The game of baseball is beautiful for the diversity of its skillsets (among many other reasons). In a year of development and growth for the Miami Marlins organization, where wins and losses are not paramount, we can focus instead on the individual tools that make their players unique...and imagine the impact those players will have on team success at their peaks. A glimpse into the future.
Whether a fan of contact, power, defensive web gems, or savvy baserunning, the Marlins currently have a bit of everything at the big league level.
I’ve used a combination of statistical measures and scouting observations to identify players with each of the following tools.
1. Hit Tool
The question here is “bat-to-ball” rather than impact (e.g. power production). The designation is given to the player that carries a low strikeout rate, with an added ability of continuously connecting with their swings.
Although the most potent bats in the lineup likely come to mind first (Brian Anderson and Garrett Cooper), they don’t necessarily suit the objective as well as two lesser spoken about role players do.
Harold Ramírez and Miguel Rojas both know how to make constant contact with the baseball. Their in-zone contact rates are incredibly impressive (89.4% and 88.4% respectively), and both are striking out under a 19% clip.
The deciding factor in this selection is pedigree and future projections. While Rojas is in the middle of a career year, Harold is still only 24 and in his rookie season. The latter also has the benefit of pedigree, hitting in every level and organization he’s been with.
Advantage “Hitting Harold.”
Best Hit Tool: Harold Ramírez
2. Power Production
It is no secret that the Miami Marlins lack power at the big league level, ranking dead last among MLB teams in home runs, slugging percentage and barrel percentage. While playing at Marlins Park doesn’t aid that situation, roster construction is also to blame.
With that being said, the Marlins have a trio of core players who all have 20/25+ homer potential. Their gap power is similarly important here, considering the reality that well-struck balls won’t clear the fence at home as consistently as they would in more hitter-friendly environments.
Brian Anderson (leading the Marlins in home runs and runs batted in), Garrett Cooper (leading the Marlins in Isolated Power), and Jorge Alfaro (leading the Marlins in Hard Hit% and Exit Velocity) are the clear standouts for this tool.
For a team with “no power,” this selection is much harder than you may think...
Alfaro hits the ball the hardest, and when he makes contact, it typically leads to damage. However, power production is also dependent on consistency; until Alfaro’s contact rate increases and his strike out rate decreases, he’s not the choice.
Brian Anderson leads the trio in most power counting stats (e.g. HR, RBI, 2B), even more impressive when we recall his cold start to the year, and the lack of offensive support around him.
However, when one of the options leads the team in Isolated Power (Slugging percentage minus batting average) and Overall Offensive Value (OFF = 10.7), it’s fair to say he deserves the selection. On May 11, Garrett Cooper was activated off of the 10-Day IL, and he’s been delivering ever since. His expected slugging (xSLG) is in the 86th percentile of MLB, expected batting average (xBA) is in the 94th percentile, and his 11 homers are only two behind team leader Anderson despite ~150 fewer plate appearances.
Best Power Production: Garrett Cooper
3. Best Defensive Player
Evaluating defensive play, whether with one’s scouting eye or the usage of analytics, is a daunting task. To begin, scouts utilize a never-ending list of ways to “see” a player’s defensive ability; there is a lot of ambiguity in what makes a player a gold glover (e.g. Player A has a better fielding percentage because he doesn’t reach as many balls as Player B, giving Player A less chances to fail. But does that make Player A truly better?).
Analytics—designed to eliminate some of the ambiguity—has simply created more layers when it comes to defensive play. Additionally, the question of comparing positions, such as a catcher to a third baseman or shortstop, does nothing but add more subjectivity to the equation.
As such, allow me to address Jorge Alfaro prior to making a selection. Despite the occasional passed ball, Alfaro is a Top 12 defensive MLB catcher in most categories, including Overall Defensive Value (DEF = 7.7) and Framing (FRM = 2.1).
The argument could be made that C is the most important defensive position, and as such, that Alfaro should be the selection for the Marlins.
That being said, the Fish have two other players that are having near-elite years with the glove. Anderson and Rojas have all but locked up the left side of the infield for the Marlins in 2019.
They have combined for 22 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), and both of their Ultimate Zone Ratings (UZR) are on-pace to be in the above average to great range for the year. In their respective positions, both rank third in Defensive Value amongst qualified MLB players. To say that both are having elite defensive campaigns is an understatement.
Position value gives the designation to the shortstop by a hair.
Best Defensive Player: Miguel Rojas
The Marlins don’t have the luxury of writing any prototypical speed burners into the lineup every single night. Those players—Magnueris Sierra, Monte Harrison, Brian Miller, Lewis Brinson, etc.—are still in the minors for now.
But don’t overlook the sneaky fast players who are donning #OurColores any given night. In terms of Sprint Speed, the Marlins have two players in the Top 10 percent of the league in Jorge Alfaro and Harold Ramírez. OF César Puello is just outside, in the 89th percentile. Then, you have an unexpected stolen base leader in Miguel Rojas, with six.
Surprisingly, the advanced metric darling on this team is none other than Harold. He leads the team with a +2.2 Baserunning Value (BsR), per FanGraphs. It also helps that he’s 2-for-2 in stolen bases.
Best Baserunner: Harold Ramírez
Interestingly enough, these designations also serve as Exhibit A that the loudest individual tools do not always generate the most on-field value. My selection for best overall player on the Marlins—the majority of those polled on Twitter agreed—is Brian Anderson. He does everything average or above average, and deserves praise, even if there isn’t any one particular tool of his that wows you.
Who is the Marlins best overall player RIGHT NOW— Danny Martinez (@DannyM_MIA) July 16, 2019
(Reply for other)
Let me know below, in the comments, where we agree and where we disagree. See you there!