Jake Marisnick feature
By Jeff Louderback
Note: This was originally published in Baseball America in 2012
During a weekend series in early May, Dunedin center fielder Jake Marisnick showcased why the Blue Jays covet him as much for his defense and speed as they do his bat. The third round draft pick out of Riverside Poly (Calif.) High School in 2009 prevented a home run by making a leaping catch over the wall on Friday night and then thwarted a rally with a diving stab in the gap a day later.
“He is a pure athlete with natural instincts in the outfield,” Blue Jays assistant general manager Tony LaCava said. “He can go back and forward on balls, track down anything in his vicinity, and he has a strong arm. We view him as someone who can stay in center field, and he is athletic enough to move to the corner spots as well.”
The 21-year-old Marisnick was a two-sport standout at Riverside Poly, where he earned all-county honors as a wide receiver when he was a junior. He was even more heralded on the diamond and opted to sit out his senior season of football to solely focus on baseball. The decision paid off for Marisnick, who initially committed to play baseball at the University of Oregon (where he would have also been given a chance to make the football team as a walk-on) before he was drafted.
Regarded as of the best pure athletes available in the 2009 draft, Marisnick has five-tool potential, LaCava believes. The right-handed hitter runs the 60-yard dash in 6.7 seconds and reaches first base in 4.24 seconds. He also features above-average range and a powerful arm that uncorks strong, accurate throws. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound Marisnick underwent an intensive off-season weight training regimen and has added 30 pounds since he was drafted, yet he has not lost his speed. LaCava said that Marisnick actually trimmed one-tenth of a second off his time from home plate to first base this year.
“Jake’s speed and instincts help him in the outfield and on the basepaths. He makes outstanding catches, and he puts pressure on opposing defenses with his smart and aggressive base running,” said Dunedin manager Mike Redmond, the former major league catcher who also had Marisnick on his team last season when he was the skipper of Lansing in the Midwest League. “What I especially like is that he is fully involved in every moment of the game. He doesn’t take a pitch off, which as a manager you appreciate.”
Marisnick received a $1 million signing bonus when he reached an agreement with the Blue Jays in mid-August 2009 and made his professional debut in the organization’s instructional league. Marisnick made such an impression with the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays in 2010 that Toronto promoted him to Single-A Lansing the same year, bypassing short-season Auburn. Adjusting to Midwest League pitching was difficult. In 127 at-bats, Marisnick hit .220 with one home run, 37 strikeouts and a .686 OPS.
“It was tough for me because I had never struggled like that,” Marisnick said. “I was being too aggressive and moving too much in the box. They (Blue Jays coaches) worked with me on staying tall (at the plate) so I can drive the ball.”
Marisnick spent the entire 2011 season at Lansing, where he batted .320 with 14 home runs, 77 RBI, 37 stolen bases and a .888 OPS. Entering the 2012 campaign, he was rated as the third-best prospect in the Blue Jays system by Baseball America.
Though Marisnick’s natural position is center field, the Blue Jays already have Colby Rasmus at the major league level and Anthony Gose (who Baseball America rated as the organization’s second-best prospect in 2012) at Triple-A Las Vegas, so his major league future could be at a corner outfield spot.
After 46 games this season at Dunedin in the Florida State League, Marisnick was batting .261 with three home runs, 25 RBI and a .766 OPS along with six stolen bases, five triples and a team-leading 81 total bases. Recently, after a 2-for-22 stretch over five games, Marisnick rebounded for three consecutive two-hit games from May 20-22. The turnaround represents what he learned from one of the game’s top center fielders over the last decade, Torii Hunter.
Marisnick’s mother, Jennifer Marisnick, is senior director of marketing for Reynolds Sports Management. Hunter is one of the Los Angeles-based agency’s clients.
“I remember when I was younger, maybe 11 or 12, and I would talk to him and be dejected because I had a 0-fer in a game, and he told me there will be games like that, and to not worry about what I did the previous at-bat,” Marisnick said. “That advice is especially useful now because pitchers in the Florida State League hit their spots and have a mix that can keep you off-balance. It’s important to relax in the box and put last night’s game behind you.”
Redmond believes that the expectations that accompany Marisnick’s top prospect status will help him as he climbs the Blue Jays system.
“It is natural for any player to immediately prove himself when he is promoted, and sometimes it takes players time to relax and trust their abilities. When you have a lot of pressure as a young player, it will only help you down the road in the majors,” Redmond said. “I feel good something positive will happen every time Jake is hitting, and when a ball is hit his way, I’m confident he will track it down.”
Even when he is enduring a slump at the plate, Marisnick believes that his five-tool reputation allows him to help his team in some way.
“I think that versatility is my most valuable strength,” Marisnick said. “If I’m not hitting balls hard, I can leg out infield singles and regardless of how I am hitting, I can always make plays and throw runners out from center field.”