Three years later, Victor Victor Mesa still hasn’t panned out for Marlins. Will he?

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They sat at a stage at Marlins Park, flanked by CEO Derek Jeter and then-president of baseball operations Michael Hill. Their presence, their signing was deemed a “tremendous occasion” for the Miami Marlins organization that was in the infancy of its rebuild. About three and a half minutes into the nearly half hour news conference, they slipped Marlins jerseys over their dress shirts and took pictures.

Victor Victor Mesa and Victor Mesa Jr., brothers and Cuban-born outfielders, formally became the face of the Marlins’ quest to become a hotbed for international free agents.

“The bottom line is we feel as though we got two of the top players on the international market,” Jeter said that day, Oct. 22, 2018. “Historically, this organization hasn’t really invested in the international market. But that’s something we wanted to do moving forward. We want Miami to be the destination for top international talent.”

Fast forward nearly three years to the day, and six of the Marlins’ top 30 prospects according to MLB Pipeline are players the Marlins have signed through three international free agent signing periods under the new ownership group: right-handed pitcher Eury Perez (No. 6, signed in 2019), middle infielder Jose Salas (No. 10, signed in 2019), middle infielder Yiddi Cappe (No. 15, signed in 2021), Mesa Jr. (No. 18), middle infielder Ian Lewis (No. 26, signed in 2019) and Cristhian Rodriguez (No. 29, signed in 2018). There was no 2020 signing period due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A name noticeably missing from that group: Victor Victor Mesa, the face that began it all.

Mesa has more or less fit into the scouting report placed on him when he was deemed the top international prospect in the 2018 cycle by MLB Pipeline. His speed and defense were touted as being “big-league ready right now.” But his offensive upside, key for an outfielder to be a regular at the big-league level, was questioned because “he doesn’t drive the ball much with a relatively flat right-handed swing, and he puts the bat on the ball so easily that he doesn’t walk much.”

The offensive struggles have been evident in his first two minor-league seasons. Mesa has a career .240 batting average but has hit just .143 with three extra-base hits in 48 career games at the Double A level.

He was demoted from Double A to Class A Advanced 21 games into his 2021 season after missing a month to an ankle injury and poor production (.093 batting average in 97 plate appearances). It was a move he said initially caught him by surprise initially but one he came to terms with.

“It was the right call,” Mesa, who signed for $5.25 million, said two weeks ago at the Marlins’ development camp at loanDepot park. “Some of my teammates were doing a better job.”

Which brings the Mesa project to a critical point in his progression. The Marlins have nine outfielders among their top 30 prospects. Six of them are in Class A Advanced or above, putting them ahead of the unranked Mesa in the pecking order.

As he heads into his age-26 season still looking far from his MLB debut and the internal competition not just creeping up on him but passing him, the pressure is on.

“I try to block it out,” Mesa said, “but you look around and you see the talent in the organization. Everybody’s looking for the same goal, but I know I can make it happen. I do have the talent to do it.”

But talent only goes so far. The results need to come with it. Mesa understands that.

“Next year,” Mesa said, “is going to be a very important year for me.”

Mesa Jr.’s progress

Meanwhile, the younger brother of the Mesa duo has been on a rising trajectory since making his debut inside the Marlins organization.

Mesa Jr., who turned 20 last month, has a career .272 batting average and .732 on-base-plus-slugging mark through two minor-league seasons.

The Marlins named him the MVP of their rookie league affiliate in 2019 and for the Class A Jupiter Hammerheads this year. There was no 2020 minor-league season due to COVID-19 and neither Mesa brother was part of the team’s 60-man player pool during the shortened season and thus did not participate at the Marlins’ alternate training site in Jupiter.

As Marlins’ Victor Mesa Jr. makes strides, his drive to succeed shows on and off the field

Mesa Jr. played in 111 games for the Hammerheads this season, with 81 starts coming in center field. He had a .266 batting average with 21 doubles, 11 triples, five home runs, 71 RBI and 66 runs scored.

Mesa Jr. called his first year at a full-season affiliate a “long season” with “ups and downs” but noticed progress in his all-around game.

Still, he strives for more.

“It was a good season,” Mesa Jr. said, “but not enough for me. The next one will be better.”

Mesa Jr., 17 at the time of his signing, wasn’t among the top 30 international prospects but the Marlins gave him a $1 million bonus.

“A natural hitter with a fluid left-handed stroke, he has good feel for managing the strike zone and using the entire field,” reads Mesa Jr.’s scouting report by MLB Pipeline. “Mesa’s high baseball IQ allows him to play quicker than his average speed on the bases and in the outfield. While he spent most of his debut in center field, he may not be quite fast enough to play there regularly at higher levels. He profiles better defensively as a right fielder with solid range and arm, and he should provide enough offense to fit a corner profile.”

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