This offseason, we’ve been going over the Marlins all-time roster with a fine-toothed comb.
We’ve already reviewed 619 players to have appeared with the franchise, but we’ve saved the best for last. Brian Anderson ranks just outside the all-time top 10 based on his production per plate appearance, and has put up 8.4 bWAR in his four years with the Marlins. For those of you who like to dig into the nuts and bolts of the whole thing, the number 12 Marlin, catcher Charles Johnson, was worth .0053 bWAR per plate appearance. At number 11, Anderson has produced .0055 bWAR per PA. Tomorrow’s player—ranked 10th overall—produced .0056 per PA.
11. Brian Anderson
Brian Anderson is a six-foot-three, 208 lbs. third baseman from Edmond, Oklahoma. In 2011, the Minnesota Twins chose him in the 20th round out of Deer Creek HS in his hometown. He didn’t sign, and followed that with three collegiate seasons with the Arkansas Razorbacks. In 171 games of division 1 play, he slashed a .318/.418/.467 line with 13 round-trippers and 98 RBI.
In 2014, the Marlins used their third round choice on Anderson, with the 76th overall selection. Thus far, he’s the most productive member of that draft round, and one of only two with a bWAR above 1.0 (Jordan Luplow has 1.6). After the draft, Anderson split the remainder of the season between the Short-Season-A Batavia Muckdogs and the Single-A Greensboro Grasshoppers. In 59 combined games, he slashed a healthy .300/.363/.496 with 11 long-balls and 49 RBI.
Although previously unheralded with regards to his prospect status, Anderson opened the 2015 campaign ranked as Miami’s number nine overall prospect, according to Baseball America. Unfortunately, he struggled to make contact at the High-A level with the Jupiter Hammerheads, slashing .235/.304/.340 with 109 whiffs and only eight homers in 132 games.
Nonetheless, Anderson’s prospect cache only increased despite his struggles moving up to number six on the Marlins’ prospect list. He showed a steady increase in plate discipline for the Sharks, slashing .302/.377/.440 through 49 games, then got promoted to the Double-A Jacksonville Suns. In 86 games for the future-Shrimp, he produced a .243/.330/.359 line.
In 2017, Anderson was Miami’s number three MLB Pipeline prospect, and raked for the Triple-A New Orleans Baby Cakes to the tune of a .339/.416/.602 line in 33 games. Good enough, right? So yeah, they called him up for a look at the bigs. In 25 games for the Marlins, he put up a .262/.337/.369 line without a home run, along with 28 K’s in 95 PA. He also made three errors in 198 innings at the hot corner, a well-below average clip that saw him at minus-5 DRS in the short time he worked at third base. Better times were ahead.
In 2018, Anderson got a full season in with Miami, and actually played more time in right field (765 1⁄3 innings), than he did at third base (592 2⁄3 innings). At both positions, he was roughly 10 ZFR below average-per 1200 innings, so no bueno. Offensively, however, Anderson was beginning to shape up into an above-average major league hitter. He racked up a 110 OPS+ in 670 PA, hitting .273/.357/.400 with 11 home runs and 65 RBI. He was good enough to finish fourth in the National League Rookie of the Year Award voting.
On June 11, Anderson was the big hero of the day against the San Francisco Giants. He hit a leadoff game-tying homer in the fourth, doubled and scored in the sixth, and hit a game-tying RBI-double in the seventh, later coming around to score the go-ahead run on a J.T. Realmuto homer. The Marlins lead held up to the tune of a 7-5 victory.
As good as Anderson’s 2018 was, his 2019 was extraordinary. Not only was he the obvious best third baseman on the club, he was also likely the best right fielder as well. In 586 2⁄3 innings at third base, he fielded at .977 and was worth 12 DRS better than the average third baseman (over 1200 innings). In right field he posted similar advanced metrics, with a final mark of 10 DRS better than the average right fielder. Anderson totaled 17 assists from right field in 1223 innings between the two campaigns.
Anderson also clubbed a career-best 20 dingers, despite missing over a month of the season with an injury. In 126 games, he hit .261/.342/.468, and stole five bases in six attempts. He also knocked in 66 and drew 44 walks against 114 strikeouts.
Although Anderson’s overall offensive bWAR decreased from 3.4 to 2.6 between 2018 and 2019, his defensive bWAR went from minus-0.3 to plus-1.1. It’s a pattern that would continue into 2020, although Anderson appeared almost entirely at third base during the shortened season.
Anderson led the Marlins with 59 appearances in 2020, and hit .255/.345/.465 with team-bests 11 home runs and 38 RBI. He also tied for the team lead with, uh, one triple. His 22 walks ranked third on the club behind Jesus Aguilar and Jon Berti, who both collected 23. Anderson also struck out far-and-away more than anyone else on the team, with 66 whiffs, but his 1.9 overall bWAR led Miami.
Anderson’s rights are tied up with the Marlins until 2024, but he’s already in the midst of his arbitration years. Miami would do well by signing him before they need to. It’s about time we had a Marlins “lifer,” and we couldn’t do much better than gamer Anderson. Inking him to a lengthy deal before he hits free agency would build a lot of good will between all three parties (the player, the team and the fanbase). Anderson’s only 27 years old right now, and the Marlins are clearly on the rise.
Thanks for reading.