Opening Day age: 30 | Bats: right | Throws: right | Listed at 6-3, 277 lbs.
Acquired by Marlins from Rays via waiver claim (December 2, 2019).
In the shortened 2020 season, Jesús Aguilar reminded us of the player that made the NL All-Star team back in 2018 with the Brewers.
Acquiring Aguilar was a low-risk/high-reward bet. The Marlins were hoping he could overcome his shaky 2019 campaign, split between the Brewers and Rays. The Fish took a flyer on Aguilar, giving the 30-year-old regular playing time in 2020, and it paid dividends as he posted a .277/.352/.457 slash line (.809). He accompanied those averages with 10 doubles and eight home runs in 51 games for Miami, plus 52 hits and 34 runs batted in.
Aguilar led the club in hits, tied for the lead in doubles with fellow Venezuelan native Miguel Rojas, and was second in four-baggers, RBIs, and OPS. He rated as an approximately average defender in 261 innings at first base (0 Defensive Runs Saved and -1 Outs Above Average).
He also played a big role in the Marlins’ Wild Card Series victory against the Cubs. In the first game, Aguilar hit a double and a two-run homer to extend the lead in the seventh inning on the way to an eventual 5-1 win.
As part of his success in ‘20, Aguilar combined contact (77.7%) with a respectable exit velocity (averaged 89.3 MPH) and a good bunch of line drives (33.6%).
2021 ZiPS projection: .250/.330/.421, 99 wRC+, 0.6 fWAR
Aguilar will enter this season as the team’s primary first baseman and should reside in the heart of the Marlins’ lineup. He’ll have to sit occasionally to allow Garrett Cooper playing time, an issue the team could look to resolve by giving Cooper some starts in the corner outfield spots.
What I like most about Aguilar going into 2021 is how much he’s improved as a hitter. For example, he has raised his contact percentage from 66.7% in 2017 to 71.3% in 2018 to 73.9% in 2019 to 77.7% in 2020. To have a better idea of his trends, just check this out:
Stat 2017 2018 2019 2020
Whiff% 33.3% 28.7% 26.0% 22.3%
K% 30.2% 25.3% 22.0% 18.5%
LD% 29.8% 26.2% 24.2% 33.6%
After a 60-game regular season and agreeing to a contract for 2021 valued at $4.35MM, Aguilar will have his first long season as a Marlin. For the team to meet internal expectations and have a similar year to 2020, it needs Aguilar’s production to be similar to his 2020 version.
Hopefully, besides being a force in the middle of the offensive order, Aguilar will be a spark to the Marlins clubhouse and a mentor to young guys. The slugging first baseman is one of the Marlins to keep an eye on during the whole 2021 season.