As the 2017 season nears a close and the Marlins 10 games out of contention it’s best to look towards the 2018 season. Marlins’ fans knew what to expect with Loria and company every offseason: No big free agent signings, overpaying for a premium position, and adding veterans past their primes. With Derek Jeter and Bruce Sherman positioned to take the reins this offseason is important and hard to predict. One thing we can safely assume is that the outfield remains unchanged. When healthy, Christian Yelich, Giancarlo Stanton, and Marcell Ozuna arguably form the best outfield in baseball.
Unfortunately, the Marlins infield hasn’t shared the same success. There have been five different players used at shortstop, six at third base, and five that have seen more than nine innings at first base. Comparing yesterday’s infield of Justin Bour, Dee Gordon, Brian Anderson, and Miguel Rojas to the opening day lineup it may not sound so different with Derek Dietrich and Adeiny Hechavarria manning the left side of the infield. However, it’s everything that happened between Apr. 3 and Sept. 20 to the infield that makes 2018 unpredictable.
Martin Prado was supposed to be the everyday third basemen but a reoccurring hamstring injury limited him to 34 games. Hechavarria was trade to the in-state rival Tampa Bay Rays for two minor league prospects. While Bour recently came off of the DL after suffering an oblique that kept him out since July 23, he’s picked up right where he left off hitting .359 average, .438 OBP and .590 slugging percentage along with two homeruns and eight RBIs.
Rookie J.T Riddle took over the shortstop once Hech was traded and filled in in nicely or as best you could expect from a rookie. He hit a respectable .250 average, .282 OBP and .355 slugging percentage. Riddle’s season was cut shoulder due to shoulder surgery, but he looks poised to fill in as the Marlins everyday shortstop in 2018. Brian Anderson is the 10th best third base prospect according to MLB Pipeline he’s having quite a September hitting .271, .358 OBP, and .356 slugging percentage now while he hasn’t hit a home run yet in 59 at-bats he did hit 22 homers between AA and AAA while slugging .361. Anderson, and Riddle appear to be the starters of the left side of the infield of 2018, but Rojas has been making the most of his opportunities.
Rojas’ is hitting .274, .340 OBP, and .332 slugging percentage. He’s a player the organization is comfortable with and is able to play more than one position having played first, second, third and short stop this season. Dietrich is another player who the Marlins have used throughout the infield; although he’s having a down year at the plate he does possess more power than Anderson, Riddle, and Rojas at the moment.
Every position has been mentioned except second base and while Dee Gordon is making a case for comeback player of the year, his position isn’t safe either. Gordon’s bouncing back this year in strong way after being suspended for PEDs in 2016. He’s demonstrated his ability to hit for average and still steal over 40 bases. He’s slashing .308/.344/.374 with 55 stolen bases. With reports swirling around that Jeter and Sherman want to cut payroll, Dee seems like the perfect sell high candidate to trade in the offseason. He may also be the only player who’ll bring back a good prospect or two.
Dee’s a fan favorite and well liked in the clubhouse and trading him may not be the best way to usher in a new era of baseball. I believe Miami is playing three-quarters of their 2018 infield with Riddle being the missing piece of puzzle. I envision an infield of Justin Bour, Dee Gordon, Brian Anderson, and J.T Riddle. If Riddle and Anderson are able to build on their rookie campaigns the infield will only compliment and make a formidable lineup even more dangerous.