Coming off a solid rookie campaign, Jon Berti will look to build with an even better second season.
Jon Berti, listed at five-foot-10, 190 lbs., is a 30-year-old infielder/outfielder for the Miami Marlins from Troy, MI. He was initially drafted in the 36th round of the 2008 MLB Amateur Entry Draft by the Oakland Athletics. Instead of turning pro, he spent three seasons playing Division 1 college ball for Bowling Green State. In 146 games, he hit .386/.464/556 with 11 homers and 56 stolen bases.
In 2011, Berti was taken in the draft for the second time, in the 18th round by the Toronto Blue Jays. He took the better part of eight calendar years to advance to the majors, going four-for-15 with a double, a triple, and two RBI for Toronto. On November 2nd, 2018, he chose free agency, and signed with the Miami Marlins on a minor league deal about a month later.
Berti went 10-for-35 in a 13-game look in New Orleans, with the Triple-A Baby Cakes in the Pacific Coast League. He also drew 13 walks while striking out only six times, and stole four bases in four attempts. On April 20th, the Miami Marlins sent outfielder Austin Dean down and called Berti up in his place.
Berti played in 22 games from that point through mid-May, going 14-for-59 from the plate with seven walks, one stolen base, and a pair of homers. On May 19th he went down with a strained left oblique and was placed on the injured list. He didn’t reemerge with the parent club until July 31st.
From that point through the end of the season, Berti hit .284/.356/.416 with four more homers and 20 RBI, along with 16 stolen bases in 19 attempts. His real value came into focus through his defensive acumen across several positions. He made 26 starts at shortstop, 15 each at third base and in center field, four in left field, and even appeared in right field once as a defensive replacement. Advanced metrics suggest he’s average or better at shortstop and in left field, below average in center field, and barely passable at third base despite 34 chances without an error.
The advanced metrics may be wrong though. The eye-test suggests that Berti is solid anywhere he’s placed on the diamond. In fact, he totaled only three errors in 189 total chances, a .984 fielding percentage, despite never being able to concentrate on just one position.
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Berti enters 2020 Spring Training as the odds-on favorite to start nowhere, but is a near-lock to make the roster based on his unmatched pliability. I know we have Miguel Rojas who can start anywhere in the infield, Brian Anderson at third baseman or right fielder as needed, Garrett Cooper at first or in right, and Jonathan Villar available at nearly as many positions as Berti, but Berti is a more flexible game-to-game asset than any of these existing Marlins.
Berti’s career wRC+ of 104 is solid enough, yet all four major forecasting systems have him tracking at no better than 90 (ATC) in 2020. That particular system has him at .250/.324/.377 in 97 appearances this coming season, with seven homers, 33 RBI, and 20 stolen bases. Considering Berti somehow ranked third out of Miami’s position players with 1.4 WAR, despite appearing in less than half of their games, I think that he can easily outpace this meager projection, despite what the “experts” and their “math” say.
What do you expect out of Berti? I think he’s got a better-than-50 percent chance at opening the season as the Miami Marlins everyday center fielder, but again, I’m just another “expert.” Look for him to play around 130 games and hit somewhere in the neighborhood of .275 with 10 home runs and 25 stolen bases.