In October of 2018, the Miami Marlins struck a deal with two international free agents that sent a jolt of energy throughout the organization. Victor Victor Mesa and Victor Mesa Jr. both agreed to contracts to kick off the Marlins 2018-2019 off-season. These moves were not only a big boost for the farm system, they also showed that new ownership was willing to spend internationally, an area that previous ownership had somewhat neglected. Victor Victor Mesa, age 22 at the time, was the top ranked international free agent in the 2018 class according to MLB Pipeline. He agreed to a deal with Miami worth $5.25 million. His younger brother, Victor Jr., was only 17 at the time of the signing, and agreed to a smaller deal worth $1 million. The Marlins beat out other teams like the Baltimore Orioles for the Mesa brothers, and Victor Victor immediately slotted in as the #1 prospect in their system (although he was bumped to #2 shortly after when Sixto Sanchez was acquired as a part of the JT Realmuto trade).
Despite all of the hype surrounding Mesa, his younger brother, Mesa Jr., is now viewed as a better prospect. Victor Victor has failed to live up to expectations, and his struggles began immediately during the 2019 minor league season. He was never expected to be a massive power threat, even when performing at his highest level. MLB Pipeline only gave him a measly 40 power grade on their 20-80 scale in 2018 when he originally signed. Mesa’s hit tool in general was always a very average tool, as it only graded out as a 50 by MLB Pipeline in 2018. What Mesa graded out good, or even great in was his speed tool (65), arm tool (65), and fielding tool (60). These three categories combined with a lack of power, caused him to draw comparisons to former Chicago Cub and current New York Met’s outfielder, Albert Almora. Because of this, when Mesa finished his first Minor League season between High-A and AA with very minimal power numbers, it was a not a complete shock to the organization or fans. In 464 at-bats, he only slugged .263, with an OPS of .537, and he hit zero home runs with just 10 extra base hits (seven doubles and three triples). While the low power numbers were not a surprise, the area that raised concern was that his batting average was only .235 coupled with the fact that he only stole 18 bags in 116 games. Mesa’s best tool offensively is his speed, and he was not able to hit enough to utilize that speed on the base paths. While 18 stolen bases in 116 games is not necessarily a bad number (Jazz Chisolm has 18 in 99 games with the Marlins as of Tuesday’s game against the Mets), it is not good enough for a player that has no power and has to rely on his speed and defense in order to make a serious impact. By the end of the 2019 season, Victor Victor Mesa had dropped from being Miami’s #2 prospect all the way to number #13. Mesa was one of many Minor League players that lost a full season of games during the COVID shortened 2020 season. Along with the lost games, by the start of the 2021 season he had also lost his status as a top 30 prospect in the Marlins system. While this was partially due to the influx of new talent in the system, it was also because of his lack of performance in 2019.
Mesa started out the 2021 season in AA where his struggles continued. In 21 games and 75 at-bats he slashed .093/.231/.109 with zero home runs, one double, and zero stolen bases. This quickly earned him a demotion back down to High-A.
After being sent down, Mesa started to show some signs of life. While Victor Victor’s days of being a top Marlins prospect are probably gone, he has slowly turned his game around since the demotion. Through Monday, September 6th, Mesa has played in 39 games with 159 at-bats for Miami’s High-A affiliation, the Beloit Snappers. He is slashing .327/.379/.472 with four home runs and eight stolen bases. His OPS is up to .851, and he has also produced nine doubles and one triple. The increase in production has come without a massive increase in his strikeout rate as he has just 27 in the 159 at bats (he had 64 in 464 at bats in 2019).
One can make a valid argument that because Victor Victor is 25 years old and playing in High-A that he is just tearing up younger competition. While this would be fair, there is one very interesting stat to pay attention to during this recent hot stretch. All but 10 of Mesa’s at-bats in AA this year came in the leadoff spot where he only slashed .108/.244/.123. In High-A, he has only had 13 at-bats in the leadoff spot, albeit with some success. Out of those 13 at-bats, he has four hits and his batting average is .308. While he has had a small sample size of success with his average from the leadoff spot in High-A, all four hits were singles, which lead to just a .615 OPS (MLB League Average in 2021 is .725 according to Baseball Reference). The numbers from the top spot in the order during Mesa’s career have been, at best, below average. Despite this, Mesa’s numbers from the second spot in the batting order have been exceptional this season. In 142 at-bats hitting second for High-A Beloit, Mesa is slashing .331/.389./.493 with an OPS of .882. All four of his home runs in High-A have come from the second spot in the order, as well as all 10 of his extra base hits. He also has 17 RBI’s in those 142 at-bats which is a massive improvement from 2019 when he only had 29 in 464 at-bats. Another key stat from this, is that all eight of his stolen bases in the 2021 season have come while batting second. This is important because it shows that Mesa is not losing his most dynamic tool by slotting down one spot in the batting order.
Despite the success, Mesa has enjoyed a little bit of luck while in Beloit as his BABIP is .372 compared to his batting average being .327. That being said, a .045 difference in BABIP to batting average is not a reason to get overly concerned. For example, Starling Marte is batting .316 this season with a .380 BABIP (.073 difference). No one is overreacting to that. Yes, it probably means some regression is coming, but it does not indicate that he is bound to return to the awful hitter he was before being optioned to High-A. Sure, Mesa is an older player for the High-A level, but offensive success is not something we have seen him have in the MiLB before, and he has done this for an extended period of time now. Maybe moving to the second spot in the batting order is just a coincidence, but maybe Victor Victor Mesa is starting to turn a corner in his professional career. It is time for him to be promoted to a higher level, and see if this recent success is real.