The Marlins picked the contract of the former first-round pick JJ Bleday and added it, according to Jordan McPherson of the Miami Herald (via twitter). Bleday’s addition to the squad is a reaction to that Joerg Soler going on the 10-day injured list with lower back spasms.
There is no backdating of Soler’s IL placement, so the veteran thug will be out of action (at least) until the August 2nd close. Though Miami has several players who could trade chips by deadline, there hasn’t been much buzz about the possibility of Soler being traded, which speaks volumes for Soler’s contract, the Marlins’ longer-term plans, and his tough 2022 season.
Soler, the reigning World Series MVP, signed a three-year, $36 million free agent contract with the Marlins after the lockout. Soler has the option to opt out after both this season (leaving $24 million on the table) and after the 2023 season (leaving his $9 million salary for 2024 on the table), although it’s unlikely appears that Soler would test the free hand again on the heels of an underwhelming year so far.
Soler has hit .207/.295/.400 with 13 homers across 306 plate appearances, with a 99 wRC+, reflecting slightly below-average production. Despite the lack of big numbers, there’s some evidence that Soler could turn it on in the second half. After all, it wasn’t until last season that Soler shed a tear after being dealt to the Braves on deadline day, and he pretty much carried that hot streak all the way through the World Series.
This year, Soler has excellent hard contact counts and a .322 xwOBA that is above his .305 wOBA, although that .322 mark is only about league average. Soler also goes faster than average but swings and misses a ton as his 29.4% strikeout rate is only in the ninth percentile of all batters. Teams play in shifts 78% of the time against Soler, stifling his solid touch counts — Soler only has a 0.275 wOBA against shifts and a whopping 0.411 wOBA when not facing shifts.
Injuries also played a role in recent weeks, as Soler was out for around two weeks at the beginning of July with a bilateral pelvic infection and only played five games before returning to the IL. It remains to be seen how much extra time Soler might miss (if more than 10 days), but his absence will open the door for Bleday’s major league debut.
Bleday, the fourth overall pick of the 2019 draft, hit .229/.365/.470 with 20 home runs over 367 PA at Triple-A Jacksonville this season, his first encounter with Triple-A pitching. It’s a nice breakthrough for Bleday, who didn’t hit much in his brief minor league debut in 2019 and then struggled in his first full season in pro ball in 2021. His lack of results last year cost Bleday a spot in some top-100 prospect rankings, but MLB Pipeline still had him 69th on their preseason list.
Of course, Bleday didn’t play at all due to the aborted 2020 minor league season, so it’s not exactly surprising that it’s taken some time to get back on track. The 24-year-old’s performance in 2022 appears to have answered many questions about his power potential and on-base skills, although Bleday is still not hitting average and is still swinging and missing (99 strikeouts in those 367 PA). at a high price.
Bleday’s strong throwing arm has made him more of a right field candidate than his original midfield position, and at Miami, Avisail Garcia could slide to left field to give the rookie regular time, or Bleday could simply take over left field himself. With the Marlins perhaps already planning for 2023, Bleday could very well get a long look as a potential candidate for a regular spot next year. Assuming Soler doesn’t back out, he and Garcia are longer-term options in the corners of the outfield, but the DH is also available to juggle game time later.