With the 4th pick in the 2019 MLB Draft, the Marlins selected outfielder J.J. Bleday out of Vanderbilt University. Bleday’s tale is one that is a valuable lesson in how a player with a really strong hit tool can boost their stock from a solid, if unspectacular first rounder to one of the best prospects in the entire draft when they show a bit more power in games (or in Bleday’s case, more than a bit).
Bleday came into the season as a known quantity. He was among Vanderbilt’s better hitters last year and he had shown his ability at the plate with a wood bat in the Cape Cod league last summer as well. No one denied that he was a plus hitter and a capable defensive corner outfielder, but he did not show a ton of power which limited his ceiling. That all changed this season where Bleday is among the leaders in the college ranks with 25 home runs this season and with an ISO north of .400 for the majority of the year as well. That boost in power output has put him firmly in the discussion as a top 5 pick in the draft for some time now.
If one is to look for causes of concern, there is the fact that while he could perform okay as a centerfielder if need be, he best fits in a corner spot which does put a lot of pressure on the bat. There are also those who wonder, if only a little bit, as to whether or not this spike in power is a sign of things to come or if he will regress back closer to previous levels as a pro. Most agree that at least some of his power increase is going to stick which, with his hit tool, could result in him being a fast-moving, high ranked prospect in a hurry.