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2017 Marlins Season Review: JT Riddle

An injury limited playing time for the 25 year-old in 2017, but the infielder could see a significant amount of action for a rebuilding Marlins team next season.

MLB: New York Mets at Miami Marlins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

2017 stats: 247 PA, .250 AVG, .282 OBP, 3 HR, 31 RBI, 0.7 WAR (Baseball Reference)

Having been left out of Miami's Top 20 prospect list prior to the 2017 season, JT Riddle began the season at AAA New Orleans, but he was quickly promoted in light of the injuries to Martin Prado and Adeiny Hechavarria.

In his first taste of the major leagues, Riddle only hit .143 in 14 at bats, but one of those hits was a walk-off, two-run home run against the Mets on April 16th. He was demoted just a few days later when Hechavarria was activated from the disabled list, but he was back with Miami after little more than two weeks at Triple-A when Prado picked up another injury.

Over the next two and a half months, the young shortstop hit .257, including .302 in May and .296 in July, before succumbing to the injury bug himself and undergoing shoulder surgery at the end of July. He showed flashes of promise, but also struggled at times (including a six game hit-less streak in June), which was to be expected. Getting on base was a big problem, though, as his .282 OBP was second-worst on the team for players who appeared in at least 50 games. 2017 was definitely a steep learning curve for Riddle but, despite the inconsistencies, he will get many more chances to prove himself next season.

Unless the Marlins acquire a veteran shortstop as part of a package in return for one of the big contracts that the organization is going to try and unload this winter, JT Riddle projects as a back-up to Miguel Rojas at shortstop to start the 2018 campaign. Rojas has the better bat at this moment in time (.290 AVG over 306 PA in 2017) and plays at a similar level defensively, so he will most likely win the Opening Day starting job in Spring Training.

One could argue that it would be best for Riddle to start 2018 back in New Orleans, and that may yet happen. However, with the team wanting to cut costs by trading both Martin Prado and Dee Gordon (as well as Giancarlo Stanton), there will be a lack of infield depth at the major league level if those moves are executed, and the Marlins may not want to spend money on a veteran utility player to come off the bench when needed.

Much like Brian Anderson, JT Riddle is very much part of the upcoming youth movement for the Miami Marlins. While he will probably not start the year as the team's number one option at shortstop, he could develop into a solid contributor over the course of 2018. With more time to adjust to major league play, Riddle could soon start to produce better numbers than Adeiny Hechavarria did while he was with Miami. Granted, that is not saying much, but it is a step in the right direction for this franchise.