Miami Marlins Opening Day is still 101 days away, but its never too early for some predictions.
Who are the candidates for the Opening Day outfield? MLB.COM’s depth chart has the Marlins outfield with Austin Dean in left, Jon Berti in center, and Harold Ramirez in right. Backups listed at each position include Magneuris Sierra, Garrett Cooper, Lewis Brinson, and Brian Anderson, but could there be other possibilities?
Berti in particular is also high on the Marlins depth chart at second base, shortstop, and the hot corner. Dean and Cooper are also listed as first baseman, even taken into consideration the recently acquired Jesus Aguilar and Jonathan Villar.
With all these factors taken into consideration, and barring further developments on the free agency front, here’s my picks for who will start the 2020 campaign at the seven, eight, and nine spot.
With the recently stocked infield, we now have Aguilar and Cooper at first, Isan Diaz and Villar at second, Miguel Rojas and Villar at third, and – uh, Villar at third. Let’s paraphrase the infield and say it’ll be Aguilar, Diaz, Rojas and Villar, with Cooper gaining some spot starts at first base.
In his two major league seasons, Berti has shown a well-rounded skillset with above average fielding in left and right field, near-average marks at third and short, and slightly below level play at second and center. Despite that modularity, I think Berti is well-suited to play a whole season in center field, and I believe he’ll have the chance to win that spot outright through a strong Spring Training.
Don’t forget his offensive capabilities either. Although he’ll be 30 at the start of next season, Berti stole 17 bases in 20 tries despite appearing in fewer than half of the Marlins games at the major league level. He hit at a pretty nice .273 clip with six homers and 24 RBI, with an eight percent walk rate. The only flaw in his plate approach would have to be his strikeout rate – just over a quarter of the time.
Berti is projected by baseball reference to perform pretty much the same, and although they have him appearing in around 85-to-90 games, he can play in 150 if he stays healthy.
In particular for Mattingly, the acquisition of Villar will allow him to put Anderson out in right field for the foreseeable future starting in 2020. Over his three major league seasons, he has started 144 times in right and 149 times at third base.
Anderson rates at above average at both positions according to DRS, I posit that he’s more of a standout at the nine spot. With 17 outfield assists in only 1223 innings of work, he owns a .986 career fPCT., as opposed to a more pedestrian .959 mark at the hot corner. Frankly, he’s worth more to the Marlins with what he opens up by not holding up third base.
Look for a fully healthy Anderson to continue developing his power stroke – he went from 11 homers in 156 games in 2018 to 20 in only 126 games in 2019. I expect him to get to 30 home runs this season and challenge for a position on the National League All Star team.
That leaves left field open for discussion, and there are many possibilities. Dean, Ramirez, Jesus Sanchez, and Sierra are all in the mix, but I’m giving the leg up to Sierra.
There are those who will disagree, preferring Dean or Ramirez. Despite the homegrown factor, and the fact that we really want Dean to succeed, I think it’s more likely he doesn’t start the season as the guy penciled in. He was 1.2 wins below replacement last season, and despite tearing up Triple-A pitching, is a career .223 hitter in 311 plate appearances, with 10 homers and 35 RBI. Baseball reference projects him at .238 with 11 dingers in the coming season.
Ramirez proponents no doubt are remembering the shot-in-the-arm he gave to the Marlins lineup. In 119 games he hit .276 with 11 home runs and 50 RBI. I’ve no doubt he’ll make the Opening Day roster, however, Sierra remains my favorite.
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Sierra was clearly outmatched in his 54 appearances in 2018, hitting just .190 with three doubles over 156 plate appearances. Even his much talked about speed only yielded three stolen bases in five tries, and he struck out a quarter of the time. He was also a big letdown defensively, making four errors in only 358 2/3 innings for an unsustainable .962 fPCT.
In a short-sample-size in 2019, Sierra seemed to answer all the questions with a solid 15-game showing before succumbing to injury. He hit .350 and seemed reenergized in the outfield, making no errors in 87 1/3 innings. Never mind that he has yet to make a start for Miami in left, his athleticism is surely enough to overcome the lack of familiarity. And let’s not forget, its just a game after all.
Sierra and Berti could easily swap places here, but along with Anderson, I believe we’re looking at the 2020 outfield. Brinson, Ramirez, Dean, and Cooper will all get reps and a solid chance to win additional playing time. Disagree? Let me hear it in the comments. Thanks for reading.