The Marlins invited another 14 players to camp on non-roster invitations yesterday, bringing the total number of NRI’s to 23 for Spring Training.
What are the odds an NRI makes the Marlins out of camp? For each of them, the odds are pretty low, but it’s likely that one or two may buck the trend and make it. It’s a path that Jon Berti is familiar with.
Berti is a five-foot-10 second baseman from Troy, MI. Born on this date 30 years ago, he was taken in the 18th round of the 2011 draft by the Toronto Blue Jays. In parts of nine minor league seasons, he’s hit .258/.344/.359 with 270 stolen bases in 350 tries.
Although technically a second baseman, Berti has made many career appearances at third base, shortstop, center field and left field. At the major league level in 2018, he was four-for-15 with a double, a triple, and two RBI in four contests.
With the utility to play nearly any position, Berti proved himself invaluable to the Marlins during his non-roster invitation. He eventually made 32 appearances at shortstop, 21 in center field, 20 at third, seven in left, and even once in right field. Counterintuitively, he never appeared at second base, his “natural” position. I guess that was due to Starlin Castro playing in all 162 games.
Berti didn’t make the team for Opening Day, but was called up more-or-less for good on April 20th, less two stints on the injured list. His 1.4 full-season WAR was the fifth best mark on the team, despite appearing in only 73 games. He slashed out a .273/.348/.406 line with six home runs, 24 RBI, and a team-high 17 stolen bases in 20 attempts.
A 1.4 WAR prorated for Berti over a full 150-ish game season would result in a very solid 3.0 WAR. Berti’s versatility and speed/power combination has been too good for the Marlins to keep in the minor leagues. If there’s another Berti-type for the Marlins in 2020, it’s likely to be shortstop Eddy Alvarez.
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Alvarez, who is the same size as Berti, was a silver medalist in the 5000 meter speed skating relay for the United States in the 2014 Winter Olympics. Soon after that, he quit concentrating on that sport to focus on baseball, and spent most of the 2019 season with the Marlins with the Triple-A New Orleans Baby Cakes in the Pacific Coast League. He slashed out a very respectable .323/.407/.570 line just below the majors, with 12 home runs and 12 stolen bases.
Not only does Alvarez have nearly the same physical profile as Berti, his power-speed combination is comparable, and he’s only eight days younger. Is Alvarez destined to be Berti 2.0? We’ll have to wait and see.