JJ Bleday closed out the college chapter of his baseball career on June 26 as a national champion, celebrating with a dogpile in the middle of TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska, with his Vanderbilt Commodores teammates.
Two weeks later — and two days before the signing deadline — he reportedly is set to beginning his professional baseball career.
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported Wednesday night that the Miami Marlins have a deal in place Bleday, the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 MLB Draft who they hope will be a pivotal part of their rebuild. The team is pending a physical, after which it is expected to be announced as official. The slot signing bonus value for the No. 4 overall pick was $6,664,000. The deadline to finalize the deal is 5 p.m. Friday.
The Marlins had to wait until after Bleday finished his collegiate career before they could begin contract negotiations.
And for the Marlins, it was worth the wait.
The Marlins are optimistic that Bleday, an advanced hitter who had success against the Southeastern Conference for three years, will move through the minor leagues quickly. Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said the goal is for him to be playing with the Marlins’ Class A Advanced affiliate Jupiter Hammerheads by the end of the season.
“We want to get him out playing as soon as possible so he can start his career as soon as possible and that just means one day closer to the big leagues as soon as we can get him out playing,” Hill said recently. “Everything has been cordial, so we’re hopeful we can work through it quickly and get him out playing.”
Bleday, 21, hit an NCAA-leading 27 home runs to go along with a .347 batting average, .465 on-base percentage, .701 slugging percentage and 72 RBI during his junior season with the Commodores. He finished his three-year college career with a .326 batting average, 109 RBI, 131 runs scored and more walks (126) than strikeouts (107).
“He had a tremendous season,” Hill said. “It’s a great way to cap a college career, to lead the nation in home runs, and have a tremendous year. A Golden Spikes finalist, and then help his team win a national championship. He’s had a tremendous college career. We were very excited when we were able to get him at No. 4.”
Now, the Marlins can focus their attention on Kameron Misner, the No. 35 overall pick the Marlins selected in the Competitive Balance A Round of the draft. The Marlins are optimistic they can sign the junior outfielder from the University of Missouri.