By RENALDO DORSETT
Tribune Sports Reporter
JASRADO “Jazz” Chisholm is headed into Miami Marlins’ spring training attempting to earn the starting job in what is expected to be a heated position battle at second base.
Marlins’ general manager Kim Ng said performance in spring training emerging from the open competition between Chisholm, Isan Diaz and Jon Berti will determine who wins the starting nod headed into the 2021 season.
Pitchers and catchers reported to the team’s spring training site at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Jupiter, Florida this week and the remaining position players will begin workouts on February 23.
“I think right now our mindset is we have that candidate in house with Isan Diaz, Jazz Chisholm, as well as Jon Berti who did a nice job for us last year,” Ng said. “I think between the three of them I think the answer is in house and I think we’re one of the fortunate clubs to have internal candidates.”
In 21 games last season, Chisholm, the Marlins’ No.4 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, hit .161 with a .563 OPS a .242 OBP, nine hits, two home runs, nine runs, six RBI, and two stolen bases.
In his debut MLB season, the 23-year-old infielder started 17 games, 11 at second base. He was called up on September 1 as the Marlins were one of the teams hit hardest by the pandemic and had the highest roster turnover of any team in the league with 17 players eventually placed on the COVID reserve list.
Diaz, 24, was projected to be the Marlins starter at the position prior to the 2020 season, but opted out due to his concerns on playing amid the pandemic. He later opted back in and re-joined the club in September as they made a playoff push. He suffered a groin injury just five games into his return that officially brought an end to his year.
Through seven games he hit .182 average with one RBI and three runs scored.
Berti, the 31-year-old veteran utility player of the group, assumed the starting role at second base last season after the Marlins traded away Jonathan Villar in August.
He played in 39 of the team’s 60 regular season games because of a finger injury suffered in September. He hit .258 with two home runs, 14 RBI, a .79 OPS and nine stolen bases. In 2019, he became the only player in Marlins history to start 20 games at third base, centrefield and shortstop in the same season.
The Marlins will open Spring Training play in the Grapefruit League against the St. Louis Cardinals on February 27.
Marlins CEO, Derek Jeter, said training camp is the proving ground where the team’s competitive spirit will be developed and players will have an opportunity to showcase their skillsets vying for roles on the main roster.
“There are no jobs given before spring training starts. We try to get our best players on the field as a part of our 26 man roster. It’s built on competition. The best players are going to play, if the guys go out and perform they are going to get an opportunity,” he said, “There’s a lot of at bats that are available throughout the course of a season, you can never make the assumption that players are going to stay healthy for 162 games in a season, especially when we’re still in the middle of a pandemic. Give me too many players, I would rather work with that than sit here and wish I had more. That’s the environment we’ve built here. The best players are going to play”
The Marlins were one of the most improbable stories in the MLB last season. They were the worst team in the National League in 2019 at 57-105 and returned in 2020 to finish 31-29 for their first winning season since 2009 and earned their first playoff berth since 2003. Their 16 season playoff drought was the second-longest active streak in the majors.
Once they reached the postseason, the No.6 seeded Marlins advanced to the NLDS with a two game sweep of the No.3 Chicago Cubs in the Wild Card round on the road at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois.
“The thing that I’ve enjoyed watching and seeing is the confidence level of the players in our organisation, not just in Miami but throughout our system, when they take the field they expect to compete and they expect to win. I think our players last year got a little bit of a taste of it. You can tell their confidence level started to rise,” Jeter said, “Made a little progress and got to the postseason, we’re happy with the progress we made but not how the season finished. I think we just have to continue with that mindset.”