Jon Berti probably didn’t come into this year’s Spring Training thinking he’d be regularly starting for a Miami Marlins team that would claw their way into the postseason for the first time in 17 years. But, the 2020 Major League Baseball season was the farthest thing from regular.
Berti’s versatility on defense, near elite speed, and solid production gave manager Don Mattingly the confidence to go to Berti often in 2019. He played wherever he was needed, spending at least 20 games at each of third base, shortstop, and centerfield. He also saw time in each corner outfield spot.
After the 2019 season, the Marlins chose to part ways with veteran second baseman Starlin Castro. Isan Díaz, a talented prospect who made his debut in 2019, was projected to be the regular second baseman for the Marlins in 2020. Díaz, however, decided to opt out of the season due to concerns about the pandemic. (Díaz later decided to rejoin the team but sustained a groin injury less than a week into his return which would end his season.)
Jonathan Villar, who the Marlins traded for the previous offseason, assumed the regular second base role when the Marlins returned to play after their COVID-19 outbreak. Villar had spent a good chunk of his career playing second base for a few different teams, so Berti was likely to continue to fill the utility role for the rest of the season.
But, as the 2020 season’s trade deadline rolled around, the league had already adjusted its schedule to account for the pandemic, the playoffs had already been expanded, and the Marlins suddenly found themselves as postseason contenders. When Villar was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for Mr. Marlin’s son, Griffin Conine, Berti slid right into the starting second base spot.
Below are Berti’s career statistics from Baseball Reference, including his 2020 regular season with the Marlins.
Although the 2020 regular season was shortened to 60 games, Berti played in only 39 games because of a right index finger laceration sustained in September that sent him to the injured list. Although the injury lead to a smaller sample size for the month of September, I still think his performance is worth noting.
In the 15 games he saw action in September, Berti put together a line of .286/.464/.429. You’re probably thinking that there’s a typo in there somewhere—there’s not. So now you’re probably questioning my judgement. Just hear me out.
In the first half of the 2020 season, Berti played in 24 of the 30 games and slashed .244/.341/.308. Even though Berti missed games in the middle of September because of the finger injury, his production before and after the IL stint remained consistent. The difference between his first half and second half slash line was pretty significant:
· Berti increased his batting average by .042
· Berti increased his on-base percentage by .123
· Berti increased his slugging percentage by .121
Berti also had more walks and extra-base hits in fewer games to end the season, along with half as many strikeouts in the second half of the season.
A big part of why I believe Berti finished the season strong was because he was able to get into a rhythm. Prior to the trade of Villar on the last day of August, Berti didn’t have a definitive position he knew he would trot out to every day. Once he assumed the starting second base spot after the Villar trade, Berti’s production steadily increased.
· Berti’s sprint speed of 29.3 ft/s makes him nearly an elite runner, putting him in the top 3% of the league this season.
· Berti’s OPS of .893 in September led the team during that month.
· Berti’s 9 stolen bases and 23 walks led the Marlins this season.
Berti stole three bases in the sixth inning of an August game against the Mets. After swiping second base and sneaking into third, Berti continued to be aggressive when the Mets defense got lazy. He took off on a delayed steal to home, stumbled, and bear crawled his way to home plate to give him his third stolen base of the inning.
Jon Berti walked to 1st— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) August 26, 2020
so Jon Berti could run to steal 2nd and 3rd,
so Jon Berti could *bear-crawl to steal home*. pic.twitter.com/U2uyE5HhDB
Of the statistics that Baseball Savant shows rankings for on the top of a player page, Berti found himself in the bottom of the league in many of them. This includes the bottom 12% for barrel percentage, bottom 5% for xSLG, and bottom 2% for Outs Above Average. The rest of his rankings are in the photo below.
As the 2020 season comes to a close and we move toward a new year, the Marlins have some interesting decisions to make and will be doing so with a new face, as Michael Hill and the Marlins part ways.
Berti’s ability to play almost anywhere on the diamond and his steady production has earned him well-deserved playing time. Berti likely won’t lock up the long-term second base job with Isan Díaz and Jazz Chisholm projected to be future stars. I also expect the Marlins to exercise Starling Marté’s club option for the 2021 season, so it’s also unlikely that Berti will call center field his regular home in 2021.
Berti’s future with the Marlins might not be clear, but he has proven his value by stepping into different roles and getting the job done. It’s easy to root for someone as competitive and flexible as Berti, so let’s hope the Marlins can find a spot for him in 2021.