JJ Bleday may be one of the top prospects most affected by the cancellation of the 2020 minor league season. After being selected fourth overall by the Marlins in 2019, the leftie hit .257/.311/.379 in 151 plate appearances in thirty-eight games for the High A Jupiter Hammerheads. That showing was fresh off the heels of leading the Vanderbilt Commodores to a 2019 collegiate national championship by hitting .347/.465/.701 and socking 27 home runs over the course of the seventy-one game season. The twenty-three year old Danville, Pennsylvania native was expected to make his Double-A debut in 2020 but the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. While Miami would have liked to see their number two prospect play at a higher level last year, they aren’t sweating about Bleday’s lost season. The club has believed in the 6’2″ 205 pound right fielder since they selected him, as evidenced by the franchise record $6.67 million deal they signed him to after the draft. The Marlins plans for Bleday were simply pushed back a year. He’ll start 2021 with the Double-A Pensacola Blue Wahoos and some expect him to be solidified as the Fish’s starting right fielder before the end of the season. He projects well into the position with a strong and accurate arm that makes up for his average speed. In addition to his defense, his tools at the plate make him one of the most well rounded minor leaguers. Baseball America gives the A. Crawford Mosley High School alum sixty power and hitting thanks to a quick barrel and lofty swing. J.P. Breen of Baseball Prospectus called his power-average combinations one of the best in the minors. The Marlins recently signed Adam Duvall to a one year contract to cover their corner outfield but the thirty-two year old is only a stop gap until Bleday brings the future down to South Florida.
Losing the 2020 season not only kept Bleday out of the majors for an additional year, it took collectors’ eyes away from the Marlins number two prospect as well. An early season battle with COVID that threatened to shut down the league made the Marlins a temporary laughingstock and that perceived disfunction may have bled into the lower levels of the organization. Bleday’s 2019 Bowman Draft autograph was selling for an average of $105.55 prior to the season but that dipped to $84.42 by mid-August. Early in the offseason, sales even dipped into the low $70 range. Since the calendar turned to 2021, the hobby seems to have taken a renewed interest in Jefferey Joseph Bleday. January saw the most total sales of his first Bowman Chrome auto by far and the average value has risen back up to $109.51. Adding that card to your collection at that price would be a good pickup thanks to Bleday’s tool set and national championship pedigree but there are still reasons to be cautious. Not least of all is the fact that he plays in Miami. While I mean no disrespect to the Marlins, the team doesn’t exactly have the strongest fanbase in the league. The fans that do follow them have grown used to seeing the club trade away some of their most talented players as well. That leaves open the possibility that even if Jefferey Joseph performs well above expectations, he may not get the recognition he deserves. With that being said, the Marlins did sneak into the playoffs in 2020 and even advanced to the second round. If the young team is able to repeat some of that magic and challenge the division champion Braves and newly retooled Mets, expect Bleday to be a big part of that.