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2021 Marlins Season Review: Jesús Aguilar

All things considered, the 2021 campaign was pretty good for Aguilar.

Jesus Aguilar #24 of the Miami Marlins in action against the New York Mets during a game at Citi Field Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

2021 Timeline

  • July 28: Craig Mish reports negotiations between Jesús Aguilar and the Marlins on a potential two-year contract extension. They tabled those talks following the trade deadline.
  • Left knee inflammation sent Aguilar to the injured list on September 8, ending his season prematurely.
  • September 28: Aguilar underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. He should be ready for Opening Day.

By The Numbers

The Marlins decided to keep Aguilar for the 2021 season, perhaps assuming that Major League Baseball would have the universal designated hitter in effect. Even without a DH spot to use, the decision paid off for them: Aguilar had another strong showing for Miami. The Venezuelan played in 131 games and recorded 23 doubles, 22 home runs, 93 runs batted in, 49 scored runs and 46 bases on balls, along with a .261/.329/.459 slash line.

Aguilar led the Marlins in RBIs by far and at times led the National League in that category, all while being on an affordable salary of $4.3 million. Unfortunately, a left knee injury prevented him from reaching 100 ribbies.

Aguilar continued to improve at the plate as a more selective, disciplined hitter. His strikeout percentage has gradually dropped from 30.2 in 2017 to 18.2 this time—what was once a weakness is now a strength of his game. He also registered the lowest chase percentage of his career (27.3%). In particular, his 1st-pitch swing percentage went down from 14.8% to 9.0%.

Agui was a threat with runners in scoring position and one of the best players for the Marlins in that environment. When he found runners on second and/or third, he slashed .328/.401/.568, way above his .200/.270/.317 averages when no one was on the basepaths.

Early on, Aguilar had trouble hitting at LoanDepot Park. By season’s end, his splits were still unusual (91 wRC+ at home vs. 132 wRC+ on the road). Maybe it was just randomness, but he made much more hard contact away from Miami and at higher launch angles.

Overall, Aguilar made a strong statement for why—health permitting—he should remain in the heart of the Marlins’ lineup.

Highlights!

Will Jesús Aguilar Be Back?

If the Marlins were seriously thinking about moving on from Aguilar, then they would’ve shopped him more aggressively at the 2021 trade deadline.

The Marlins can benefit a lot if MLB finally makes the DH a permanent part of the NL. That way, it would be simple for Aguilar to co-exist with Lewin Díaz covering first base. Plus, DH-ing Aguilar would help mitigate the risks of his recovery from knee surgery.

Aguilar just had one of the most productive hitting seasons for a Marlin since J.T. Realmuto left the building. He is due a pay raise in 2022, his final year of arbitration eligibility, but it won’t be easy to find a better solution at a more efficient price.

For the time being, Aguilar playing for the Fish in 2022 is close to a sure thing.