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Marlins Eye Joe Mack As Their Catcher Of The Future



When Joe Mack was a 5-year-old Little League shortstop, his arm was so strong that his coach had a chat with the first baseman’s parents.

“You might want to invest in a face shield for your son,” the coach said.

Last month, the Marlins invested in Mack, now an 18-year-old catcher from Williamsville East High, outside Buffalo.

The Marlins drafted Mack in the supplemental first round and signed him for $2.5 million, which was $188,000 over slot.

A 6-foot-1, 210-pound catcher, Mack’s biggest attribute continues to be his power arm.

“I’ve seen him throw a 1.74-second pop time to second base,” his high school coach Chris Gruarin said. “He throws 1.8 to 1.9 consistently.”

The Marlins also love Mack’s lefthanded bat. Add it all up, and Miami views him as its catcher of the future.

The Marlins acquired two catchers in trades this summer—Payton Henry, 24; and Alex Jackson, 25—but Mack is their biggest long-term hope at the position.

Mack, in fact, is such a prodigy that he became Williamsville East’s cleanup hitter as a seventh grader.

“I coached against Joe when he was a freshman, and he hit a 415-foot homer against us with a wood bat,” said Gruarin, who became Mack’s coach for his senior year. “It was a missile.”

But it’s more than just Mack’s arm and power. He’s also athletic, having played volleyball and basketball as a prep.

After his junior season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, Mack turned in a big senior year, hitting .500 with eight doubles, eight homers and 30 walks in 20 games as a senior. He struck out just six times and stole 26 bases without getting caught.

Things really got serious for Mack in May. That’s when Marlins scouting director DJ Svihlik showed up for one of Mack’s volleyball games.

“It opened my eyes to how serious they were about me,” Mack said.

FISH BITES

— The Marlins were so high on Mack that they passed on a pair of in-state collegiate catching stars to draft him: Florida State’s Mat Nelson, who was picked at No. 35; and Miami’s Adrian Del Castillo, who was picked No. 67.

—The Marlins traded closer Yimi Garcia to the Astros for righthander Austin Pruitt and 24-year-old outfielder Bryan De La Cruz. While not considered a top prospect, de la Cruz has already had a breakthrough season, with a career-best 12 homers and an .880 OPS in 66 games at Triple-A.

—The Marlins also traded center fielder Starling Marte to the Athletics for 23-year-old lefthander Jesus Luzardo who grew up in South Florida. As a prep star, Luzardo committed to Miami but instead signed with the Nationals, who drafted him in the third round in 2016—after he had elbow surgery. He had 109 career major league innings and a 4.79 ERA under his belt at the time of the trade.

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