Jake Marisnick was one of a few new names penciled into the Marlins lineup this month at Spring Training. He had instantly become one of Miami's top prospects following a busy offseason in which the Marlins traded veteran Major Leaguers for younger talent.
The Blue Jays' 2009 third-round pick, Marisnick came to Miami with a defensive pedigree and a chance to challenge Christian Yelich for outfield supremacy in the Miami system. The 21-year-old enjoyed a breakout year in 2011 when he hit .320 with 14 homers, 77 RBIs and 37 steals with Class A Lansing, but after a pair of promotions last summer, his numbers slid.
Now with a taste of Double-A under his belt, the right-handed California native hopes to make a good first impression, both in Spring Training and in the Marlins' Minor League system. He took a few minutes to chat with us this week:
MiLB.com: Let's talk about your defense first. Marlins manager Mike Redmond recently said that you and Christian Yelich are ready to play center field in the Majors right now. How flattering is that and do you agree?
Jake Marisnick: That's something that's good to hear, coming from him. It's something I've prided myself on. That's what I like to work on -- being the best defender I can be -- working hard out there and putting in the effort. Just getting good routes and being a good player.
MiLB.com: The trade was a big part of your offseason. Tell me about that experience, of finding out you're not only leaving the organization that drafted you, but also being apart of such a blockbuster deal with big-name talent?
Marisnick: It was definitely a little shocking, I was with the Blue Jays for so long, and for the first time, I'd be heading somewhere else. Once I heard the details of the trade, it was kind of an honor to be in the trade with those caliber of players. It's definitely going to be a good opportunity for myself, coming over to this young team, and we'll see what happens.
MiLB.com: Take me back to Draft Day in 2009. You were given a pretty nice signing bonus by the Blue Jays in the third round -- how exciting was it all? Did you have any idea which team might select you?
Marisnick: I didn't have a good idea -- I was set on going up to Oregon to play up there and found out the Blue Jays were going to take me. That was a big relief, knowing I was getting the chance to go play baseball and not worry about anything else. Just go out and chase my dream to play in the Majors. It was an awesome day that I won't forget.
MiLB.com: Was it at all a hard decision to bypass college? Were you parents pushing you one way or the other?
Marisnick: I think they left it up to me, they knew I'd choose what was right for me. I feel like that was the best thing for me -- just start playing. That's what I've always wanted to do since I was a kid -- I wanted to play ball.
MiLB.com: You've lived in both Florida and California growing up. Where is home for you, and does it feel like something of a homecoming being with Miami?
Marisnick: [I] spent a lot of time in Riverside, Calif., that's where I was born. I've spent a decent amount of time in Tampa, so it's definitely cool to be out there. I was out here with the Blue Jays too.
MiLB.com: Do you remember your first day in the Minors?
Marisnick: I remember my first at-bat, I hit a ball pretty hard, the third baseman (Maikel Franco) made a diving play and kicked it around and I beat it out for my first hit. I think I might have had an error in that game -- I was a little antsy in the outfield, hadn't settled in, hadn't played much with that caliber of players, so I was a little nervous.
MiLB.com: Fans following you know about your big 2011 season, but the numbers shrunk a little last year as you moved up to Double-A. Was it just a matter of being on the move and getting adjusted to better pitching?
Marisnick: I think it was kind of just trying to do too much, trying to do more instead of doing the same thing. I'm just staying within myself, and down here, the couple first games [in Spring Training], it feels really good. You get caught up, you get promoted and you try to do more instead of what I've done my whole life. That's what played into last year.
MiLB.com: What did you learn that you needed to improve on? Do you think pitchers tried to exploit some of your swing mechanics or your eagerness to do too much?
Marisnick: My swing is long when I try to do too much. I try to stay short and get a good pitch to hit, and when I stay within myself and keep a simple approach, I feel great. It's when I get up there and feel like I'm trying to hit a homer, that's when I get in trouble.
MiLB.com: Baseball America ranked you as being the best athlete and best defensive outfielder in the Marlins system. Does that sound about right?
Marisnick: There's definitely a lot of good outfielders out here. I have no place to say that I'm the best out there, but it definitely something I've always worked on. Ever since I was a kid, I've loved running around out there. It's a natural place for me.
MiLB.com: You said recently you wanted to golf with Yelich this winter, but he turned you down. What's up with that?
Marisnick: [Laughs] I guess he doesn't golf much, but I definitely tried to get him out there a few times.
MiLB.com: Was that pretty much your offseason: working out and playing golf?
Marisnick: Working out, golfing, I went to the beach a few times and just hung out -- nothing too crazy. Just relaxed.
MiLB.com: You and Yelich should form a pretty solid duo in Double-A Jacksonville to start the year. What's your relationship like with him since the trade?
Marisnick: It's been awesome. He's kind of showed me the ropes since I came over here. I didn't know any people, and my locker is next to his. It's been a good relationship in terms of working out and pushing each other and just keeping a friendly competition going.
MiLB.com: A few quick questions: Favorite baseball player growing up?
Marisnick: Torii Hunter. My mom works for Reynolds Sports Management, and he's with them too, so I had a chance to get to know him growing up.
MiLB.com: What number do you want to wear in the Majors?
Marisnick: That's something I'm trying to nail down, I'm not sure. I might look at 11 or 12 -- that's what I wore in high school.
MiLB.com: Did you ever go to Minor League games as a kid?
Marisnick: I went to a few in California, I think it was the [Lake Elsinore] Storm.
MiLB.com: Favorite postgame meal?
Marisnick: Pulled pork, we had some the other day and I loved it. Mashed potatoes and some kind of vegetables -- that's up there for me.