If you want an almost prototypical example of what the Miami Marlins are looking for as they continue their rebuild, look no further than their top rookie from a year ago.
Brian Anderson fits the mold.
He’s versatile enough to play multiple positions, capable of playing at third base and in the outfield. The Marlins have him working exclusively at third base so far in spring training.
He has showed consistency at the plate, leading the team in 2018 in doubles (34), runs scored (87) and on-base percentage (.357) while finishing second in hits (161) and RBI (65).
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“A day-in, day-out guy,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said.
But he’s also striving to build on that productive rookie year, one that saw him finish fourth in the National League Rookie of the Year voting while playing as an everyday starter for the 63-98 Marlins and serving as a de facto face for the team’s youth movement.
The biggest aspect of his game that Anderson hopes to improve: Adding more power at the plate. While Anderson hit a respectable .273 as a rookie — good for third on the Marlins and 11th among all MLB rookies — he hit only 11 home runs and had a .400 slugging mark (18th among all rookies).
“Andy’s really solid,” Mattingly said. “He’s got a solid swing mechanically. He’s got a good eye. He uses the whole field.”
Now, glimpses of power are coming into play. His sixth-inning at-bat on Thursday in the Marlins’ 7-5 loss to the Houston Astros at the Fitteam Ballpark of the Palm Beaches showed that.
Facing an 0-1 count in the sixth inning, Anderson blasted a pitch from Brady Rogers into a vending stand just beyond the berm seating in left field.
“I have a little bit of an opportunity to improve upon last year as far as power goes,” Anderson, 25, said.
But he also knows he has to balance the line between swinging for the fences and finding a gap in the outfield.
“Just making sure I can score runners,” Anderson said.
Anderson also has a focus on improving his conditioning to avoid a second-half slump like last year. Anderson hit just .245 and with three home runs and 16 RBI in 59 games following the All-Star break after opening the year hitting .288 and 49 RBI.
Anderson, listed at 6-3 and 185 pounds, also lost about 12 pounds during the course of the season, which he attributed to dealing with the grind of a 162-game slate for the first time.
“I was kind of dragging at the end a little bit. It wasn’t anything big,” Anderson said. “I was still able to go out and play, but I don’t think i was able to get everything out of my body that I possibly could. I think that was just me being young and inexperienced and not having to deal with a season that’s that long and the travel. For me, it’s just a process of getting better, getting my routines down on the road, making sure that I’m eating and working out the right way.”
His mentality is working so far in spring training. In four games, Anderson is hitting .300 with a team-best four RBI. He’s one of three Marlins players to hit a home run so far, along with Lewis Brinson (3) and top second baseman prospect Isan Diaz.
“He’s got plenty of power in there,” Mattingly said. “It’s just a matter of allowing that to come as the game goes and taking what the guy’s willing to give him.”
This and that
▪ Trevor Richards threw three innings and gave up just one hit — a solo home run to lead off the second inning — in the Marlins’ 5-4 loss to the Washington Nationals on Friday. Richards retired the final six batters he faced following the home run, including a pair of strikeouts with his change-up.
▪ Other notable performances on Friday: Diaz hit a two-RBI single and Magneuris Sierra went 2-for-2. Riley Ferrell (1 1/3 IP, 1 H, 1 K), Jarlin Garcia (1 IP, 1 H, 2 K) and Jose Quijada (1 IP, 0 H, 2 K) performed well out of the bullpen.
▪ With Jorge Alfaro still tending to a knee injury from the Marlins’ spring training opener and Chad Wallach nursing a mild quad injury, the Marlins is bringing 2018 fourth-round pick Nick Fortes to big league camp for a few days to add catcher depth. Fortes started 114 career games during a three-year college career at Ole Miss (76 at catcher) and hit .308 with 16 home runs and 82 RBI. Alfaro is tentatively scheduled to return to the lineup on Saturday against the St. Louis Cardinals.