PEORIA, Ariz. – Seventeen months ago, Jakob Marsee was suited up in maroon and gold for the Central Michigan Chippewas in the Gainesville Regional of the NCAA Tournament. He capped his collegiate career with a four-hit performance, an emphatic exclamation point on a breakout season that earned him first-team Mid-American Conference honors and propelled him toward becoming a sixth-round Draft pick of the Padres.
Fast-forward to Saturday night, and a smiling Marsee held a plaque honoring him as the Joe Black MVP Award winner for the 2023 Arizona Fall League.
"It's been a blessing," said Marsee, the Padres' No. 12 prospect. "I mean, if you would have told me this was where I'd be -- I would have dreamed about this, but I never would have believed it. Just being here and being able to compete every single day with these guys, it's a blessing.
"Honestly, without my time at Central, I don't think I'd be doing what I'm doing right now. I pay tribute to all my friends and teammates and coaches there and everyone that's helped me along the way."
MVP awards across sports often go to the best player on the best team. In many facets, the Javelinas have been the premier offense on the fall circuit, and directly at the top of the order has been Marsee, who is the first player in Padres history to win AFL MVP honors.
When rosters were revealed for the 30th anniversary campaign of the Fall League, the four Top 100 prospects -- the Rays' Carson Williams (No. 19), the Mariners' Harry Ford (No. 39), the Guardians' Kyle Manzardo (No. 58) and Chase DeLauter (No. 85) -- joining Peoria undoubtedly drew more pomp. Even in terms of San Diego prospects, Graham Pauley (SD No. 11) was coming off earning Padres Minor League Player of the Year honors. Marsee gravitated toward that amalgamation of talent in the dugout, elevating his own game to meet their standard.
"I've just tried to take advantage of every day," Marsee said. "The people that are here, they're all here for a reason, they're all the best of the best.
"I've just been trying to have fun with these guys … because it's been a blessing to be here and learn from every guy."
Long-heralded for his bat-to-ball ability, Marsee has been able to translate those skills from the MAC to the Minors. He spent the majority of his season with High-A Fort Wayne, where he produced a .413 on-base percentage and walked (87) more than he struck out (82), all while swiping 41 bases, tying him for third in the Midwest League.
To say that Marsee's blend of power, patience at the dish and wheels have no peer isn't hyperbole -- the 22-year-old is the lone Minor Leaguer to produce a season with at least 15 homers, 90 walks and 40 stolen bases since at least 2005.
Production in those categories carried over directly to his time with Peoria, as he finished in the top five in those categories -- hits (1st, 36), bases on balls (2nd, 21) and steals (third, 16) -- as well as in home runs (tied for 5th, with five), extra-base hits (1st, 18) total bases (1st, 65), among all Fall League participants. He slashed .391/.508/.707, making him third in the league in batting average, second in OBP, first in slugging and first with a 1.215 OPS.
"I can get bags, but I'm not the fastest guy," Marsee said. "I can hit for some power, but I'm not the strongest guy. I just try to do everything I can. Mainly, I'm just trying to help my team score and do what I can to help the team win."
Since joining the Padres organization, Marsee has been integral in helping his clubs win. He got his first taste of affiliate ball with Single-A Lake Elsinore last year, doing his part to earn the franchise a California League title. This season, he was part of a wave of talented San Diego prospects who earned a callup to Double-A San Antonio for a Texas League playoff push before the squad ultimately fell in the semifinals. His Javelinas are playing in Saturday's Arizona Fall League Championship Game.
The Fall League MVPs lineage boasts considerable big league talent, with the likes of Ronald Acuña Jr. (2017), Kris Bryant (2013) and Nolan Arenado (2011) having etched their names in the record books. The winners the past two years -- Heston Kjerstad and Nelson Velázquez -- have gone on to make their Major League debut the following season.
"It makes me realize what could be in store," Marsee said. "I just wanted to take advantage and come in here every single day and do the best I can. If I failed, I was going to learn; if I did good, I have stuff to learn from."