Where Did He Come From? The Marlins signed Jon Berti as a minor league free agent on December 3, 2018.
2019 Performance 287 PA | .273/.348/.406 | 6 HR | 17/20 SB | 73 K | 24 BB | 104 wRC+
It was a long road to the majors for Berti, who toiled away in the Toronto farm system for almost eight full seasons before getting his first cup of coffee for the Jays in 2018, appearing in four September games before being designated for assignment a few weeks later. It was at that point that the Marlins pounced on him, signing him as a minor league free agent, an opportunity that Berti seized and eventually parlayed into a significant big league role.
In his slow ascent up the ladder, Berti always showed elite speed and an ability to get on base at a decent clip. Between 2011 and 2016, Berti racked up 212 swipes across all minor league levels, but struggled to make meaningful contact, and started to run into some injury trouble in the upper levels. He was able to put those issues in the rearview quickly in 2019, hitting the ground running with Triple-A New Orleans in 22 games to open the year with a .290/.430/.500 slash line and four homers, which earned him his second big league promotion.
He ended up becoming a Swiss Army knife for Don Mattingly, playing 73 contests for the fish and appearing at six different defensive positions while posting a solid .273/.348/.406 slash line and 17 steals in 20 attempts, grading out as one of the fastest runners in the major leagues. Berti’s defensive versatility and impact speed allowed him to rack up 1.7 fWAR in just 287 plate appearances, making him one of the more surprising mini-breakouts of the 2019 MLB season.
Berti showed an ability to handle the rigors of both shortstop and center field, handled right and left handed pitching with equal effectiveness, and was relatively consistent over the course of the season, maintaining impressive numbers through most of the summer before tapering off slightly in September.
His 2019 campaign was a surprise to be sure, but appears to be supported by underlying data, as he posted a .313 xwOBA and .258 xBA, figures which speedsters can be expected to reliably outperform. He’s already 30, but appears to have legitimately emerged as a valuable super utility player, an impressive find by Miami out of the MiLB free agent pool.
Off the field
Berti isn’t the most active social media user, most often simply sharing updates about his career and occasionally thoughts on football and his alma mater, Bowling Green. The impression you get from following Berti on social media is that he’s a very hard worker who truly values the opportunities he’s received in baseball. A scroll through Berti’s Twitter timeline gives you some nice perspective on just how hard and long he has worked to end up where he is today.
His top social moment since joining the Fish would have to be the shirtless Toad costume from the team’s Halloween dress-up last September.
Jon Berti can be found on Twitter (@jonny_hustle) as well as Instagram (@jon_berti).
Appreciate it! Loved my time as a Fisher Cat! https://t.co/YAwr84mijZ— Jon Berti (@jonny_hustle) January 22, 2020
The 2020 Marlins have a lot more depth around the diamond, which could make starts more difficult to come by for Berti. With new faces such as Jonathan Villar in the fold and Isan Díaz projecting as the opening day second baseman, Berti is unlikely to be the go-to guy at any one position to open the year. Nonetheless, he should be be optimistic about his playing time prospects. The Marlins lineup projects to have a lot of moving parts, and Berti should slide into a super-utility role providing support in the outfield and infield as he did in 2019, and would be in the mix to slide into a regular role at a middle infield spot if one becomes available, for instance, if Díaz proves to need more time at Triple-A. Joe Frisaro recently reported that Berti should expect plenty of playing time in 2020:
Berti is going to play a lot and all over— Joe Frisaro (@JoeFrisaro) February 17, 2020
Despite not coming into camp as a true starter, Berti is nonetheless surely thrilled to enter camp with a presumed opening day gig in the majors, a first for him in what will be his 10th year in pro ball. It may be difficult for Berti to replicate his .360 BABIP in 2020, but with his top of the scale speed it’s more reasonable to expect from him than most other players. Both Steamer and ZiPS project his Ks to come down into the low 20% range, closer to his MiLB figures, which could neutralize a BABIP drop-off. Health permitting, it’s easy to envision Berti racking up 350-400 plate appearances, stealing over 20 bags and getting on base at an around league-average clip.
A hard-nosed competitor, Berti is equal parts valuable and easy to root for, and should continue making explosive plays with his legs going forward while making skipper Don Mattingly’s job much easier day in and day out.