Following a prolonged absence from the Marlins roster while recovering from 2017 shoulder surgery, JT Riddle has made a compelling case lately to be their everyday shortstop. Offensively and defensively, he’s stepping up his game.
From a hitting standpoint, Riddle enters Monday with a competent slash line of .255/.282/.425. That includes a more impressive .277/.310/.458 line (.768 OPS) against right-handed pitching. Overall, the 26-year-old has accumulated 4 HR and 15 RBI. As long as the shoulder holds up, he’s comfortably on pace to surpass his rookie total of 31 RBI, despite batting fairly low in the lineup without many teammates on base.
Riddle’s results were initially impacted by a high strikeout rate, but he seems to have made the necessary adjustments at the plate. Only three strikeouts over the past week (15.0 K%) and nine over the past two weeks (23.1 K%), an encouraging trend considering his 25.7 K% in 2018.
The Riddler is a former 13th-round draft selection from the University of Kentucky. The Marlins listed him as a second baseman initially, but he’s proven himself capable of making all the plays on the left side of the infield. That’s why he got an extended look as a major league starter last season when Miguel Rojas was injured.
Not that Rojas has done anything wrong; Riddle has simply surpassed him as the team’s best current shortstop candidate. In 33 games (26 starts) as a shortstop this season, he has committed solely one error. That translates to an astounding fielding percentage of .992. It’s a significant improvement upon his 2017 fielding percentage of .970.
Riddle demonstrates a very strong and accurate throwing arm, allowing him to convert outs even when there’s no time to set his feet.
Another example here from a high-leverage situation last month:
The Marlins have managed Riddle’s service time to keep him under club control through the 2023 season. If none of their current shortstop prospects pan out, he’d be a more-than-adequate long-term option at the position. And with meaningful growth (especially when it comes to on-base skills), this is a shortstop of the future that fans could get excited about.