Miami Marlins Season Preview: First Baseman Jesús Aguilar

The Marlins 40-man roster is currently set with Jesús Aguilar primed to take a lot of reps at first base.

With a few surprises yet possible, the Miami Marlins 40-man roster likely contains the 26 to break camp with the team for Opening Day on March 26th. There’s also 24 non-roster invitees present with the team, and a few stand a chance to make the cut. This series will focus on the current 40-man roster, and I’ll make adjustments if there are changes.

First up is Jesús Aguilar. The 29-year-old native of Maracay, VZ stands to get the lion’s share of starts at first base through the season. At six-foot-three and listed as 250 (probably closer to 270), Aguilar’s a massive presence at the plate, and a legitimate threat for 40 home runs.

It’s more likely, however, that Aguilar hits fewer for the Marlins. In 2018, his best professional campaign (to date), he slashed .274/.352/.539 with 35 home runs and 108 RBI for the Milwaukee Brewers, earning his only career all-star nod. Of his 3.5 career bWAR, 2.7 of them came in that season. He’s also played for the Cleveland Indians and the Tampa Bay Rays, from whom the Marlins acquired him off waivers.

Miami Marlins

TORONTO, ON – SEPTEMBER 28: Jesus Aguilar #21 of the Tampa Bay Rays. (Photo by Cole Burston/Getty Images)

For the 2020 campaign, Depth Charts has him projected to hit 20, Steamer and ATC have him for 19 each, while baseball-reference is slightly more bullish, weighing in with 22. Aguilar’s career splits suggest more contact and less power versus lefties, although his BAbip vs the southpaws is somehow 34 points higher than against right-handers. All that taken into consideration, and his >.800 OPS versus both-handed pitchers, and Aguilar could become the “everyday” first baseman.

But there’s a reason that Aguilar was cut loose so unceremoniously from the Rays in early-December. After joining Tampa Bay via deadline deal (with the Brewers for RHP Jake Faria), he hit .261/.336/.424 in 37 contests. Over the course of the entire season, a much grimmer picture comes into focus.

In 131 games, Aguilar only connected on a dozen home runs, and saw his slash line drop to .236/.325/.389. On the bright side, he both increased his walk rate from eight percent to around 11 and dropped his strikeout rate from around 26 percent to around 21.

Although Aguilar could claim the first base job as his own with a strong Spring Training, Marlins manager Don Mattingly may elect to man the position via platoon with left-hander Lewin Diaz and righty Garrett Cooper. Cooper, however, can be utilized in the outfield as well, and it’s likely that Diaz begins the season with the Triple-A Wichita Wind Surge in the Pacific Coast League.

Mattingly has also signaled that NRI Matt Kemp will also get repetitions at first base, so that could have an impact on Aguilar’s performance and playing time.

But Aguilar should win the first base job, all things considered. Cooper will spell him once in a while, and Diaz may join the team later in the season, but Aguilar should start somewhere around 100-110 games at first.

Check back here tomorrow as we take on likely staff ace Sandy Alcantara.