It may not be who you expected. There are some hitters that are turning heads at AA Jacksonville, but it isn’t the big three OFers in Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, or Jake Marisnick. Yelich is working his way back from injury, as is Ozuna, and Marisnick is still waiting to be cleared to play.
No, it is names like Derek Dietrich, Zack Cox, Kyle Jensen, and Mark Canha who are showing some need for a promotion.
Derek Dietrich, acquired in Yunel Escobar trade with the Tampa Bay Rays back in December, is logging time at 2B. He is currently hitting .288 with a .440 OBP, .492 SLG, and .932 OPS. Brought along in the Rays system as a SS, he has been slid over to 2B and could possibly convert to 3B if he continues to hit. The Marlins do have an immediate need for a 3B but even with Donovan Solano struggling a bit, Dietrich just may get a longer look at 2B, too.
Dietrich is not the only former college stud to be cruising along right now – Zack Cox, acquired in the Edward Mujica trade with the Cardinals back in July of last season, is heating up. He currently is batting .340 with a .453 OBP, .453 SLG, and a .906 OPS. Over his last 10 games, he is hitting .355 with 11 hits in 31 ABs and only 4 Ks. He is manning 3B and if his offense can continue to improve, he may play his way up to the big leagues soon, or at least get a call up to face AAA pitching. He hasn’t hit a home run yet, but Cox doesn’t project to hit tons of homers, more like a 15-20 guy if he pans out but his defense is above average.
Kyle Jensen has plenty of power. He hit 27 HRs and 24 HRs over the past two seasons. The only question for him is, can he provide a sustainable approach at the plate once he gets to higher levels of baseball? That power has come at a price, with 137 Ks and 162 Ks in those past two seasons, too. That is over a K per game. Right now, the power is there (2 HRs in 57 ABs) but so are the Ks (18 in 17 games). He is hitting .263 with .394 OBP, .421 SLG, and .815 OPS. With the big three getting the focus, expect Jensen to get a little more time at AA JAX but with a more conservative approach, he should mature into a promising power hitter for the club down the road. He also may be moved to 1B to make him a little more dynamic and more marketable.
Which brings us to Mark Canha. A power hitting 1B prospect who hit 25 HRs back in 2011 at Greensboro, the power numbers took a dip last season. Yet his K’s and his average went up, so his maturity as a hitter may just now be starting to take root. The California 1B does have 2 HRs but is batting only .259. Yet over his last 10 games, Canha is catching fire hitting .389 with 2 HRs, 14 hits in 36 ABs, and only 8 Ks. If Canha can continue making this sort of progress, he will definitely make the leap he started last season as a hitter but also bring back the power that he showed in 2011.