J.T. Riddle showing surprising improvement for Marlins

Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports /

When the Miami Marlins called J.T. Riddle up to the pro club, it wasn’t expected to be for long. However his improvement might earn him a longer look.

At this point, most are aware that the Miami Marlins roster has been ravaged by injury. The wave of injuries has lead to a series of roster moves aimed to help the team retool in the short-term. Among those transactions was recalling shortstop J.T. Riddle, who is making the most of his opportunity.

Riddle made his Major League debut earlier this season with mixed results. He struggled against big league pitching, mustering only two hits in the 14 official at bats he logged. One of them was a walk off home run, putting an exclamation mark on an otherwise pedestrian trip to the pro level.

After the wave of injuries, the Fish recalled the young shortstop and he appears to be growing into his role. Since returning the team, Riddle is hitting .261 and making more productive outs. He has driven in two runs via the sacrifice fly, and appears to be improving his discipline at the plate with two walks.

He has impressed defensively more than anything.

Riddle is making routine plays with ease and has proven to be a capable defender in the absence of Adeiny Hechavarria. Last night against the Dodgers, he gave fans a preview of what he might be capable of on a regular basis.

Showing exceptional range and a strong arm, Riddle has tools we weren’t previously aware of. At points throughout the game, he made savvy baseball decisions on the field. Riddle appears to have come better than advertised.

A viable replacement at shortstop

Of course, questions exist as to whether or not Riddle can play everyday. The Marlins already have a shortstop who can hit .261 and play stellar defense. They’re looking for an upgrade at the position, not more of the same.

Riddle will need to continue to trend upward if he wants to be considered a longtime option for the Fish. With Hechavarria unlikely to return next season, the opportunity is there to be seized. Manager Don Mattingly certainly thinks the Kentucky native has what it takes:

"“You can already see it — he’s going to be able to play big league shortstop and he’s getting better with the bat, and that’s what’s going to be the determining factor in how good he’s going to be.”"

Riddle was regularly ranked within the 12-18 range in terms of prospects in the Miami Marlins organization. At only 25 years old, the time for Riddle to make the jump to the big leagues had come, touted or otherwise.

The Miami Marlins could be in for a pleasant surprise if J.T. Riddle continues to show improvement. If he turns out to be a capable Major League starter, they’ll have solved their shortstop situation in house. That means they’ll be able to look for other types of prospects when trying to move Hechavarria.

With Dee Gordon locked up long term, third baseman Brian Anderson on the way, and Riddle a potential fit at shortstop, the future might be brighter than many think.

This is all speculation at this point, though. Riddle has only played in 18 games at the highest level; far too soon to make any long term judgements. As it stands, he is giving the team enough reason to trot him out night after night. There may be some push when Hechavarria and Miguel Rojas return from the disable list, but that is weeks away.

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In a season desperate for positive story lines, J.T. Riddle is becoming one. Sometimes things click when a player is given the opportunity; fingers-crossed that is what is happening here.