A.J. Puk, the Surprising Leader of the Marlins Bullpen

A.J. Puk

When A.J. Puk was drafted in 2016, likely, he never thought his career would go like this. From being penciled in as a bust to redeeming himself with one of his last chances. Puk is one of the best stories that not many discuss this season. It all began with a dream.

When he was drafted out of the University of Florida, Puk was considered a top prospect in baseball. The Oakland Athletics went ahead and took the left-hander with their sixth overall pick. With that came a nice $4 million signing bonus.

A.J. Puk Battled Injuries Early On

His first few seasons began with injuries, and the growing pains rookies go through in the minors. He was having trouble staying healthy, and when he was, he wasn’t doing great on the mound. He eventually went under Tommy John Surgery.

Fortunately, after a year-long stint of rehab, he began to rise through the A’s minor league system. When he got the call to the majors in 2019, he had a great start to his career. Puk threw 13 strikeouts while going 2-0 with a 3.18 ERA in 11 1/3 innings.

In 2021, Puk appeared in 12 games for Oakland. It was not a great start, appearing in the rotation before going back to the bullpen. He registered an 0-3 record and a 6.08 ERA with 16 strikeouts in 13 1/3 innings. It seemed that hitters had done their homework in the offseason and could get their hits off Puk.

2022 Saw Improvements

2022 was a better season for Puk, but he still traded for JJ Bleday. His career could have gone two ways. He had a decent job to this point, but not worth the billing of a sixth-overall pick. So this would be one of his final chances to prove his worth. JJ Bleday was a top prospect in his own right, so it was an exciting move to see who would rise and who would fall.

So far, Puk has turned this trade to the Miami Marlins into a great move. The 28-year-old has had a career-best season as of now. He was 3-1, with a career-low 3.07 ERA. Puk also already has six saves on the season. It may only be summertime, but Puk has taken a change and made the best out of it. It may have worked out best for each party.

JJ Bleday has done well with the Athletics when he could never get his footing in Miami. It seems this trade has worked out for the better of each of their respective careers and will.

2023 Campaign

This year he has been terrific. However, he just went onto the 15-day IL. He will begin a rehab assignment for the Double-A affiliate, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos. Puk has elbow nerve irritation. It will be interesting to see how Puk returns from this. Will he return with the fire he has brought the Marlins? Or will he be disappointed in being injured again and see his numbers drop?

Time will tell, but Marlin fans will hope to see the Puk they have seen so far this season. With so much uncertainty in their pitching rotation already, Puk was a pleasant surprise. They will look for him to return with the same level of production and effectiveness as a whole.

Photo Credit: © Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Players mentioned:

A.J. Puk, JJ Bleday,