Hitting for contact is all the rage in the Marlins organization in 2023, including at the Low-A level.
You read my recent Xavier Edwards article, right? That was actually supposed to be a Javier Sanoja article, but Edwards’ proximity to the big leagues and the Miami Marlins’ sudden center field vacancy gave him priority.
Now, it’s time to show some love to Sanoja. He may be undersized and under the radar, but he’s putting together a fascinating age-20 season, and just like Edwards and Luis Arraez, his success has been fueled by his ability to put balls in play.
Miami’s 38th-ranked prospect according to Fish on the Farm, Sanoja was signed out of Venezuela as an international free agent in 2019. Due to COVID, he had to wait more than two years to make his Minor League Baseball debut. Sanoja immediately demonstrated special contact skills, striking out only once in his first 85 career plate appearances in the Dominican Summer League. He finished that 2021 campaign with the lowest strikeout rate among DSL qualifiers. Now, he’s continuing to do it stateside, where we have more data and video with which to analyze how he’s doing it.
It has been an impressive 2023 season for Sanoja overall, posting above-average production at the plate (103 wRC+) against mostly older competition while being challenged defensively, rotating between center field, second base and shortstop (primarily CF). But let’s zoom in on his last 30 days:
Aside from an anomalous day in Daytona on June 18, he’s been getting his bat on practically everything.
It is genuinely entertaining to watch Sanoja fight for his life in two-strike counts. Some examples:
- June 8—Sanoja fouls off back-to-back, up-and-in fastballs at 98 miles per hour, then waits long enough on a changeup to keep it fair down the left-field line for a triple.
- June 9—Sanoja somehow spoils a fastball up around his chin before singling on a curveball low and away.
- July 2—Sanoja fouls off a curveball and shows a good eye by taking a fastball that’s a few inches outside, then blasts his first home run of the season.
The Marlins recognize that they have something in Sanoja. I say that because he has started all 76 Hammerheads games this season, including a handful of doubleheaders. This wouldn’t be the case if there were other prospects on Jupiter’s roster that the organization felt deserved lots of reps for themselves. He’s being prioritized.
Sanoja’s average exit velocity of 85.9 mph would only rank in the fourth percentile among MLB hitters while his max exit velo of 106.4 mph would put him in the 23rd percentile. How much more strength can be pack onto his five-foot-seven frame to get those numbers up? Defensive performance will be crucial to his future—over-the-fence power isn’t as much of a pre-requisite if he’s a valuable up-the-middle fielder.
In High-A Beloit, Sanoja’s main positions—CF, 2B and SS—are being manned by Osiris Johnson, Yiddi Cappe and Kahlil Watson, respectively. Perhaps Johnson gets a few more weeks to turn his season/career around (after all, he is a former second-round draft pick). But if Sanoja’s next 30 days look similar to his last 30, I expect him to be promoted.
Photo courtesy of Jupiter Hammerheads