March 26: Optioned to Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.
May 27: Recalled from Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp.
After earning the call-up towards the final stretch of the 2021 season, Nick Fortes slashed a whopping .290/.353/.677/1.030 with 4 HR and 7 RBI in the 14 games he played. Fortes impressed so much, even in a small sample, that it begged the question of whether he should be a candidate for the starting catcher’s job entering 2022.
The answer was no. The Marlins traded for Jacob Stallings, the reigning NL Gold Glove award winner, which left Fortes in a competition with Payton Henry for the backup job. The Marlins wanted to see improvement from Fortes on the defensive end, so they chose Henry to make the Opening Day roster over him.
Right from the start, the decision to have Henry as the backup proved to be a mistake. Henry barely played during the month of April and did not record his first hit until May 4. His defense was fine, but not special enough to make up for those struggles at the plate. With a slash line of .143/.314/.143/.457 in 15 games, Henry was optioned and replaced by Fortes.
Avi Garcia goes on the IL— Kevin Barral (@kevin_barral) May 27, 2022
Nick Fortes recalled from Jacksonville
Jon Berti back #Marlins
The Marlins paired Stallings with veteran starters Sandy Alcantara and Pablo López throughout the season, which left Fortes to work with the less experienced pitchers. For all of the concerns about his defense, Fortes had more success throwing out base-stealers than Stallings—29% caught stealing rate compared to 19%—and allowed only one passed ball. His game-calling led to good results for rookies like Braxton Garrett (3.11 ERA) and Edward Cabrera (3.24 ERA) and he even brought out quality performances from depth pieces like Daniel Castano.
Fortes was hitting at an incredibly high level through the end of June (.300/.404/.575/.979 in 14 games). He showed off his contact skills all season long with a strikeout rate of only 18.8%. However, the batting average slipped little by little and finished at .230. He snapped out of an 0-for-22 slump with a home run on the last day of the season.
Fortes isn’t a great fastball hitter, so pitchers began challenging him with more velocity as the season went on. Also, Fortes posted shocking home/road splits (slashing .286/.333/.518/.851 at home and .171/.275/.257/.532 on the road).
The expectation is for Fortes to be the main backup catcher in 2023. He will get opportunities to catch everybody not named Sandy Alcantara and will serve as the designated hitter from time to time. Personally, I would like to see him catch at least a couple of Sandy’s starts, but the Marlins might not want to change a combination that was so dominant this past season.
Fortes has the potential to eventually take over the starting role that Jacob Stallings holds. This team is desperate for more good offensive players and Fortes can provide better value in the batter’s box and as a baserunner (5 steals in 2022).