Rookie second baseman Jazz Chisholm has provided energy and production for the new-look Miami Marlins in 2021. Photo by Joseph Guzy/Miami Marlins
April 22 (UPI) -- A blue-haired rookie infielder, an electric pitching staff and a groundbreaking general manager have magnetized eyes to the Miami Marlins, a franchise that embraced the role of overperforming underdog in 2020.
Second baseman Jazz Chisholm Jr. has energized the Marlins. The Bahamian second baseman oozes style in the batter's box, on the base paths and in the infield. He makes routine plays appear effortless and flashes a charismatic smile almost all the time.
"He is going to [struggle] like everyone else, but this guy has a big ceiling," Marlins manager Don Mattingly told reporters Tuesday on a Zoom conference call.
"Obviously, he is fun to watch and a guy who can do a lot on the field."
The Marlins started the season 1-6, but have since won seven of their last 10 games. Chisholm, 23, won the starting second baseman job in spring training and leads the team with a .326 batting average, four steals and in offensive wins above replacement.
He is among the league leaders in sprint speed and ranks in the 98th percentile for balls hit with ideal exit velocity and launch angle. His name is listed near Mike Trout, Ronald Acuna Jr., Justin Turner and Bryce Harper in slugging percentage and on-base percentage rankings.
He hit just .161 in sporadic starts last season, but retained rookie eligibility.
"Jazz to me is going to get better as long as he stays with the process," Mattingly said. "His at-bats have been obviously good because he has worked from last year to now.
"As longs as Jazz continues to work and get better he will be productive."
'The Kid' has a . 414 batting average during the Marlins' hot streak. He went 2 for 4 and hit leadoff for the first time during the Marlins' 3-0 shutout of the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday in Miami.
Veterans Starling Marte, Jesus Aguilar, Miguel Rojas are mentoring the young infielder as he ascends into becoming a premier player.
They keep him humble with reminders when he struggles and make bets about who will record better seasonal statistics. Chisholm has a home run wager with Aguilar, who once hit 35 homers as an All-Star in 2018.
"We know all the tools he has," Marte told reporters Friday in a Zoom conference. "He can do it all on the field. I love the way he plays. He always has a smile on his face and is never upset.
"He is a little immature, so I'm working with him on that."
The Marlins didn't allow fans to attend games last season due to COVID-19, but they returned to loanDepot park in 2021 and feed into Chisholm's energy, which flows into the Marlins clubhouse like a high-voltage current.
"The fans bring me energy and that's what makes me conformable," Chisholm told reporters Friday during a Zoom call. "I like the crowd and talking to the fans.
"They make me smile more than I feel like I make them smile."
Jazz, whose full name is Jasrado Prince Hermis Arrington Chisholm Jr., always has been confident. He said his grandmother, former Bahamian national softball star Patricia Coakley, inspired him to play the game.
When he was 17, he told former Arizona Diamondbacks minor league farm director Mike Bell that he would become a Hall of Famer. He won 2018 Minor League Player of the Year and reached the Marlins through a 2019 trade.
He is one of several players connected to the Marlins' drastic deconstruction from 2017 through 2019. The Marlins also acquired several top pitching prospects by trading away several All-Stars.
How they built it
Marlins co-owner Derek Jeter told reporters in 2019 that he knew Chisholm had "very, very high upside" when he first saw him play as a prospect. Chisholm, who wears No. 2 like Jeter did, displayed the same flair and athleticism.
The Marlins acquired Chisholm in exchange for starting pitcher Zac Gallen. Mattingly said they made that deal because of their pitching depth.
Gallen landed in Miami in 2017 when the Marlins sent All-Star outfielder Marcell Ozuna to the St. Louis Cardinals. The Marlins also traded All-Stars Giancarlo Stanton, Christian Yelich, J.T. Realmuto and several other players.
Those trades netted starting pitchers Sandy Alcantara, Sixto Sanchez and Pablo Lopez, in addition to Chisholm and other prospects.
The Marlins hired Kim Ng in November as the first female general manager in MLB history. It's her job to those turn those prospects into a contending team.
When she first arrived, she examined the franchise and found a "common thread." The team injected great athletes and strike-throwers into its Minor League system.
"We had to give up good players, but we got a lot of good players in return," Ng told reporters Wednesday during a Zoom call. "It's really exciting for the folks that have been here for the last several years.
"Jazz is dynamic player and has different weapons in his toolbox he can bring out at any time. To see him play a the big league level has been very exciting. ... I just can't wait to see more of him."
San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. looks to the sky as he crosses the plate after hitting a leadoff solo home run in the first inning off Los Angeles Dodgers' starting pitcher Trevor Bauer at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday. The Dodgers held on to win 5-4. Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI | License Photo