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2021 Marlins Season Review: Brian Anderson

Evaluating the ups and downs of Brian Anderson’s age-28 campaign.

Miami Marlins third baseman Brian Anderson (15) reacts after striking out against the Colorado Rockies in the third inning at Coors Field Michael Ciaglo-USA TODAY Sports

Aiming to establish himself as one of baseball’s elite third basemen, Brian Anderson was foiled by the injury bug. He was active for less than half of the team’s games and performed below his usual standards in those limited opportunities.

2021 Timeline

  • April 22: placed on 10-day injured list (left oblique strain)

Anderson was hitting into some bad luck at the time of his first injury, having “barreled” the ball five times, according to Statcast, but with only one home run to show for it.

  • May 4: activated from 10-day injured list
  • May 25: placed on 10-day injured list (left shoulder subluxation)
  • June 14: transferred to 60-day injured list (left shoulder subluxation)
  • July 16: sent on rehab assignment

Anderson recorded a .077/.133/.077 slash line (15 PA) during his one-week minor league rehab assignment with Triple-A Jacksonville.

  • July 24: activated from 60-day injured list
  • August 31: aggravated shoulder injury on diving attempt in a game against the Mets (pictured below)
Brian Anderson #15 of the Miami Marlins in action against the New York Mets during the ninth inning at Citi Field on August 31, 2021 in New York City. This is a continuation of the April 11 game which was suspended due to inclement weather Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
  • September 3: placed on 10-day injured list (left shoulder subluxation)
  • September 14: underwent surgery to repair his left shoulder capsule
  • September 17: transferred to 60-day injured list (left shoulder subluxation)

By The Numbers

Brian Anderson’s MLB stats, comparing the 2021 season to his full career FanGraphs

Across the board, BA rated as a good defender—3 Defensive Runs Saved, 1 Outs Above Average and 2.8 Ultimate Zone Rating. Just like in 2020, the Marlins used him exclusively at infield positions (although he demonstrated during the previous two seasons that he can contribute in right field as well).

Anderson continued to struggle in plate appearances ending with breaking balls. Those pitches accounted for nearly half of his total strikeouts despite representing only 30.9% of total pitches seen. Even when putting them in play, he seldom did so with high-quality contact (85.8 miles per hour average exit velocity vs. 88.8 mph season average).

For much of his career, the Oklahoma native has had reverse platoon splits, posting relatively good production against right-handed pitching while struggling to capitalize on the platoon advantage. He took that to an extreme in 2021. Anderson’s 14 wRC+ as a right-handed batter against lefties was one of the worst in the majors (min. 50 PA)—the league average for RHB vs. LHP was a 106 wRC+.

Anderson was responsible for none of the 45 outs that Marlins players made on the bases. His baserunning rebounded from 2020 in terms of Sprint Speed (up from 26.4 ft/sec to 27.0 ft/sec) and home-to-first time (down from 4.53 sec to 4.48 sec).

Anderson underwhelmed us, but he shouldn’t be taken for granted. There was a noticeable drop-off in quality from him to his replacements. Marlins third basemen as a whole combined for 1.3 fWAR (ranked 20th in MLB), which means all of the non-BA options were the epitome of replacement level.


Will Brian Anderson Be Back?

Probably. No incumbent Marlins position player is guaranteed to stick around for Opening Day 2022, but I’d estimate Anderson’s chances at about 85%.

The Marlins will certainly tender Anderson a contract in his second year of arbitration eligibility. He’s due a raise, from the $3.8 million salary he earned this past season to something in the $5 million range. That’s efficient for the age-29 campaign of somebody with his solid track record.

The question is whether the Marlins would trade him. Doing so would be selling low—Anderson underwent surgery to repair the left shoulder capsule that sidelined him two separate times in 2021.

Also, as implied earlier, Miami’s other internal candidates are shaky. Jon Berti suffered a serious concussion that clouds his future. Prospects José Devers and Bryson Brigman have minimal experience at the hot corner, while Joe Dunand’s Dominican winter ball excellence didn’t translate to Triple-A Jacksonville. Isan Díaz and Eddy Alvarez are, to put it politely, non-factors.

The Marlins should invest in a veteran insurance policy who has both the realistic upside to fill Anderson’s shoes if necessary and the versatility to play alongside him. Pending free agents Eduardo Escobar and Josh Harrison come to mind.