Baseball made Victor Victor Mesa wait. He debuted at 16 in Cuba's Serie Nacional, the country's top league, but didn't defect until last year -- when he was 21. He signed with Miami for $5.25 million in October, a club record for an amateur position player, but didn't get to face someone from an opposing organization until Spring Training. It was his first real competition in nearly two years, and a right hamstring strain limited it to a single weekend.
Now the Marlins' No. 2 prospect is showing what's been on hold for so long.
Mesa smacked a walk-off single in the 11th inning, capping a three-hit night and giving Class A Advanced Jupiter a 3-2 win over Florida on Saturday night at Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium. Mesa extended his hitting streak to 10 games and raised his average to .256 with the second three-hit effort of his brief career. His sixth RBI of the season also was his most memorable.
"Once the season started, it was kind of like his Spring Training," Jupiter hitting coach Kevin Witt said. "Now that he's a little more than a month into his first season in the States, he's slowly making adjustments pretty good. He's young. Victor is young. But I think he's a little wise beyond his years as far as hitting."
MLB.com's No. 91 overall prospect has boosted his average 43 points during the streak that dates to April 28. Should he continue to hit well, he could make a swift climb through the Minors. His above-average speed and plus-plus arm make his defense Major League-ready. But scouts haven't been as optimistic about his offensive potential, per MLB Pipeline.
Witt disagrees. He said Mesa's attitude and work ethic have been consistent and that he comes to the batting cages every day, wanting to learn.
That was not to say that Mesa did not and will not struggle. His timing was off to begin the season, Witt said, and Florida State League pitching is superior to what he saw back home. Mesa had one hit through his first four games and was batting .213 two weeks ago.
"It's really just having consistent at-bats," Witt said. "He's very smart. He knows what he wants to do. It's just a matter of going up there, having consistent at-bats, swinging at good pitches and just trying to have hard contact. I think he knows ... the type of hitter he is. He really tries to stay to the middle of the field and just spray line drives all over the place. The past couple days, we have certainly seen that."
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The latest example came on the first pitch Mesa saw in the third. The ball popped from his bat, caromed off Fire Frogs starter Hayden Deal and landed for his first hit of the day. In the fifth, the 22-year-old legged out his first triple of the season on a shot to right field.
Mesa struck out swinging in the seventh and grounded into a fielder's choice in the ninth, but extra innings gave him a chance at redemption. Each side added a run in the 10th before Florida went dry in the top of the 11th. Michael Donadio walked to lead off the Hammerheads' half and Michael Hernandez sacrificed, putting two runners in scoring position.
That brought Mesa to the plate, and he delivered again. The outfielder lined a single to left off Troy Bacon (0-2) as designated runner Micah Brown trotted home with the winning run. The Hammerheads poured out of the dugout to mob Mesa, dousing him with water. He tried unsuccessfully to avoid the celebratory soak.
2019 MiLB include
The early shower might have been undesired, but -- as Witt noted -- the clutch hit that caused it had to feel good.
"Especially with him," the coach said. "Early on, he was putting pressure on himself at the beginning of the season. The timing wasn't there and there were a lot of factors there. But the more comfortable he gets, the better and better he's going to get. Because the work's there. Everything is there. The makeup, all of it. I'm excited to see what happens moving forward with him."
Deal allowed a lone run on four hits over 6 2/3 innings, striking out seven.
Jupiter starter Jordan Holloway, the Marlins' No. 13 prospect, gave up one hit in 5 1/3 shutout frames to lower his ERA to 1.80. The right-hander struck out five and walked four. Alejandro Mateo (1-4) earned the win with a scoreless 11th that included two punchouts.