With the return of Brian Anderson and Jon Berti to the active roster on Friday, the Miami Marlins’ offense that has been derailed by injury all season is looking closer to a group the club envisioned having.
While some big names such as Jazz Chisholm Jr., Jorge Soler and Avisail Garcia remain sidelined, manager Don Mattingly now has a proper balance of veterans (Miguel Rojas, Joey Wendle, Jesus Aguilar, Garrett Cooper, Berti and Anderson) to go along with the up-and-coming talent the organization wants to evaluate over the final stretch of the season (JJ Bleday, Peyton Burdick, Lewin Diaz, Charles Leblanc, Luke Williams).
But with that comes decisions. Who plays when? Who plays where? How often does each person play?
Here’s a position-by-position look at the Marlins’ current roster situation.
▪ Catcher: This is the one spot that has been constant since the end of May. Jacob Stallings and Nick Fortes have been splitting reps behind the plate this season.
When Fortes was recalled on May 27, Mattingly primarily had Stallings catch Miami’s top three starting pitchers (Sandy Alcantara, Pablo Lopez and Trevor Rogers) while Fortes caught the pitchers he was familiar with from his time in the minor leagues (Braxton Garrett, Daniel Castano, Edward Cabrera). There is a little more flexibility in that plan now.
▪ First base: Mattingly said Diaz, a left-handed hitter and arguably the best defensive first baseman on Miami’s roster, will get the “lion’s share” of reps and will almost exclusively be the starting first baseman against right-handed pitching.
That relegates Aguilar and Cooper to mainly starting in the field against left-handed pitching and also getting into the lineup as the designated hitter.
But with Mattingly noting that Cooper “has a little more trouble staying on the field,” it would appear Aguilar would be No. 2 in the pecking order to play in the field and Cooper’s opportunities will primarily come as the DH.
Mattingly also said Leblanc could potentially get reps at first base against lefties.
▪ Second base: Chisholm is still not participating in baseball activities while rehabbing his stress fracture in his lower back that will keep him sidelined until at least early September. Berti, Wendle, Leblanc and Williams are the Marlins’ main options to play the position.
▪ Shortstop: Rojas is Miami’s starting shortstop and has been one of MLB’s top defensive shortstops this season. Entering Saturday, Rojas ranked fourth among MLB shortstops with nine defensive runs saved, according to Fangraphs. Wendle and Berti are the next options after Rojas.
▪ Third base: Miami has five options here: Wendle, Leblanc, Anderson, Berti and Williams.
With the Marlins planning to use Anderson in the outfield, It stands to reason that Wendle, Leblanc and Berti will be the main three rotating at second and third base, with Williams getting spot starts but primarily being used as a late-inning pinch-runner.
▪ Outfield: Soler’s back injury is expected to keep him out long-term and, like Chisholm, is currently not participating in baseball activities. With Garcia also out with a left hamstring strain, Miami has four main options for its three outfield spots.
Bleday, Berti and Burdick can play all three outfield spots, but it will be Bleday who sees the bulk of the time in center field.
Anderson will solely play in the corners when he is in the outfield. He has more experience in right field than left, but Garcia will play right field when he returns. That would push Anderson and Burdick to primarily starting in left field when Garcia is in the field.
Williams is also an option in left field.
The rise of Bleday and Burdick come following the struggles of Jesus Sanchez and Bryan De La Cruz, who were both on the Opening Day roster but have each been optioned to Triple A Jacksonville over the past week.
“At the end of the day,” Mattingly said, “I think the message we are starting to send is if you don’t produce, we’re gonna give somebody else a shot.”