Miami Marlins Review: J.T. Riddle’s Last Season, and Next
J.T. Riddle hit .231 in 102 games last season. The formerly highly-regarded prospect can do better in 2019.
Throughout the 2018/2019 offseason, Marlin Maniac will devote one article each for every player who appeared in the Miami Marlins system for the 2018 season. Every. Single. Player. This is Part 206 of 286.
Joshua Travis Riddle is a 6’1″, 180 lb. lefty-batting righty-throwing shortstop from Frankfort, Kentucky, population 27,621. The town of Frankfort is the capital city of Kentucky, and has produced five major leaguers, but only two in the past 100 years including Riddle. Pitcher Ryan Speier played five seasons at baseball’s top level with the Colorado Rockies.
Riddle was born on October 12th, 1991, and in 2010 was chosen in the 35th round of the MLB Amateur Draft by the Boston Red Sox out of Western Hills HS. After getting named the 2010 Mr. Baseball for the state, Riddle instead decided to attend the University of Kentucky, where he started for three seasons of Division I Southeast Conference play. In 168 games in total playing mostly third base, he slashed .283/.358/.384 with nine homers, 83 RBI, and 16 stolen bases.
Riddle’s patience was rewarded in the 2013 draft. The Miami Marlins chose him in the 13th round, with the 382nd overall pick. Four players chosen at that spot have graduated as far as the majors, with Riddle’s 2.0 career WAR topping them. He’s joined by Angel Castro (2006, Detroit Tigers, 0.1 WAR), Gary Lance (1967, Chicago Cubs, 0.0 WAR), and Larry Burchart (1966, Oakland Athletics, -0.2 WAR).
After coming to terms with the Miami Marlins for a $100,000 bonus, Riddle was assigned to the short-season-A Batavia Muckdogs in the New York-Penn League. Through a team-third 59 games, he hit .243/.288/.315 with two round trippers and 18 RBI. He also led the team with 38 runs, and stole a club-third six stolen bases in seven tries. You can follow Riddle on Twitter @_Riddler_10.
In 2014, Riddle was promoted to the single-A Greensboro Grasshoppers in the South Atlantic League. He again ranked third on his team with 103 appearances, and slashed .280/.323/.400 with a club-second nine home runs. Riddle also collected 60 RBI and stole five bases in six tries.
In 2015, Riddle split the year between the high-A Jupiter Hammerheads in the Florida State League and the double-A Jacksonville Suns in the Southern League. He also went two-for-three in his only game at the triple-A level with the New Orleans Zephyrs in the Pacific Coast League. In 90 games overall, Riddle slashed .283/.323/.368 with five long-shots and 29 RBI. He also stole seven-of-10 bases while appearing exclusively at shortstop for the first time.
2016 would see Riddle appear in a team-third 101 games for the Suns and play in 116 games overall between Jacksonville and New Orleans. He put up a .276/.326/.366 line with four homers and 53 RBI. He was ranked in the Miami Marlins system for the first time, as their number 10 overall prospect. Riddle made the SL midseason All-Star Team.
"Riddle is an aggressive hitter with a short swing that helps him make consistent contact and limits his swing-and-miss. He has average speed and showed more pop during his time in the Southern League, where he tallied five home runs in 44 games after failing to homer in 45 games at Jupiter. More power could be on the way, too, as Riddle is likely to continue to add strength to his wiry frame. – MLB Pipeline"
2017 would open for Riddle ranked as Miami’s number 13 prospect, according to the MLB Pipeline. He lost his rookie status with the parent club, hitting .250/.282/.355 at the major league level with the Marlins. In 70 games, he also collected three homers and 31 RBI, drawing only 12 walks against 50 strikeouts in 247 plate appearances.
2018 would get a late start due to shoulder tendinitis, and didn’t join the Miami Marlins until May 26th. He eventually made enough starts to be ranked as the number one Marlins shortstop, appearing in 102 contests and slashing .231/.277/.377. He drew 20 walks in 332 plate appearances, and clubbed a career-best nine homers with a club-second four triples and 36 RBI. His 84 OPS+ ranked amongst qualifiers ahead of only Miguel Rojas (83) and Lewis Brinson (62).
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Defensively, Riddle fielded at a .983 clip at shortstop, 10 points above the National League average. His RF/9 was an impressive 4.45, half a play per nine innings better than average. Riddle totaled only six errors and turned 47 double plays out of 348 total chances.
Riddle turned in 18 multi-hit games, including four three-hit affairs. On July 4th, he fell a double short of the cycle and collected two RBI, scoring twice in a 3-0 victory against the Tampa Bay Rays. On August 18th, in a 7-5 victory against the Washington Nationals, Riddle hit a single, a double, and a home run, with a walk and four RBI.
Riddle opens the 2019 season as the de facto starting shortstop for the Miami Marlins. Baseball Reference has him projected to hit .241 with another nine homers in 391 plate appearances. He’ll be arbitration eligible for the first time following the 2020 season, and will hit free agency for the first time in 2024, at the age of 32.
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