Find all of our articles previewing 2023 Miami Marlins players here.
- Drafted by the Miami Marlins out of the University of Mississippi (4th Rd in 2018)
- Made debut as a September call-up in 2021; called up again May 29, 2022.
- Entering his age-26 season
Nick Fortes is one of a handful of catchers that the Marlins have had who can produce offensively. Since the departure of All-Star J.T. Realmuto four years ago, Fortes’ 96 OPS+ in 2022 is the highest single-season mark by any Miami backstop (min. 200 PA). His production was especially welcome when newly acquired starting catcher Jacob Stallings posted a career-worst 67 OPS+.
Fortes is carrying on the legacy of speedy Marlins catchers. Baseball Savant says he was the seventh-fastest catcher in the league last season. Even by non-catcher standards, Fortes is in the top half of the league, ranking in the 63rd percentile in sprint speed.
Speed kills in the cavernous dimensions of LoanDepot Park. In MLB home games, Fortes has posted a .967 OPS, thanks in part to hitting balls over the fence, but also due to a .298 BABIP (compared to .205 on the road) and taking advantage of opportunities to turn routine singles into hustle doubles.
Fortes was denied a spot on the 2022 Opening Day roster largely because of concerns about his defense. He responded by placing in the 74th percentile among catchers in framing and the 79th percentile in pop time, per Baseball Savant.
In contrast to many young hitters, Fortes struggles most against fastballs. He only posted a .220 batting average against fastballs compared to .265 against breaking balls and .222 offspeed pitches in 2022. This could just be the case of a young hitter that needs to adjust to MLB velocities.
Fortes’ batted ball profile is bit of a mixed bag, too. While he struggles to hit for average against fastballs, he averaged a 91.3 MPH exit velocity last year when he made contact last year. And while he made more contact with offspeed and breaking pitches, his exit velo was only 79.8 and 87.4 against them, respectively.
Perhaps merely small-sample size noise, Fortes has been a liability in the lineup on days when he’s used as the Marlins designated hitter (3-for-48 with 0 RBI). It’d be unsurprising if a player who’s accustomed to being involved with every pitch needs an alternative routine to implement when he gets the DH assignment.
While Fortes is likely solidified as the club’s backup catcher, Marlins general manager Kim Ng told media during the offseason that Fortes would also spend some time at first base when starter Garrett Cooper takes a day off. Aside from one inning in 2022, Fortes has not played first base as a professional, but he did spend some time there during his college days at Ole Miss (“it’s not super foreign to me”).
Fortes arrived at camp in Jupiter several days before the mandatory report date of Feb. 21, and told Fish Stripes that he had already fielded some ground balls with new infield coach Jody Reed. Most of his work has been with feeds to second base and different bunt defenses.
2023 Marlins Role
ZiPS projection: .239/.311/.373, 97 wRC+, 7.5 BB%, 18.0 K%
While it’s unlikely for Jacob Stallings to have a worse offensive year than 2022, having Fortes as an insurance policy at the catcher position could prove to be significant. For now, they are the only two backstops on Miami’s 40-man roster.
With Garrett Cooper needing days off and being susceptible to fluky injuries, it’s reasonable to think Fortes could play in the majority of the team’s games between first base, catcher and DH.
Over/Under 84.5 starts for Nick Fortes this season?
This poll is closed