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Top prospect Marisnick conquers growing pains in Arizona

Blue Jays' outfielder working hard to compete with the best

Riverside, Calif. native Jake Marisnick on living in the moment.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Even with all of the athletic tools (preferably five of them) they don’t teach how to be prepared for the expectations of professional baseball in high school.

Jake Marisnick has learned that it’s a vigorous life of trial and error. It takes time to learn from the trials in order to remedy the errors.

At 21 years old, the Blue Jays’ third-round pick has experienced growing pains at every level since his selection in 2009.

“My first year in Lansing, I kind of got exposed. Not knowing what to do, being confused,” Marisnick said, at Salt River Fields.

“I took time that off-season to learn more about the game. Then to now is light years, and there’s still a lot more I need to learn.”

The pro ranks have proved to need an adjustment period. Early successes in his first season in 2010 with the Gulf Coast Blue Jays were eclipsed by a worrisome second half in Class-A Lansing.

“In Lansing, the struggle I went through, it was really my first time struggling that bad,” Marisnick said.

He panicked, and tried to speed things up to change them instead of taking his time to learn what was going on.

He returned to Lansing in 2011 to conquer it, posting a .320/.392/.496 line. More impressively, the 6-4 California-native stole 37 bases.

Beginning his 2012 season with the Class-A Advanced Dunedin Blue Jays, things looked good enough to earn him a promotion to Double-A New Hampshire in July.

“Everything was going well, but it was a little bit of a surprise,” Marisnick said of his promotion.

“I was kind of planning to stay down in Florida State League for most of the year.”

The outfielder looks like he’s meant to be on a big stage, but his positivity is the most compelling thing about him.

Marisnick’s time in New Hampshire with the Fisher Cats brought more growing pains, but left him feeling good about the work he’d done by the end of the season. He finished at .249/.321/.399 between the two clubs, with 24 stolen bases.

“You’ve got to learn how to tell yourself every day that you’ve got the same stuff. You’ve done it every day for your whole life,” Marisnick said.

“It’s still there and it’s not gone. It’s more of a mental adjustment than anything.”

He’s been reading to fuel his mind with a deeper strength to overcome the hurdles the game throws at its players. Mindgym is his favourite book, and he’ll reflect back on passages from the pages when he’s having a tough time on the field.

A selection to Arizona Fall League gives the young outfielder a chance to compete with the level of player he’ll be seeing more of next season, and he’s pretty excited about the opportunity.

“Every guy out here has a chance to be a really good major league player, whether it’s the arms we’re seeing or playing with the different hitters,” Marisnick said.

“You’ve got different guys from different organizations with tons of accomplishments in the game. Being able to pick their brain is very beneficial.”

He also has John Nunnally, his hitting coach with the Fisher Cats, working with him on the Salt River Rafters. Much of Nunnally’s work comes down to a player’s willingness to make adjustments, and the hitting coach says that Marisnick is there.

“He’s only 21, he’s a very talented player all around,” Nunnally said.

“You could put him in the big leagues right now as a position player, as a base runner, but he’s just got to get it down at the plate.”

The former major-leaguer turned coach wants him to be consistently in a strong position to hit.

Nunnally is confident that Marisnick has the potential that’s going to turn out excellent production for his team, especially once he gets on base. That’s what has him ranked as Toronto’s No. 2 prospect.

“You look at him and think there’s no way this guy runs that fast and gets jumps like this, but he can do it,” the veteran coach said.

“That side of baseball — that kid is really, really good. We’re trying to get that position at the plate to match up to it. Once it does, he’s going to be a tremendous player.”