Brian Anderson isn’t the star we were expecting, but he’s definitely the star we need.
Hanley Ramírez. Chris Coghlan. Giancarlo Stanton. The list goes on and on with great Marlins rookie hitters, but we may be witnessing the best yet.
As a relentless worker with a quiet demeanor, Andy has had to deal with a lot in the first half of a rookie season. As a career third baseman, he was widely expected to man the hot corner coming out of spring training as veteran Martín Prado was dealing with a knee injury. Things decidedly changed rather quickly, though, with outfielder Garrett Cooper going on the 60-day DL and the lack of production in the outfield, manager Don Mattingly decided to try Anderson in RF. This was April 27.
Now here we are at the All-Star break, and Anderson is doing his best to make us forget who used to command that right-field corner. A new position is seeming to do wonders for all aspects of his game. Defensive metrics are reading that he’s much better defensively in right field then he ever was at his original position (albeit over a relatively small sample size). Per FanGraphs, his fielding percentage in 2017 and the beginning of 2018 at third was .944 in 501 innings; so far in RF, his fielding is sitting at .992 in 562 innings. His Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) was a combined minus-2.8 at third, but is plus-4.5 in the outfield. The improvements on defense are literally across the board, his huge arm being the driving force behind that.
While his fielding is ever so impressive, his bat accounts for even more value.
From Anderson’s time at the University of Arkansas and through the minors, he was known to be a line-drive hitter with possible pull power, but never demonstrated the consistency...until now. Halfway through the season, he is slashing .288/.368/.429, leading all rookies in hits, runs, RBIs and WAR with 22 doubles. The 17 percent strikeout rate is the lowest it’s been since he was at Short Season A Batavia in 2014. The 109 hits are the most ever by a Marlins rookie prior to the All-Star Game. His power always seems to show in big spots.
Which leads me to my next point...
Is Brian Anderson the most clutch player in the game this year?
Let me explain. Anderson is hitting a cool .361 and BABIP of .394 with an insanely slow K rate of 9.8% in high-leverage situations so far this year using the FanGraphs criteria (41 plate appearances). It gets even more interesting when looking at his numbers with runners in scoring position—a batting average of .409 and a BABIP of .471 that rank first and third in MLB, respectively. Keep digging and you find out he’s top 20 in every advanced and standard stat with RISP. When putting BA’s production in this context, his value to this Marlins team is unmatched.
One final note on that subject:
BA, Andy, Psycho...Whatever name you call Brian Anderson, just make sure you remember it. This young man is improving every single day and bringing an unstoppable intensity with a baby face. He is exactly what we need in Miami.