Skepticism about the 2019 Miami Marlins is understandable. Simply put, they don’t have very many good major league players! Their offseason free agent acquisitions are all seemingly past their primes, and former top prospects who graduated to the active roster haven’t yet translated their talent into results at the highest level.
Brian Anderson is the exception. He is a legitimate building block for the franchise, coming off a 3.4 fWAR campaign with room to get even better.
How did he get here? Selected by Marlins in third round of 2014 MLB Draft
2018 MLB Stats: .273/.357/.400, 11 HR, 115 OPS+ in 156 G
2019 ZiPS Projection: .261/.342/.401, 14 HR, 106 OPS+ in 156 G
This 15-year postseason drought—and counting—has been the byproduct of dysfunction in numerous areas. That includes the amateur scouting department. The Marlins have produced just three major leaguers so far from their last five MLB Draft classes (only the Rays have fewer).
The lone position player of the bunch, Anderson sputtered at High-A Jupiter in 2015, his first full pro season (.235/.304/.340 in 530 PA). But otherwise, his progression through the minor leagues went extremely smoothly. He debuted in Miami as a 2017 September call-up.
The Oklahoma native carried his rookie eligibility into 2018, seriously contending for the NL ROY award for the bulk of the summer. He led the Marlins in on-base percentage—even besting Dan Straily!—and embraced a sudden transition from third base to right field. The club expects less chaos on that front as a sophomore, but it was important for him to establish that versatility moving forward.
All that being said, it’s reasonable to expect more from Andy, specifically in the power department. He totaled 15 extra-base hits following the All-Star break compared to 34 in the first half, a drop-off he attributes to conditioning, per MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro:
“I was kind of dragging at the end a little bit. It wasn’t anything big. I was still able to go out and play, but I don’t think I was able to get everything out of my body that I could.
”I think that was just me being young and inexperienced and not having to deal with a season that is that long, as far as travel. For me, it’s just a process of getting better, and getting my routines down on the road, and making sure that I’m eating and working out the right way.”
So far, so good in Spring Training (.353/.450/.647, 6 XBH entering Monday).
Anderson enters his age-26 season with peace of mind, on and off the field. He got married this past November. (Those plans were set before the Marlins decided to rebrand, Fish Stripes has learned, and prevented him from participating in the initial “Our Colores” photo shoot and community outreach events.) Locked into an everyday MLB role, he’ll be utilized near the top of the lineup, Don Mattingly says, after bouncing around a bit as a rookie.
These are ideal circumstances for Anderson to showcase his full potential.
Despite ranking in the 79th percentile of all MLB hitters in exit velocity and 76th percentile in hard-hit rate in 2018, Anderson’s production at the plate was much closer to the middle of the pack.
Added strength would send more of those batted balls over the fence, or he might want to consider an upper-cut swing in certain situations. Baseball Savant illustrates how his launch angle rarely exceeded 25 degrees, even though 30 degrees is optimal for home runs:
Anderson has five seasons remaining until he’s eligible for free agency, ample time for the Marlins to complement him with enough talent to contend in the fearsome NL East. However, a contract extension over the next calendar year shouldn’t be out of the question. For a franchise that has historically failed to hold on to impactful players, entering a new decade where they project to have tremendous financial flexibility, a long-term commitment benefits all sides (including the fans).