because Miami didn’t exceed 5 percent, it will not forfeit any future first-round Draft picks.

“In my time with the Marlins, we’ve never added bats with this type of ceiling,” president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. “When you talk about the college bats -- we’ve been a high school-oriented Draft philosophy in the past.”

Bleday is the Marlins’ first collegiate position player selected in the first round since Colin Moran, out of North Carolina, in 2013.

Bleday’s agent, Scott Boras, compares Bleday to Mets outfielder Michael Conforto.

“JJ reminds me a lot of Michael Conforto when he came into pro baseball,” Boras said. “He’s a guy I think will adapt very quickly, and really has a mental and physical stature to him that allows him to move rapidly through an organization.”

At 21 years old, Bleday promises to have a quicker path to the big leagues.

“We’ve gotten good players through that process,” Hill said of prep standouts in the past. “But when you’re talking about JJ Bleday, [he’s] an advanced bat-first profile. We’re excited to get him going, and seeing where his career ends up.”