I don’t blame anyone who’s largely ignoring the Miami Marlins in fantasy and reality. At 33-39, they’re not really a playoff contender. Sandy Alcantara is a Cy Young frontrunner and Pablo Lopez is having a nice year, but the rest of the rotation has let us down. Tanner Scott looks like a passable closer.
My main draw into the Miami lineup these days is Jon Berti, who’s been on a base-stealing binge over the past month. His June stats are almost too good to be true: .323/.388/.409, 15 runs, 18 steals. He’s only been caught stealing once in that span. Even when the Marlins were blown out Monday against St. Louis — long may you run, Adam Wainwright — Berti copped a bag.
That’s what Berti does — he gets on base, and then he steals another base.
But now Brian Anderson is ready to play again. And all of a sudden, the Miami lineup gets complicated.
Anderson missed about a month with a back injury. He’s the team’s normal third baseman, and deserves an everyday spot. Anderson’s OPS+ is 122, one of the few Marlins who’s over the league average this year (100 is the indexed mean). Jazz Chisholm Jr. (140), Garrett Cooper (139) and Berti (130) are the other Fish acquitting themselves well. Jesus Aguilar is a hair over the equator (103), while Jesus Sanchez (92) is an eyelash below. Miguel Rojas (85) and Avisail Garcia (66) are having poor seasons.
Oh, and then there’s the catching. Jacob Stallings holds a putrid .199/.266/.257 slash, while Nick Fortes has three homers and a .965 OPS over 44 plate appearances. This Fortes run is incongruent with his minor-league profile, but I’d still like to see him play more. Watching Stallings bat is crushing my soul.
Let’s get back to Berti. The Anderson injury was Berti’s easiest path to playing time, and Berti’s logged his most action at third base. But the Marlins have options with Berti, who has also seen time at second base, shortstop, left field and center field. Monday’s lineup had Berti at second base — Jazz Chisholm has been resting a cranky back — while Anderson was back at third.
Fantasy managers have gotten used to Berti’s stolen-base parade. And given how flexible Berti is, a variety of players could get injured or slump and Berti’s lineup spot would be secure. But the Anderson return nonetheless is a little worrisome. Temporarily at least, the Miami roster looks congested. And manager Don Mattingly didn’t consider Berti a main cog at the beginning of the year.
I wonder what it would take for Garcia to get permanently benched — he was a productive hitter in Milwaukee last year, but he’s slashing .227/.264/.324 for the Marlins. Those stats won’t fly for any field position, but especially at a corner outfield spot. Garcia bats fourth, fifth, or sixth almost every night, though he did miss the final two games of the weekend series against the Mets. He was 1-for-4 Monday.
Rojas’ spot is being protected by his plus defense. Shortstop is one of the few positions where a player can be glove-only, for the most part, and not get run out of town. Rojas does offer a bit of category juice for fantasy, with six homers and four steals. Nonetheless, his overall offensive contribution is seen as a negative by modern calculators.
My last wish for Miami’s offense is for Cooper to stay healthy. He became a regular for the Marlins in 2019 and he’s been productive ever since — a .290/.363/.462 slash plays anywhere. His hard-hit profile is stable, and Statcast actually suggests Cooper should be slugging 51 points higher this year. If Miami ever decided to sell off players in the middle of the year — basically give up on the season — Cooper’s bat and versatility could be useful to a contender. Cooper is an interesting add in deeper Yahoo pools, rostering at 38 percent.
The Marlins play St. Louis in about eight hours. I’m anxiously awaiting the fresh lineup card. Do the right thing, Mattingly. Play your best offensive players.