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Breakout Candidate: Brian Anderson

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Anderson was having a great season in 2019 before suffering a hand injury. This time, he’s coming for more.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Mets at Miami Marlins Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Do you know who is the last Marlin to hit at least 40 doubles and 25 home runs in one season? That answer is Jorge Cantú, back in 2008. Twelve years have passed since that feat.

In 2019, Brian Anderson fell short of a similar season. With 35 games remaining on the Marlins’ schedule, the third baseman suffered a hand injury that brought his season to an end. He finished the campaign with 33 two-baggers and 20 bombs.

But Cantú’s accomplishment might not be out of reach much longer since Anderson could be on pace to have a career year in 2020 (if the season takes place at some point). The 26-year-old has experienced a gradual growth since his debut in 2017. In 150 fewer appearances than 2018, he registered more dingers, more RBIs, and only one fewer double last season.

There are many reasons to believe that Anderson might be the face of the lineup for years to come. It’s easy to think that if the Marlins’ rebuilding process goes as planned, the Oklahoma native will be a fixture in the heart of the lineup.

His hard-hit, barrel, and launch-angle numbers have gotten better year after year since he got to the majors. In 2019, Anderson was well above the MLB average in all those departments save the latter, according to Baseball Savant:

The young slugger wasted no time and got immediately better against breaking pitches (slider, curve, knuckle). After hitting for a .211 average and a .286 slugging percentage with no home runs in 2018, he posted a .308 average and a .586 slugging percentage. The best part of it is that he sent eight balls out of the park off those kinds of deliveries.

Anderson—whose OPS went from .706 in 2017 to .757 in 2018 to .811 in 2019—might be on the verge of becoming a true All-Star. He needs to take advantage of his growing power and to slightly alter his swing to have a higher launch angle that results in more extra-base hits. Brian’s plate discipline is not bad and he does not strike out like crazy (21.2 K% across 1,285 career plate appearances).

You can add that he will be in the middle of a reinforced lineup that includes Jesús Aguilar, Jonathan Villar, and Corey Dickerson. Depending on how Don Mattingly uses Anderson, that could mean more protection for him and therefore more good pitches to see.

Sure, there are flaws in Anderson’s performance. He was not as dangerous against lefties (.232/.301/.438) as he was against righties (.271/.355/.478) in 2019. Also, he was a bit fragile against four-seam fastballs (.225 AVG, .391 SLG) and change-ups (.222 AVG, .352 SLG). But there’s time for him to keep developing, and for us, there are certain statistics that make us hopeful.

His ISO, for example, was .100 points higher than 2017 (.107) and .80 points higher than 2019 (.127). He posted career-high numbers in wOBA (.342) and wRC+ (114) as well. And as if it wasn’t enough, the powerful third baseman slashed .377/.456/.681 in his last 19 games last campaign.

For Anderson and all Marlins fans, there are reasons to believe and hope for continued growth.