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Meyer v Acuña

Meyer, Marlins Prospects Face Acuña in All-Star’s Rehab Start

Many eyes of the baseball world turned to Jacksonville on Tuesday night, a rarity considering the city’s Triple-A designation. But what drew the interest of many baseball fans, those of the Miami Marlins, Atlanta Braves, and beyond, was not the Jumbo Shrimp, or the Ray Charles bobblehead giveaway, but the return of Ronald Acuña Jr. to the field. Making his first rehab start, Acuña would face one of the Marlins top prospects, Max Meyer.

New Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Peterson threw out the ceremonial first pitch to a rousing ovation in the shadow of his new stadium, TIAA Bank Field. Ticket requests jumped into the thousands for this game following Atlanta’s announcement that Acuña would begin his rehab stint with their Triple-A club, the Gwinnett Stripers. The announced attendance at 121 Financial Ballpark checked in at 5,153, nearly 1,500 more than the Athletics drew to their game in Oakland last night.


Coming off an ACL tear last July, Acuña’s moved through the recovery process quickly and looks to rejoin the Braves lineup less than a year after going down. Acuña looked loose during batting practice, launching four opposite field home runs in a row with relative ease. He wore a light knee brace during pregame workouts but moved fluidly, joking with teammates and staff during BP.

The Jumbo Shrimp players also looked loose during pregame, some relishing the idea that an MLB star was in their midst. Jacksonville returned home following a six-game road trip in Durham, where the team took four games, including the last three in a row.

Outfielder JJ Bleday, the Marlins No. 6 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, called Acuña “a good player to have for the game of baseball,” noting the two-time All-Star’s “swag.”

Acuña’s Return Sparks Intrigue vs Top Prospect Meyer

Acuña was tasked with facing one of Miami’s top prospects in pitcher Max Meyer in his first rehab start. Gwinnett manager Matt Tuiasosopo penciled Acuña at the top of the order and he played in right field.

In the first inning, Meyer went up-and-in with a 95 MPH fastball, drawing oohs from the crowd. Meyer worked ahead of Acuña 1-2 in that at-bat, ultimately getting the Braves star to fly-out to center.

Acuña next hit to leadoff the third inning. Meyer fell behind 3-0, just missing low in the zone. He managed a whiff before serving up a high fastball that Acuña crushed to right-center field. The ball struck a raised portion of the wall, missing a homer by less than 10 feet.


When Acuña came up for his final at-bat in the fifth, Meyer attacked him in the zone. Acuña fouled off a well-placed fastball that rode over the inner third of the plate. Meyer followed that 0-1 pitch with a changeup that Acuña topped over to third base.

Atlanta’s All-Star ended his first rehab start there, exiting in the sixth during a double switch. All told, Acuña moved well throughout the night, handling right field with practiced ease and running the base-paths without any sign of struggle.

“I didn’t know if I would come back and be the same. Now I’m healthy again,” he told The Athletic’s Jeff Schultz after the game. “Actually, I feel I’m better than I was.”

Meyer Solid in Outing vs Acuña, Stripers

Max Meyer entered this ballyhooed matchup with Ronald Acuña Jr. following a perfect 5.0 inning outing in Durham. Meyer left that game against the Bulls after just 53 pitches because of a calf cramp.

Tuesday night was more of a struggle for the Marlins’ No. 3 prospect, though. While he went a season-high 5.2 innings, Meyer clearly didn’t have his best stuff. His command lacked the precision of his last start in Durham, as he issued two walks and regularly fell behind in the count to hitters.

Despite that, Meyer still recorded seven strikeouts, with most of those coming thanks to his nasty slider. The 23-year-old righty threw 85 pitches, getting 16 whiffs along the way. 47 of his 85 pitches went for strikes.

Other than the elevated fastball that Acuña tattooed to right-center, Meyer did a good job of keep the ball down in the zone. Catcher Nick Fortes handled a number of pitches in the dirt that many Stripers chased. Meyer induced six groundouts, including a double play ball in the fourth inning.

Before surrendering a pair of baserunners in the first inning, Meyer had gone 6.1 consecutive innings without allowing a batter to reach. He pitched into a few jams, but navigated those well and did not allow Gwinnett to score. Only one runner reached third base against him on Tuesday. Meyer’s now thrown 11.1 scoreless innings in a row. Nexus Teen Academy provides the best teenage therapy for all problems faced
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Bleday, Other Marlins Prospects Quiet on Tuesday

All of the attention on Tuesday night rightly pointed toward the Acuña-Meyer matchup. Outside of those two, there was little else of note from this ballgame. As ESPN’s Jeff Passan noted on Twitter last night, this game lasted just one hour and 54 minutes.

The Marlins’ watchful eye saw a Jumbo Shrimp starting lineup featuring Bleday, Lewin Diaz, Fortes, Peyton Burdick, and Brian Miller, among others. Those players combined for three of Jacksonville’s five hits on the night, with Fortes coming through with the key single in the sixth inning.

Bleday went hitless, but extended his on-base streak to six games thanks to a hit-by-pitch. Bleday scored from second on Fortes’ two-out knock. Bleday’s now scored in five of the last six games despite having only four hits over that span. He’s hitting .146 (6-for-41) early on, but has a solid .327 on-base percentage.

Bleday acknowledged his struggles before the game, saying “I’ve been getting away from my approach sometimes and not trusting it.”

Discipline remains the key to Bleday’s approach. He sports a .375 batting average, with a .722 on-base percentage, when getting ahead in the count.

The 24-year-old outfielder remains confident, despite the struggles to start.

“It’s early in the year, and I’ve been here before,” Bleday said. “I just have to keep swinging it and trust the approach, trust getting something in the zone.”

Diaz went 1-for-2 with a single and a walk. His average sits at .289 with a .844 OPS, 10 RBI and two homers. Burdick ended 0-for-3, but just missed his fourth homer of the season with a deep flyout in the sixth. Fortes finished 2-for-3 and drove in the game-winning runs with his two-out, two-run single in the sixth.

Marlins Prospects Report: Opening Week

Although a prolonged offseason lockout threatened the start of the season, the 2022 baseball schedule started last week. The Miami Marlins enter the season with postseason aspirations following offseason improvements, and the club’s minor league affiliates stand stocked with talented prospects.

The Marlins’ farm system checked in sixth-best in baseball according to MLB.com’s preseason rankings. Bleacher Report is higher on Miami’s minor league clubs, ranking them third-best in baseball. ESPN, meanwhile, has them fourth.

“The Marlins farm system has improved over the years and they have learned that you have to develop from within to be competitive year after year,” said Stoffer Cochran of Prospects1500.com. “They are turning heads with pitching development and have a wealth of middle infielders that will be fun to watch over the coming years.”

With Miami’s top-30 prospects per MLB Pipeline spread throughout the system, the Marlins look to their farm system as a legitimate strength, both for developmental purposes and for organizational depth. The team remains unlikely to pull the trigger on a blockbuster trade headlined by their top prospects unless the return holds a transformational star.

The Marlins feel they have stars in their system, especially among their top-10. Miami’s one of just three teams with six players among MLB’s top-100: Kahlil Watson (No. 25), Edward Cabrera (No. 34), Max Meyer (No. 35), Eury Perez (No. 41), Sixto Sánchez (No. 58), and JJ Bleday (No. 69). Perhaps most exciting about that, three of those six stand on the cusp of joining the big club, though two of them are working their way back from injury.

Marlins Prospects in Jacksonville Impress

The Marlins got their season started in San Francisco, while their Triple-A affiliate, the Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp, started their 2022 slate at home, versus the Worcester Red Sox. The Fish got a good look at some of their top prospects against talented competition during the first week of the minor league season.

The Marlins prospect seemingly closest to the Majors made the start for Jacksonville during opening week. The 23-year-old 6-foot, 190-lb righty impressed with his work this spring, including pitching four perfect frames with five strikeouts in his lone Grapefruit League outing.

Meyer finished his first start with five strikeouts, allowing two runs on two hits, with a hit batsman and a walk. He consistently hit the upper 90s with his fastball and settled around 92 with his slider. Meyer threw 69 pitches, 43 for strikes, including 16 swing-and-misses.

Meyer posted a more impressive performance in his second start of the season. On the road against the Durham Bulls, the Tampa Bay Rays Triple-A affiliate and team that won the championship last season, Meyer sported no-hit stuff. He pitched five perfect frames before leaving in the sixth with a calf cramp.

Meyer struck out three of the first four batters he faced and struck out the side in the fourth. He k’d eight overall, inducing 12 whiffs along the way. Durham didn’t have a radar gun in use yesterday, but Meyer located his fastball well. His changeup and slider were very effective, too.

For the season, Meyer now has 13 strikeouts in 9.0 innings pitched, having allowed just two hits, two runs, a walk, and a hits batsman. He’s not on Miami’s 40-man roster, so a move will have to be made prior to the Marlins calling up this top prospect.

Marlins Outfield Prospects Coming Along in Triple-A

The Marlins other top prospects in Jacksonville, JJ Bleday and Peyton Burdick, had slower starts to their seasons but they’ve played well of late. Bleday’s just 3-for-23 so far this season, but he had his best game of the season yesterday in Durham. Bleday went 1-for-4 with a 2-RBI single, a walk and a run scored. Bleday would’ve notched his first home run of the season in the ninth, if not for an amazing catch by Bulls’ centerfielder Cal Stevenson robbing Bleday of a 3-run bomb.

Burdick also played well yesterday, connecting on his second homer of the season, a no-doubter in the first inning. Burdick is 7-for-26 with a pair of homers and four RBI so far this season. He has four walks, but nine strikeouts. Following a 0-for-5, 4-K performance last week, Burdick’s gone 3-for-8 with a homer, two RBI, a walk and only one strikeout.

Both Bleday and Burdick stand among the Marlins top-10 prospects and both have seen time in centerfield this season. Bleday’s made three starts in center, while Burdick’s made one. Both players have looked comfortable, especially Bleday, who’s reps have come in the spacious centerfield at 121 Financial Ballpark in Jacksonville.

Other Marlins 40-man Prospects in Jacksonville

Seven of the Marlins top-30 prospects remain on the Triple-A roster early on. Lewin Diaz has been one of Jacksonville’s most consistent hitters early this season, going 9-for-28 so far, with a homer, double, and a team-leading seven RBI. His K-rate early on is a manageable 22.5 percent.

The Jumbo Shrimp pitching staff features four active hurlers currently on Miami’s 40-man roster. Of those, Braxton Garrett is off to the best start. He went 4.0 innings in his season debut last week, allowing two runs on four hits and two walks. He struck out three, including two of the top Boston Red Sox prospects, Triston Casas and Jeter Downs. He’s scheduled to pitch for Jacksonville on Wednesday.

Jordan Holloway’s first start went well, other than the third inning. He pitched four, allowing four runs on three hits and three walks. Holloway ran into trouble against the Worcester Red Sox in the third, when after securing two outs, he walked a batter, allowed a single, walked another, then surrendered a grand slam.

Zach Pop has seen the most action with the Jumbo Shrimp of those on the 40-man. He’s made three appearances, tossing 4.2 innings total. Pop’s allowed seven hits, though, with three walks, allowing inherited runners to score twice. Batters are hitting .368 off him early on.

The worst of the bunch so far has been Paul Campbell. He’s pitched in two games, with one start, and over eight total innings so far, Campbell’s allowed 10 earned runs, with nine hits, five walks and a hits batsman. He’s surrendered two homers, though he does have nine strikeouts.

Jacksonville’s gone with a 6-man rotation early on, keeping close tabs on the development and stress on these young arms.

Double-A with a Surprise

Miami’s Double-A affiliate, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, sports seven of the Marlins’ top-30 prospects, including one from the top-5. Soon-to-be 19-year-old Eury Perez made the leap to Double-A this year and continues his rocket ascent among prospect rankings.

Perez toss 4.1 innings in his season debut last week, allowing three hits and two walks, with five strikeouts. Four of the first eight outs he registered came via the K and he didn’t allow a hit until the fourth inning. He ran into trouble in the fifth following a hits batsman and a single. His replacement, Will Stewart, allowed both of those inherited runners to score, giving Perez three earned runs on the night.

The only Blue Wahoo on Miami’s 40-man roster is 24-year-old outfielder Jerar Encarnacion, who’s getting work at first base defensively this season. Encarnacion’s off to a slow start at the plate, hitting just .111 with a .158 on-base percentage. He has 10 strikeouts over 18 at-bats and zero RBI.

The big surprise among Marlins prospects in Pensacola has been the play of Paul McIntosh. The 24-year-old catcher started the season 8-for-12 with two homers, a double, triple, and four RBI. He has two walks as well and leads the Southern League with a 1.417 OPS.

Some of the other notable names in Pensacola include Hayden Cantrelle, Griffin Conine, and Victor Victor Mesa. None have impressed as of yet, and Conine’s off to a particularly slow start. He’s 3-for-20 with a homer but nine strikeouts and no walks through four games.

Single-A Sees a Star

Miami has two Single-A affiliates, High-A Beliot Sky Carp and Low-A Jupiter Hammerheads. Six of the Marlins top-30 prospects started the season in High-A, with left-handed pitcher Dax Fulton being the highest-rated (No. 9). Fulton tossed 3.2 innings in his first start, allowing six runs on four hits and four walks. He struck out four.

The Marlins top hitting prospects in Wisconsin include Victor Mesa Jr. (No. 14), Cody Morissette (No. 16), and Nasim Nunez (No. 18). These players are a combined 5-for-44 to start with just one RBI and 21 strike outs between them.

But in Low-A Jupiter, as star has been born. Atop the Marlins prospects list stands shortstop Kahlil Watson. He’s 5-for-15 with two homers, two doubles, five RBI and five runs scored to start 2022. He sports a 1.242 OPS early on and figures to fly through Miami’s system.

Jose Salas, the No. 8 prospect for the Fish, has started 3-for-15 with a double, a homer, and RBI and two walks early on.

The surprise here among Marlins prospects has been 20-year-old starting pitcher Sandro Bargallo, who tossed five scoreless innings in his season debut, allowing just two hits and one walk while striking out eight.

Here’s More on the Marlins Top Prospects