The 2021 season was a rollercoaster for utility man Jon Berti, which ultimately ended with an unfortunate crash. He was slow to get going in the first two months, picked up steam with a fantastic June, but his season came to a screeching halt when an 85 mph slider hit the back of his head in a game on July 23. Berti sustained a concussion and missed the rest of the season.
- Early April: Came off the bench as a pinch hitter and made a few spot starts at second and third base.
- April 21: Stepped into the everyday third baseman role with Brian Anderson going on the injured list.
- Early May: Berti returned to utility player role with Anderson returning from the injured list. He also appeared in the outfield for a handful of games. By May 21, his batting average hit a low of .161 with a .572 OPS.
- May 25: Berti returned to playing every day, but split time at second and third base because of injuries to Anderson and Jazz Chisholm Jr. (José Devers and Isan Díaz filled in wherever Berti wasn’t.)
- June 18: Berti slides back into the everyday third baseman’s role because Chisholm returned from the injured list. At the end of June, he resurrected and hit .321 with a .849 OPS.
- July 5: With Berti struggling and the acquisition of Joe Panik, the two split time at third base. Berti occasionally starts in the outfield or pinch hits.
- July 22: Berti gets hit by a pitch in the back of the head, sustains a concussion, and is placed on the 7-day concussion injured list the next day. As hot as he was in June, Berti’s .116 batting average and .364 OPS in July were dismal. Even worse, the hit-by-pitch caused a concussion and would end his season.
- October 1: Berti moved to the 60-day injured list, a procedural move to make space on the 40-man roster.
By The Numbers
I won’t sugarcoat it: Berti did not play well this season. When I wrote Berti’s 2020 season review last year, I was cautiously optimistic that Berti’s defensive versatility brought a positive value to the Marlins and he was worthy of a spot if he could provide at least league-average production at the plate. He had done that in 112 games from 2019-2020, slashing .269/.362/.388 with an adjusted-OPS of 101 (league average: 100 OPS+). Berti isn’t a long-term solution, but production on this level would’ve benefited the 2021 Marlins. Besides a hot June, Berti was painful to watch at the plate this season.
Berti’s .210 batting average was third-worst among Marlins position players with at least 200 plate appearances, behind only Sandy León and Isan Díaz. His .313 slugging percentage was fourth-worst, behind Leon, Diaz, and Magneuris Sierra. If we pull back the curtain a bit, the numbers make sense. He hit the most groundballs in his career this season, a whopping 59.4% of the time he put balls in play. He got on top of the pitch or hit it weakly 52.0% of the time, far more than the average hitter’s 36.9% of the time.
What about Berti’s defense? He must’ve continued to provide value there! I regret to inform you that no, Berti didn’t play well in the field. He didn’t even play decent, or average. Of his 569 2⁄3 innings on defense, 336 of those were spent at third base filling in for the chronically injured Anderson. Eight of his nine errors in 2021 came while playing third, and he had an especially hard time making plays to his right. Berti tallied -2 OAA at third base, but the better way to phrase that is 2 outs below average. Berti’s nine total errors were more than all defenders not named Chisholm and Miguel Rojas, who both logged more than 1,000 innings at their positions.
Okay, so did Berti bring any value...? FanGraphs had Berti as the fourth-best baserunner per their BsR statistic. BsR considers many aspects of baserunning, including stolen bases, caught stealing, grounding into double plays, and advancing (or not) on extra-base hits. Ely wrote last week about the Marlins’ struggles with baserunning, specifically getting picked off far too often. Berti was guilty of three of the Marlins’ 23 pickoffs but added almost three runs on the bases. It’s not a high bar, but he was better than most of the team. Chisholm, Sierra, and Starling Marte were the only Marlins with higher BsR totals.
Will Jon Berti Be Back?
The Marlins refused to trade Berti in exchange for Andrew Benintendi last season, per the Miami Herald, so I have a feeling they won’t be giving up on Berti yet. The team’s track record when it comes to cutting ties with struggling players isn’t great, so I don’t think they’ll give up on Berti.
Because the 31-year-old is arbitration-eligible, the Marlins have until the December 2 deadline to decide whether to tender a contract or let Berti go as a free agent. As a ballpark figure, MLB Trade Rumors’ projected arbitration salary for Berti is $1.2 million.
Above all else, I hope that Berti recovers physically, mentally, and emotionally from the concussion he sustained on July 22. His performance in 2021 is what it is, but none of the numbers matter when traumatic injuries like these occur. I look forward to seeing a healthy Berti on the field in 2022.